Police will not be 'routinely armed' says Kenny MacAskill

Firearms officers in Inverness Concerns have been raised over the deployment of armed police

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Scottish police will not be routinely armed, Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill has said.

Mr MacAskill made a statement to MSPs defending the policy of some police officers carrying handguns on patrols.

He said there had been a nationwide roll-out of a policy that was "endorsed" by three former forces.

The Scottish Conservatives said the use of armed police was "disturbing", while Scottish Labour accused Mr MacAskill of having an "indifferent attitude".

The Scottish Liberal Democrats called the justice secretary "deeply illiberal".

Police Scotland has said the deployment of a small number of armed officers was needed "to address a risk".

Previously, politicians from the Highlands and Highland Council have raised concerns about the deployment of armed officers in their region.

Petitions opposing the policy have been started by Lib Dem MP Danny Alexander and the Inverness Courier newspaper.

Chief Constable Sir Stephen House has said a routine review of the policy would take place in September, but Police Scotland has also said that the operational decision was unlikely to change in the near future.

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Analysis by BBC Scotland's Home Affairs Correspondent, Reevel Alderson

Out of a total police strength of 17,318, only 275 officers routinely carry guns while on duty.

But even this number does not reflect the number of armed officers on the streets at any one time, since shift patterns and leave reduce it further.

The officers carrying weapons are members of the armed response unit, ready to attend a firearms incident immediately.

Police say when they are not deployed on active firearms duty, they carry out normal policing duties - although they still carry their side arms.

The policy was introduced by the former Strathclyde force in 2008, and followed by Tayside in 2009 and Northern Constabulary just before the single force was created in 2013.

Police say the areas covered accounted for 60% of the Scottish population.

"The current standing firearms authority is not new," MacAskill said.

"Three of the former constabularies - Strathclyde, Tayside and indeed Northern - had endorsed this position prior to the inception of the service."

Critics have pointed out the widening of the policy comes after figures for 2012-13 showed firearm offences had fallen by 32% to the lowest for 10 years.

Homicides, attempted murders and robberies in which firearms were involved were all down too.

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Mr Alexander said: "This is a deeply disappointing statement from a minister with a deeply illiberal record as justice secretary.

"It will further fuel anger about the routine use of armed police officers.

"Kenny MacAskill had a chance to show he was able to listen to the sincerely-held concerns of many in the Highlands but instead he has once again turned a deaf ear.

"I hope the chief constable will show himself more willing to listen to people at the review in September."

'Fundamental change'

Scottish Labour's justice spokesman, Graeme Pearson, said: "I am shocked and dismayed at the cabinet secretary's indifferent attitude towards this fundamental change to the nature of policing."

He added: "There has been significant concern expressed from both the public and the media on this matter but the SNP government has refused to acknowledge or address this and has instead attempted to stifle debate on the issue.

"The complete lack of transparency and accountability on routinely arming officers is absolutely unacceptable and the cabinet secretary must ensure that the Scottish Police Authority is enabled to fulfil its duty in holding Police Scotland and their decisions to account."

Scottish Conservative justice spokeswoman Margaret Mitchell said: "The fact that hundreds of police officers are carrying firearms while responding to everyday duties is deeply disturbing for the public.

"These fears have been heightened by the unacceptable lack of transparency and accountability in decision making by Police Scotland on this issue in particular.

"It has been consistently acknowledged that someone who carries a knife is in danger of using that weapon or becoming a victim of knife crime.

"It's an interesting analogy with the arming of police, because there is a real apprehension that if police officers routinely carry a weapon, that weapon will be used in a manner other than that intended."

Strathclyde Police, Tayside Police and Northern Constabulary allowed specialist officers to carry guns routinely before the creation of a single force in Scotland.

'Unexpected threats'

Police Scotland has adopted the approach across the country since its launch in April last year and it has included the use of a small number of firearms officers in the Highlands.

Following a meeting with Highland councillors last month, divisional commander Ch Supt Elaine Ferguson said the policy was unlikely to change.

