Feature: Army of civil servants prepare for the Battle for Scotland

Feature: Army of civil servants prepare for the Battle for Scotland #730

LONDON, Sept. 5 (Xinhua) — Six centuries ago Scotland’s battles for independence from the English were fought with swords, axes and bows and arrows. In less than two weeks the battle for independence will be won or lost, with a war of words as the weapon on both sides.

This verbal clash will continue until the dying seconds of the Scottish Independence Referendum, taking place on Sept. 18.

On that day around 4,120,000 people registered to vote will decide the future destiny of Scotland. The age of voting has been lowered from 18 to 16, giving up to 100,000 young teenagers the opportunity to have their own say about Scotland.

Around 690,000 Scottish people living over the border in England will not be allowed to vote, as they are not registered on the electoral register in Scotland, but over 420,000 English people resident in Scotland have been given the vote.

Various battles between the Scots and English were fought in medieval times, with the two sides operating as separate kingdoms. All that changed in 1707 when the parliaments of the two neighbors voted in favor of unification, creating Great Britain as a single kingdom.

More than 300 years later it will be the people of Scotland, and not the politicians, who decide the destiny of Scotland.

Scotland has had its own parliament for some years, currently headed by the leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP), Alex Salmond.

It is no coincidence Salmond has chosen for the referendum the 700th anniversary year of one of Scotland’s greatest successes against the English. That episode in history was turned into the Hollywood blockbuster Braveheart. This saw King Robert I, better known as Robert the Bruce, send the English fleeing over the border in the celebrated Battle of Bannockburn in 1314.

While politicians from both yes and no camps take their 21st century campaigns to meeting halls and television studios and the brave new world of social media, behind the scenes an army of civil servants are working to ensure the referendum will be properly run and organised.

At precisely 7 a.m. on Sept. 18, hundreds of polling stations across Scotland will open their doors. It is already being predicted the turn-out will be between 80 percent and 90 percent of voters, making this largest ever in a British referendum.

The voting takes place in each of the 32 local authority areas that make up Scotland. At 10 p.m. the voting stations close, and then a race against time begins to count the votes.

Sealed boxes will be transported to counting halls. In the big urban areas such as Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen this will not present any problem. But in the more remote parts of Scotland, such as the mountainous highlands and the many islands off the coast, boats, planes and helicopters will be used to speed up the process.

Thousands of counting staff will stay up all night, carefully counting each vote.

It will be the job of lawyer Mary Pitcaithly to allow the release of the results. She is the Chief Counting Officer for the referendum.

As the results are reached in each of those 32 council areas they will be announced after verification by Pitcaithly.

There could come a point in the wee small hours of Sept. 19 when the outcome becomes a foregone conclusion. Not until Pitcaithly officially and formally declares the result in Edinburgh will the result be considered legal. That could be around 7 a.m. or 8 a.m., later if bad weather has delayed ballot boxes from places like the Western Isle of Scotland.

Although opinion polls are showing both sides almost neck-and-neck, the general consensus is on a No vote winning by a narrow margin.

Alex Salmond, like his fellow Scot, Robert the Bruce, hopes he will send the English packing. If his “Yes” campaign wins, there will be prolonged discussions with the English and European parliaments.

Salmond’s dream is a Scottish Independence Day in March 2016. He may already be wondering who will play him in a future Hollywood film about Scotland’s 21st century battle for freedom from the English, perhaps called “Braveheart II”.

For more details, visit www.globalpost.com