Scottish referendum

How the referendum result will be counted

Two months today the voters of Scotland go to the polls to decide whether their country should become independent.

I thought it would be interesting to clarify a few details about the how the poll will be conducted and counted, some of which were only confirmed this week.

Polling stations will be open on Thursday 18 September from 7am to 10pm across the 32 Scottish local authority areas.

Counting can begin immediately the polls close.

Each authority will report its local total to a central count in Edinburgh. Importantly, this has to happen before the result is declared locally.

The central count will keep a running tally of all the votes across Scotland, and will declare the final referendum result only when all 32 authorities have reported – although the outcome may well be clear before that.

The 32 local counts will be based in the following areas:
1. Aberdeen
2. Aberdeenshire
3. Angus
4. Argyll & Bute
5. Clackmannanshire
6. Comhairle nan Eilean Siar
7. Dumfries & Galloway
8. Dundee
9. East Ayrshire
10. East Dunbartonshire
11. East Lothian
12. East Renfrewshire
13. Edinburgh
14. Falkirk
15. Fife
16. Glasgow
17. Highland
18. Inverclyde
19. Midlothian
20. Moray
21. North Ayrshire
22. North Lanarkshire
23. Orkney
24. Perth & Kinross
25. Renfrewshire
26. Scottish Borders
27. Shetland
28. South Ayrshire
29. South Lanarkshire
30. Stirling
31. West Dunbartonshire
32. West Lothian

I’ve yet to read an estimate of when a final result is expected. Given the remoteness of some of these areas, however, it’s possible we might not know the outcome until late on Friday, or even Saturday morning.

The total electorate eligible to take part in the referendum (including 16-17 year olds) is around 4.1 million.

If votes start to pile up substantially for one of the two options, there will come a point statistically when enough will have been cast to render it impossible for the second option to catch up and overtake.

It goes without saying that if the reverse is true, we could be waiting for the very last authority to report its result before the outcome is clear. That would make for an exceptionally exciting count.

The UK government has stated that if a simple majority of the votes cast are in favour of independence, “Scotland would become an independent country after a process of negotiations.”

Lastly, a reminder of the question. Voters will be asked to indicate yes or no to the proposition: Should Scotland be an independent country?

Exactly two months today, the people of Scotland will give their answer.

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