John Nicoll transcript

John Nicolls - US election observer:

"The problem was on the list and they put the voting for the constituency seat in Parliament with the list on the same page and so people got confused. They voted in the wrong column, and bottom line, though, is that at the end of the day you had a situation with a very substantial proportion of the electorate disenfranchised. Five, six, seven, eight, nine percent, and in a democracy that's your red flag, that's your disaster."


John Humphries:

"Because you've seen elections in, what, 20 different countries.."


John Nicolls:

"...Yes..."


John Humphries:

".. over the years. You say 'a disaster'. Does it mean that there are people who will go into the Parliament who shouldn't be there and people who should have gone into the Parliament who will not be there?"


John Nicolls:

"We can never say that for sure because you can never divine the precise thinking of the voters, but I would say absolutely, you know. There's very little doubt of it. Most of these people who voted twice in the wrong column, that's what happened, were trying to cast a second vote for a smaller party. Many of the smaller parties, the Greens, the Scottish Socialists, Tommy Sheridan's Solidarity, in some cases narrowly lost their place. I think it's a very safe bet that the massive drop-off in small party seats is a result of this."


John Humphries:

"What do you think should be done about it?


John Nicolls:

"Well, ideally, and I say this key word ideally, you would hold a new election, because when you have that level of disenfranchisement you do it again. The fact is we have electoral fatigue and I don't think you can really force people to vote again so the second best thing you can is have a really rigid and rapid inquiry. We failed on that in the States in 2000 election. We should have done the inquiry first before we decided who we seated as President. We turned it around and let the parties run it, it was a very political fight. Scotland ought to be very aggressive in getting to the bottom of this and analysing those ballots."


JH:

It doesn't solve the problem of the wrong people, as it were, being in Parliament"


JN:

"Absolutely"


JH:

"So what do you do about that?"


JN:

"Well, I think that the opposition parties, and especially the small parties, should make a lot of noise. I spoke with Robin Harper, who's the head of the Green Party up there, about this, and I said, you know, look, you're the people, most likely, who've been harmed by this, you ought to be very aggressive in making sure that the crisis is exposed, that questions about the government's legitimacy are raised, but finally and most importantly, that this never happens again, and you can avoid these mistakes."

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