Being nomadic, I have the benefit of a postal vote. This allows me to contribute my unique angle on Scottish affairs no matter where I may be on whichever special Thursday constitutes our plebian doorway into the hallowed halls of British democracy.
Being a postal vote, it was in my hands well before you ordinary people are allowed to touch your own. I've filled it in and returned it already - it didn't take long, there is only one question and the correct answer is obvious. You can see it below.
It's a scan, but not an exact replication - I've stuck a fake cross over the one I marked myself. There's a good reason for that.
The reason is that for a ballot to count it must be unidentifiable. This is to prevent vote buying. The theory goes that if anyone were to buy votes, the voter would make a particular mark on the paper to show that the vote had been delivered. Therefore, any distinctive mark results in a disallowed paper. Because of a worn pen nib, my mark turned out to be distinctive so I've stuck an atificial cross over my own. It's a secret ballot, remember.
As well as that I have had to obscure certain areas of the scan because the unique reference number on the back showed through the high quality paper. I know it must be high quality because they were so proud of it they sent a full A4 sheet when an A5 would have been more than generous.
The unique reference number is there because... well I don't really know why. In the case of a postal ballot paper I suppose it could be to make sure that it was a genuine paper and hadn't just been made up from scratch before being posted or handed in (which is perfectly allowable). However, if I personally had wanted to ensure that, I would have printed two random ten-digit numbers: much harder to predict or forge.
It's not as if the postal ballot paper is much different from the one that you will use in the polling station. There is almost no possibility of them being faked in the polling station as the staff can see individual papers being posted in the battered tin box, but they also carry unique references, punched into the papers as a pattern of holes. And as you are handed the paper your reference number is recorded against your name on the electoral register.
I have never understood why it has ever been necessary to record a person's name againt the number of his ballot paper. As far as I can see the only purpose would be to determine after the vote has closed just how any particular voter had cast his vote. And we know that can't possibly be the reason - it's a secret ballot, remember.