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'Yes' campaigners gather for a rally in George Square, Glasgow, Scotland September 17, 2014.PAUL HACKETT/Reuters

Her friends guided the young red-haired woman to the Yes Scotland table on Glasgow's central Buchanan Street on Wednesday. Here, they said as an introduction, was a voter who still hadn't made up her mind about how she would vote in Scotland's historic independence referendum, which was just hours away.

(Scotland's decision day: Read The Globe's referendum primer)

Kenneth McIntosh – a blue "Yes" button pinned to his black fleece – launched into his appeal. "If it comes on Friday morning that Scotland has voted 'No,' it's just going to be another Friday morning in September," the 42-year-old volunteer said, pausing his monologue for dramatic effect, his right hand poised above his left. Then he brought his two hands together. "But if it comes, and Scotland's gone 'Yes,' then something absolutely historic has happened. Something incredible that everyone can be proud of."

The young woman – who only gave her name as Mona – smiled and ran her fingers through her hair. "I'm leaning toward 'Yes,'" she said. But she didn't quite commit. She took a pamphlet from Mr. McIntosh and walked away, her friends still pressing her to finally make a decision.

And so it went on the eve of Scotland's too-close-to-call referendum, in which Scots are being asked to choose between a declaration of independence and remaining within the 307-year-old United Kingdom.

With the pro-independence and pro-union camps locked in an effective dead heat, Wednesday turned into a last-hours scramble to convince the hundreds of thousands of registered voters who were still telling pollsters this week that they hadn't made up their minds. "Scots' destiny lies in the hands of the don't-knows," read the anxious headline on the front page of the Independent, a London-based newspaper.

"I think it's going to be won or lost over the course of today. It's crunch time," said John McMurtrie, a 25-year-old who wore a blue "No Thanks" jacket Wednesday as he handed out pro-union pamphlets to passing shoppers a short walk away from Mr. McIntosh's table on pedestrian-only Buchanan Street.

Mr. McMurtrie, a small-business owner from nearby Kilcreggan, said he was confident that most of the undecided would – since they're not yet convinced about the merits of independence – vote "No" on Thursday. "I think people will go into the voting booth and, if there's any hesitation, they'll vote 'No.'"

After a brief surge last week that suggested the Yes side had taken the lead, opinion polls suggest that the No side is indeed back ahead, though by the narrowest of margins. In an echo of Quebec's 1995 referendum, an Ipsos MORI poll released on Wednesday found 51 per cent of Scots planned to vote "No," versus 49 per cent who were planning to vote "Yes." The poll's margin of error was plus or minus three percentage points.

Ipsos MORI, which interviewed 1,405 people over Monday and Tuesday, found 5 per cent of respondents were still undecided. Three other polls released on Tuesday by different firms put the share of those who hadn't yet made up their mind at anywhere between 6 and 14 per cent of Scotland's 4.3 million registered voters.

"The message [from the polls] seems to be that when Scots vote [Thursday], their pencils will be guided more by emotion and issues of identity than by intellectual assimilation of policy arguments," read Wednesday's lead editorial in the Scotsman newspaper, which has backed the No campaign.

Gio MacDonald is one of those who has thus far been counted as undecided. The 49-year-old Edinburgh copywriter said that – until Wednesday – he had been considering a No vote, worried about the economic implications of a vote for independence.

But, just hours before polls were set to open, Mr. MacDonald said he had decided to "take a chance and see what happens" by supporting the Yes side. "It's safer to vote with your head, because you don't know what will happen [if Scotland declares independence], but I'll probably vote with my heart tomorrow," he said in a telephone interview.

The Yes side, which has rapidly closed what was a 20-point gap in the polls over the past few weeks, is counting on many Scots to make the same last-minute decision as Mr. MacDonald.

Scottish National Party Leader Alex Salmond used his final speech of the campaign to urge Scots to ignore the negative messages of the No campaign and to seize what he called "the opportunity of a lifetime."

"We want to wake up on Friday morning … knowing we did this, we made this happen," he told a packed concert hall in the central city of Perth that replied with chants of "Yes we can!" Mr. Salmond called on supporters to work until the last vote was cast to persuade those around them to vote for independence. "Don't let them tell us we can't. Let's do this now."

The Yes camp was also out in full force in Glasgow, easily outnumbering the No campaigners Wednesday in Scotland's largest city, which is expected to be a key battleground. Several thousand independence supporters rallied throughout the day on the city's central George Square.

Stuart McDonald, a senior researcher for the Yes campaign, said the last-minute push – including a door-to-door get-out-the-vote effort – would continue all through referendum day. He said he was "quietly confident" that the pro-independence campaign would surprise the pollsters with a win on Thursday.



The voters

4,285,323 people are eligible to vote.

Ninety-seven per cent of electorate has registered to vote.

About 124,000 teenagers aged 16 and 17 will be allowed to vote for the first time.

A record number of 789,024 people registered for advance voting by mail.

The electorate includes any British citizen resident in Scotland, Commonwealth citizens with rights to British residency and citizens from all other EU member states.

Prisoners are barred from voting despite protests from human rights groups and legal challenges.

Scotland-born voters living elsewhere in the U.K. are barred if they lack Scottish residency requirements.

The turnout

Both sides expect turnout to be extremely high – around 80 per cent. Turnout in Scotland during the 2010 British general election was 64

per cent.

The voting

Polling stations open at 7 a.m. (2 a.m. EDT) and close at 10 p.m. (5 p.m. EDT).

Scotland's 32 local councils will be responsible for the operation of 2,608 polling places and 5,579 individual polling stations.

The counting

The count will begin at 10 p.m. on Thursday (5 p.m. EDT) in Scotland's 32 local council areas.

The results

Local results will be announced beginning at about 2 a.m. Friday (9 p.m. EDT Thursday). The Scotland-wide result is expected to be announced at 7 a.m. (2 a.m. EDT).

The smaller regional councils will announce their tallies first, while Glasgow and Edinburgh – the most crucial area to the vote's final outcome – will likely announce last.

The decision

To win the referendum, one side needs to secure 50 per cent of the vote, plus one extra vote.

If it's a Yes, March 16, 2016 would be Scotland's independence day.