She said armed police deployments were an operational decision made by the chief constable and there was not a requirement to consult publicly on the move.

"I cannot say it will never change, but it's there to address a risk that is there," added Ch Supt Ferguson.

Mr MacAskill previously spoke on the issue in the Scottish Parliament in May.

He said it was necessary for trained firearms officers to be readily available to respond quickly to "urgent and unexpected threats".

Mr MacAskill said Police Scotland has 275 firearms officers - 1.6% of Police Scotland's personnel - and they were deployed on a shift pattern basis.

He added: "Consequently, only a small number will actually be deployed across our communities at any one time."

The justice secretary also said that the police authority and police investigation and review commissioner could review the deployment of firearms officers.

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Scotland Decides: Counting under way

  1. No 178,811
  2. Yes 172,426
After 7 of 32 counts Results in detail

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  8.  
    03:58: Get involved

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  11.  
    03:55: DUNDEE RESULT

    "Yes" wins by 53,620 to 39,880.

    That is "Yes" 57% "No" 43%

    Total ballot: 93,592. Turnout 78.8%

     
  12.  
    03:55: RENFREWSHIRE RESULT

    "No" wins by 62,067 votes to 55,466. That's 53% for "No" and 47% for "Yes".

    Total votes cast were 117,612 - a turnout of 87.3%.

     
  13.  
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  14.  
    03:50: East Renfrewshire Jane Lewis, BBC Scotland News

    tweets: A "Yes" spokesman in East Renfrewshire tells me it would be no surprise if they won just 35% of the vote here.

     
  15.  
    03:50: 'Cant be ignored' Andrew Black Political reporter, BBC Scotland

    Scotland Office minister David Mundell, aka Scotland's only Tory MP, has arrived at the Ingliston national count from his south Scotland constituency saying he's optimistic of a "big 'No'" in that part of the country, and replicated across Scotland.

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  16.  
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    "Yes" party in Glasgow
     
  17.  
    03:47: Highland count Craig Anderson BBC Scotland

    Better Together campaigners at the Highland count in Dingwall are predicting a victory for the "No" side by 53% to 47%.

    One activist admitted: "We seem to be doing much better than we expected at the beginning of the night."

     
  18.  
    03:47: Inverclyde analysis John Curtice Professor of politics at Strathclyde University

    This is a place where we would probably expect the "Yes" side to do rather better than average. Although it does not have a particularly large SNP vote Inverclyde does have plenty of neighbourhoods that are socially deprived.

    The fact that the vote was virtually evenly divided must thus count as further disappointment to the "Yes" campaign. The results are beginning to point towards a "No" victory although it may be a while until we are clear as to how big that victory is.

     
  19.  
    03:47: Inverclyde result Brian Taylor Political editor, Scotland

    It was not one of the top targets for "Yes" but it was one that they would have hoped to win.

    It is a west of Scotland area where they could perhaps pitch that things could get better under independence and perhaps they had a willing audience in that regard.

    "The thing that kept it closer than Clackmannanshire could be that issue of Ferguson's shipyard where the SNP Scottish government were seen as having been instrumental in bringing about the rescue of the yard."

     
  20.  
    03:45: Sterling bounce?

    BBC economics correspondent Robert Peston says a "No" vote would mean "sterling would bounce back" in the international money markets. He speculates this could mean a UK interest rate rise as early as November.

     
  21.  
    03:45: Argyll & Bute count

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    The declaration is expected to be around 4.30am.

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  22.  
    Tweet @bbcscotlandnews 03:44: Get involved

    Ollie Glanvill tweets: Unbelievable even Inverclyde...

    Alycia tweets: Inverclyde's votes were so close it physically pains me.

    Cath tweets: I genuinely thought Inverclyde would be a yes vote.

     
  23.  
    03:41: Big city swing?

    James Shaw tweets: Yes Scotland chair Denis Canavan admits disappointment that No won in Clackmannanshire. Says big city could swing it back to #indyref Yes.

