Q&A: Voting in the Scottish independence referendum

On Thursday, 18 September, registered voters in Scotland will be asked the referendum question: "Should Scotland be an independent country?"

Those voters will have a straight choice between "yes" and "no".

For the first time - and for this vote only - 16 and 17 year olds will be able to sign up to the electoral register and make a choice in the historic poll.

Here is a quick guide to who has the right to vote in the referendum, how you go about registering to vote and the different ways to vote.

Who can vote?

Voter breakdown

More than four million people in Scotland are eligible to vote. But who are they?

  1. British, Irish and all other European Union citizens who are resident in Scotland will be able to vote.
  2. Commonwealth citizens who either have leave to remain in the United Kingdom or do not require such leave also qualify.
  3. Members of the armed services will also be able to have their say - as long as they are registered to vote in Scotland.
  4. With the minimum voting age lowered to 16 for this referendum only, anyone born on or before 18 September, 1998, can cast a vote.

Who cannot vote?

Prisoner in cell

If you are not registered to vote in Scotland then you cannot vote.

So, people who consider themselves Scottish living outside Scotland will not be able to have their say. About 800,000 Scots live in other parts of the UK.

Convicted prisoners are another group that will not be given a say.

Do I need to register to vote?

Teenager

To vote in the independence referendum - including those aged 16 on the day - you need to be on the electoral register.

If you are already on the register and your details have not changed, then you will not be required to re-register.

However, if your details have changed since you last voted - or if they will change before the referendum - then you will need to get in touch with the electoral registration office.

How do I register to vote?

An animation explaining how first-time young voters can register to take part in the referendum on Scottish independence.

The Electoral Registration Office contacted households in October and November 2013 to check the names of those who are eligible to register. Each house was sent two forms.

One requested the details of those who are 15 but will be 16 on the day of the vote. The second form requests the details of everyone else.

If you have not received a form, or need another copy, you can contact your local Electoral Registration Office to request a new one or you can download a form.

The deadline for registering to vote is midnight on 2 September 2014.

How do I cast my vote?

Post box

There are three ways in which you can vote.

  1. The most common way is to vote in person at a polling place - usually a town hall or school nearest to you.
  2. Alternatively, you can use a postal vote - where you send a completed ballot in by post rather than casting it in person.
  3. Or a proxy vote - where you appoint a person you trust to vote on your behalf.

The deadline to apply to use a postal or proxy vote at the referendum - excluding an emergency proxy vote - is 17:00 on 3 September.

Polling places will open on 18 September from 07:00 and close at 22:00.

How do I apply for a proxy vote?

Scottish soldier

You can only apply for a proxy vote if your reason for needing it is one of the following;

  1. You are unable to go to the polling station, for example, if you are away on holiday.
  2. You have a physical condition that means you cannot go to the polling station on election day.
  3. Your employment means that you cannot go to the polling station on election day.
  4. Your attendance on an educational course means that you cannot go to the polling station on election day.
  5. Or you are a crown servant or a member of Her Majesty's Armed Forces who is unable to make it to a polling station.

If this is the case, then you could fill out an application form.

You would also need to fill out an application form if you wanted a postal vote.

What is an emergency proxy vote?

Accident and emergency department

If you have a medical emergency after the proxy vote deadline has passed, which means you will be unable to vote in person, then you could apply for an emergency proxy vote.

The deadline for emergency proxy votes is 17:00 on 18 September 2014.

Who can vote on my behalf?

Couple holding hands

Anyone who is eligible to vote in the referendum can vote on your behalf as long as they are willing.

You cannot act as a proxy for more than two people - unless they are a close relative.

Do I need to vote?

Ballot box

No, like all elections in the United Kingdom, compulsory voting is not in place for this referendum. It is up to each individual to decide whether they wish to vote.

When do we find out the results?

