The story of the rigging that wasn’t

Some people need to get out more.  Doesn’t matter where, just some place where there are real people who can tell them what is important and what is not.

Housing associations adjusting their operational plans for 2013 to include the establishment of soup kitchens – that’s important.  The UK Government about to start monitoring everyone’s emails and web activity – that’s important.  Children not being able to count very well at the age of 13 – that’s not just important, it’s a disgrace.

So how come, the politicians (opposition corps, of course) and the meeja (Scotland’s two quality newspapers in particular) decided yesterday that the most important thing happening in Scotland at this particular time was the Scottish Government allowing anonymous submissions to be made to its independence referendum?

An attempt to rig the result of the consultation, cried some – though no one made clear to whom such anonymity might offer an advantage.  Not so, cried the Scottish Government, this was normal practice in its consultations.   Who cares, cried the rest of us.

And frankly who does.

Particularly now the issue has been resolved.  The Scottish Government has changed the settings on its online consultation platform to make the problem go away,  which rather suggests that it wasn’t normal practice, especially since this was the first time the government’s new online consultation platform had been put into action.  But which also suggests that rather than being a policy decision, it was an HTML coding oversight, fixed by adding a comma or a set of brackets or similar.

Now we can all go away and get on with something much more productive, like responding to the consultation.  And we can do so, comforted by the fact that we will all know how many folk responded and who they all are.

Except we won’t.  Since the process of consulting the populace began in Scotland, on matters varied and myriad, there has always been an option not to have anyone know who you are, whom you represent and what you said.  There is, and continues to be a wee box to tick to say, please don’t make public what I said, nor my name and address – and there are mix and match options of this for those who like to live it large.

So actually, the issue of anonymity is not really resolved at all.  And that’s the way it should be.

It is no one’s right to see what anyone else has to say in such consultations.  There are many reasons why a respondent might not want others to know what they have said.  Someone who suffered sexual abuse as a child and wants to help as an adult make sure that child protection guidelines minimise the risk of it happening to other children.  Someone who has been sectioned under previous mental health legislation and wants to have their experience improve new provision but who doesn’t want friends and work colleagues to know about their health issues in the past.  A company provides commercially sensitive information as part of a submission that it is happy to share with the government to improve policy and practice but doesn’t necessarily want bandied about to all and sundry.

Or maybe there are just some folk who don’t want to indulge the nosy buggers.  I’ve responded – and as a veteran consultation respondent in various guises over the years, I commend the new online platform which is efficient, smooth and effective – and I have ticked the box saying please don’t publish my name and address.  I’m happy for my views to be known and what I had to say can be published but not with my name attached.

Why?  Well, because I work in a policy-related job, I didn’t necessarily want my views on a personally political matter being confused or somehow attaching to the organisation I work for.  What I believe personally should not be allowed to prejudice what people might think of the job I might do on other policy and political matters professionally.  Though I’m sure most of you could guess at the gist of what I had to say for myself.

But there’s an even more serious issue than this at work.  I nearly did allow my name and address to be published but pausing to think about it changed my mind.  For the reason above, but also because I did not want my views – nor indeed anyone else’s – to be used as currency by one side or the other in the battle to win or defeat the referendum.  Which is a pretty sad reflection of the state of Scottish politics.

People are reluctant to make their views publicly known because others cannot be trusted to treat those views with respect.  And while I acknowlege the irony and perhaps hypocrisy in a political blogger making such an assertion, it really should give everyone who is going to be seeking folk to vote yes or no in the coming referendum something to think about.  Especially the ones currently indulging in the latest round of cyber hate wars and tussling over whose members/supporters have the vilest views.

This burd has been called many things in her time but wallflower ain’t one of them.  Shy and retiring are not epithets I recognise.  So if the likes of me is reluctant to proclaim unto nation what I think about the referendum process and how it should be run, for fear of the response and the reaction, think how the current poisonous atmosphere within which political discourse is being conducted is impacting on the much more reticent, ordinary voter.

Frankly, I’m not sure anyone would want the don’t knows and stay at homes to win in this, the most important debate on our constitutional future, in our history.

20 thoughts on “The story of the rigging that wasn’t

  1. The Doran Review Call for Evidence had the option to remain anonymous – I assumed it was for those in fear of vengeful Education Authorities and therefore standard practice.

    If you have an opinion then you should be prepared put your name to it and not hide behind a cloak on anonymity.

