Looking at the TV schedules, it seems neither the BBC nor ITV has made plans for any special coverage of the referendum on Friday 19 September – the day after the polls close.
Both broadcasters are instead laying on programmes right through the night of Thursday 18th, suggesting that they anticipate a result sooner rather than later.
I’m not sure this will be the case. If the vote is very close, as the latest opinion polls imply, we’ll need to wait for the declaration from every one of the 32 regional counts before the outcome is clear. Moreover, an official result won’t be announced until all of those counts have relayed their figures back to the central count in Edinburgh for verification and approval. I remain doubtful this will be complete by 6am on Friday morning: the time when both the BBC and ITV sign off.
I’ve also yet to see any official estimate by the Electoral Commission of when the final result should be expected. Maybe the broadcasters have based their coverage on conclusions drawn from private briefings with the commission. I’ve assumed up to this point that Friday morning would be a safer bet than Thursday night, but only from past experience of following elections and an awareness of how long it sometimes takes to collate and count results from the Scottish highlands and islands.
Perhaps things will become clearer next week. For now, those of us intending to organise our work and sleep patterns around the referendum result have the choice of Huw Edwards, Andrew Marr, Nick Robinson and Sarah Smith on BBC1, or Alastair Stewart, Tom Bradby, Chris Ship and James Mates on ITV. Both programmes are called Scotland Decides; the BBC’s version begins at 10.35pm, ITV’s five minutes later.
STV is also running its own coverage right through Thursday and into Friday.