Scotland politics

Election watchdog deems referendum vote a success

Ballots arrive to be counted at the Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre Image copyright ROBERT PERRY/epa
Image caption The commission's report commends the Scottish government and parliament for ensuring that the legislation for the referendum was in place well before the poll.

The Scottish independence referendum was "well run" and an example to be followed, according to the election watchdog.

A report by the Electoral Commission has also found high levels of voter satisfaction with the process.

The research suggested 98% of postal voters and 94% of those who cast their ballot at polling stations were satisfied with the arrangements.

The commission said there were "important lessons" for future votes.

Scotland voted against independence in a historic referendum on 18 September 2014.

The turnout was the highest for any vote in Scotland's history with almost 85% of the electorate taking to the polls.

The commission's research showed 10% of those who voted claimed to have voted for the first time.

'Positive experience'

A total of 4,283,938 people were registered to vote in the referendum and 109,593 of them were aged 16 or 17 on the day of the poll.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The referendum was the first time that under-18s anywhere in the UK were able to vote on a major matter of state.

Of the young people who voted, 97% said they intended to vote again in future elections and referendums.

The report also said that any proposal to extend the franchise to 16 and 17 year olds needed to:

  • Consider the timing of the annual canvass of voters so that young people are fully included in it
  • Ensure robust plans are in place for registering and conducting public awareness activities with any new voters.
  • Consider how the data of people not yet 16 will be protected.

John McCormick, Electoral Commissioner for Scotland, said: "On almost every measure of participation the referendum exceeded anything we have seen before and people overwhelmingly said they found the experience of voting positive.

"This is thanks to the commitment and hard work of those running the referendum, but it also provides a lesson in how to legislate and plan for referendums that policy makers across the UK should learn from."

The commission regarded the referendum as having been "successfully run" and said lessons could be learned for future votes.

It said these included passing any referendum legislation at least six months before polling day, avoiding decisions on major issues like the UK's relationship with the EU on the same day as other elections and allowing plenty of time for any change to the voting age.

Mr McCormick added: "The commission wants those legislating for any future referendum, to follow the example of the Scottish referendum and ensure that all legislation is in place at least six months before it has to be implemented or complied with by campaigners, Electoral Registration Officers or Counting Officers.

"The Scottish referendum clearly shows that early legislation not only makes for a better run poll, but also ensures the debate focuses on the real issues at stake rather than on arguments about the process."

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