Guide to watching Scottish referendum

Coverage of the Scottish referendum on Thursday evening/Friday morning will be widespread of course, so a quick note on what we are looking for through the night (all times UK):

2200: Polls close (although those still queuing may still vote). The broadcast networks are not conducting an Exit Poll, so in fact we will know little at this stage.

Votes will be counted by each of the 32 local authorities

Votes will be counted by each of the 32 local authorities


0200: Key declaration: North Lanarkshire.

With over 6% of the electorate, it is important for “Yes” to win North Lanarkshire (albeit it will likely be fairly narrowly) if it is to win overall. Smaller declarations (in descending order of likely yes” vote) will also come over the hour from Clackmannanshire, Perth/Kinross and Moray with a likely majority for “Yes”; and East Lothian, Inverclyde and Orkney for “No”.

0300: Key declarations: South Lanarkshire and Aberdeenshire.

Similar to the above, South Lanarkshire should be a win (perhaps a more comfortable one) for “Yes” it is to win overall. The same applies to the slightly smaller Aberdeenshire, although watch also for regional discrepancies. Smaller declarations over this hour likely from Angus, Dundee, Falkirk, Stirling and East Ayrshire for “Yes”; Renfrewshire which is a toss-up if it’s close; and East Renfrewshire for “No”.

0330: Another raft of smaller declarations from Midlothian and West Lothian for “Yes”; and Argyll/Bute, South Ayrshire, East Dunbartonshire and Shetland for “No”.

0400: Key declaration: Fife.

Fife at over 7% of the electorate is really a toss-up – “No” could do with winning it if it’s close. Highland is also a large declaration at this time for “No”, and North Ayrshire should follow soon after as a toss-up (really “Yes” would want to win it if it’s close).

“Yes” should be ahead at this stage if it is to win.

0500: Key declarations: Glasgow and Edinburgh.

With nearly 12% and 9% of the electorate respectively, Scotland’s two largest cities and their margins could be critical if it is still close. For “No” to win, it will need to win Edinburgh relatively comfortably. For obvious reasons, both sides need to be at least close in Glasgow. Scottish Borders should also declare for “No” around this time.

0600: Key declaration: Aberdeen.

Aberdeen with over 4% of the population could decide it right at the end if it is a cliffhanger! It should narrowly favour “No” all other things being equal – but remember the rules are very simple, all that matters is the overall score across Scotland, so if it is close “No” may need to win by a particular margin.

Frustratingly, I have work meetings the next morning…

Thanks to BBC Scotland and Credit Suisse for estimates.

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8 thoughts on “Guide to watching Scottish referendum

  1. Chris Roche says:

    God rest the soul of the Rev Ian Paisley; he ended up being the antithesis of sourpuss Robinson. Re Mr Parsley and the Scottish referendum. Wordsword’s village schoolmaster eat your heart out ___ there is another tidy, compact head in the ignorant world jam-packed with unending knowledge..

  2. Scots Anorak says:

    Where did you get this information from, Ian? I had hoped that it would be relatively quick, given the fact that it’s a referendum rather than a general election. I’m sure, by the way, that there will be exit polls, albeit heavily caveated given the current uncertainty.

    • The information comes from BBC Scotland and Credit Suisse; I’ve used two polls to assess geographical differences in Yes v. No.

      Yes, there certainly will be exit polls, but I know there won’t be a General Election-style one (which is usually done by all the networks pooling resources). They wouldn’t want another Florida! 🙂

  3. Martin J Frankson says:

    Pretty odd that there’s no exit poll. Any reason given that we know off?

    • None given, but I can take a guess.

      General Election exit polls have the benefit of allowing comparison with literally decades of past exit polls and even regular polls to establish a “baseline”, from which any bias can be balanced. In each of the last two UK General Elections this has been accurate to well within 1% – vastly better than your average regular poll.

      In this case no such comparison is reasonably possible, as there is no previous referendum against which to draw a baseline. You could randomly ask 1000 people outside a polling station at 2-3pm, but hear happens if they are largely retired, or self-employed, or unemployed? That would skew the outcome meaning you may report entirely the wrong result.

  4. Martin J Frankson says:

    Exits polls these days are conducted in a more widespread scientific method than you describe.

    Exit polls at the very least provide the means for news agencies to compete to be the one who correctly call the result. Such a prize is gold dust. Also it saves us from having to drink a lot of espresso until 6am!

    I do love an election. I don’t watch sport but elections are my cup final

    • I’m not sure what you mean – that’s exactly my point! It is at best risky and at worst impossible to run exit polls scientifically if there’s no previous baseline to go off.

      I’ve done them, that’s how I know! And I wouldn’t do one next week because I’d have no means of assessing what the data mean.

      Actually in the UK the main broadcast networks now do a combined Exit Poll (and have done for a decade or so), so there’s no “competition” as such. That said, I gather Sky is investing in its own for the future.

  5. Glenn S says:

    After a YES will SNP be like FF, the more nationalist force, with a tendency to more cowboy-type figures, and Lab/Tories the less strident FG/Labour option?

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