Even though the United Kingdom is an established democracy, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) did observe for instance the 2017 general election. There's both a "needs report" (which did recommend a small mission) as well as final report (both are found on the previously linked page). The mission's scope was rather limited:

In line with ODIHR’s methodology, the EET will not carry out systematic or comprehensive observation of voting, counting, or tabulation on election day. Team members will, however, visit a small number of polling stations across the country to follow election day procedures.

There's also the UK's government response to the reports.

I can't find something similar for the 2014 Scottish referendum though. Was there an OSCE mission observing it?

(The OSCE site is a bit of a mess, so it's possible I missed something or they don't have older stuff on-line.)

I did find a response from the (then) Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Charles Flanagan to a July 2014 Dáil question in which he said

No invitation from the EU or the OSCE to send election observers to monitor the forthcoming Scottish Independence Referendum on 18 September has been received nor is one expected.

It's clear from that that the Irish didn't receive an invitation to monitor the Scottish referendum (via an EU or OSCE mission), but it's a little less clear whether the UK didn't invite the OSCE at all.

  • Why would a nation which is generally accepted as democratic need observers to their elections? Three reasons I can think of: Establishing a precedent that such observer groups do not necessarily mean distrust or disrespect of the host country, keeping everyone honest, and a chance to learn from best international best practice. But that doesn't mean every poll needs to be monitored.
    – o.m.
    Apr 22, 2019 at 13:01
  • @o.m.: Given that the Scottish referendum turned out to be the poll with the highest percentage of people thinking it was affected by fraud... after the fact (according to the Electoral Commission) and given that before the poll 19% thought it was going to be rigged... (Let me know if you needs link to those facts.) Apr 22, 2019 at 13:09
  • even if people are complaining, and even if there were individual cases of misconduct, elections in the UK are not remotely close to, say, Congo.
    – o.m.
    Apr 22, 2019 at 15:06
  • @o.m.: Sure, but what I'm saying is that if OSCE observers were ever warranted in the UK, the Scottish ref would have been it. The UK did admit Russian observers for whatever reason, see link below James' answer for that. Apr 22, 2019 at 15:11
  • Does the OSCE monitor votings if they are not invited? Perhaps the Russians invited themselves (your link in your comment to James K's answer suggest that they were there with a pro-Kremlin agenda) and they were just allowed, which is an important distinction.
    – SJuan76
    Apr 22, 2019 at 15:28

1 Answer 1



The OSCE lists the elections that it has observed in the UK

It sent small teams to 2005, 2010, 2015 and 2017 elections, and to the 2003 elections to the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. It seems likely that had it been invited to observe the independence, AV or "brexit" referendums, it would have done so. Therefore it is a reasonable assumption that the UK does not normally invite the OSCE to observe referendums.


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