What the SNP’s listening exercise on independence actually means

It is no surprise that the SNP continues to focus on independence. They are a nationalist party. It’s what they do. This morning, Nicola Sturgeon shifted her focus away from finding options for Scotland post Brexit, from fixing the education system that’s falling apart, from sorting out the huge bottlenecks in the health system, from ensuring decent mental health care and all the other things that she’s paid to do to concentrate on the next push for independence.

Scotland’s people are invited to take part in a survey giving their views on independence. All 120,000 SNP members are charged with speaking to 5 people a month for the next 3 months. This is not a government initiative. It’s an SNP one. People should be very clear what they are doing when they respond to the survey.

Although it’s introduced as a National Survey, without any SNP branding on it, it is simply a massive data collection exercise for the SNP.  People could answer this thing without realising that.

You are invited to give them your personal information and your views on a number of issues. You are asked to rate from 1 to 10 what would influence your vote on independence. It asks you how British or Scottish you feel. I’d answer 10 to both and if there were a box for European, I’d put 10 to that as well.

Every question is compulsory. Including your email, full name and postcode, whether you have children or grandchildren. You just tick boxes. There is no space for putting in any of your own more nuanced views.

Nicola calls this a national listening exercise. They’ll listen all right as you give them all they need to build up a relationship with you based on your individual preferences. They’ll tailor their communications with you to try and persuade you to back independence.

All political parties do this. They are usually more transparent about it, though.  If people fill in a knock and drop survey that we do, for example, it has our branding all over it. People know what information they are giving and to whom. There’s also a Data Protection statement on it that I can’t find on the SNP survey.

Labour have stolen the march on data collection a couple of times. Remember the cute baby thing where they told you they would tell you roughly where you came in the order of babies born under the NHS? They’ve generally only asked for contact details, though. The SNP’s new exercise is a massive and sophisticated exercise that takes all this much further.

People should be aware of exactly what they are doing when they respond to it. While Lib Dem campaigners will probably be going “ooh, that’s clever” and seeing the potential benefits from it for the SNP, those people on the pro UK side of the argument will have to find some way of collecting their data, too.  The Better Together campaign was fundamentally useless about this as it was with so much else back in 2014.

Be in no doubt. What Nicola Sturgeon did this morning was fire the starting gun for the next independence referendum campaign and she intends to win. People who don’t want that to happen should take heed and get organising. Now.

UPDATE: There is a privacy and data protection statement which took a bit of finding.  It says:

The information you supply us will be treated with the strictest confidence in accordance with the Data Protection Act. The SNP may hold your data on a computer database for statistical purposes and contact you about issues you may find of interest using any details you have supplied. You can opt out of some or all contact by writing to us.



* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • John Peters 2nd Sep '16 - 2:26pm

    Okay. I’m an ignorant Englander. Sturgeon is trying to placate those of the SNP calling for Indyref2. Indyref2 would be lost by more than Indyref1.

  • Not so sure about that. It was that sort of attitude that saw us get into the mess we got into in 2014. We should have kept them under 40% but the pro UK campaign was so awful.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 2nd Sep '16 - 3:04pm

    Well done for showing us this , Caron, as someone who is very like you , but ,as an English, rather than Scottish advocate for our union, I miss what is happening in Scotland unless brought to my and our attention.

    I like what you are saying about the nature of these things and the need for transparency, but I believe , personally , whatever results are received , by the so called survey,there shall not be another referendum for many many years because the UK parliament are not going to grant one.

    We can see the SNP there for their ambition, and their inconsistency. Make us think of them as the third party , yes , in numbers, but not , in that all they really want to do is leave there having acomplished the divorce they yearn for.

    I , as someone of part Italian and Irish lineage , cannot abide their sort of completely unnecessary petty nationalism. I am patriotic , it used to be for Britain , far more than just England , but as Bob Dylan sang , the times they are a changing !

