The Chief Counting Officer for the Scottish Independence Referendum, Mary Pitcaithly has issued a position statement on requests for recounts to Counting Officers at Scotland’s 32 local authorities.

The CCO’s position draws on the Scottish Independence Referendum Act 2013 and accepted practice in delivering all UK elections counts. The position paper outlines the conduct of the count and details of the provision for recounts.

The count for the Scottish Independence Referendum will begin at 10pm on Thursday 18 September 2014. Votes will be counted in each local authority area and the Counting Officer (CO) for each area will report their totals to the Chief Counting Officer (CCO), who will verify the numbers and authorise the CO to make a local announcement. The CCO will also announce local totals at Ingliston, Edinburgh, where she will declare the national result after receipt and verification of all 32 local totals. There is only one result – the aggregate of all 32 local totals.

Before any local announcement or declarations are made, COs will be required to share count information, including verification sheets, with campaigners and observers at the count to ensure they have no concerns regarding the process or reconciliation of the votes. If agents or observers have concerns regarding the conduct or accuracy of a count, these must be reported to the local CO, who may consider a recount. All votes are counted locally and concerns about the count must be resolved locally.

The CO may have the votes in their local count area recounted if they consider it appropriate, and the CCO can request a CO to recount the votes in a local area if it is considered appropriate. When determining if a recount is needed, the key factor in any decision by a CO or the CCO will be whether any concern has been identified about the count process. The closeness of the vote will not in itself be a sufficient reason.

The Scottish Independence Referendum Act 2013 states that the CCO and COs cannot recount the votes after a result has been declared. In accordance with the Act, after a local declaration has been made, the CO must seal all ballot papers and other related materials. COs cannot open sealed papers – they can only be opened on the orders of the Court of Session or a sheriff principal. It would be impractical for votes to be recounted in a local count after a declaration has been made because of subsequent concerns about a close national result.

Mary Pitcaithly, Chief Counting Officer said:

“The single, most important aspect of my role is to deliver a result that is trusted and accepted. The security, integrity and accuracy of the process are vital.


“I will not authorise any local totals where I have concerns. Counting Officers will undertake recounts if they deem them to be appropriate and I may order votes to be recounted in a local area where I believe it to be appropriate. Once a local count is concluded and the totals have been declared, there is no legal basis for recounting the ballot papers. A recount cannot take place after a result has been declared.


“The size of the margin between Yes votes and No votes nationally should not affect the degree of confidence in the outcome, nationally or locally. Confidence in the national result is built on an assurance of a robust and transparent process in each of the 32 local counts. When I declare the result of the referendum I will do so with confidence in the result, however close it may be, because I will have confidence in the 32 totals that comprise the result.”


For further information, please contact Christina Kelly or Angela Hughes at Golley Slater – 0141 204 7800 / 0131 220 8787.

Notes to Editors

  • A copy of the Scottish Independence Referendum Act 2013 can be found at: (2.4 MB)
  • The Declaration of the Scottish Independence Referendum result will take place at the Royal Highland Centre, Ingliston, Edinburgh. The Royal Highland Centre is also the location for the City of Edinburgh Council count.
  • The Chief Counting Officer for the Scottish Independence Referendum, Mary Pitcaithly is Chief Executive of Falkirk Council
  • The CCO has issued a number of directions to local Counting Officers (COs) to ensure the proper and effective conduct of the referendum. A copy of the nine directions, including ballot paper printing, polling station staffing ratios and method of verifying and counting of the votes, is available by contacting Golley Slater.