Integrity of Referendum Vote Must Be Transparent

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By Mark McNaught

I’m not one that easily gives in to conspiracy theories, but there are too many questions regarding the validity of the ‘no’ vote for it to be accepted at face value.

While this article goes into the allegations with more forensic accuracy than I will, the integrity of the vote and the process is paramount to Scots accepting their status within the UK, especially in light of the implosion of the promises made before the vote, going back to war in Iraq, and announcing fracking in Scotland’s central belt immediately after the vote.

There have been the YouTube videos which have been making the rounds, which may or may not show some form of vote tampering. There is also the issue of the thousands of ballots which did not have bar codes on the back as they were required to, therefore may have been automatically rejected, plastic bags found with ‘yes’ votes in them, and testimony of suspicious activity by volunteers.

While these allegations are disturbing in themselves, what could not be seen leaves plenty of scope for electoral tampering.

I was a monitor at the Glasgow count at the Emirates Arena, and can only speak for what I observed. The area over which the counting tables were spread was needlessly large. The same operation could have been conducted in 1/3 of the space and it would have been easier to see what was happening.

I walked around looking over the shoulders of those marking the counting, and saw a clear majority for ‘yes’, at least 60-40 in favour. I spoke to someone who was tabulating the results with a laptop, and his results were similar. The ‘official’ results had ‘yes’ winning Glasgow by 53.5-46.5.

We were allowed to observe the counting of the ballots, but we had no idea what happened before or after the counting, as it was off limits to observers. Volunteers were allowed to count, and observers could monitor them, but the rest of the process was completely opaque.

Therefore, what happened to the ballot boxes after they left the voting stations and were taken to the counting centres was unobservable. Also, how they arranged the ballots once they were counted and bundled was off limits to observers as well.

There is also the issue of the postal votes, which according to a 2008 report from the Council of Europe is ‘childishly simple’ to manipulate.

While it is possible that the entire process was above board and legitimate, Scots need to be assured of its legitimacy if they are accept the result as their collective will. While Elections Scotland can credibly maintain that the counting process was monitored and above board, everything depends on what they were actually counting. Were all ballots without a barcode automatically rejected? Were boxes tampered with beforehand? Were no votes simply fabricated? What safeguards were in place before the count to assure the integrity of the vote, and were they rigidly enforced?

I e-mailed the OSCE to ask if there was any way that they could evaluate the procedure, but they can only monitor referendums and elections upon the invitation of the member state, ie the UK. It is not within their institutional scope to evaluate the procedure after the fact. I e-mailed the Venice Commission at the Council of Europe, and they issued a similar answer.

So what institution can Scots count on to assure that there was not industrial-scale fraud, and that the vote was not rigged? Reading the Electoral Commission and Elections Scotland websites, it is not clear who would have the authority to overturn the results and order a  revote if fraud was proven to have occurred.

That leaves you, the Scottish public, to demand of your MPs and MSPs that there be a thorough independent investigation into exactly how the entire process of the referendum vote was conducted, preferably by impartial foreign observers. Even though a recount is illegal (still can’t wrap my head around that), it would be useless if the integrity of all the ballots is tainted.

If large-scale electoral fraud is shown, there should be a re-vote, organised and supervised by the OSCE and other impartial institutions. UK institutions could no longer be trusted.

I really hope my suspicions are ill-founded, and that the collective will of the Scottish people was truly to stay within the UK. However, if the vote was rigged, it would constitute an injustice of epic proportions, and show that the UK is not a democratic country.

It would correspond to what I thought throughout this campaign. Of course Scots would vote to become independent, who wouldn’t? However, Westminster will do whatever it takes to keep the cash cow from bolting the barn. There was never an ‘official’ poll which showed the ‘yes’ vote winning, despite the results of canvassers who showed a very strong ‘yes’ lead. The BBC and the mainstream media never countenanced a ‘yes’ vote, feeding the narrative that Scots would never vote for independence. The results of the referendum would have to be engineered to stay close to the polling, lest the credibility of the entire PR/polling industry and mainstream media be obliterated.

The British state could not have had the largest empire the world has ever seen without employing monumental lies and mass manipulation. I wouldn’t put anything past Westminster to hold on to its final crown jewel. Everything must be done to assure Scots that is truly their collective will to remain within it.