The Independence Referendum: Your questions answered

Final preparations are underway at count locations today Credit: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire/Press Association Images

After two years of preparation, the largest vote in Scotland's history is almost under way.


  • More than four million people are registered to cast their vote across 32 local authorities tomorrow

  • There are 2,608 polling places

  • Ballot papers will be counted by a total of 5,767 people across Scotland


Polling stations will be open from 7am until 10pm, when they will close and the counting will begin.

The sealed boxes will then be collected and transported to count venues across each local authority area - in most cases a school, sports centre or town hall.

The papers will be sorted into Yes, No and those deemed "doubtful". These will need to be judged and possibly rejected as spoiled ballots.

When the count is finished, each local authority will announce its result, with the first declaration expected to take place 1.30am and the last at around 6am.

A final declaration on the will of the nation is expected to be announced on Friday morning at the Royal Highland Centre outside Edinburgh by chief counting officer (CCO) Mary Pitcaithly.


Q: Turnout could be as high as 85%. Will there be enough ballot papers to go round?

A: Papers can be spoiled before they reach the ballot box, so 120% of the papers required for the vote have been printed as a precaution.

Q: No trouble is expected at polling places, but what if it happens?

A: The Scottish Independence Referendum Act 2013 does address the possibility. Where proceedings at any polling place are interrupted by riot they will be adjourned until the following day.

Q: What happens if people are still waiting to vote when polls close?

A: At 10pm a member of polling place staff will mark the end of any remaining queue. All those waiting will be able to cast their vote but for anyone arriving beyond this point it will be too late.

Q: What constitutes a void ballot paper?

A: Any paper which indicates a vote in favour of none or both answers to the referendum question "Should Scotland be an independent country?".Any paper on which anything is written or marked which could identify the voter.

Q: Won't it take a long time to collect ballot boxes from all over Scotland's remote Highlands and Islands?

A: Local authorities such as Orkney Islands Council do not have polling stations on their many isles. Instead voters can apply for a postal vote or travel to the mainland to vote. It means there is no need to wait for ballot boxes to travel long distances by plane or boat.

Q: What time can we expect the national declaration?

A: Officially, "breakfast time". A survey of councils suggests Aberdeen will be the last council to declare at 6am and the national result will come soon after.

Q: Will we be able to establish early on which way the vote will go?

A: Results will be announced through the night by each of the local authorities. There may be a "tipping point" where it is clear from the total number of votes cast and the result so far that a winning side has emerged.

Q: What about a recount?

A: A counting officer or the CCO can request a local recount if he or she considers it appropriate. A recount would only be requested if there was some doubt over the process - for example if there were concerns over a mix-up with the ballot papers or that some had not been counted. The closeness of the vote is not justification to order a recount. The CCO cannot order a recount after the result has been declared.