Cock-up sees students miss out on referendum vote

Kirsty Cosgrove, Lynsey Kiernan and Louise Curley are three of the 18  young voters from West Lothian College.    Pic: Neil Hanna.
Kirsty Cosgrove, Lynsey Kiernan and Louise Curley are three of the 18 young voters from West Lothian College. Pic: Neil Hanna.
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STUDENTS have lost their say over Scotland’s future after an embarrassing “cock-up” meant they weren’t registered to vote in the referendum.

They expected to be added to the electoral roll after filling out forms at a stall run by the Scottish Youth Parliament at West Lothian College.

But the volunteer tasked with sending the documents to electoral chiefs fell ill and failed to deliver them in time for the September 2 cut-off.

The Lothian Joint Valuation Board said “it is now too late” for the 19 students hit by the blunder, which has cost an SYP worker their job.

Would-be Yes voter Kirsty Cosgrove, 28, said the independence campaign had inspired her to get involved in politics for the first time in her life.

She said: “I’ve never voted in my life, but I felt so strongly, so passionately, about this vote that I was actually determined to have my voice heard.

“This was my chance to help make the biggest decision in Scotland’s history – and it’s just been snatched away from me.”

Fellow student Lynsey Kiernan, 25, said the SYP team should have sent the forms away straight after the visit to the college last month.

Ms Kiernan – who also planned to vote Yes – said: “We filled out our forms on August 15, so I can’t figure out why they weren’t posted the next day. It just doesn’t make sense.

“I have a young daughter, and I wanted to vote in the referendum so that I could make sure she would have a better future.

“Because of this mix-up, 19 people have lost their right to vote.

“And because this referendum is going to be so tight, those could have been the votes that decided whether we become independent.”

Jennifer Hood, the volunteer with SYP who was tasked with making sure the forms reached the Lothian Joint Valuation Board, apologised in an e-mail to the students.

She wrote: “I was given the wrong deadline, and so this means that unfortunately you are not able to vote in this case. All I can do is apologise.

“I haven’t been very well either and have been unable to hand in the forms. I feel really bad that this has happened.”

A spokesman for SYP said that the volunteers manning the West Lothian stall had “been working outside of their remit” by collecting the registration forms in the absence of a “core staff member”.

He revealed that the person responsible for overseeing volunteers was no longer employed by the organisation.

He said: “We are very disappointed this isolated situation has taken place and we apologise to West Lothian College students affected.”