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Showing posts with label SNP and the referendum. Show all posts
Showing posts with label SNP and the referendum. Show all posts

Monday, 2 April 2012

Scottish Government press release on the consultation exercise

From: The Scottish Government

April 2, 2012


Scottish Government confirms just 3.5 per cent of responses given anonymously – none will be included in independent analysis

The Scottish Government has published details of the referendum consultation responses as at first thing this morning, which show that only 414 responses out of a total of 11,986 were anonymous – just 3.5 per cent of the total.

The figures demonstrate there is no evidence that the process is being skewed by anonymous contributions, Cabinet Secretary for Parliamentary Business Bruce Crawford said.

Neither is there any evidence of multiple identical responses from the same person.

The Scottish Government’s consultation will be independently analysed in order to underline the robustness of the process, and the contract was advertised last Friday. The contract for the analysis is being competitively tendered in the usual way for large consultations, using standard Scottish Government procurement procedures.

The Scottish Government always intended that anonymous responses would be separately identified in the independent analysis. Now, in order to prevent significant numbers of anonymous responses – given the media coverage generated about the issue – responses will only be accepted and included in the analysis if they provide personal identification details, and the Scottish Government’s online portal has already been amended to introduce this further robust procedure.

Furthermore, while there is no evidence of multiple identical responses from the same person, any duplicate identical responses which appear to be from the same computer will be excluded from the analysis so that their view is only represented once.

Cabinet Secretary for Parliamentary Business Bruce Crawford said:

The Scottish Government’s referendum consultation is gathering huge levels of public interest as we debate and discuss Scotland’s future – and the robustness of the process is demonstrated by the fact that the consultation will be subject to independent analysis. This stands in stark contrast to the much smaller UK Government consultation, which was not put to independent analysis.

“As the figures we have published demonstrate, there is absolutely no evidence of anonymous responses skewing the process – quite the reverse – but we can and will make the process stronger still by requiring all submissions to have personal identification details before they are taken into account.  While anonymous contributions would always have been separately identified, we will now ensure that no anonymous submissions are included in the analysis at all. And while there is no evidence of duplicate identical responses from the same person, we can and will ensure that any received are also excluded from the independent analysis so that their view is only represented once.

“These changes address any conceivable concerns about the Scottish Government consultation – while there still remain questions about the Westminster exercise.

“Our public consultation is going from strength to strength, and I encourage everyone with an interest to make their contribution to this vitally important discussion on Scotland’s future.”

Friday, 9 March 2012

Ask the bloody question(s)–Professor Curtice’s two questions

Professor Curtice is an eminent and respected academic, with a long honourable record of commenting on Scottish electoral matters. I am therefore astonished at his proposal for two questions in the independence referendum in 2014.

Assuming today’s Scotsman has reported him accurately in the little graphic (not shown in the online edition) at the head of Eddie Barnes’ article Expert offers three choice-vote in just two questions Professor Curtice has fallen into exactly the dangers and pitfalls of a two-question ballot paper that have been detailed by many, including myself at some length in previous blogs.

From Drop Box

Referendum ballot paper

Referendum ballot questions

Referendum ballot question - confusion?

The first question – Do you agree that Scotland should be an independent country? – poses no problems. It envisages two possibilities only, and one answer only - YES or NO – gives a complete and unequivocal voter response.

But the second question – If Scotland remains part of the United Kingdom, do you agree it should have “devo max” or the status quo? – has several weaknesses in construction.

Since it is conditional on the answer to the first question, it assumes a NO answer to the first question. But by whom? The voter answering the question or the outcome of the total ballot? Since answering the second question is not prohibited by answering the first, a voter may answer both questions making either assumption.

For example, a voter may legitimately answer YES to the first question and YES to the second, in other words, have a fallback choice. As a supporter of independence, that is exactly what I would do, and have the right to do, since my assumption is that if the YES vote fails, and Scotland remains a part of the UK, then I want devo max.

My YES vote to the second question would then be aggregated with what could be a minority YES to the second question by those opposed to independence. While I am clearly happy with that, it is evident from the comments of those opposed to independence that they would not be, and confusing and contested outcomes could result.

