Garve Scott-Lodge's

Sorry Excuse for a Blog

The Referendum Consultations

02 April 2012

I can't believe how much of the last 36 hours I've spent discussing this nonsense. In the vain hope of adding a little clarity, here's a short explanation of the situation as I understand it.

There are (at least) three ways you can respond to the Scottish Governement's consultation on the Independence Referendum.

  1. By visiting http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Consultations/Current where you'll find this particular consultation on page 2. Clicking it will give more details, and you'll eventually find a page with downloadable documents you can fill in and post to the Scottish Government at the address provided.
  2. By sending an email to referendum@scotland.gsi.go.uk
  3. By filling in the forms at https://consult.scotland.gov.uk

Option 1 (print and post) asks for your name and address. It doesn't ask for an email address. As far as I see nothing specifically says you MUST add your name and address. It allows you to say whether you wish to be anonymous if your response is published. Note that this same format was used in the Gay Marriage consultation, and I presume it's pretty much the default.

Option 2 (send an email) I suppose requires an email address, or you couldn't send it. However, you might want to send your consultation from your friend's email address if you don't have one, or don't have access to it at the time. This is most likely the way that the SNP and Labour party submit consultations filled in on their websites - see http://www.snp.org/campaign/referendum-consultation and http://www.scottishlabour.org.uk/haveyoursay. Both encourage you to edit the content they've supplied, but whether any parties should be pre-filling in responses and asking users to send them is questionable. Both the SNP and Labour require you to add your name and email address, but that's their choice rather than a requirement of the Scottish Govt system.

Option 1 seems to be the default system which has been used for years and nobody has complained that it's being abused. Option 2 is presumably condoned by both parties, as both use it on their websites.

So Option 3 is the only contentious one. The first page asks for name, address, telephone and email, so that can't be what the fuss is about either. The only thing left is that you are not REQUIRED to enter this information. You CAN, should you wish, leave these fields blank and continue.

The Labour party claim that this is an invitation to abuse the system, submitting multiple entries. Tavish Scott has gone so far as to impune civil servants, saying they will be engaged in doing this. I guess he doesn't expect to ever have to work with any in the future!

The Scottish government (@StewartHosieMP) this morning said that the responses will be independently reviewed. During this process it will be trivially easy to separate the online responses which were anonymous from the ones with names, addresses etc, and provide both named and anonymous data. Following the furore I'll be disappointed if this is not done.

So there's no question of rigging - the data should be clear as day. You will be able to discount the anonymous responses if you wish to.

That leaves one question - will the UK Govt/Scottish Office allow an independent review of the responses to their consultation?