The Process

Polls will be open at 7am on Thursday 18 September at polling places across Scotland. After they close at 10pm, votes will counted at count centres within each local authority in Scotland . Local Counting Officers (CO) will report local totals to the Chief Counting Officer (CCO), who will verify and authorise local total announcements.

This is a national referendum and there is only one result: the total number of votes cast in favour of each answer to the referendum question across the whole country. The national result is the aggregate of 32 local totals. Local totals may or may not reflect the national picture.

The local totals will be announced by the CCO at Ingliston after they have been announced in the local area.

A final declaration of the national result will be made by the CCO following receipt and verification of all 32 local totals.

Local Counts

The Scottish Independence Referendum will be administered by 32 COs, each responsible for the event in their local authority area. They will oversee the printing of the ballot paper, production and distribution of postal votes, the verification of personal identifiers (signatures and dates of birth) on returned postal votes, setting up polling places and staffing sufficient polling stations in them, transporting the ballot papers to the count hall and counting the votes.


The CO may require to have the votes in their local count area recounted if s/he considers it appropriate. The CCO can also require a CO to have the votes in that local count area re-counted or again recounted, if it is considered appropriate.

The count process is open, transparent and accountable with a clear reconciliation of every ballot paper issued and counted. Any concerns regarding process need to be identified, reported and resolved locally. If agents or observers have concerns regarding the conduct of a count these need to be reported to the CO. Where these concerns may impact on the local totals the CO may consider a re-count appropriate.

When determining if a recount is needed the key factor in any decision by the CCO or CO will be whether any concern has been identified about the count process. The closeness of the vote will not in itself be sufficient reason. Confidence in the result is predicated on the integrity, transparency and consistency of the polling and count processes not on the margin of victory. Where the proper process has been seen to be carried out a close result is no less trustworthy than one where the difference is greater.

The National Count Process

First Count / Verification
  • Counting Officer reports first count total to the Chief Counting Officer
  • Chief Counting Officer authorises Counting Officer to announce turnout
  • Counting Officer reports final totals to Chief Counting Officer
  • Chief Counting Officer checks that they match the previously reported turnout total
  • Chief Counting Officer authorises Counting Officer to announce local totals
  • Chief Counting Officer announces totals for the local area
National Result
  • When all 32 totals have been confirmed and verified, Chief Counting Officer declares the National Result

Local Count Process

  • At close of polls, sealed ballot boxes and any postal votes handed in to polling places are collected and transported to the Count Venue
Verify Postals & unused papers
  • Before the postal ballots can be added to the count all postal votes, including those collected at the close of poll, must be verified
  • Counting Officer staff will also check the numbers of unused and spoiled papers returned from polling stations
First Count / Verification
  • The number of ballot papers in each ballot box is counted and reconciled with the total that the Counting Officer recorded as handed out at the Polling Station
  • When all boxes have been reconciled the Counting Officer will be able to announce the turnout %, once the figure has been submitted to the Chief Counting Officer
Second Count / Sort into Yes, No, Doubtful
  • As soon as the total number of papers in the count is confirmed they can be counted into YES, NO and DOUBTFUL
  • Some papers which may be doubtful, will need to be adjudicated and possibly rejected
  • The total YES + NO + REJECTS should match with the total number of papers found at the previous stage
  • Declaration of the local totals can then be completed, once the Chief Counting Officer has authorised the announcement and verified the figures