Highlands & Islands

Referendum count staff 'high-fived Yes votes and booed No'

Ballot boxes in Dingwall Image copyright Highland Council
Image caption Complaints about how votes were counted in Dingwall were raised with Highland Council

A number of staff at a Scottish independence referendum count were replaced during the proceedings because of their behaviour, it has emerged.

A group of four people were relieved of their duties at Highland Council's count in Dingwall on 18 September following complaints.

It was understood some were seen giving the thumbs up and high-fiving each other when "Yes" votes were opened.

It was claimed boos were heard when "No" votes were opened.

Labour and Liberal Democrat party agents made a joint complaint, it was understood.

Highland Council has confirmed it received complaints during the count.

A spokesperson for the Highland Counting Officer said: "Complaints were made about a count staff team of four people at the referendum count in Dingwall and as a result the team were stood down and replaced.

'Properly conducted'

The local authority declined to comment on whether they would be disciplined further.

Highland Council said replacing the staff did not contribute to a delay in the count.

The result from the Highland area was the last in Scotland to be declared, after almost 30 ballot boxes were delayed by a fatal crash on the A9.

A lorry driver died when his vehicle crashed near Berriedale Braes in Caithness on 18 September.

Twenty-eight boxes were driven by a long diversion via Melvich on the north Sutherland coast.

Highland Council also had to handle four packs, or boxes, of postal votes which had been handed into polling places and required a process of verification, including the checking of voters' signatures.

At 08:15 on 19 September, the count was declared as 87,739 for "No" and 78,069 "Yes".

The incident at Dingwall is the latest to involve allegations about the counting of votes.

The chief counting officer has defended the conduct of the Scottish referendum after allegations of vote rigging.

More than 90,000 people had signed an online petition demanding "a revote counted by impartial international parties".

In a statement, the chief counting officer said all counts "were properly conducted and scrutinised".

Ten votes in Glasgow are also being investigated over a separate claim of multiple voting.

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