  • Lorenzo,

    The SNP can get a referendum bill through Holyrood with the support of the Greens. It is inconceivable that the Westminster Government would refuse a Section 30 order. Let’s face it, a party that held an unnecessary referendum for politically expedient reasons stopping someone else holding a referendum that their parliament has endorsed is not a good look.

    Liberal Democrats will vote against an independence referendum at Holyrood as per our manifesto promise, though.

  • I can see wisdom in Scotland choosing to be in EU rather than UK, much as I would be sorry to see end of UK. Should we be quoting this loudly as evidence that Brexit points to Scotland leaving UK (adding to the case for people who voted Leave to argue the other way?)

  • Lorenzo Cherin 2nd Sep '16 - 3:43pm

    Caron, I see , yes the Greens in Scotland irritate me a lot more than in the rest of the UK and apart from Caroline Lucas they do there too !

    I wonder , though what you say about the Tories and the EU , I concur with , the long grass is a good place for a bit of ball kicking , and the gardeners not called in for a while!

  • It is inconceivable that the Westminster Government would refuse a Section 30 order

    Inconceivable they would refuse entirely, true, but they could reasonably respond that the process of leaving the EU is generating quite enough work and uncertainty at the moment, and that therefore the referendum will be held as soon as practically possible, ie, once the UK is out of the EU and things have had a chance to settle down and Scots have a chance to see what life is like in a UK outside the EU so they know exactly what they would be leaving.

  • Leave The EU 2nd Sep '16 - 4:22pm

    With respect, what is the rationale for the SNP to want to leave the UK (too undemocratic and unrepresentative) to join the EU (far more undemocratic and unrepresentative)? All the best and peace.

  • John Peters 2nd Sep '16 - 4:35pm

    If the SNP thought they could win Indyref2 they would be calling for Indyref2. They can add up and their sums will be saying the UK makes sense, the EU doesn’t.

  • Far from stopping Sturgeon, her bluff should be called. We should give her our full blessing to have another Independence Referendum. Every parameter they used in the last referendum is even worse now,… the oil price,… their deficit,.. the fact that even if they could get permission to rejoin the EU (which is doubtful), they would have no other choice but the Euro.
    Having to use the Euro, and being in poor financial shape,.. plus being under the thumb of Mario Draghi at the ECB. ? Scots are far more savvy than that. They’ll look at how the Greeks have been trodden underfoot and say ‘Thanks, but NO THANKS.

  • Its a survey. No more sinister than the tear off thingy on the bottom of almost every Focus leaflet. It says “Scottish National Party” on the front of the postal address in big letters. You can pick and choose which questions you answer and there is an email address for sending more nuanced views.

    Rather than be mislead by the article, you can view the survey for yourself (without any obligation to reply to it whatsoever) here…


    Really, there is nothing stopping you doing your own survey.

  • Richard Underhill 2nd Sep '16 - 6:49pm

    ‘Scots vote against independence and another vote, poll reveals’ The Times, 2 Sep 2016, page 2 (£). YouGov polled 1039 Scottish adults between 29 and 31 August 2016.
    54% want Scotland to remain in the UK (previously 55%).
    49% of all voters think Scotland benefits economically in the UK, 23% think it is harmed.
    37% want an independence referendum before the UK leaves the EU, 50% do not, others do not know.
    David Cameron’s rating was minus 42, Theresa May is plus 13.

  • Stevan Rose 2nd Sep '16 - 8:48pm

    I seem to recall polls showing the EU referendum couldn’t be lost. There’s a bunch of people that tell pollsters one thing and put their X somewhere else. I’m not adverse to wrecking surveys myself.

    If you’ve spotted a Data Protection breach it really must be reported to the ICO.

  • @Stevan: The Tories have already reported it to the ICO. My hunch is that it is just about legal, but it is very well hidden. What is more in question is the fact that you actually have to write a physical letter to unsubscribe. It’ll be interesting to see what the ICO has to say about that.

