IndyRef’s biggest unanswered question: what if it’s a draw?

July 18th, 2014


Electoral workers begin counting votes in the fiscal treaty referendum in Dublin, Ireland
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We all know what happens if the Pro-Indy movement wins (split up of the UK) and what happens if the Better Together movement wins (status quo) but there’s a third possibility no-one has considered: What if the #indyref leads to a draw?

Now before you scoff, it’s unlikely, but it’s not impossible. We spoke to Paddy Power and they put it at 1,000-1 which is the exact same odds Ladbrokes would have given you for Germany beating Brazil 7-1 in the World Cup semi-final. In fact when you look at the results of the last few elections they mostly end with an even number.*


So what happens if there is a draw? It’s already been stated that there will not be a recount of the votes. Equally the normal council election rules of straws being pulled out a hat or the toss of a coin to decide don’t apply.

So what happens?

We reached out to the Electoral Commission and asked the straightforward question: “what happens in a draw?” After all, there must be something covering all eventualities in the Edinburgh Agreement or other paperwork, yes? To quote Bruce Willis in Armageddon, “you must have people around here thinking this stuff up?”


In the words of the Electoral Commission: “There is no provision [for the eventuality of a tie in the independence referendum] so it would simply be the declared result.”

So that means if it’s a draw, the status quo prevails, yes? Apparently not. The “no provision” part of the above means that there is no plan in place if it is a tie for either of the ruling. Not penalties, not mud-wrestling, caber tossing or a comparison of Facebook likes. No one knows what happens and who would be in charge.

We’re asking Better Together and Yes Scotland what they think should happen in the event of a tie and we’ll let you know what they say. But in the meantime, what do you think should happen?

* Every UK election since 1997 has had an even number of votes (31,284,698 in 1997; 26,366,992 in 2001; 27, 148, 516 in 2005 and 29, 687, 604 in 2010). In Scotland, every election since the Parliament was set up has been even numbers when you look at just the constituency votes except 2003. If you look at the total number of votes (including List MSPs) the numbers have been all odd.

UPDATE: We’ve just learned that STV’s Robert Dawson Scott wrote a mini-play for The National Theatre of Scotland on this very topic. And you can watch it below:

Dead Heat | The Great Yes, No, Don’t Know Five Minute Theatre Show from National Theatre of Scotland on Vimeo.

By Craig McGill 


Craig is Weber Shandwick‘s Digital Strategist. 




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