As seems a distinct possibility, Scotland will sometime in the not too distant future be faced with another Independence referendum. This time as a matter of resolving Scotlands status with the rest of the UK and the EU.
Given that to all intents and purposes the UK government will be heading for a hard Brexit which not only is in opposition to the express will of the majority of Scots who voted to remain in the EU at the time of the UK European exit referendum, and also given that the subsequent stance of the UK government seems hell bent on taking us out of the Single Market too. Scotland is left with no choice but to have a referendum on Independence in order for our Countries express will to be known.
The circumstances of the time of the 2014 referendum have markedly changed, and promises made to the Scots people at that time have assuredly not been met.
Primarily the promise made that voting NO would be the only way that Scots could guarantee remaining in the EU, and the threat that voting YES would remove us from it.
Our elected representatives in the Scottish government since the time of the Brexit vote have made every effort to find some way which would allow the Brexit part of the UK in England and Wales to do so, but allowing Scotland at a minimum to be represented in the Brexit negotiations with a view to coming to a compromise which would allow Scotland to remain in the EEA. ALL such efforts have met with intransigence and rebuff from the Tory westminster government.
Given that the majority opinion of Scotlands views in this matter and every other matter can be so routinely ignored, it gives an out and out lie to the vow made that Scotland is an equal and valued partner in the UK made by the British states representatives and supporters at that time. It makes the Brexiteers 350million pound for the NHS lie at the time of the Brexit referendum seem like chicken feed.
It is to be expected that having come so close to losing last time round that westminster will do all it can to resist such a referendum, but they cannot deny us, they can and will attempt to stall it. It will happen, and we will see the beginning of the process this week.
The question therefore moves on from whether there will be a referendum to that of who will have control and oversight of it?
What can be assured however that Westminster will again insist on the Electoral Commission to have oversight, and we can probably be assured that will indeed be the case.
However, given the issues in some quarters of the dubiety involved in the last referendum we should be pressing the Scottish Government to make representation to the EU for EU monitors to oversee the whole process. Particularly given that the question of Scotland remaining or leaving the EU hangs in the balance.
Given also that the negotiations between the UK government and the EU will have come to near their end by the time a Scots referendum takes place, the EU can rightly ask as part of the negotiations to observe the referendum. With both Electoral Commission and EU monitors we can be assured somewhat more about the whole conduct of the campaign and the referendum itself.
Below is an example of EU monitoring of elections
Helping countries to run free and fair elections is an important component of the European Union’s external relations policy. Support includes the provision of technical assistance to electoral authorities and domestic non-partisan observers, as well as the deployment of EU election observation missions (EU EOM). These are organised by the European Commission with funding from the Union’s budget, and made up of experts and observers from Member States.
EU election observation missions do not just serve to assess election days but also observe the whole electoral process as a way of gauging the state of democratic development in a given country at a particular time. The EOMs can recommend measures for improvements to a country’s electoral processes. In addition to observing and reporting on the elections, the presence of EU observers can also enhance transparency and confidence in the process. They can also prevent conflict by deterring violence and help to keep a lid on fraud.
EU election observation is based on the principles of independence, impartiality, transparency, long-term observation and professionalism.
The EU has been active in election observation since 1993, although it also provided technical assistance to electoral processes as part of its general aid programmes prior to this date. In 2000, the Commission developed a standard methodology for election observation. This covers all phases of the election cycle: pre-election, election day, and immediate post-election.
EU election observation missions do not interfere in the organisation of the election itself, but collect and analyse factual information concerning the election process, and provide an independent public assessment. Since 2000, the EU has deployed 67 missions involving the participation of over 4 000 experts and observers.
How does the EU EOM proceed?
All EOMs are required to respect the following stages:
Selection of priority countries
The Commission identifies a number of countries where an EU EOM could be deployed, in consultation with the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament.
A mission is sent to the country to assess whether deploying an EU EOM is advisable, feasible and useful. The exploratory mission should also advise what conditions must be fulfilled by the host government in order for the EOM to be able to operate fully and credibly. The exploratory mission also proposes implementation arrangements.
Selection of the mission chief, core team experts and observers
After deciding to deploy a mission, the Commissioner appoints a chief observer, normally a member of the European Parliament. The experts of the EU EOM Core team are chosen on the basis of their experience from a pool of experts that the Commission has compiled based on a call for interest posted on its website.
Observers are picked by the Commission from a selection of candidates proposed by Member States. The European Parliament may also decide to send a separate delegation to observe the elections. This parliamentary delegation works closely with the chief observer and does not issue a separate assessment.
After the exploratory mission has made its recommendations, the EOM is deployed. The number of long and short-term observers in each mission largely depends on the size of the country and the number of polling stations that should or can be covered.
The elections are assessed against international standards, regional commitments undertaken by the host country and national laws.
The methodology developed in 2000 considers that when assessing the validity of an election, EU observers must consider all the relevant factors that affect the electoral process, including:
- The degree of impartiality shown by the election management body.
- The degree of freedom of political parties, alliances and candidates to organise, move, assemble and express their views publicly.
- The fairness of access to state resources made available for the election.
- The fairness of access for political parties, alliances and candidates to the media, in particular the state media.
- The registration of voters without discrimination on the basis of gender and racial or ethnic origin.
- Any other issue that concerns the essential freedom and fairness of the election.
- The conduct of polling and counting of votes as described in the electoral law.
A preliminary statement is then presented by the chief observer at a press conference shortly after election day (usually one or two days hence).
A final report contains the EOM’s conclusions and recommendations regarding the whole electoral process. It is delivered within a month of the EOM ending its activities on the ground. This report gives guidance for electoral reform and possible future assistance.
Let us all prevail upon the Scottish Government to ask for such assistance!