Scotland politics

Scottish independence: Referendum vote details unveiled

girls holding cakes with flags Image copyright PA
Image caption Counting will begin as soon as the polls close at 22:00 on Thursday 18 September

Voters will be sent polling cards for the Scottish independence referendum a month before the ballot.

The chief counting officer for the referendum, Mary Pitcaithly, has instructed the country's 32 councils to send out the cards on 14 and 15 August.

Postal ballots will be sent between the 26th and 28th of the month.

The referendum will be held on 18 September, with voters asked the "Yes/No" question: "Should Scotland be an independent country?"

The dates for sending out polling cards are among eight directions sent by Ms Pitcaithly, who is also the chief executive of Falkirk council, to the counting officers at each of the country's 32 local authorities.

The instructions are designed to help ensure "a successful referendum, with a result that everyone will trust as accurate," Ms Pitcaithly said

Because a high turn out is expected, Mrs Pitcaithly wants councils to print 120% of the required ballots for both postal voters and those who vote in person at polling stations, in case any papers get lost or damaged.

To minimise delays, councils are also being directed to appoint one polling clerk for every 800 voters eligible to cast their vote in person at the polling stations.

They must also have additional staff available to move between polling stations to help manage peaks and troughs during the day.

Other directions include an instruction that ballot papers must be white, with one Official Mark for the whole of Scotland carried on all ballot papers.

The front of the ballot paper will bear this official security mark, while the back will carry a unique identifying number and the name of the relevant council area.

Rural areas

The chief counting officer has confirmed that the count will take place overnight on Thursday 18 September and start as "soon as reasonably practicable" after the poll closes at 22:00.

In addition, she has directed that local authorities who adopt the "mini-count" method may move to the count stage before the verification process of all votes cast has finished.

This will help councils, especially in rural areas, where there is likely to be a long delay between the arrival of the first and last ballot box at the local count centre.

Ms Pitcaithly said: "My focus is on ensuring that all elements of planning and delivery of the Scottish independence referendum are undertaken with the interests of the voter at the heart of all decisions.

"I believe these directions will inspire confidence and provide consistency in the process so that we can administer a successful referendum, with a result that everyone will trust as accurate."

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