Aficionados of election-night programmes are used to a familiar routine. The returning officer declares their constituency’s result. Candidates give speeches acknowledging victory or defeat. And Jeremy Vine tells us what the “swing” is from the previous election. But referendum night in Scotland will be very different.
– Though the vote is being conducted in each of Scotland’s 32 local council areas, there are no seats at stake. People are simply voting Yes or No to the proposition: Should Scotland be an independent country? The outcome will rest on whether, across the country as a whole, more votes are cast for or against.
– With the prospect of a turnout exceeding 80 per cent, the individual result declaration times are hard to predict. The first result will most likely come through around 1am from one of Scotland’s smaller councils such as Clackmannan (centred on Alloa) and (weather permitting) the Orkney Islands
– How should we interpret the early results? What we do know is that Yes support tends to be higher in less affluent neighbourhoods and lower among those born elsewhere in the UK. That means we would not be surprised if Orkney, where there is little deprivation and a relatively high proportion of people born elsewhere in the UK, votes No. Clackmannan is rather different and it would be disappointing news for the Yes side if they were to fail to win there.
– More definitive pointers? The Yes side’s best prospect could well be Dundee, where many neighbourhoods are not well off and where the SNP has long had strong support. It’s very unlikely Scotland as a whole will vote for independence if Dundee does not do so — but we may have to wait until beyond 2am until that result comes in. Otherwise it will be a case of sitting tight and watching the drama unfold.
On Friday, chief counting officer Mary Pitcaithly will approach a microphone at the Royal Highland Centre near Edinburgh to give the result of the referendum. Until then, an army of experts will follow every development.
10pm Polls close and ballots are collected.
1—2am Smaller authorities will start to declare their results.
Breakfast time All of the 32 authorities should have declared. Once the totals have been confirmed, Pitcaithly will step forward with a vital piece of paper in her hand…
John Curtice is professor of politics at Strathclyde University