Scottish referendum

What happens if there’s a riot, and six other referendum scenarios

Today’s referendum in Scotland is an unprecedented event – just the kind the polling organisations, local councils and electoral commissions don’t like.

It is unique in modern political history and therefore comes brimming with ambiguities and uncertainties. It’s not even clear precisely when the final result will be known.

What the authorities can do is make allowances for every conceivable eventuality. Here are seven of them.

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Scottish referendum

Referendum result night: why you should beware early trends

Although the votes cast in Thursday’s referendum are being collated and counted at 32 separate locations, it’s important to remember the final result is the sum of all votes across Scotland.

The outcome is not based on one side prevailing in a majority of the 32 counts. It is entirely possible for Yes or No to win the referendum without notching up most number of regional wins. The only threshold that matters will be winning a majority of the entire Scottish electorate – half the total votes cast plus one, to be blunt.

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Scottish referendum

Alex Salmond expects a ‘record turnout’, but what’s the figure to beat?

The significance of Thursday’s referendum has prompted speculation we’re set for an enormous turnout.  The extension of the franchise to 16 and 17-year-olds, plus talk of a “once in a generation” opportunity for change, has raised expectations to dizzy heights. Alex Salmond has done nothing to dampen this, saying in August: “I think the best bet of this referendum is a bet on an 80% poll. If you can get odds on an 80% poll, you bet it.”

That certainly would be a remarkably high figure – but it wouldn’t be a record breaker. The total to beat in a UK referendum is 81.1%. That was the turnout in the referendum held in Northern Ireland in 1998 over whether to approve the Good Friday Agreement.

There have been 13 national or regional-based referendums in the modern political history of the UK. I’ve ranked them in order of turnout, starting with the biggest:

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Scottish referendum

Referendum result night: what to expect and when

We’re almost there. On Thursday morning at 7am, 5,579 booths in 2,608 polling stations will open across Scotland for people to vote on whether their country should become independent. Just under 4.3m people are eligible to take part, of whom nearly a fifth applied for a postal vote.

Here’s my final guide to what will happen once the polls close at 10pm on Thursday night. I’ve used a number of sources, including the Electoral Commission, the Press Association and Tim Johns, who has written an excellent preview. I’ve covered some of this before, but this is an attempt at tying everything together.

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Scottish referendum

Parliament recalled and party conferences cancelled: the immediate consequences of a Yes vote

With immaculate timing, the House of Commons has shut up shop and gone on recess. MPs aren’t due back until 13 October.

Their break from Westminster coincides with possibly the most momentous four weeks in political history since the last election.

By the time they are scheduled to return, Ukip may have its first elected MP, conflict in Iraq and Syria may have taken more British lives, and Scotland may have voted to leave the United Kingdom.

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Scottish referendum

On results night, which parts of Scotland might declare first?

The largest ever electorate for a ballot in Scotland will take part in Thursday’s referendum.

The Electoral Commission has said that just under 4.3m people are registered to vote – around 97% of the adult population.

The 4,285,323 voters include 789,024 people who have applied for a postal vote, which represents the largest volume of registration for postal ballots in Scottish history.

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