There is absolutely no question the referendum was rigged. Anyone can see that, you’d have to be asleep not to notice. The question is not whether the referendum was rigged, but how it was rigged. The way I see it, there are two levels of conspiracy at play here.
But first, let’s define what is meant by the term conspiracy:
- The act of two or more persons, called conspirators, working secretly to obtain some goal, usually understood with negative connotations.
- (law) An agreement between two or more persons to break the law at some time in the future.
A civil conspiracy or collusion is an agreement between two or more parties to deprive a third party of legal rights or deceive a third party to obtain an illegal objective. A conspiracy may also refer to a group of people who make an agreement to form a partnership in which each member becomes the agent or partner of every other member and engage in planning or agreeing to commit some act. It is not necessary that the conspirators be involved in all stages of planning or be aware of all details. Any voluntary agreement and some overt act by one conspirator in furthance of the plan are the main elements necessary to prove a conspiracy. A conspiracy may exist whether legal means are used to accomplish illegal results, or illegal means used to accomplish something legal. “Even when no crime is involved, a civil action for conspiracy may be brought by the persons who were damaged.“
Conspiracies happen. They happen all the time, and they are exposed all the time. It is not outrageous to describe the actions of several individuals within the UK establishment – government, journalism, business, civil service – as conspiracy.
But what kind of conspiracy are we talking about?
The most contentious conspiracy theory in regards to the referendum is the “vote rigging” one, the one which supposes that electoral fraud on a truly massive scale was committed on the 19th of September. I remain unconvinced by the suggestion of literally hundreds of thousands of votes being falsified, the issue of blank ballots, and so forth (Lawyers For Yes have an exhaustive post on this subject) but I do think there are sufficient isolated anomalies that deserve investigation as a matter of course – things like people being turned away at the polling station, and the Electoral Commission now wanting to ban voting registration drives. Nobody should ever be turned away from voting if they’ve registered and have their polling card in hand. In addition, I have no doubt that irregularities happened, as they are bound to happen in any count.
That said, I would also be very wary of false flag operations. History is full of government-sponsored conspiracy theories which were promoted and supported by the governments themselves specifically to discredit and misdirect those poking around. Certainly the UK government is not averse to using conspiracy theory as a stick with which to beat critics – like those who clamoured for an inquiry into the Iraq War, or those who demand an inquest into historic crimes linked to the government. Isn’t it just so easy to dismiss any demand for an inquiry into the referendum, even those that are well-founded, as the tinfoil-hat-addle-brained delusions of nationalists?
But the other tier of conspiracy is the one orchestrated by the UK government with several big businesses and media titans to influence the democratic process. Unlike the vote-rigging conspiracy, this is not remotely in question. It is fact that the Treasury, RBS and the BBC colluded in what amounted to insider trading. It is fact that David Cameron met with the heads of several supermarkets prior to their announcements about food price rises, that he visited Shetland on an unnanounced visit that just happened to coincide with the discovery of massive new finds that went largely unreported, that Ian Wood attacked the Scottish government’s oil projections only shortly after the Wood Group bought up a fracking company. It is fact that the BBC did a briefing that laid bare the corporation’s bias, that they were members of an organisation which was a registered donor to Better Together, and that they’ve tried to discredit a UWS study and its author who proved its bias against independence.
The referendum has been full of conspiracies – how could it not have been? Even before the Edinburgh Agreement was signed, we’ve contended with conspiracy. When it was revealed that MI5 was spying on SNP politicians, that fits the definition of a conspiracy. When civil servants classified the McCrone report as top secret specifically because of the ramifications for the Scottish independence movement, that fits the definition of a conspiracy. When the Prime Minister of the UK and the new First Minister of Scotland secretly stole 6,000 square miles of Scottish waters and reclassified it as English waters, that fits the definition of a conspiracy.
So what about a definition of “rigged”? Back to the Wiks:
- (transitive) To fit out with a harness or other equipment.
