At precisely seven minutes past six this morning came the result from Fife that clinched it. Scotland had rejected independence.
But within minutes the focus had switched from a clear result to a very misty future and for the leaders in the campaign the challenge was now how to deal with what comes next.
Alex Salmond’s speech following the Yes campaign’s defeat betrayed one or two of the characteristics that might have turned off many Scottish voters.
There was not one expression of humility, nor any note of congratulations for the winning side.
Whereas other spokespeople were speaking of the need for reconciliation between Scotland’s rival camps, Salmond was his same old belligerent self. Yes, there are issues that need to be sorted out with regard to future devolved powers for Scotland but surely, in the immediate wake of the result, a note of harmony, not further conflict, was required in Salmond’s speech.
There was an interesting choice of words in his speech as well. He said: Scotland had chosen not “at this stage” to become independent.
Adam Boulton on Sky News immediately picked up on this, saying that Salmond’s remarks suggested the result was only “provisional” as far as the SNP leader is concerned. Adam also pointed out that the remarks seemed to contradict Salmond’s statement during the campaign that the referendum was a “once in a generation” moment.
By contrast, the leader of the Better Together campaign Alistair Darling was more conciliatory.
He spoke of the “deep and genuine” commitment to Scotland of those in the rival Yes campaign and insisted they would have a contribution to make to the future debate about Scotland’s future.
His emphasis was on “bringing the country together”.
And that is precisely the herculean task facing David Cameron who, puffy with lack of sleep, was outside No 10 within an hour of the result, promising to all those who voted for independence – “we hear you”.
His further promise – “to take forward the devolution commitments” – embodies the burden he now has to shoulder.
So, thankfully, no triumphalism from either side. That would have been immediately and damagingly divisive. But the question now is – have the leaders in this intense and punishing campaign the ability to set out a future which will satisfy all those who have taken advantage of this extraordinary democratic process?