Your guide to Scotland vote
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There will be two outcomes to the way the Scots cast their votes today. Political editor Annabelle Dickson provides a brief guide to the arguments and potential consequences, whichever way this historic poll goes.
Today we enter uncharted territory.
The leaders of the yes and no campaigns have made their final pitches in the Scottish referendum campaign and the people of Scotland will go to the polls to cast their ballot in this historic vote,
First minister Alex Salmond said Scotland would be the “envy of the world” if it votes to leave the UK.
While former prime minister Gordon Brown said Scottish independence is “an economic trapdoor from which we might never escape”.
The Labour MP said the SNP is leading Scotland into “a trap” – an “economic minefield where problems could implode at any time”.
Tomorrow morning we will find out who voters believe.
• HOW WILL WE FIND OUT?
More than four million people have registered to vote in today’s Scottish Independence Referendum, making it the largest electorate ever in Scotland for an election or referendum.
Those aged 16-17, will also be allowed to vote.
Voters will be faced with a single question: should Scotland be an independent country?
They will only be able to vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’.
Some 700,000 people were sent postal votes at the end of August.
Only a majority of 51 per cent is needed to secure victory.
We are likely to know the result of this historic poll around breakfast time tomorrow.
The 32 Scottish councils will start their counts as soon as the polls close at 10pm today.
They will report their local totals to the central count in Edinburgh before declaring them locally once they have the go-ahead.
The central count will keep a running tally of the votes and declare the final referendum result when all 32 councils’ figures are in, although the final outcome may become clear in advance of that.
It is difficult to estimate declaration times owing to a lack of precedents but it is expected the bulk of the results could come through between 3pm and 5pm.
• NEGOTIATIONS TO BE HELD WHATEVER HAPPENS
YES: The 300-year old Act of Union with the rest of the UK will cease.
Parliament is expected to be recalled in the coming days if the Scottish people vote for independence, and the negotiating will start.
A bill would need to be passed in Westminster to allow the process of independence for Scotland to begin.
The Acts of Union 1707 would then have to be dissolved by passing a second bill.
As well as the Westminster government, negotiations would also have to take place with the European Union, the United Nations and other organisations.
The Yes campaign wants Scotland to assume its status as an independent country on March 24, 2016.
NO: Scotland will continue its existence as part of the United Kingdom, with its own devolved government.
While it is hoped the no vote could see the divisive issue in Scotland come to an end, a close vote and promises by the main party leaders will inevitably require the start of negotiations about new powers for the Scottish government.
• POLITICAL CONSEQUENCES
YES: Westminster politics will never be the same again.
David Cameron is likely to face calls to resign from some corners of his party in the event of a vote for Scottish independence.
But there will also be consequences for the other main Westminster parties which were part of the Better Together campaign, and their leaders are likely to come under pressure.
There is a theory that the House of Commons would be dominated by the Conservative Party if Scottish MPs were excluded.
If constituencies stayed the same, Labour would lose 41 of its MPs, the Liberal Democrats would lose 11.
David Mundell MP has been the only Conservative MP in Scotland since 2005.
NO: David Cameron, Labour leader Ed Miliband and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg have all put their names to a promise to give more powers to Scotland.
Already English and Welsh politicians have been challenging what seemed to be a promise made in a panic.
They fear unbalanced devolution from 1979 will be made even worse.
A promise to keep the Barnett formula, whereby people in Scotland get significantly more money per head in public sector spending than people in England, is also likely to be challenged.
And Tory MPs are also likely to kick up a fuss about a situation whereby Scottish MPs vote in English-only matters.
There will be louder calls for devolution of powers within England, and there will also be heightened debate about the need for an English parliament. Leaders of all the main parties are likely to have to answer these questions at their party conferences over the coming weeks.
• WHAT ABOUT THE QUEEN?
If Scotland votes yes, nationalist campaigners want her to be head of state of a constitutional monarchy, continuing the Union of the Crowns that dates back to 1603.
They say this pre-dates the Union of the Parliaments by over one hundred years.
There has been speculation about what the Queen thinks of independence. She traditionally does not have political views.
But she urged voters to think “very carefully” before the vote, making the comment, to members of the public waiting outside Crathie Church.
• WHAT ABOUT CURRENCY?
Chancellor George Osborne has insisted that a currency union after Scottish independence would not work and has been “ruled out”.
He has said it is a “no ifs, no buts” position. He claims continued shared use of the pound would require remaining UK taxpayers to take on the fiscal and financial risks of a foreign country.
But the campaigners for an independent Scotland say the country will continue to use the pound. They claim it makes sense for Scotland and the rest of the UK, because it will make it easier to trade, and would also mean mortgages and pensions could continue to be in pounds and pence.
Alex Salmond, Scotland’s first minister, has warned that if Edinburgh is denied a fair share of UK assets – which he says includes shared use of the pound and the Bank of England – the Scottish government could refuse to take its share of the UK debt.
• BANKS WOULD MOVE SOUTH
Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds Banking Group, which owns the Bank of Scotland, has indicated it will move its headquarters from Edinburgh to London in the event of a yes vote in the independence referendum.
While in a letter to staff, the bank’s chief executive said there was no intention to move operations or jobs, the bank, which has been based in Scotland since 1727, said it had taken the decision because a vote for independence would create uncertainties which could impact its ability to borrow.
The bank, 81 percent-owned by the British government, said the decision was part of contingency planning ahead of the vote which was responsible and prudent and was what its customers, staff and shareholders would expect it to do.
There are also fears about whether it would be able to survive in the event of another bail out.
But the yes campaign said improvements to financial regulation and crisis management were taking place in the UK, the EU and globally. The emerging system reduces risk of exposure to the taxpayer.
• DEFENCE A BIG ISSUE TO RESOLVE
After a yes vote, defence would be one of the main strands in negotiations between Scotland and the rest of the UK.
The four Vanguard class strategic nuclear missile submarines (SSBNs), which with their Trident missiles constitute the UK’s nuclear deterrent, are based on the Clyde at Faslane and Coulport.
There are many other UK defence installations in Scotland, ranging from air defence bases to military and Royal Marine barracks to training grounds, some of which offer facilities to Nato allies. Their continued use by the armed forces of the rest of the UK would be in doubt.
The yes campaign claims that by removing nuclear weapons and maintaining defence forces appropriate to its circumstances, it could save a substantial proportion of Scotland’s current defence contribution to the UK.
This could be done while still having levels of defence spending that allowed it to deliver the capabilities it needs and make a significant investment in procurement, supporting key Scottish industries including the shipbuilding industry.
But 14 former Armed Forces bosses, including former chief of staff Sir Richard Dannatt, have signed an open letter claiming that the whole of the UK will be more vulnerable to attack if Scotland votes for independence.
They said the forces had not been structured for division.