Of course, the Electoral Commission could rule that the second question will only be counted if a YES vote fails. But have they the right to make such an assumption and decision if in fact many voters quite reasonably completed the ballot on different assumptions?

The second question itself is badly structured and worded. If I say YES to the question - If Scotland remains a part of the United Kingdom, do you agree it should have devo max or the status quo? - what am I saying YES or NO to?

YES I agree it should have devo max  or  YES I agree it should have the status quo?

If I say NO, am I saying NO I don’t it agree it should have devo max   or   NO I don’t agree it should have the status quo?

In my view, the Electoral Commission should look critically at these questions and tell Professor Curtice to go back and think again.


I gave Prof. Curtice the benefit of the doubt, thinking the Scotsman graphic might have been at fault. But I was wrong - list to John Curtuice state the question here.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

The Scottish press – contrasts between Scotland on Sunday and Sunday Herald


The MOD gravy train, a money-making machine for civil servants and career politicians that functions as a vehicle of death for inadequately equipped servicemen and women, an arm of government that is apparently incompetent and not fit for purpose, yet one that displays superb competence at enriching the politicians who have held senior posts in defence - notably senior Scottish Labour politicians - who wind up with directorships and lucrative consultancies in arms-related industries, and the senior civil servants who spin gleefully through the door to similar appointments.

(If you doubt this, examine the biographies of former defence secretaries, defence ministers, senior MOD civil servants, former NATO officials, etc.)

The Fox/Werrity affair briefly and embarrassingly lifted the veil, a veil that was rapidly dropped again as the Establishment closed ranks.

Today, the Telegraph - Ministry of Defence civil servant awarded £86,000 bonus with the sub-header Ministry of Defence civil servants have been awarded £40 million in bonuses despite fierce criticism of the department.

Search in vain for this Telegraph story in the Scottish Press today – if they didn’t know about it, they should have. But it doesn’t quite fit with David Cameron extolling the virtues of the UK and defence …

The Sunday Herald and Scotland on Sunday provide interesting contrasts today.Here are two Sunday Herald stories - 'Lives at risk' from poor nuclear safety regimes at Trident bases on Clyde and Anger at LibDems over Devo secrecy ruling

Search in vain for them in Scotland on Sunday – they don’t quite fit the narrative of that increasingly sad paper, although maybe they have or will appear, buried away somewhere.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Objectivity, neutrality and myths - Kenny Farquarson, SoS


I expect journalists to be objective, but not neutral. I expect news reporting to be factual, and not to spin the facts, but I do not expect balance, e.g. if there are ten facts that day for one side of an argument and five for another, I don’t expect the journalist to trawl for another five facts to achieve ‘balance’.

I expect a sharp distinction to be made between news reporting and commentary. I never expect neutrality, only objectivity. I expect individual journalists to have a viewpoint and an interpretation of events. I accept that entire newspapers and magazines have a viewpoint, a position, and editors that identify with that position, providing they observe good journalistic practice in relation to factual reporting and veracity.

I deeply distrust newspapers and periodicals where the viewpoint is that of the owners, rather than the journalist.

I am not, and never have been a journalist, and I have never worked for a newspaper or magazine in any capacity, nor in media. I believe strongly in a free press and media, especially in print journalism and public service broadcasting.


In the context that Kenny uses the word myth, the definition is a widely held but false notion. Norman Mailer called mythical facts factoids - something everybody know is true except it ain’t.

Today he sets out to demolish what he see as six myths about the SNP and the referendum. To some degree, he has set up straw men to knock down by stating a myth that either never existed, or exists only in the minds of a few unionist commentators. Let’s deal with Kenny’s myths briefly -

1. Holyrood’s voting system was designed to stop the SNP getting a majority

Kenny says it wasn’t - it was designed to stop Labour getting a majority. He describes his myth as “a cornerstone of the SNP’s persecution complex”.  The SNP don’t have a persecution complex, Kenny, but they could be forgiven if they had, given the history of the party, and the role of successive UK Governments and Scottish Secretaries, as revealed under the 30 year rule so cogently by Diomhair and other analyses, not to mention the hysterical campaign of abuse and flagrant misrepresentation directed at them since may 2007.

