THOUSANDS of people who signed up to vote in the independence referendum face the prospect of official letters landing on their doormats demanding unpaid council tax.

Record numbers registered to have their say in the vote on Scotland's future, which saw the highest turnout, at 84.6 per cent, of any UK poll since the 1951 General Election.

But now local authorities are being urged to take advantage of the high registration levels to recoup arrears from those who joined the electoral roll in the months leading up to the vote.

There are claims the unprecedented database created ahead of the September 18 vote is an opportunity for councils to uncover fraudsters and recover debts - some of which date back 20 years - from those who may have come off the roll to avoid detection.

Aberdeenshire Council has confirmed it is checking the updated database against households that receive the 25 per cent single person discount for council tax, in an effort to uncover cases in which it has been claimed inappropriately.

City of Edinburgh Council sources also confirmed checks would be carried out, comparing council tax records to the newly updated electoral roll, and more authorities are expected to follow.

Cosla, the umbrella group that ­represents many councils, said local authorities were within their rights to use "whatever sources of information are available legally to pursue unpaid debt".

The Scottish Conservatives backed a clampdown, saying it was right that authorities took every opportunity to recover debts and detect fraud.

However, Scottish Green Party co-convener Patrick Harvie accused his opponents of being motivated by a desire to "punish marginalised communities for having the nerve to express themselves at the ballot box".

Mr Harvie, who was a leading figure in the Yes campaign, said: "We've finally seen huge numbers of people re-join the electoral register after decades of mistrust following the poll tax, and I'm dismayed that the Tories or anyone else should want to turn electoral registration once more into a way of policing people."

But Alex Johnstone, the Conservatives' welfare reform spokesman, said: "Councils should do everything in their power to detect those who are evading council tax payments. If that means going through the electoral roll with a fine-tooth comb, so be it.

"Local authorities are under extreme pressure to live within their means, and council tax avoidance makes that even harder. It is also hugely unfair on the vast majority who play by the rules and pay their council tax on time and in good faith."

Aberdeen Tory councillor Alan Donnelly said he backed using the updated register to track down historic poll tax evaders. He said many of the so-called "missing million" who became re-engaged in politics ahead of the referendum vote had come off the roll to avoid the controversial levy. A mass campaign of non-payment when the community charge was in force between 1989 and 1993 prompted many to come off the electoral register.

Although councils cannot pursue debts that are more than 20 years old, the period is extended by a further two decades if a warrant has previously been issued to collect unpaid bills.

In 13 of 21 council wards in Glasgow, there were 40,000 amendments to the electoral register between March and September 1 as members of the public updated their details or registered.

A Cosla spokesman said: "Every pound of debt collected is a pound for frontline services. Councils do not write off debts."

An Aberdeenshire Council spokeswoman said: "Any new voters are checked to see if we already have them noted on council tax."

A City of Edinburgh Council spokeswoman said: "The council uses all the data available to it in order to collect outstanding debts."

However, Glasgow City Council added: "It becomes increasingly difficult to secure payments from historic accounts as time passes."