     
  24.  
    03:40: Edinburgh count Laura Maxwell BBC Scotland

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    Chris Highcock, the city's deputy counting officer, says this has delayed the declaration of turnout in the capital, but won't delay the final declaration, as other votes are being counted.

     
  25.  
    03:39: 'Yes' groans Ken MacDonald, BBC Scotland News

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  26.  
    03:39: Perth & Kinross count Suzanne Allan BBC Scotland

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  27.  
    03:36: INVERCLYDE RESULT

    "No" wins by 27,329 to 27,243 - that's 50.1% to 49.9%.

    The total ballot was 54,601 and the turnout 87.4%.

     
  28.  
    03:35: Largest turnout John Curtice Professor of politics at Strathclyde University

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  29.  
    03:35: Indicators of vote John Curtice Professor of politics at Strathclyde University

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    If these reports are correct then the expectation of a "No" victory is likely to be fulfilled.

     
  30.  
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    tweets: Yes camp here at Emirates seem a bit more confident they've taken Glasgow but not sure if it will be by a big enough margin to matter. No camp not quite so hopeful.

     
  31.  
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    First of all Ruth Davidson, who once described the 2012 Scotland Act as a "line in the sand that should not be crossed" has indicated that Scotland requires considerable further devolution.

    Meanwhile Lord Forsyth, once one of the principal opponents of the Scottish Parliament, has now declared that he thinks Holyrood should be given even more devolution than it has been promised by any of the Unionist parties so far.

    It looks as though one consequence of this campaign is to have brought the Scottish Conservatives very firmly into the devolution camp.

     
  32.  
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    tweets: In Dundee the fire alarm was triggered for a third time but stopped immediately.

     
  33.  
    03:31: Analysis John Curtice Professor of politics at Strathclyde University

    Former SNP MSP Andrew Wilson has just declared that he thinks the SNP should get involved in talks about more devolution for Scotland, should indeed Scotland vote "No" in the referendum.

    This is the first sign that the SNP may well try to use their vote in this referendum to push the demand for more devolution yet further, rather than stand aside as they did on the occasion of the Scottish constitutional convention.

     
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  35.  
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  36.  
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  37.  
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  38.  
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    He said: "There is a clear consensus in Scotland, if not for "Yes" in this vote, then for more powers for the Scottish Parliament.

    "We need to make sure the powers promised in haste at the end of this campaign are driven through to deliver not just paltry new powers, not just reluctant modest new powers, but the very substantial maximum new powers that people want to see.

    "Albeit, it appears from tonight, within the continuing United Kingdom."

     
  39.  
    03:25: South Lanarkshire count Catriona Renton BBC Scotland

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  40.  
    03:24: East Dunbartonshire

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    East Dunbartonshire
     
  41.  
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  42.  
    03:20: Scottish Borders count Morag Kinniburgh BBC News Scotland

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  43.  
    03:19: Twitter reaction

    Co-convenor of the Scottish Greens Patrick Harvie: Well the result looks disappointing. But losing the energy & motivation of people who've become re-engaged in politics would be even worse.

     
  44.  
    03:19: It's all there

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    If you think you might get a little lost as to whether your council has declared yet, go to our local authority pages, where you will see in images, words and video what is going on.

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  45.  
    03:17: More on English devolution

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  46.  
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    "We don't have the final figures and we may be three hours away from that, but it does look like a good night for the 'No' campaign here in Fife."

     
  47.  
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  48.  
    03:14: Pound high

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  49.  
    03:14: Dundee evacuation update Andrew Anderson BBC Scotland News

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  50.  
    tweet @bbcscotlandnews 03:11: Have your say

    Douglas Symon tweets: That result pretty much signifies it'll be no. #indyref

     
  51.  
    03:11: Aberdeenshire turnout Simon Cousins, BBC Scotland News

    Aberdeenshire turnout is 87.2%.

     
  52.  
    03:10: Dundee evacuation Andrew Anderson BBC Scotland News

    Counting staff evacuated from count for a second time due to another fire alarm...

