Britain has voted to leave the European Union in a historic referendum despite Scotland overwhelmingly voting to remain.
The results coming in over the course of a tense night prompted former First Minister Alex Salmond to warn that the SNP is now likely to move for a second Scottish independence referendum.
The outcome of the crunch vote remained on a knife-edge throughout the night, but by dawn Leave was ahead by more than half a million votes and Remain appeared to have failed to pick up the necessary votes in England outside London.
It was a far cry from early polls after the vote which suggested Remain had secured a narrow victory.
The growing prospect of Brexit vote wreaked havoc with financial markets as the pound recorded its third largest fall on record against the dollar.
Although Mr Farage appeared to concede defeat soon after the polls closed at 10pm last night, he later claimed victory to a roaring crowd of supporters in central London.
If there was a Leave vote in England, dragging us out of the EU, then I’m quite certain that Nicola Sturgeon would implement the SNP manifesto in which she received 47% of the vote last month.Alex Salmond
“We have fought againt the multi-nationals, we’ve fought against the big merchant banks, we’ve fouight against big politics, we’ve fought against lies, corruption and defeat,” he said. “And today honesty, decency and belief in nations I think now is going to win.”
Mr Farage added that Leave will have won without a “single bullet being fired”, a remark that drew immediate criticism following the death of Labour MP Jo Cox, a prominent Remain campaigner, who was shot in the street a week before polling day.
The vote has revealed a divided UK with Scotland and Northern Ireland both voting overwhelmingly in favour of Remaining, while England and Wales were more favourable to Leave. The London boroughs were the only broad area with solid support for Remain south of the border.
The Leave camp had a lead of more than half a million late into the morning, with 9.9 million of the votes collected backing Out, with Remain well behind on 9.4 million.
The prospect of a Remain vote initially looked bleak as Mr Farage told journalists that he felt the Remain had “edged it” after a number of polls conducted throughout the day suggested a narrowly victory for the In campaign.
But things began to change soon after midnight when results in the North-east of England produced a better than expected outcome for Remain. A closer than expected result in Newcastle, with 65,404 voting “In” against 63,598 for Leave, was widely seen as good news for the Brexit campaign. Then Leave move ahead nationally as Sunderland voted overwhelmingly for an In vote with 82,394 backing Leave against 51,930 for Remain.
Despite overwhelming support for Remain in major English metropolitan centres such as London and Liverpool, support for Brexit was widespread across provincial areas of working class and Middle England.
The Leave camp continued to rack up solid victories as the results were declared, with Broxbourne in Hertfordshire and Swindon in Wiltshire and Kettering among those also backing a Leave result.
Scotland recorded blanket support Remain with 74% of people in Edinburgh backing and 67% of Glaswegians wanting to stay in the EU.
The impact was immediately felt on the financial markets where the pound had earlier surged through the $1.50 barrier, but soon nose-dived to $1.40 as the stronger-than-expected result for the Leave camp emerged.
Mr Salmond indicated this morning that he now expected his successor Nicola Sturgeon to commence moves to hold another referendum on Scottish independence.
“Scotland looks like its going to vote solidly Remain,” said Mr Salmond, now the SNP Foreign Affairs spokesman at Westminster.
“If there was a Leave vote in England, dragging us out of the EU, then I’m quite certain that Nicola Sturgeon would implement the SNP manifesto in which she received 47% of the vote last month.”
Ms Sturgeon has indicated that such a scenario will represent a “material change” in circumstances which could see the party seek to stage a second referendum on independence.
The stronger than expected showing for Leave also prompted a war of words erupt between Labour and the SNP over who is to blame.
A Labour source suggested to BBC News that the Scottish nationalists had not campaigned hard enough in Glasgow or Edinburgh.
But Nicola Sturgeon launched an angry response on Twitter.
“Labour has lost it,” the First Minister claimed. “Scotland voting strongly Remain, Labour areas in Eng/Wales going Leave - but still all SNP fault.”
But despite speculation that Prime Minister David Cameron would have to quit in the event of a Brexit vote his hopes for survival at the helm of a divided Conservative Party were boosted as a letter signed by Brexit supporting MPs last night backed him continuing in the post. Leading leave campaign figures Boris Johnson and Michael Gove were among those who signed it.
But the result last night also prompted criticism of the Labour party for being “out of touch” with its core vote as many of the party’s traditional heartlands in the north of England voted overwhelmingly in favour of Leave, with immigration a key concern.
Labour Deputy leader John McDonnell admitted that there needed to be a “new relationship” with the EU regardless of the outcome.
“In terms of free movement of labour we’ve been arguing, and I don’t think we’ve got the message across effectively, that we need to protect people from having their wages undercut.
“That means more employment rights, it means changes in some the European directives, like the posted worker directive. It does mean preventing agencies just recruiting outside of the UK, particularly type of workers.”
He added that many of the grievances over immigration were down to Government austerity measures.
“Whatever happens with the decision today, we need to have a new relationship with the European Union whether we’re in or out that relationship has to be negotiated. And some of these issues will be on the table.”
But high profile Brexit supporting Labour MP John Mann hit out; “Labour has got it wrong by not being in touch with their voters.”
Nearly all of Britain’s opposition parties, including Labour and the Scottish National Party, backed remaining in the EU, along with the majority of business leaders.
The Leave campaign - headed by former mayor of London and Conservative MP Boris Johnson - argued that the only way Britain could “take back control” of its own affairs would be to leave the EU.
The Prime Minister and his Remain colleagues from across the political spectrum have warned of the potentially severe economic consequences of a Brexit vote amid fears of financial market turmoil and another recession.
But Leave campaigners have urged voters to “take back control” of the country.
Leave has argued that quitting Brussels would give the UK more money to spend on things like funding the NHS as well as giving the government the ability to control the nation’s borders and levels of immigration.
But the campaign has been punctuated by ill-tempered exchanges and interventions, with both sides accusing the other of scaremongering, particularly over the issues of the economy and immigration.
A record 46.5 million voters were eligible to take part, said the Electoral Commission, meaning that a turnout a little over 72% could surpass the highest number of ballots cast in a general election.
Early turnout figures suggested that either camp will need a total of around 16.8 million votes were needed for victory.