For Smith, who went to the polling station decked out in a blue-and-white pro-independence shirt and rosette, statehood for Scotland was a dream nurtured during three decades living in the U.S. with her late husband.
"The one thing America has that the Scots don’t have is confidence," said Smith, who returned to Scotland years ago. "But they’re getting it, they’re walking tall."
Other Yes campaigners insisted Scots would not allow a return to the status quo, even if the independence bid failed.
"Whatever happens, Scotland is going to be different," said Luke Campbell, a member of the Radical Independence Movement.
But some No supporters said the pro-independence campaign had fueled bad feeling among neighbors.
"The country is divided with a hatchet. It’s so awful — and it was completely unnecessary," said Fiona Mitchell, distributing No leaflets outside a polling station.
If the Yes side prevails, Salmond will have realized a long-held dream of leading his country to independence from an alliance with England that was formed in 1707.
"This is our opportunity of a lifetime and we must seize it with both hands," Salmond said in his final pre-vote speech.
Pro-independence forces got a last-minute boost Thursday from tennis star Andy Murray, who signaled his support of the Yes campaign in a tweet to his 2.7 million followers.
Anti-independence leaders, including former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, himself a Scot, implored Scots not to break their links with the rest of the United Kingdom and stressed the economic uncertainties that independence would bring. There were fierce disputes over whether an independent Scotland could use the pound and several major companies said they would move their headquarters from Scotland to England if the Yes vote prevailed.
Many Yes supporters headed to symbolic spots like Calton Hill overlooking Edinburgh, hoping the sun would rise Friday on a new dawn of independence and not just a hangover.
But financial consultant Michael MacPhee, a No voter, said he would observe the returns "with anxiety."
Scottish independence is "the daftest idea I’ve ever heard," he said.