    Dundee evacuation
     
  53.  
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  54.  
    03:09: Confirmed turnout figures Andrew Black Political reporter, BBC Scotland

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    East Renfrewshire: 66,021 votes (turnout 90.4%) East Ayrshire: 84,252 votes (turnout 84.5%) Stirling: 62,225 votes (turnout 90.1%) South Ayrshire: 81,715 votes (turnout 86.1%) East Lothian: 71,798 votes (turnout 87.6%) Falkirk: 108,626 votes (turnout 88.7%) Dumfries and Galloway: 106,755 votes (turnout 87.5%) Aberdeen: 143,664 votes (turnout 81.7%) Glasgow: 364,664 votes (turnout 75%) Perth and Kinross: 104,285 votes (turnout 86.9%).

     
  55.  
    03:08: Suspected fraud

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  56.  
    03:08: North Ayrshire count Ian Hamilton BBC Scotland

    Listening.....

    Ian Hamilton

    The room is surprisingly quiet considering the importance of this vote.

    It's not that everyone has gone home, I think it's just the air of expectation here in North Ayrshire. All I can hear is the sound of ballot papers which to me sounds like birds flapping their wings.

    The vote appears to be very tight here and neither are claiming victory yet, we should know more at about 04:00.

     
  57.  
    03:07: Aberdeen count Fiona Stalker BBC Scotland reporter

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  58.  
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  59.  
    03:06: Dundee count Andrew Anderson BBC Scotland News

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  60.  
    03:03: COMHAIRLE NAN EILEAN SIAR (WESTERN ISLES) RESULT

    "No" wins by 10,544 to 9,195. That is 53% for "No" against 47% for "Yes".

    Ballot total: 19,758, a turnout 86.2%.

     
  61.  
    02:57: 'Amazing turnouts'

    Scottish Education Secretary Mike Russell tweets: Amazing turnouts across Scotland (including a rumoured 100% on Jura) testify to the energising effect of #indyref on all of the country

     
  62.  
    02:56: 'Early stage'

    Scotland's Finance Secretary John Swinney is at the count in Perth and Kinross.

    He said: "At this stage it looks as if Better Together is ahead, I would accept that, but we need to wait to see all of the work that is going on on the tables to see exactly how the vote is going to separate between the two counts.

    "I think we have to be really careful about making judgements based on the three declarations that have taken place.

    "The gap between the two positions is about 13,000 votes. These are three relatively small local authority areas. there are much bigger votes to be cast in other parts of the country. It is a very early stage in the night."

     
  63.  
    02:54: Highland count Craig Anderson BBC Scotland

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  64.  
    02:53: Fife count Simon Dedman, BBC Scotland News

    Labour MP Thomas Docherty tells the BBC he is confident "No" has won in Fife.

     
  65.  
    02:51: Moray count

    The Moray vote count started after 02:00 - two hours later than expected. Click here for more updates on Moray.

    Moray votes
     
  66.  
    02:50: 'Two year campaign'

    Musician and independence campaigner Ricky Ross agrees it is too early to predict a final result.

    "This has been a two year campaign. Let's not concertina the end!" he jokes.

     
  67.  
    02:49: Murphy 'delighted'

    Labour MP Jim Murphy tells the BBC he is "delighted with the turnout" and the involvement of 16 and 17-year-olds in the vote. He says the "it's too early to say" what the final result will be.

     
  68.  
    02:48: First three results Brian Taylor Political editor, Scotland

    The first three results are a hat-trick for the Better Together side but they are three of the smallest council areas in Scotland.

    In terms of Shetland, they weren't notably keen on devolution in the first place, so it is no great surprise that they are not exactly giving a resounding endorsement to the concept of independence.

    Of the three results, of course, the Clackmannanshire result is far and away the most significant in that it was an area that perhaps should have been doing rather better for the "Yes" side.

     
  69.  
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    Benny Wenda
     
  70.  
    02:44: SHETLAND RESULT

    "No" wins by 9,951 votes to 5,669. That is a vote share of 64% for "No" and 36% for "Yes". The turnout was 15,620.

