Do we really want to remember the referendum for its fallout and scenes like the one above? Overall though, the fallout is playing a big part of my memories of what was a glorious demonstration of democracy in action. I expressed in my previous post my disappointment at having to address allegations of vote rigging and electoral fraud during the Scottish Independence referendum. It therefore saddens me even more that I feel the need to continue along that path with this post. What is also continuing to sadden me is some of the sentiment being expressed by some Yes supporters in the fallout of the referendum. I know that this does not go for the majority of Yes voters and again it is the analogy of the few ruining it for the many, but some of the comments have just been incredibly offensive and at times bordering on racist with a very strong Anti-English sentiment. Having a family that is wholly English with the exception of myself, I cannot help but find these comments deeply offensive. People are more than welcome to their opinions and in the UK we have a fantastic tradition of freedom of expression which covers freedom of speech. However, the way in which comments are formulated and are made should be considered first. The way in which you argue your point can in many circumstances be just as important as the argument itself. There is nothing wrong with nationalism or patriotism, but the way in which it is expressed defines your image and the image of a campaign with it.
Now back to what I wanted to talk about, the allegations of vote rigging in the referendum. Honestly, I always feared that regardless of the result of the referendum, some would call it rigged. In fact, to me it seemed almost inevitable. Many of the allegations centre around some for better term for it grander scheme hence my use of the term rigging to separate it from the concept of electoral fraud. I am doing this for a couple of reasons – firstly, there is a difference legally speaking but the second and larger one is that Police Scotland are currently investigation 10 allegations of electoral fraud in Glasgow. As this is an ongoing police investigation, I will not comment any further on that.
Many theorists who are convinced of a vote rigging plot point to footage showing large numbers of ballots on a ‘No’ table including some for ‘Yes’. There is a simple explanation for this. When the boxes are first brought in and emptied the votes are firstly verified. Anyone who watched the results coverage will have noticed two separate declarations were made for each council area. The first declared total number of ballots cast and turnout whilst the second actually declared the result. The simple reason really is just that these were votes bundled after verification and were awaiting separation and counting. Don’t believe me? Look at the tweet below from Yes Dundee explaining the exact same thing:
Other videos have focussed on individual counters moving votes between piles. These videos are hard to comment on as there is little context. There is no location on them or time. We have no way of telling at what stage in proceedings they were. Beyond that we don’t actually know what was on the papers. We don’t know if that was verification or if the ballot was spoilt. With the greatest of respect, the video cannot even be authenticated as there is no broadcaster branding present on the clip. I’m not trying to suggest that it is fake, I am merely stating that the video can’t be authenticated which is another reason to approach it with caution. For the rigging to take place at the counts themselves, it would be almost impossible to pull off due to the sheer number of people there. Again, anyone who watched the coverage live will have seen the number of people at each count. The number of counters, the number of count officers, the media and also crucially the observers from each campaign. At each of the counts, there were observers from both campaigns watching the count meticulously to ensure that there was no malpractice in the counting of the ballots. Their entire reason for being there was to prevent incidents like those alleged from happening. Surely, if there was counting malpractice at any of the counts which went against the Yes campaign, the Yes observers would have raised it. If there had been any truth to the footage mooted as vote rigging, surely the Yes campaign would not just stand by and let it happen. Surely, they would make a point of ensuring that it was exposed there and then and a recount of the votes concerned would have happened. Surely, Alex Salmond would not have stood down and we instead would have had a very different set of headlines in the 24 hours after the count. Let’s also not forget that the police were at every count and when electoral fraud was alleged at the Glasgow count, the authorities acted upon it swiftly and handed evidence over to the police.
If this whole thing were to be rigged the scale of it would be simply gargantuan. The sheer number of people involved would mean that it could not be kept a secret for long. You would be talking hundreds if not thousands of people involved in a cover up which frankly is unrealistic. Oh, and finally the CNN poll that was put up… Showing Yes on 58%. It also showed no of 52% – that’s 110% folks… 110%…