    Yours sincerely,

    Laughing Spam Fritter

  2. What I find surprising is the odd notion entertained by the unionists and the media that is giving them generous and uncritical support that these banal attacks on the SNP are having any sugnificant effect on SNP progress. I suspect they are becoming counter productive. Signed up another five members for my own little branch this week with the same again still to be enrolled.

    These silly attacks are no worry for us though they must have an incremental effect on those unlikely to vote for us because they don’t grasp the real issue well enough. Well- informed and serious voters are where our future lies and this sort of stuff leaves them cold. The gullible, the thick and the feart (GTF) make unreliable support but unionist propaganda is aimed unerreringly at them. They will follow the properly informed in due course.

    Strange things are now happening.
    1) I believe a significant proportion of the Tory natural support has formed the opinion that independence is inevitable. As Toryism is no more than a pragmtic reaction by those who hold position and power and wish to continue to do so they will come to terms with the future in their own interest
    2) Many of the remaining Labour supporters are asking when their party became the Labour and Unionist Party. The SNP is not beating Labour, it is replacing it.
    3) The LibDems have ceased to exist as a party over much of Scotland.

  3. I’ve looked everywhere on the Scottish Government website and I can’t find anywhere an invitation to SNP supporters only to participate in their consultation exercise. How odd.

  4. I had to laugh at the Herald version on this particular “story”. They had young Sarwar blethering on, as he does, throwing around all sorts of very serious allegations without producing any actual evidence. He also, essentially, insulted anyone who participated in the consultation by trashing the whole thing. It is such a waste of an articulate and eloquent individual when it can indulge only in vicious sniping but dodges the real issues, not to mention the actual debate itself. But then I can understand the concern about rigging. After all don’t Labour know plenty of tricks in that department themselves and haven’t they known them for decades?

    I too participated in the consultation. I am very glad such an opportunity was provided because frankly I am sick of listening to various politicians announcing what I, as a member of the group they commonly refer to as “the people of Scotland, actually want without even asking me first!

    It is childish in the extreme for Labour to launch this pathetic attack on anyone who has participated and their attempts to undermine the consultation is actually quite sinister. Do they not believe in consultation? Is it not a healthy thing to consult? Or are they growing increasingly worried about the Devo-Max option scoring high in the consultation exercise? More importantly do Labour intend to pay attention to the results of the consultation or is Mr Sarwar’s tantrum a hint that Labour intend to disregard the findings? Wouldn’t that be yet another sign of Labour arrogance and isn’t that precise approach the reason why, in Scotland, they are in such a sorry state today?

    The point made by Burdy is made well in my view that even while providing one’s name, address and one’s views there is absolutely nothing wrong with wishing one’s identity to remain private. That is an absolute right otherwise how would we ever justify the existence of that fairest of practices the secret ballot utilised and endorsed by organisations too numerous to mention here to determine the wishes of the majority.

  5. Most people at my work are simply fed up to the back teeth of the Referendum already.

    One friend, who has no desire for independence, thinks the Westminster consultation was “p***”, considering the low number of respondents.

    I am coming to the conclusion that the non-stop ping-pong of political rheotoric is slowly but surely making people lose interest. The recent relaunch of SIC adds yet another voice the debate. No doubt there will be more unionist supporting voices from someone of note, followed by a nationalist supporter, followed by a unionist……you get the idea.

    The media are swamping the public with different versions. Read the Sun and Record on the same day, perhaps with a touch of the Daily Bavarian (Mail) thrown in. No wonder people are getting confused.

    The consultations will mainly be completed by those who have a genuine interest. I know how these things work.

    But both consultations, in my view, were simply a waste of time.

    • Are you suggesting that due to the apathy of the majority those who actually do care shouldn’t even be consulted?

      • No, but consultations rarely, if ever, produce anything accurate.

        The people who respond, are generally interested in the subject at hand. I never responded to the smoking ban consultation, but did so with this one because I have a keen interest in politics.

        I don’t think the level of response is worth the effort to be honest, even if it was four times the Westminster one.

        The whole thing has been neutered anyway by the slanging match between the SNP and Labour, something I thing was a deliberate ploy by Labour.

  6. Lots of ‘cyberbrits’ posting in the English Press and cybernats are mostly gentlemanly/ladylike wherever I go.

    Cybertbrits in the MSM in Scotland are actually on the wane apart from the ‘Hootsman’ where ‘Grahamski’ and friends, lurk with all the charm of phsycotic lobsters.