- (transitive, nautical) To equip and fit (a ship) with sails, shrouds, and yards.
- (transitive, informal) To dress or clothe in some costume.
- (transitive) To make or construct something in haste or in a makeshift manner.
- (transitive) To manipulate something dishonestly for personal gain or discriminatory purposes. [quotations ▼]
- to rig an election
Electoral fraud or vote rigging is illegal interference with the process of an election. Acts of fraud affect vote counts to bring about an election result, whether by increasing the vote share of the favored candidate, depressing the vote share of the rival candidates, or both. What electoral fraud is under law varies from country to country.
Many kinds of election fraud are outlawed in electoral legislation, but others are in violation of general laws, such as those banning assault, harassment or libel. Although technically the term ‘electoral fraud’ covers only those acts which are illegal, the term is sometimes used to describe acts which are legal but nevertheless considered morally unacceptable, outside the spirit of electoral laws, or in violation of the principles of democracy. Show elections, in which only one candidate can win, are sometimes considered to be electoral fraud, although they may comply with the law.
In national elections, successful electoral fraud can have the effect of a coup d’état or corruption of democracy. In a narrow election a small amount of fraud may be enough to change the result. Even if the outcome is not affected, fraud can still have a damaging effect if not punished, as it can reduce voters’ confidence in democracy. Even the perception of fraud can be damaging as it makes people less inclined to accept election results. Fraudulent elections can lead to the breakdown of democracy and the establishment or ratification of a dictatorship.
Fraud in elections is not limited to those for public office (and also shades even into castings of votes where only an honorary role is at stake) so long as a cheater perceives a potential gain as worth the risk. Thus elections for a corporation’s directors, labor union officials, student councils, etc. are subject to similar fraud, as are sports judging, and the awarding of merit to works of art and literature.
Whether you think what Westminster, the BBC, and so forth have done is illegal is almost besides the point – if we consider the definition of rigging to be “to manipulate something dishonestly for personal gain or discriminatory purposes,” then how can you not say the referendum was rigged? Derek Bateman quite rightly points out that this is something which has affected just about every election he’s ever experienced – which is exactly my point. Whether it’s independence, or an alternative vote, or devolution, the Westminster establishment will stop at nothing to fudge the process for their own ends. That’s half the entire reason I want Scotland to be independent in the first place – to escape from that anti-democratic nightmare, and give ourselves a fighting chance.
I sympathise with those who are looking to have the referendum overturned, to do it over based on what we know now. You think I don’t? But we must always – always – champion evidence over suspicion, truth over hearsay, reason over emotion, because the sad fact is that we are still working against the conspiracy. A rigged vote only happens on the day itself, but a rigged media? A rigged business sector? A rigged government? Look at the BBC’s coverage of Scottish politics since the referendum – the New Labour in Scotland Party Political Broadcast. We still have to fight them, every day, and they are going to use every tool at their disposal to stop us. Easiest way to do that is to discredit us.
Hence now, when you put “Scottish Referendum Conspiracy” into Google, you’ll get stuff like Naomi Wolf and Alex Jones talking about all sorts of stuff – and, of course, plenty of links of people ridiculing them. We’ve already been ridiculed simply for saying the BBC was biased. We’ve already been pilloried for suggesting the Vow would never be kept, that TTIP presents a clear danger to the Scottish NHS, that the UK Government will scrap Barnett. So what do you think they’ll say if we bring up the idea of electoral fraud? That is why this is so very dangerous – it’s just another tool with which to contain and control us. Even if it’s true, until we have much harder evidence, we’re playing right into their hands unless we keep the head, and focus ourselves on the right battles.
As far as I’m concerned, Westminster didn’t need to commit mass electoral fraud in order to rig the referendum: the rigging was done long before the 18th of September. And if we’re going to have another chance at independence, that is the rigging we have to watch out for – and defeat.
I think I might include a song in every post: aye or nae?