My article yesterday on Jiggery-pokery of the highest order – the SNP’s ‘National Survey’ has had the most views of any post so far on the No Thanks! blog, and that in less than 24 hours. So whether you like it or not it’s certainly attracted some interest.
It’s also attracted plenty of comments. Some are on the blog and you can see them below the article itself. Others have bounced around Twitter with more or less authority and I thought it worth summarising some of them here before they disappear into cyberspace.
Perhaps the most serious allegation is that the survey site breaches the Data Protection Act. This seems to boil down to the fact that in order to avoid the personal data you give in the survey being held and used by the SNP you have to opt out (rather than in) and in an obscure way that is not part of the natural process of completing the survey. You have to notice the Privacy and Data Protection link in tiny print below the survey form, go to another page, read the instructions there, then write and post a letter to the SNP’s HQ asking to opt out of ‘some or all’ of the uses the party might put your information to.
I know very little about this aspect of the law and would be happy to be told the people making these claims are wrong. But they seem to include individuals who deal with data protection issues in their day to day work. One has said he’s already lodged a complaint with the Information Commissioner’s Office and points out that the SNP has what he calls ‘form’ in this area.
If there is a breach it might be deliberate or it might be accidental. The former possibility would obviously be more egregious but I can see a case for suspecting that what we have here is mere sloppiness.
In support of that possibility I’d cite a claim made by another tweeter that the domain name ‘survey2016.scot’ was only registered (in the name of SNP chief executive Peter Murrell) on 17 August, scarcely two working weeks before Nicola Sturgeon launched the party’s ‘listening exercise.’ In other words, some fundamental decisions about the nature of what was to be done were only made a short time before the exercise was launched, even though in broad outline its advent had been publicised as early as April this year. Was there dissent in the ranks that led to some last-minute decision-making, or is the SNP not the fearsomely efficient party machine they would have us believe?
In my rush to get my comments on the survey out yesterday I missed a few other points.
For example, in terms of genuinely seeking people’s views on the future, one question about a dozen issues is arguably at the heart of the survey:
Question 4. If there was a referendum on Scottish independence, how important would the following issues be to you in deciding how you vote?
With some of the issues (for example, ‘Feel British/Believe in the Union’ and ‘Feel Scottish’) the question makes sense, with others much less so. If you say ‘Immigration’ is ‘critically important,’ are you strongly for it or strongly against it? This is the sort of infelicitous detail that might have been avoided if the party had devoted more time and expertise to preparing the survey.
Of course, the bigger criticism of all surveys of this sort is that the self-selection of the participants means you almost certainly won’t get a representative view of what the population overall thinks. The SNP won’t, if people like me opt out of taking part. Those on Twitter (not encouraged by me) who’ve said they’re going to put in untrue or multiple responses won’t help either. But that’s a risk the SNP take and should have known about anyhow.
The counter to that last point is of course one of the thrusts of my previous article – that this is not about genuinely seeking views but about strengthening the SNP’s existing database of sympathisers and potential sympathisers.
Another aspect of the survey2016 web site I didn’t make time to mention previously demonstrates this point very clearly. Click on the ‘Volunteer’ page and a whole new world of opportunity opens up:
you can help make Scotland’s voice heard. Play your part by volunteering today, and you’ll receive an email with further information on how to get involved, including The National Survey activist pack.
There you have in a couple of sentences what the whole exercise is about – SNP activism, not a genuine listening exercise.
And of course, no SNP yellow or black anywhere on the web site. I wouldn’t go so far as to suggest, as someone did on Twitter, that the purple of the footer panel is meant to suggest the purple of the Scottish parliament web site. But taken together with the glib ‘Scotland’s voice’ and the phrase ‘National Survey’ a cynic might wonder.
My thanks to people on Twitter who knowingly or unknowingly suggested material for this follow-up article on the SNP survey.