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      Scottish Nationalists And The UK Government Invoke Vox Populi

      The Scottish Nationalists have retreated on the consultation issue and will not record the preference of anonymous voters.
      By Amiel Ungar
      First Publish: 4/3/2012, 4:43 AM

      Alex Salmond
      Alex Salmond
      Reuters


             

      The British and Scottish governments have been skirmishing ever so delicately over the issue of the referendum on Scottish independence.

      The government in Edinburgh of Scottish Nationalist leader Alex Salmond wants to make sure that a vote for Scottish independence will be deemed legitimate, especially as he expects an independent Scotland to be welcomed into the European Union.

      For his part, British Prime Minister David Cameron, who is fighting to keep the United Kingdom intact, does not want to appear to have heavy handedly interfered with the referendum process to keep Scotland in the United Kingdom.

      One issue on which the two sides are skirmishing is the date on which a referendum will be held. Those opposed to Scottish independence want the vote as soon as possible, claiming that they want to avoid uncertainty because it is bad for business. What they really have in mind is that currently public opinion in Scotland would vote down a referendum.

      For the very same reason, the Scottish Nationalists would have the vote postponed to 2014 in the expectation that, as they control the Scottish government, they would have enough time to get people used to the idea of Scottish Independence.

      The date will also coincide with the 700th anniversary of the Scottish defeat of the English - and Scotland will be called upon to emulate its heroes of yore.

      This conflict on scheduling is clear to everyone and therefore it is difficult for one side to impose its position on the other, so both sides have resorted to Internet democracy. They are launching consultations with the people to see what date is preferable to them.

      The British government's consultation has so far gotten 3000 responses, showing that 70% want the referendum sooner rather than later, according to the choice that they were given. The Scottish consultation has attracted 10,000 responses; however, as opposed to the British one which requires a real name and e-mail address the Scottish system allows anonymous votes and comments.

      The Scottish Nationalist party has a virtual army of Internet activists, referred to as Cyber Nats who pepper newspaper articles and blogs with comments attacking unionist positions. Such an army could easily create a fictitious landslide in favor of a 2014 vote. Scottish opponents of independence resurrected the phrase wrongly attributed to Chicago Mayor Richard Daley but actually coined by another Chicago boss --Al Capone "vote early and vote often" to describe the consultation.

      As first the Scottish government claimed that anonymous voting was minimal and they could screen and eliminate duplicate voting. Today, they threw in the towel and announced that only people supplying their true name would be counted in the consultation. This is a retreat from the "all responses will be accepted" position that the Scottish government had reaffirmed only days ago.