It sounds mad, but a toss of the coin could, technically, decide the fate of the United Kingdom and Scotland.
Oddly enough, even with polls as close as they currently are, the Edinburgh Agreement signed by David Cameron and Alex Salmond last year setting out the plans for today’s referendum vote doesn’t account for the fact that there may be an equal number of votes on both sides.
Of course it is massively unlikely that both sides will garner exactly the same number of votes as the results come in tonight, but it is still a possibility.
If that happened, local areas would be responsible for recounts, but no national recount would be ordered. It would be up to local authorities to decide whether they needed one or not.
And then, if the numbers are still exactly the same – well the entire future of the union and two countries’ destiny could come down to the toss of a coin.
There’s nothing in print about this, but simply precedent in UK electoral history.
In 2007, the BBC reports, Conservative councillor Christopher Underwood-Frost and his Liberal Democrat rival John Birkenshaw undertook a coin toss to decide who won. The returning officer for the election took a coin out of his pocket, flipped it in the air, and the candidates shouted their choice of heads or tails.
The BBC is correct in asserting that “shouting ‘heads’ or ‘tails’ to decide the future of the United Kingdom might raise the odd eyebrow around the world” – but there’s no other option, really.
The Edinburgh agreement refers to “a decisive expression of the views of people in Scotland and a result everyone will respect”. But will a coin toss after a 50-50 dead heat be such a decisive result? I doubt it.
But I suppose if it does come down to this, there will be another hurdle to scale: which currency do you use for the coin toss?
P.S. In the interest of transparency I have to declare I started to write this before I saw the BBC piece on the same subject! I had even chosen the same (Reuters) picture of them, above! How could I not?