Key dates and times

  • Register to vote by midnight 2 September, 2014
  • Register for a postal or proxy vote by 5pm on 3 September, 2014
  • The deadline for an emergency proxy is 5pm on 18 September, 2014
  • Make sure your postal vote arrives by 10pm on 18 September, 2014
  • Vote at polling places between 7am and 10pm on 18 September, 2014

Immediately after the polls close at 22:00 on 18 September 2014, the votes will be counted. However, a paper from Chief Counting Officer Mary Pitcaithly declared: "an estimate of a final result cannot be given with any confidence".

Counts will be taking place in 32 local authority areas and a number of factors could mean a longer wait than usual for the results.

Mary Pitcaithly wrote: "With the current processes and volumes of ballots, particularly postal votes, it is unlikely to be in the early hours as might have been the experience in previous elections. Turnout, volumes of postal votes and logistical factors dependent on the geography and climate must all come into the consideration."

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    Text using 80295 Anti-Irish bigotry - Your views

    John, Wishaw: Just shows you ignorance of some people. Teachers in Catholic schools don't need to be of Catholic faith. My son's teacher wasn't a Catholic.

    Anon: When I attended a Catholic school 40 years ago we had many Protestant teachers. It's nonsense to claim otherwise.

    Jono from Fife: The real issue in Scotland now is anti-English not anti-Irish bigotry. I'm Irish but have lived here for 30 plus years. An Irish accent has never been a problem for me.

     
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    The statement was used on teaching material for P7 pupils at New Stevenson Primary School in North Lanarkshire.

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    North Lanarkshire Council said the material would no longer be used.

     
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    Text using 80295 Anti-Irish bigtory - Your views

    Anon: There are bigots in every walk of life but to brand a nation as bigoted as the result of the actions of a few is wrong. I work in Scotland, England and Ireland and have never heard any such comments. I would also have no issue in confronting anyone who behaved in this manner in my company.

    John: Not sure about anti-Irish bigotry but there are certainly plenty of west of Scotland Scots who were born raised, and living here but who appear to want to identify themselves as being Irish.

    Anon: Sectarianism works both ways: a Protestant cannot teach in a Catholic school.

    Danny, Ayrshire: It's not confined to the west of Scotland. This bigotry is seen in Edinburgh Aberdeen and Dundee, as can be seen from the way Neil Lennon was treated both as a player and a manager.

     
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    East Haven residents initially thought the carving could be a historical artefact, but it was actually made as part of a college project in the 1960s.

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    Text using 80295 Anti-Irish bigotry - Your views

    John Griffin, Penicuik: I am a 57-year-old from an Irish Catholic background. I am Scottish but I am openly proud of my Irishness. I am a season book holder at Celtic Park and have been attending since late 60s. I live in Midlothian and have worked throughout the Lothians for 40 years. I have never experienced anti-Irish bigotry outside of football. It does not exist in Edinburgh.

    Alan: Yes, there is anti-Irish bigotry in Scotland, and it probably dates back to the Reformation when Catholicism was outlawed in this country.

    RD, Troon: It's great being still called a 'tatty muncher' in 2015. This comes from people who don't recognise how important the Irish have been in helping to build the infrastructure of Scotland.

    Paula, very annoyed in Glasgow: Once again a debate about racism is hijacked by mostly white people to discuss sectarianism and now anti-Irish bigotry. For once could we please discuss racism as it affects those of us who are Black, Asian, Chinese, etc? We are visually different and face overt & subtle racism on a daily basis but in Scotland it's assumed racism isn't an issue because of sectarianism. It's ridiculous!

     
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    @bbcchrismclaug GB or not GB? That is the question... Chris McLaughlin BBC Sport

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    Ronny Deila

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  13.  
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    11:59: Pupil charged with assault at school Philip Sim Tayside and Central reporter, BBC Scotland

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    The Fraser of Allander Institute's regular forecast shows the boost to oil users in Scotland outweighs the harm to North Sea producers.

    Oil rig in the North Sea

    The institute said tightening public spending could still hurt the economy.

    But it said "strengthening" investment was a reason to expect higher growth than it had forecast in November.

