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After a long evening of counting ballots (and several years of long debate) the people have Scotland have officially chosen to stay in the United Kingdom. An astonishing 84 percent of eligible voters came out for yesterday's referendum, with a solid majority voting "No" to preserve the 307-year-old union.

Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond (AP/Scott Heppell)

Shortly after 6:00 a.m. local time (1:00 a.m. ET), Alex Salmond, the Scottish First Minister who led the independence campaign, conceded defeat, saying he "accepted the verdict of the people and called on Scotland to accept the democratic verdict of the people of Scotland." Approximately 55 percent of voters chose No.

Speaking after the results were finalized, Prime Minister David Cameron said, "The people have spoken and it is a clear result ... I am delighted. It would have broken my heart to see our United Kingdom come to an end."

Despite indications that the Yes campaign had gained significant momentum in the final weeks, with some polls even signaling a Yes victory, "the silent majority" spoke up to keep the United Kingdom in place. Better Together campaign leader Alistair Darling said, "We've taken on the argument and we've won. The silent have spoken."

However, he added that "We must also recognise the debate has created some deep divisions in our country. It has been a campaign that has energised and divided."

Despite the defeat, people on the both sides of the border believe that the Union will never quite be the same. The Scottish National Party took over the Parliament in Edinburgh in 2011 demanding more autonomy from London and an official vote on separation. Nationalists have insisted on greater local control over issues like taxation, welfare, and management of the National Health Service, prompting calls for similar "devolution" measures in Wales, Northern Ireland, and England as well.

In his Friday morning speech, Cameron promised future constitutional changes that would allow ministers and citizens of each of the four nations a greater say on laws that only affect their part of the country. "We will assure that those commitments are honored in full," said Cameron.

REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton

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