     
  71.  
    02:43: Falkirk count Fiona Walker BBC Scotland

    "No" now confident of comfortable Falkirk win. "Yes" still think they could be in with a chance. Too close to call they say.

     
  72.  
    02:42: Glasgow turnout

    SNP MSP John Mason tweets: 75% turnout in Glasgow. Twice turnout of 37% when I was elected in 2011. Congratulations to the electorate whatever the result.

     
  73.  
    02:40: Edinburgh forecast Laura Maxwell, BBC Radio Scotland

    A senior figure in the Better Together campaign tells me Edinburgh is about 60%-40% for "No".

     
  74.  
    02:38: Fife count Lisa Summers BBC Scotland

    What they are saying here is that it is too early to say with any certainty.

    On behalf of the "No" campaign, Thomas Docherty, the MP for Dunfermline, says he is fairly confident everything is going in their favour and it looks as if Fife will vote "No" this evening.

    That is based on sample counts from areas like Kirkcaldy and Glenrothes that they thought would go in favour of "Yes" but are showing growing evidence of a "No" vote.

     
  75.  
    02:38: 'Politically aware'

    East Renfrewshire Labour MSP Ken McIntosh said of the area's 90.4% turnout: "East Ren has got a very good record of high results. I think we had the highest turnout at the EU election, the highest turnout at the last UK general election.

    "We have got a very politically aware constituency and I think people are very concerned about their children's future and they have exercised that democratic right at the ballot box."

     
  76.  
    02:36: Western Isles turnout Catriona MacLean, BBC Scotland

    Western Isles turnout was 19,758 votes, which was 86.2%.

     
  77.  
    02:33: Social media

    Nearly 83,000 tweets about the referendum were sent between 01:00 and 02:00 - down 16% on the previous hour.

    Many of the top tweets are about the Clackmannanshire "No" vote result. The most shared - retweeted over 2,000 times - came from @BBCBreaking.

    The most influential account in the last hour has been Scottish actress Karen Gillan, who tweeted: "Thanks everyone! I am now watching the results! Good luck Scotland xxx"

    Join the conversation via #indyref, tweet @BBCPolitics or @bbcscotlandnews, or go to the BBC News Facebook page.

     
  78.  
    02:33: West Dunbartonshire count

    A "No" team photo shows the mood in the Playdrome. See here for more updates on West Dunbartonshire.

    No's in West Dunbartonshire
     
  79.  
    02:26: Stirling count Reevel Alderson Home affairs correspondent, BBC Scotland

    Johanna Boyd, Labour leader of Stirling Council has predicted a victory for "No" in the area - greater than the 54% recorded in neighbouring Clackmannanshire.

    She said recent reports of a narrowing of the polls had had the effect of persuading undecided voters to turn out.

    Stirling recorded one of the highest proportions of electors casting their ballot: 90.1%.

     
  80.  
    02:25: Edinburgh count Laura Bicker BBC Referendum Correspondent

    This is quite a hefty count to go through so it could be 05:00 before we get the result. There are a few worried faces within the "Yes" camp.

    I have spoken to a few people here who believe it could be as much as 60% for "No" and 40% for "Yes".

     
  81.  
    @jimmurphymp 02:21: Jim Murphy

    Labour's Jim Murphy tweets: Looks like a very big win for No in our local authority of East Renfrewshire on over 90% turnout.

     
  82.  
    02:21: Argyll & Bute helicopters

    Ballot boxes for the count at Lochgilphead arrived on two helicopters. The first one arrived from Iona, Tiree, Coll and Mull. The second carried ballots from Jura, Gigha, Islay and Colonsay. See here for more updates on Argyll & Bute.

    Helicopter ballot boxes
     
  83.  
    02:20: Close in Inverclyde Sally McNair Reporter, BBC Scotland

    The turnout is 87%, which is quite phenomenal for this area. The vote is neck and neck and could come to the last vote here.

    The "Yes" campaign were more confident earlier in the evening but they are perhaps less ebullient now. They have been fighting for every vote and it appears to be very close here.