The d’Hondt system of proportional voting was set up to stop any party having an overall majority in the Scottish Parliament, and in that objective, all Westminster parties were as one. As unionist parties, they last thing they wanted was any devolved administration having any real power over the levers of government in Scotland, including their own regional parties.

Since the Labour Party and Tony Blair were the key drivers of devolution, and since the only threat to London Labour’s dominance in Scotland was the SNP, there can be little doubt as to their prime motivation - the voting system was designed to keep the SNP out of power for ever.

The stunned shock of Labour when, in 2007 the Scottish people cautiously gave the SNP a chance to show what they could do, albeit in a minority government, was such that for some months Labour could not adjust to the fact that they were no longer in government - Jack McConnell was like a headless chicken for some time.

2. A devo-max option would put Alex Salmond “in a win-win situation” in the referendum.

3, Devo max requires a second question in the referendum

I’m not sure who Kenny is quoting here on win-win, but it must be either a unionist politician’s quote or an ill-informed metropolitan commentator - the SNP have never driven the so-called devo max option. They have recognised, since the previous consultation document and in the new one, that as far as polls are an indicator, there seems to be a substantial body of the Scottish electorate who do not want independence but want radically increased powers for Scotland within the UK.

We now have Civic Scotland and Henry McLeish saying that such an option must be on the ballot paper, and since the SNP is a democratic party and recognises a responsibility to the entire people of Scotland, not just those who elected them, they are prepared to respond to that wish.

Such democratic concepts are, I know, deeply alien to UK politicians, since they preside over a power structure that is only partly democratic, given the existence of the House of Lords and the visceral commitment - recently strengthened by a viciously fought referendum campaign that served only politicians - to a first-past-the-post system of government for Westminster.

The position of the SNP Government, of Alex Salmond, of his ministers, is that they want one question, they want independence, but will recognise the people’s apparent wish for another option. My own position is that I do not want devo max - I consider it a trap, and an option which, if selected by the electorate, would not be delivered by Westminster. Far from thinking it would offer Alex Salmond a win-win, I think it would represent a failure of the highest aspirations of those who want independence.  Nonetheless, I think it must be offered if the people want it as an option. The other strand of opinion that I see in the SNP is of direct opposition to devo max being offered.

Kenny’s myth no. 3 solution - don’t have a second question, just let the Scotland Act and devolution evolution do the trick reflects the unionist trap. Not only will we not get more powers, we risk  a clawback of exisitng powers caused by an English reaction against independence ambitions.

So, yes, it is a myth, Kenny - a unionist politicians’ myth, and a myth propounded by ill-informed media commentators, not by the SNP.

4. Debate on more powers for Holyrood should be left until after the independence referendum

Kenny sees this as a Labour and LibDem myth, and I agree with him on that perception. If they maintain it, they betray their own supporters in Scotland. In my more ignoble moment - and I have many - I secretly hope they do maintain it. But then the democrat in my psyche pops up again …

5. Alex Salmond is a godlike political figure with superhuman powers who can do no wrong.

If Kenny had presented this as a unionist and media myth solely, I might have agreed with him. The idea that - other than few starry-eyed, hero-worshipping groupies on the fringe - that anyone in the SNP believes in this myth is risible, as my private email correspondence demonstrates daily.

But what SNP supporters believe, what the vast majority of the Scottish electorate believe, what a rapidly increasing number of international commentators believe is that the Scottish people in this point in their history are fortunate to have a consummate politician and a visionary statesman who eclipses any other British or European political leader, yet a man who’s the goud for a’ that, and just one of Jock Tamson’s bairns - fallible, and above all a real Scot. Gaun yersel, Alex!

6. The SNP speaks for Scotland

This is no myth - it is a fact. It is also a fact that all the other parties, as well as the SNP, claim to speak for Scotland, and it’s their job to say that, otherwise, what the hell are they for?

But what is uniquely true is that the SNP speaks only for Scotland - all the other parties, by their own repeated proclamations, have at best a wider loyalty and at worst a deeply divided - and divisive - loyalty to the United Kingdom.

The Scottish Government speaks for Scotland, and they were elected by a massive majority to do just that.

Kenny’s last sentence is contemptible, not worthy of him, so I won’t repeat it here. It is regrettably typical of much unionist comment, and it’s why they’re losing the argument.