As with many other things in this life, the recent independence referendum relied heavily on the efficiency and competency of local government. As the nation took to the polls, many speculated about whether or not polling stations, and later the counts, would be able to cope with the numbers expected.
When you think that the 2012 council elections saw a measly 39.7 per cent turnout (1,583,518 people), it was a fair question to ask. As it happened, on the night, the number of votes cast was 3,623,344 and turnout was a hugely impressive 84.6 per cent. Luckily, the months and years of hard work carried out by chief counting officer Mary Pitcaithly and her team paid off.
One blip on the radar was the rumours about potential misconduct surrounding the counting process in the aftermath of the result.
However, Pitcaithly put those to bed by releasing a statement on the matter. She said: “All counts throughout Scotland were scrutinised by thousands of people, including hundreds of independent observers, and hundreds of counting agents representing both the Yes Scotland and the Better Together campaigns. It is their job to observe the count while ballot papers are being counted to ensure the proper process is being followed. Independent international election observers attended and watched the counts taking place. Every count in Scotland provided access for print, broadcast and online media. In addition, officers from Police Scotland were present at every count centre. As such, the count centres received an unprecedented level of observation and scrutiny and I believe any instances of perceived wrongdoing would have been reported by any of these attendees and observers there and then. I am not aware of any complaints having been raised by any observer or agent and none were made to me during the verification, counting and adjudication stages.”
As the nation continues to digest the result, it seems the real winner here is democracy. This turnout is completely unheard of but it is something we should be aspiring to from here on. Let’s hope next year’s General Election continues in the same vein and the main achievement we can take away from the past two years is a truly engaged nation.