But popular opinion on a leafy residential street in Edinburgh’s west end told a different tale. Young and old sat by their televisions waiting for news in a half dozen homes. Nearly all said they had voted No.
"Just because I’m not out in the street in a kilt screaming how Scottish I am, that doesn’t mean I’m not a proud Scot. I am. And a proud Brit. That’s the point the Yes side doesn’t respect," said Ger Robertson, 47, who chose instead to celebrate Scotland’s verdict in his living room with a dram of his favorite single-malt whisky.
Salmond had argued that Scots could go it alone because of its extensive oil reserves and high levels of ingenuity and education. He said Scotland would flourish alone, free of interference from any London-based government.
Many saw it as a "heads versus hearts" campaign, with cautious older Scots concluding that independence would be too risky financially, while younger ones were enamored with the idea of building their own country.
The result saved Cameron from a historic defeat and also helped opposition chief Ed Miliband by keeping his many Labour Party lawmakers in Scotland in place. Labour would have found it much harder to win a national election in 2015 without that support from Scotland.
Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, a Scot, returned to prominence with a dramatic barnstorming campaign in support of the union in the final days before the referendum vote. Brown argued passionately that Scots could be devoted to Scotland but still proud of their place in the U.K., rejecting the argument that independence was the patriotic choice.
"There is not a cemetery in Europe that does not have Scots, English, Welsh and Irish lined side by side," Brown said before the vote. "We not only won these wars together, we built the peace together. What we have built together by sacrificing and sharing, let no narrow nationalism split asunder."
For his part, Cameron — aware that his Conservative Party is widely loathed in Scotland — begged voters not to use a vote for independence as a way to bash the Tories.
The vote against independence keeps the United Kingdom from losing a substantial part of its territory and oil reserves and prevents it from having to find a new base for its nuclear arsenal, now housed in Scotland. It had also faced a possible loss of influence within international institutions including the 28-nation European Union, NATO and the United Nations.
The decision also means Britain can avoid a prolonged period of financial insecurity that had been predicted by some if Scotland broke away.
"This has been a long, hard fight and both sides have campaigned fiercely," said Norma Austin Hart, a Labour Party member of Edinburgh City Council. "This has not been like a normal election campaign. There have been debates in town halls and school halls and church halls.
"It’s been so intense," she said. "But the people of Scotland have decided."