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Scotland says 'no thanks' to independence

A proposal to exit the United Kingdom was defeated in a Thursday ballot referendum.

Scotland will remain a part of the United Kingdom, thanks to the results of a hotly contested ballot referendum that took place within the country's borders on Thursday.

The question to be decided by the referendum was "Should Scotland be an independent country?" Despite the urging of First Minister Alex Salmond, the head of the pro-independence Scottish National Party (SNP), a majority of voters answered, "no."

The polls had been narrowly divided for the final months leading up to referendum day. But by the end of Thursday night, BBC was projecting as many as 55% of Scottish voters had rejected independence, giving the No votes an estimated 10 point lead. Early Friday morning, local time, Salmond conceded. Later that day, he announced that he was stepping down from his post as First Minister.

The first results to be declared came from the small council of Clackmannanshire, around 1:30 am local time. Although that region had been expected to break in favor of independence, it actually went 54% to 46% in favor of continued unity, with nearly 89% turnout.

PHOTO ESSAY: A huge moment in Scottish history

A YouGov poll conducted on the day of the vote found "a small but significant late swing from Yes to No," according the polling firm's research manager, Laurence Janta-Lipinski. That poll found a split of 46% for independence and 54% against.

Turnout was high all across the country, with more than 90% of the electorate arriving at the polls in some cities. Tensions between "Yes" and "No" voters were at times similarly high, with "No" voters in particular feeling besieged: Another recent YouGov poll found that 46% of anti-independence voters "felt personally threatened by the YES campaign," while only 24% of pro-independence voters felt similarly threatened.

The fact that Scotland will remain in the United Kingdom does not mean that politics in region will carry on as if the vote never happened. For one thing, the vote is a serious blow to the SNP, which has made independence the central plank of its party platform. Even so, the fact that the United Kingdom came so close to losing Scotland seems to have rattled the central government in London. English MP Michael Fabricant, a member of the ruling Conservative party, has called for a new Act of Union, to redefine the terms by which the different nations of the U.K. (England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland) form a government together.

Just two days before the vote, U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron, his coalition partner Nick Clegg, and opposition leader Ed Milliband jointly pledged to devolve more powers of self-governance to Scotland if voters agreed to reject independence. As a result, Scotland may soon have more autonomy from the U.K., even as it remains a part of it. In the interest of conciliation, Cameron is reportedly planning on proposing "a major package of constitutional reforms" to that effect, according to The Guardian.

Related: Celebrities and politicians react to Scotland's "no" vote

While Scotland weighed the fate of the United Kingdom, The Royal and Ancient Golf Club in St. Andrews made its own historic change: The 250-year-old golf club voted to allow women to be accepted into the membership ranks.

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly referred to David Milliband as the head of the main opposition party, Labour. His brother, Ed Milliband, is actually the head of the Labour Party.