The vote that formally secured the union and perhaps ended dreams of Scottish independence for years came in a sports hall in Glenrothes as dawn broke on Friday.
At 6.08 a.m., two hours later than scheduled, the Fife result was confirmed, and it gave the Better Together campaign the numbers it needed to formally claim victory in the country’s historic referendum.
The result was already known to everyone in the hall.
The campaign number crunchers had analysed the ballot boxes and come up with a near identical forecast. All they had to do was wait. And wait.
A poll which started at 7.00 a.m. on Thursday finally reached its conclusion at 6.00 a.m. on Friday as those left standing gathered wearily round the platform.
The official numbers:
Yes: 114,148 (45%)
No: 139,788 (55%).
The Yes campaigners who remained - and many had long since vanished into the fresh morning air - handed out small placards to inject one last hurrah into a campaign that had been colourful, noisy, sustained and hugely energetic.
The cheers, short and brief, came from the No camp as the media grabbed politicians for quick reactions as the tables were dismantled and the hall returned to the sports staff for that day’s bookings.
It was a subdued election night. At times the only sound was papers being flicked over as the counters whirred through stacks of votes.
In the media room we watched results pouring in from across Scotland, and it was clear the possibility of independence was receding, perhaps quicker than most anticipated.
And yet ...
Polling day buzzed with excitement as record numbers rolled up to vote.
In parts of Glenrothes turnout was as high as 91% - unheard of - and staff were rushed off their feet processing the paperwork.
In Rosyth the figure was said to have topped 98%, while across Fife figures in the mid to high 80s were the norm; Pathhead was said to be 85%.
The huge participation followed the referendum officially becoming too close to call as the opinion polls all narrowed.
In the end the polls were wrong. The gap turned out to be 10%; 55% for, 45% against. A huge 1.6 million votes for independence, but 2 million said no thanks. The magic number needed for victory was 1.8 million.
Declaration by declaration, the dream of independence wilted.
Its key target areas all said no, and although it won Glasgow - hugely symbolic given it is Labour’s territory - and Dundee, the lower turnout in the big cities hit the Yes campaign hard.
At the Glenrothes count the serious looks on faces started to reveal the story of where this count was headed.
Yes took Kirkcaldy - it dominated in Templehall as its own canvassing returns said it would (Dunnikier Estate was less fruitful hunting ground) but lost Glenrothes.
The first predictions were 55-45 for No, while Labour’s own figures were 54-46, but the projected 4.00 a.m. declaration slipped by an hour ... and then some more.
In the end it didn’t come until 6.00 a.m. by which time the hall groaned with weariness.
As the cheers subsidied and people drifted to the exits, there was time for the quickest of reactions.
Lindsay Roy MP hailed ‘‘an incredible night’’ adding: ‘‘We were optimistic with groundwork we had done in the constituency, but took nothing for granted.’’
He hailed the Better Together team for delivering as many feared momentum had gone to the yes camp, and also paid tribute to the leadership of Gordon Brown MP ’’which helped turn the day for us.’’
And he highlighted the courtesy, respect and good humour between the campaigns across polling stations.
Councillor David Ross, leader of Fife Council, hailed “an excellent result” and said a turning point “was when Gordon Brown took control and convinced voters it was better to stay in UK.”
For the yes campaign, Councillor Peter Ross said he was proud of their campaign, and said: ‘‘Politicians have to realise politics in this country have changed forever.’’
The announcement at 6.08 a.m. in a sports hall in Glenrothes confirmed that.