     
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  20.  
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    It came after the supplier failed to meet Ofgem's targets to clear up all outstanding Energy Ombudsman decisions regarding customer complaints.

    Scottish Power said it was "committed to delivering the best service possible and treating our customers fairly".

     
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    11:09: Airport firm not lost on space idea Steven McKenzie BBC Scotland Highlands and Islands reporter

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    Artist's concept of Skylon

    Highlands and Islands Airport Limited (Hail) said it did not have the resources to take on the project itself.

    But Hial's chairman Grenville Johnson added that the company would probably offer what help it could to an organisation that could fund it.

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  23.  
    10:52: Boost for Scots economy forecast Douglas Fraser Business and economy editor, Scotland

    The Scottish economy will continue to pick up pace, despite the impact for the oil and gas industry of the lower oil price.

    The Fraser of Allander Institute's regular forecast shows the boost to oil users in Scotland outweighs the harm to oil producers.

    That runs counter to the view of the Bank of England governor, Mark Carney, who said he expected the UK economy to be helped by lower prices, while the Scottish economy would not.

    The economic group says a tightening of public spending could still hurt the economy, but growth in investment is a reason to expect higher growth than it forecast last November.

     
  24.  
    10:43: New wind farm bid near Inverness Steven McKenzie BBC Scotland Highlands and Islands reporter

    A 12-turbine wind farm has been proposed for a site next to a 33-turbine project being constructed south of Inverness.

    Wind farm

    Developer RES has submitted a planning application to Highland Council for Aberarder Wind Farm.

    In 2010, RES secured approval for the 33-turbine Dunmaglass Wind Farm about 20 miles (32km) from Inverness. SSE is now developing the site.

    Conservationists had opposed the scheme.

    Ornithologist Roy Dennis and biologist Dr David Bellamy joined campaigns opposed to the project on the site in the Monadhliath hills.

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    It wants strong, fit, swimmers who are courageous, trustworthy and dependable.

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  30.  
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  31.  
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    Laing the jewellers in Frederick Street Pic: Brian Innes

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  32.  
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    Carnsalloch

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    Text using 80295 Super ID database - Your views

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  38.  
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  39.  
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    Scottish and English flag

    Michael Cook has made the inquiry regarding provision at Lamberton on the boundary between the Scottish Borders and Northumberland.

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    Morning Call

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    08:48: What's on the back pages?

    The Rangers extraordinary general meeting will go ahead despite shareholder Dave King claiming a "landslide" victory in his bid to get rid of the current board, reports The Scotsman.

    Scott Allan

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    Text using 80295 Council shake-up - Your views

    Gordie, Glenrothes: With councils leaving Cosla, the councils no longer overseeing a local police service, social work moving from councils to integrate with health and financial challenges, the Scottish government will now have the confidence to reduce the number of councils in Scotland! We don't need 32, with 32 chief executives, directors of education, directors of housing etc.

     
  43.  
    08:31: Tourism centre closed

    A trend towards tourists accessing information online has been cited as a reason behind plans to shut a south of Scotland visitor centre.

    Tourism office

    Dumfries and Galloway councillors are being asked to agree to close a face-to-face service in Newton Stewart.

    It comes after usage figures showed a 66% drop in footfall over the past five years.

    A 12-month pilot of providing visitor information at another site in the town is being proposed.

     
  44.  
    08:20: Fan ownership Alasdair Lamont BBC Scotland

    Fan representation in Scottish football has been in the news a lot recently, with the Rangers Supporters Trust and Rangers First building their shareholding at Ibrox.

    Ian Murray

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  45.  
    08:12: Read all about it

    There are taxing issues on the front of a number of Scottish newspapers on Wednesday.

    The Scotsman says that Nicola Sturgeon has ditched the SNP government's flagship pledge to slash big business taxes in Scotland.

    Wednesday's front pages

    As the first minister unveiled her economic vision for Scotland, she revealed a change in stance on corporation tax, focusing on "targeted changes in tax allowances" rather than a "blanket approach".

