The campaign to keep Scotland in the UK has taken the most votes so far in the Scottish independence referendum, as counting continues across the country.
At the half-way point in the count, the “No” side was on 56% of the vote, with “Yes” on 44%.
By 04:35 BST (05:35 BST), the “No” campaign had more than 903,000 votes, with “Yes” on just over 738,000.
Aberdeen City, the largest area to declare so far, voted “No” by a margin of more than 20,000 votes.
But Dundee backed independence by 53,620 votes to 39,880, while West Dunbartonshire also voted “Yes” by 33,720 to 28,776. North Lanarkshire also voted in favour of independence by about 5,000 votes.
Polling expert Professor John Curtice of Strathclyde University said the results so far suggested the “No” campaign was going to win the referendum.
Clackmannanshire was first to declare, with “No” winning by about 2,600 votes.
Inverclyde voted “No” to leaving the United Kingdom by only 86 votes, while in Renfrewshire the totals were 62,067 for “No” and 55,466 for “Yes”.
Voters in the Western Isles, Orkney, Shetland and Midlothian also voted against independence, as did Stirling, Falkirk, East Lothian, Angus, Dumfries and Galloway and East Renfrewshire.
Counting will carry on through the night, with the final result expected after 06:30 BST on Friday.
In other developments:
- Police are investigating allegations of electoral fraud relating to 10 ballot papers in Glasgow
- The Queen is expected to make a written statement on Friday afternoon, after the result has been confirmed
- Prime Minister David Cameron expected to respond to Scotland’s decision in a live televised address following the final result
- The count in Dundee was briefly suspended due to a fire alarm
- For latest results and full coverage, go to bbc.co.uk/scotland-decides
In Inverclyde, “No” received 27,329 and “Yes” 27,243, while in Orkney, “No” won 10,004 votes compared with 4,883 for “Yes”.
In Shetland voters rejected independence by 9,951 votes to 5,669 and in the Western Isles, the result was 10,544 to 9,195 in favour of Scotland staying in the UK.
He added: “The results are beginning to point towards a ‘No’ victory albeit it may yet be a while before we are clear as to how big that victory is.”
Blair McDougall, director of the Better Together campaign to keep Scotland in the UK, said: “We think there will be a clear ‘No’ vote tonight.
“I think the results we have seen now from places like Clackmannanshire – which is an SNP stronghold – are encouraging.”
Speaking from the count in Perth, Scottish Finance Secretary John Swinney, a supporter of independence, said: “It’s a very early stage in the night, we have big declarations yet to come, and waiting to see exactly what the position will be in other parts of the country would be good advice at this stage of the night.”
Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond, who has led the “Yes” campaign, has flown from his home in Aberdeenshire to the national counting centre on the outskirts of Edinburgh.
He had earlier tweeted: “This has been a remarkable day. Scotland’s future truly is in Scotland’s hands”,
A YouGov on-the-day survey published shortly after polls closed suggested “No” was on 54% and “Yes” on 46%.
The survey questioned 1,828 people after they voted, together with the postal votes of 800 people, although it is not a traditional exit poll.
A “Yes” vote in the ballot would end the 307-year-old union between Scotland and the rest of the UK.
Analysis: Brian Taylor, BBC Scotland political editor
The first three results are a hat-trick for the Better Together side but they are three of the smallest council areas in Scotland.
In terms of Shetland, they weren’t notably keen on devolution in the first place, so it is no great surprise that they are not exactly giving a resounding endorsement to the concept of independence.
Of the three results, of course, the Clackmannanshire result is far and away the most significant in that it was an area that perhaps should have been doing rather better for the “Yes” side.
As soon as Scotland’s 2,608 polling places closed, work began to transport hundreds of ballot boxes to counting centres in each of Scotland’s 32 local authorities.
These will include votes cast from the 789,024 postal vote applications, which was the largest volume of registration for postal votes ever in Scotland.
And, for the first time, 16 and 17-year-olds all across Scotland were able to vote.
Once the results from all the local authority areas are known, chief counting officer Mary Pitcaithly will declare the result of the referendum at the Royal Highland Centre outside Edinburgh.
However, running totals – which can be made from the first declaration onwards – may indicate a result earlier in the morning.
Many councils have reported busy polling stations throughout Thursday, with some seeing queues both ahead of the polls opening and throughout the morning.
East Dunbartonshire has recorded the highest turnout so far, at 91%, with East Renfrewshire and Stirling slightly behind on 90.5% and 90.1% respectively.
But turnout in Glasgow was lower, at 75%, while in Dundee it was 78.8% and Aberdeen 81.7%.
Large numbers of independence supporters have gathered in George Square, in the centre of Glasgow, ahead of the result.
Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond, who led the pro-independence “Yes” campaign, cast his ballot at Ritchie Hall in Strichen, Aberdeenshire.
Pro-Union Better Together leader Alistair Darling was greeted by a mixture of cheers and boos as he arrived at the Church Hill Theatre in Edinburgh to cast his vote.