    @Al: Our surveys on a Focus leaflet have our branding all over them. Sure, the paper copy of the survey has the address and the SNP, but the online version doesn’t have any SNP branding at all. Down the bottom in the footer there’s a tiny little link saying Privacy and that leads you to a page telling you that if you don’t want any further stuff, you have to write to the SNP. People could complete this thinking it’s a government thing and not knowing who is behind it.

  • Great survey, even easier to compromise than the UK government E-petitions webite !! 🙂

    The survey can be found here:

    The survey on submission only checks the postcode, so as long as you enter values into the Name and Surname fields, a valid postcode – I used EH8 8PJ, and a correctly formed email address – I used [email protected].

    Obviously, I don’t know if the survey sends out an email to the given address and seek verification, but that can be spoofed in the same way as it was spoofed for the E-petitions website.

    I agree with Stevan over the ‘unsubscribe’, I suspect the ICO will give the SNP a ruler over the knuckles as there is no technical or legal reason why there isn’t an unsubscribe tickbox (or more appropriately these days, a tick to subscribe box) on the survey.

    Enjoy !

  • Rightsaidfredfan 2nd Sep '16 - 10:08pm

    @John Peters: “Indyref2 would be lost by more than Indyref1”

    I think it would be in five years time. In five years time if there was another independence referendum the choice would be leave the UK, abandon the pound and join the Euro. It would be clear then, it wasn’t in 2014, that oil won’t pay for everything and that if we want to leave the UK and join the EU that will mean Schengen, the Euro and no free lunch from oil and gas revenue. The UK helped Southern Ireland more in the financial crisis than the EU ever helped Greece. I don’t think there will be another independence referendum soon as the SNP do not have the power to call one, but if there is I don’t expect Yes to do as well as they did last time. Ideally I’d like UKIP to get into power at Westminster, abolish devolution and shut the Scottish Parliament down. I think devolution was a mistake.

  • Tony Dawson 2nd Sep '16 - 10:09pm

    It is quite OK to swipe at the detail of this exercise. It is difficult to get away, however, from the fact that this posting is about the most effective political party in the UK today.

  • Lewis Buchan 2nd Sep '16 - 10:32pm

    At the time of the 2014 referendum, Labour in Scotland had 41MPs to the SNPs 6 and provided the leadership of the No campaign. The SNP had 25,000 members. The Yes side started indyref1 at around 30% and ended at 45%.

    As we prefer for indyref2, Labour has a single MP to the SNPs 54. The Conservatives are likely to provide the leadership for the No campaign – and they remain toxic to the majority of Scots. The SNP now has over 120,000 members. Despite a collapse in oil prices, the Yes side still look like starting indyref2 at 46%.

  • Yellow Submarine 3rd Sep '16 - 4:00am

    Tony and Lewis at the end of the thread are the only folk to have grasped what’s going on here. Fact #1 The current base support for independence is far, far higher at the beginning of this campaign than it was the last one. #2 All the survey demonstrates is what we already knew. The SNP are the most disciplined and focused force in UK politics. It’s just unfortunate they want to end the UK.

  • Steve Comer 3rd Sep '16 - 7:38am

    120,000 SNP members?
    I seem to remember that they had only about 10% of that number at the time of the Dumbaton by-election just over a decade ago. Is the complaint that they have grown their party at a time when the variants of Unionism have stood still or declined?

    And using a ‘survey’ is hardly underhand tactics is it? I’ve certainly done loads of surveys as a Lib Dem Campaigner, and not all of them had heavy Lib Dem branding…

  • @steve comer: I don’t mind the idea of a survey. I just think it’s important for people to know what they are signing up to and how their data will be used – and what this means for the pro UK side of the argument.

  • John Peters 3rd Sep '16 - 10:18am

    The UK leaving the EU has sunk the SNP. That was not my intention when I voted Leave but it is a side effect.

  • Rather than criticise the SNP it would be better time spent trying to understand why independence is so appealing to so many Scots. I’d inform you but I’d be deleted again. Truth is not so trendy as dogma.

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