    The Herald says that UK chancellor George Osborne has come under intense pressure from business chiefs to reverse in full his controversial tax grab on the embattled North Sea oil and gas industry.

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    08:04: Goulding to perform at Glasgow festival

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    Ellie Goulding

    Goulding, who is currently top of the charts with her song Love Me Like You Do, will support headliner Calvin Harris and will take to the stage in Bellahouston Park on Sunday, 30 August.

    John Newman, Disciples and Burns will also perform.

    Tickets go on sale this Friday.

     
  47.  
    08:02: Swinney defends database plans

    Deputy First Minister John Swinney, in response to concerns over plans for a super database, told Good Morning Scotland that the proposal is "not a new database".

    John Swinney

    He added: "The database that is proposed to be used under this system is the NHS National Register, which has existed since the 1950s.

    "What we are trying to do is make it possible and practical for members of the public to access public services online, and being able to do that safely and securely.

    "Public bodies will not be able to interrogate some database, they will not be able to look through peoples' records. It is a verification and matching system to make sure we are delivering public services online to individuals who require and are entitled to those services."

     
  48.  
    07:55: High note for Calvin Harris fans

    Calvin Harris has been announced as the first headline act for Glasgow's Summer Sessions.

    The Scots DJ will take to the stage at Bellhouston Park on 30 August.

    Calvin Harris

    Summer Sessions is Scotland's only annual outdoor city music festival.

    Last year, The Killers, and DJs David Guetta and Steve Angello performed to more than 100,000 people at Bellahouston across three dates. Tickets for the 2015 event go on sale on Friday.

     
  49.  
    07:50: 'Stick to talking to Cosla'

    With news that four councils are leaving the local government umbrella group Cosla, to join a rival body, Professor Richard Kerley, chair of the Centre for Scottish Public Policy, predicts an "unpredictable future".

    "This has gone on for some considerable time," he told BBC Radio's Good Morning Scotland.

    "It seems to me that some of their (the four councils) arguments for being very important are not really material to what the Scottish government is going to want to know, which is: which representative organisation do we discuss local government matters with?

    Council gritter

    "I assume, at the moment, they will stick to talking to Cosla, which will continue to represent 28 councils.

    "Aberdeen has for many years now argued that it receives a lesser amount of financial support from the Scottish government than it is due to than other councils do.

    "The objective criteria used to determine most of that distribution don't favour Aberdeen. It has pockets of poverty, that's undeniable, there are people living in Aberdeen who are struggling.

    "But, by and large, it's a very prosperous area; [it has] little in common with Glasgow, Renfrewshire and to a certain extent South Lanarkshire."

    Cosla insists the move is not the end for the umbrella group and that the four councils will be welcome back any time.

     
  50.  
    07:44: 'Creeping' towards identity cards

    Plans for a new identity database are to be debated by MSPs later amid civil liberty concerns.

    Willie Rennie

    Under the proposals more than 100 public bodies, including HMRC, would be able to access adults' private data on the NHS Central Register (NHSCR).

    One of the politicians opposed to the scheme is the Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie.

    The MSP told Good Morning Scotland: "The main concern is the creeping nature towards a single number - a universal database - right across the public sector. It is one small step away from creating an identity card.

    "I know the Scottish government say they are against identity cards, but these are identity cards in all but name."

     
  51.  
    07:38: Play to champion disabled acting

    A play featuring a number of disabled actors is set to take to the stage in Dundee.

    Thousands of pounds has been spent improving disabled access at the city's Rep Theatre for the new production of Blood Wedding.

    Dundee play rehearsal

    The cast includes deaf actors and wheelchair users, and is backed by the Graeae Theatre Company, which promotes the work of disabled thespians.

    Blood Wedding runs at the Dundee Rep until 14 March.

     
  52.  
    07:30: Man arrested over bus sex attacks

    A 36-year-old man has been arrested in connection with alleged sexual assaults in the city centre of Glasgow.

