An election observation mission by AEGEE-Europe was present at the Scottish Independence Referendum held on the 18th of September 2014. Setting its main focus on the representation of the youth in Europe, the mission had as its goal to enhance democracy by ensuring the transparency of the voting process and the compliance with international voting regulations.
The ongoing debate whether Scotland should be independent from the United Kingdom reached its culmination with yesterday’s referendum. The public opinion on the matter had been divided during the campaigning process: preliminary polls had predicted an even distribution of votes on either side, with “yes” and “no” leading the race at different points in time prior to September 18th.
During the day of the Referendum, 8 polling stations throughout Edinburgh were visited by the mission. These were chosen based on socio-demographic data collected beforehand. Thus it was possible to observe different electoral settings in and outside the core city. Of particular interest for the mission were the voters aged 16 to 18 who, in a new electoral development, were allowed to cast their vote for the first time. To the satisfaction of voting officials, this new demographic embraced their newly-gained right to vote and most adolescents did not appear to be less educated in procedural matters than other voters.
The observers of the mission also focused on how the rules of procedure were being followed and if there would be any irregularities on the part of the voting officials or the voters themselves. Due to the high standards set by the electoral commission however, only few incidents were noted, thus, the general adequacy of the voting procedure was not impaired.
It can be positively noted that a high rate of registration (97%) testified the eager participation of the population, which was also ultimately reflected in the high final turnout. Conversely, the high attention of the media could have been perceived as being detrimental to the secrecy and liberty of the vote: at some polling stations, the press was witnessed to have asked voters for their voting preferences prior to them entering the polling station, thus possibly subjecting them to artificial pressure.
According to the latest counts, the people of Scotland have voted against the independence from the United Kingdom, Analysts claim however that the results point towards further devolution or a federal system that might be implemented in the next years. The results of the referendum, while independence has become unattainable in the near future, the wish for more self-governance has not ceased to exist.
AEGEE-Europe has since its foundation strived for an inclusive and integrated Europe and hopes that the further steps will lead to a mutual agreement and give all British regions a place in Europe that suits them. The members of the AEGEE election observation mission express their gratitude for the cooperation with the electoral commission of the referendum. Article is written by Adrian Browarczyk, Carlota Rego, Felix Linsmeier, Niek Mereu and Idil Warsame. Pictures by Adrian Browarczyk.