Friday marked the end of the Scottish Government’s consultation on the independence referendum. Unlike the Westminster consultation, which showed that a whopping great 0.045% of the Scottish population wanted a single question on independence (“overwhelming support,” said Scottish Secretary Michael Moore), this one might be worth listening to.
On the consultation’s closing day The Scotsman, or The Dependent as it’s now known, reported that the government had designed a pop-up on their website which was capable of influencing replies to the consultation. It was nothing but “a blatant, cynical and calculated attempt to skew the responses of thousands of people.” At least there was an admission here that thousands actually responded, unlike the handful involved in the coalition’s exercise in futility.
But it echoed a recurring drone – that anything the Scottish National Party does is in fact nothing but a blatant, cynical and calculated attempt to do something utterly fiendish. Certainly it’s true that the SNP’s free prescriptions policy was nothing but a blatant, cynical and calculated attempt to stop penalising the sick and indeed, their independence bid is nothing but a blatant, cynical and calculated attempt to make Scotland responsible for its own affairs. But are they really fiendish enough to create a website so powerful it can control readers’ behaviour?
I thought this was an intriguing idea and decided a little scientific experimentation was necessary. I asked LaFlamme, raven-haired beauty of some notoriety (I saw her first), to see if she could influence your behaviour in the context of this hugely powerful National Collective website. Her hypothesis is laid out below.
[swf src=”http://nationalcollective.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/behaviour.swf” width=520 height=350]
LaFlamme is certainly persuasive but on this evidence I think you might agree that true behaviour-controlling websites are some way off, and that The Dependent’s accusation is equally so.
Elsewhere you may have noticed an election took place, though not if you were one of the reported 62% of people who are now to have their future rights to vote rescinded. The election ended only in confusion for the Scottish media as a ‘huge sigh of relief for Labour’ was mistaken for victory. The arithmetically-challenged Herald described it as a ‘Historic Win For Labour’, whilst the BBC counted seats with midterm Labour defections to the SNP as Labour gains. (Reports that Labour are to erect a Berlin-style wall around their four councils to avoid further defections to the SNP have been downplayed.) Accurate election analysis was scarce and May 5th, when I realised Wikipedia’s reporting was more reliable than the BBC’s, was a sad day indeed.
Voters in Glasgow decided Labour’s four decades in power were not enough to effect positive change in the city, and despite having a clear majority, council leader Gordon Matheson began coalition talks with the Orange Order. According to a survey in February, a mere 73% of Scots would like to ban all Orange and Republican parades but, citing a “flaw” in his own groundbreaking approach to reducing marches, Matheson is now expected to fix the unbroken and allow relaxation of the rules. Gordon – stay classy.
Meanwhile, at the increasingly desperate Westminster end of the British Isles, the Conservative-LibDem coalition announced a re-launch, mistaking a thorough trouncing at the polls for endorsement of their policies. In a sad indictment of our times the Prime Minister now looks to Boris Johnson for a shining example of success. So bereft are the Westminster government of ideas, that when five major public sector unions began a 24-hour strike over proposed pension cuts on Thursday, David Cameron could only offer workers reduced life expectancy as an alternative.
However, one area to which the government has given fresh thought is the suggested new approach to Scottish Independence. Sources close to the Prime Minister say that should the 2014 referendum produce a ‘no’ vote, a ‘Failure To Launch Scotland Act’ will be announced in order to forcibly sever ties with its northern neighbour. Critics say the plan is flawed because Scottish Conservatives, although endangered, still exist and would vote with their feet. The government countered this by saying their feet aren’t what they used to be and four or five votes wouldn’t make much difference anyway.
It will be some time before our next election. But given a 62% no-show in the most recent one, I offer this suggestion to both Westminster and Holyrood as a method for dealing with voter apathy: put a lottery number on every ballot paper.
For more on Tony Boaks and his satirical fiction, see Tony Boaks’ Despairing Notes – Often Mistaken For A Funny Blog.