    Occasionally the cyberbrits are good for a laugh though simply being unable to have a discussion without using common abuse does pall in the ‘Hootsman’

    Hopefully my ticker will stand up to all the fury and snot on the internet, TV and scurrilous rags.

    I live to see the day that the people of Scotland gain their Independence, whereupon I can die with my mind at ease.

  7. Good article Ms BEV. I was going to leave some comments but the stench of hypocritical Unionist sweat from grahamski – L’enfant terrible de l’église tachetée or the Falkirk Bairn – and others makes me realise why I have, in the main,given up replying to bloggs.

    Having said that, I am glad a came across your blog on my picaresque travells in cyberspace, it is refreshing to read a view that chimes wisth my ownbut is not slavishly uncritical. More wingspan Ms Burd

  8. “Where are the cyberbrits?”

    There are none.

    I have no problems with cybernats (a term which I don’t believe is pejorative but merely describes online independence supporters) putting in as many responses as they want.

    As long as the Scottish Executive are truthful and represent their findings accurately there will be no problem.

    I suspect however that Mr Salmond will be unable to resist claiming that the thousands of responses come from ordinary Scots rather than from a small clique of politically-motivated activists.

    In any case the Scottish Executive consultation is now tainted and unless they find a way of proving that the vast majority of responses don’t come from their supporters then the result of the consultation will carry no more weight than a show of hands at a SNP conference.

    • That’s a bit of a catch-22, have you thought that through Graham? SNP members are just ordinary Scots, who have a particular political viewpoint and have chosen to align themselves with the political party which represents that viewpoint. Are you seriously suggesting this group of ordinary Scots should therefore be gagged and forbidden from making their views known?

      Would you be happy to be excluded from responding because you have a strong and already-formed opinion? Thought not.

      And what’s your problem with the term “Scottish Government”? Even her Maj uses it.

      (Sigh. I thought the one good thing about the Scotsman comments pages was that they kept Grahamski off the internet. What went wrong?)

  9. The public are unimpressed at the behaviour of the opposition and, I suggest, the once respectable Herald. When the tabloids recognise there is really no story here it is weird to find the Herald headlining on it . There is of course nothing too banal or inconsequential for the Hootsmon

  10. Where are the details of housing associations running soup kitchens,after all, it could be considered part of their community involvement remit to arrange free lunch clubs for pensioners, for example?

    • It was a housing association board member who alerted me to this in their own one. It shocked them – it’s part of the prep some organisations are having to think about for when welfare reform hits. And I think not. Since when did it become a given in our wealthy society that we provide free food to folk – these are not people on the streets, but folk in housing, often earning. I’m not quite sure which century you think we are in, but people should not be so poor in the 21st Century to have to rely on free food handouts.

  11. I think the reservations non-SNP supporters like me have about the Scottish Executive’s consultation process is that, just like the UK government’s consultation, we know full well how they will use the responses.

    While the UK government sought the views of academics and organisations who they knew would support their view so the SNP seek the support of their army of cybernats who they know will deliver thousands of replies supporting their position.

    This isn’t an exercise in finding out what the Scottish people think, it is a cynical exercise in creating an illusory consensus.

    I’d bin both consultations. Neither are reliable and neither reflect anything other than the views of those administrations conducting them.

    • There is of course no army of “cybernats”.
      There are many thousands of enthusiastic supporters of Scottish independence and this is reflected online just as the almost total lack of any similar army of unionists reflects the political reality
      Where are the cyberbrits?

    • I am spartacus laddie!! The so called cybernat army are ordinary folk like myself, the term is an attempt by labour to do down folk who are pro indy.

      It’s lazy politics and it washes by ordinary non political folk. The consultation is not flawed it’s open to folk who comment on what the referendum should be.

    • I’ve got news for you. I’m an academic, and I’m involved in an exercise that requires me to visit the Scottish Government web site. I go there, and up pops a box exhorting me to give my views in the referendum consultation. (I bat it away, because I have work to do.)

      Somehow, I don’t think the SG has some clever way of knowing which academics’ college email addresses point to SNP supporters. In fact, I’d hazard a guess that box pops up when anyone visits the web site. So how come I never got a similar box asking me to respond to the Jockland Colonial Overlord consultation? What makes their largely-ignored little quiz legitimate, but the Scottish Government’s not? Seems to me it’s the latter who are actually trying to get a wide range of responses to their much less biassed consultation.

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