    It comes after police released images of a man they were keen to trace in relation to a series of incidents on buses in the city.

    Three women were allegedly assaulted between 19 and 27 November last year.

     
  53.  
    07:28: SSE donation 'window dressing'

    An organisation campaigning for cheaper electricity charges for people living on the Western isles has criticised a £40,000 donation from SSE to a charity.

    light bulb

    The money will be used by Energy Action Scotland to raise awareness of the help available to people struggling to pay their household fuel bills.

    Describing the money as "window dressing", Western Isles Poverty Action Group said SSE could afford to do more.

    SSE said the donation was aimed at helping its most vulnerable customers.

     
  54.  
    @BBCScotWeather Ice risk BBC Scotland Weather Latest

    Take care this morning, folks - widespread risk of ice.

    Ice warning
     
  55.  
    07:22: Forth Bridge birthday

    On its 125th birthday, we have published a selection of your best pictures of the Forth Bridge.

    Forth Bridge

    The cantilever railway bridge which spans the Firth of Forth from nine miles (14 km) west of Edinburgh city centre to North Queensferry in Fife, is one of Scotland's most famous landmarks.

    A fly-past by a Spitfire and an RAF Typhoon will mark the 125th anniversary at 13.25 GMT.

     
  56.  
    07:14: Transparency call over principals' pay

    The University and College Union (UCU) Scotland claims Scottish universities have broken promises made on transparency over principals' pay.

    university principal

    It says over two-thirds of universities refused to provide full minutes of the committee meetings where pay was set.

    The union is urging the Scottish government to intervene.

    Universities Scotland says remuneration committees' policies were set by the universities' governing bodies, which included staff and students.

     
  57.  
    @BBCTravelScot Rail delays BBC Scotland Travel Latest

    ScotRail:

    • speed restriction between High Street and Glasgow Queen Street - 10 min delays - all day
    • 07:23 Elgin/Inverness cancelled
    • 07:36 Carstairs/Dalmuir cancelled
    • replacement buses to Glasgow Central, one to stations, one direct.
     
  58.  
    07:08: Councils plan to leave Cosla

    Confirmation is expected later from Aberdeen Council that it is leaving Cosla, the local government umbrella group, to join a rival body.

    The Labour-led council is expected to form a new negotiating group with three other Labour councils: Glasgow, Renfrewshire and South Lanarkshire.

    Successive administrations at Aberdeen have expressed dissatisfaction over their relations with Cosla.

    It says the four councils will be welcome back at any time.

     
  59.  
    07:06: Dungavel detentions Calum McKay BBC Scotland

    Dozens of asylum seekers have been held at Dungavel immigration removal centre (IRC) in South Lanarkshire for months, figures released to BBC Scotland reveal.

    Dungavel, near Strathaven in South Lanarkshire, opened in 2001

    In some cases detainees were held for more than a year.

    The figures come as MPs have called for a limit on the time someone can be detained under immigration powers.

    The Home Office said it only detains people for the shortest period necessary.

     
  60.  
    @BBCScotWeather Ice warning BBC Scotland Weather Latest

    Good morning! Gillian, here. Watch out for ice this morning. Still a scattering of showers during am, mostly dry with sunshine by afternoon. 6-8C.

     
  61.  
    07:01: Super ID database

    Plans for a new identity database are to be debated by MSPs amid civil liberty concerns.

    identity database

    Under the proposals more than 100 public bodies, including HMRC, would be able to access adults' private data on the NHS Central Register (NHSCR).

    Opposition parties argue the move amounts to identity cards by the "back door".

    A consultation on the issue closed last week and the Scottish government has promised to "listen to all concerns".

     
  62.  
    07:00: Here we go... Thomas McGuigan BBC Scotland News

    Good morning and a warm welcome to Wednesday's Scotland Live.

    News, sport, travel and weather between now and 19:00, with a sprinkling of your views on the day's events...

     

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