     
  84.  
    02:15: Perth & Kinross count

    There are a handful of policemen at the Perth and Kinross count in Perth to assist with the smooth running of the referendum count. See here for more updates on Perth & Kinross.

    Police in Perth
     
  85.  
    02:13: Convincing win Andrew Black Political reporter, BBC Scotland

    A very convincing win for "No" in Orkney - no surprise there, as it's solid Liberal Democrat country. There were two spoiled ballot papers.

     
  86.  
    02:11: North Ayrshire turnout

    Turnout was 84.4% in North Ayrshire.

     
  87.  
    02:11: 100-year-old voter Laura Maxwell, BBC Scotland

    Edinburgh's chief counting officer Sue Bruce says one woman who voted in person today was celebrating her 100th birthday. Ms Bruce described it as "a wonderful demonstration of the voter's commitment to democracy".

     
  88.  
    02:10: 'Remarkable' turnout Andrew Black Political reporter, BBC Scotland

    The high voter turnout is becoming one of the stories of the evening so far at the Ingliston central count.

    Lib Dem peer Lord Wallace says the 83% turnout in his former Orkney constituency is "remarkable", given turnout at elections there never really got above about 67%.

     
  89.  
    02:09: Scottish Borders turnout Morag Kinniburgh, BBC Scotland News

    Scottish Borders turnout is 87.4%.

     
  90.  
    02:08: Orkney analysis John Curtice Professor of politics at Strathclyde University

    This is probably one of the toughest council areas for the "Yes" side thus we should not be surprised if the council reports a very substantial "No" lead here.

    This is exactly what has transpired with "Yes" winning less than a third of the vote. We should probably avoid reading too much into this given the count of the area.

     
  91.  
    02:07: Falkirk count Fiona Walker BBC Scotland

    Both sides say it's neck and neck in Falkirk. Both still smiling...

     
  92.  
    02:07: Dumfries turnout

    Turnout in Dumfries and Galloway was 87.5%.

     
  93.  
    02:04: 'Utter cynicism'

    Conservative peer and former Scotland Secretary Lord Forsyth tells the BBC: "The political class really ought to take a lesson from this referendum campaign because the one thing that came over on the doorsteps was utter cynicism about the political class."

     
  94.  
    02:04: ORKNEY RESULT

    "No" wins by 10,004 to 4,883, or 67% to 33%.

    There was a turnout of 83.7%

     
  95.  
    02:02: East Dunbartonshire John Curtice Professor of politics at Strathclyde University

    Another middle class area that commonly has a relatively high turnout has again repeated past patterns by emerging with no less than a 91% turnout. This is the highest turnout so far.

     
  96.  
    02:01: Eilean Siar count Catriona Maclennan BBC Scotland

    Counting of the ballot papers from the Southern Isles now in full swing. Updated estimated time of declaration for the Western Isles is now 02:30. See here for more updates on Comhairle nan Eilean Siar.

    Southern Isles
     
  97.  
    02:01: Turnout analysis John Curtice Professor of politics at Strathclyde University

    So far the differences between councils in their level of turnout is very similar to that which was evident in the May European elections.

    Thus, although the turnout is typically more than 50 points up on the turnout in May, it looks as though the places with a relatively high turnout in this referendum are going to be the same kinds of places that usually have a relatively high turnout.

    This casts doubt on claims that the "Yes" side has been successful in mobilising voters who do not normally come to the polls.

     
  98.  
    02:00: It's big

    Turnout for this trip to the ballot box has been huge - from Glasgow at 75% to East Dunbartonshire at 91%, and East Renfrewshire and Stirling at more than 90%.

    This most certainly defies the trend of recent years. Study the figures in this picture.

    Datapic on turnout
     
  99.  
    01:59: Perth and Kinross turnout Suzanne Allan, BBC Scotland News

    The turnout for Perth and Kinross is 86.9% - 104,285 votes cast.

     
  100.  
    01:57: Falkirk turnout

    Falkirk turnout is 88.7%.

     

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