Shetland is gearing up for a busy night on Thursday when electoral officials will count votes cast in the Scottish Referendum, with a record number of votes expected.
Counting officer Jan Riise said the 18,515 people registered to vote in Shetland is the highest electorate he has ever experienced in his 20 years involvement in elections.
The number has been swelled by more than 600 16 and 17-year-olds, who have been given a vote for the first time. Mr Riise said it would be “interesting” to see how many of the 18,515 votes are actually cast.
Mr Riise said election preparations, including with police, who escort the ballot boxes, are “well advanced”, after a “long haul” to get to this stage.
Extra staff have been drafted in for the count, which will start at Clickimin after Shetland’s 35 polling places close at 10pm. The ballot boxes from Unst should arrive in Lerwick around 12.30am, and Shetland’s result is expected to be known around 1.30am, or at least by 2am – Mr Riise said the counting staff are “very efficient”.
Shetland’s result will then be relayed to the chief counting centre in Edinburgh, to be added to the 31 other local declarations.
Many postal votes have already been cast – there are 3,005 postal voters registered, which is just over 16 per cent. People in the outer isles are already familiar with the process, said Mr Riise, and Fetlar residents are now also voting in this way. There has been an increase in postal voting year on year, and he hoped the “convenience” of this method would encourage people to vote.
Mr Riise asked anyone who has not yet completed a postal vote to get it in by Thursday. He stressed that papers should be marked with a single cross only.
The referendum is involving 82 staff locally, including presiding officers, polling clerks, information officers, polling station inspectors and standby staff.