Today, the Scottish Government has published its analysis of the public responses to the SSPCA consultation. It is quite extraordinary.
As you’ll recall, the public consultation was established to seek views on whether the SSPCA should be given increased powers to enable them to tackle a wider suite of wildlife crimes than they currently undertake (for background see here).
The consultation closed on 1st Sept 2014. In October 2014, Scot Gov published copies of the responses (or at least those where the respondent had agreed to publication). A few days later, we blogged about our rudimentary analysis of those responses and exposed some pretty deep-seated hypocrisy amongst some of the respondents (see here).
Today’s publication from Scot Gov provides a far more comprehensive analysis of the responses, but doesn’t provide a decision one way or the other – that will come “in due course“.
The Government’s analysis is detailed and informative. It’s clear that they are taking this consultation seriously and are doing their best to be transparent about the process. That’s very welcome.
However, after scrutinising their analysis, we are concerned about the way some of the responses have been assessed.
According to the report, 242 responses were given to Question 1 of the consultation. That question was as follows:
Q1. Do you agree that the law in Scotland should be changed to give the SSPCA the powers as set out in section 4.1 [of the consultation document]?
Apparently, only 32% of respondents said ‘Yes’; 67% said ‘No’.
Those figures indicate that over two-thirds of respondents did not support the proposed extension of powers for the SSPCA.
But wait a minute….. when you actually look at the detail of their analysis, that’s not the case at all, and in fact, those supporting the extension of powers for the SSPCA amount to 97% of respondents, not 32%. That’s quite a discrepancy! How can that be? Here’s how…
You may remember that during the consultation period, a petition was launched by a campaigner, asking the public to support an extension of powers for the SSPCA. We blogged about it here. The petition explicitly stated that by signing it, petitioners would be supporting an increase of powers for the SSPCA. Here are the actual words:
“By signing, you agree that the laws in Scotland should be changed to give the SSPCA the powers set out in section 4.1 of the consultation document“.
In effect, this statement is asking petitioners to respond to Q1 of the consultation.
7,015 people signed this petition. In other words, 7,015 people supported giving the SSPCA increased powers.
What the Scottish Government has done, in its analysis, is to treat those 7,015 supportive signatures as ONE SINGLE RESPONSE. Effectively, 7,014 individual responses have been ignored.
Why have they done that? We don’t know. Their report acknowledges the petition, and the 7,015 signatures, and states that the petition has been treated as a single response, but gives no explanation why.
The report also reveals that at least 17 responses were believed to be part of, or prompted by, a ‘campaign’ by this blog. Those 17 responses do not appear to have been amalgamated into one.
Also, the report reveals that at least 70 responses were believed to be part of, or prompted by, a ‘campaign’ by the SGA. Those 70 responses do not appear to have been amalgamated into one.
So why were 7,015 petition responses, obviously part of a ‘campaign’, reduced to one single response, when responses from two other ‘campaigns’ were not?
Let’s assume those 7,015 responses had been treated as individual responses. That would put the number of respondents who answered Q1 at 7,256 respondents (not 242 as the Govt claims).
Of those 7,256 respondents, 7,093 of them said they supported increased powers for the SSPCA. That’s 97% of the total respondents, not 32%.
Of the 7,256 respondents, only 163 of them said they did not support increased powers for the SSPCA. That’s only 2% of all respondents, not 67%.
We’re pretty sure that those 7,014 individuals who signed the petition to support an increase of powers for the SSPCA will not be best pleased at being ignored.
Having said all that, we don’t think this consultation is a numbers game. And even if it was, the Govt has a bit of a track record of ignoring public opinion gleaned from consultations (e.g. see here).
We’re going to have to wait and see what Environment Minister Aileen McLeod decides “in due course” but hopefully she will pay attention to the significant public support for increased SSPCA powers, as demonstrated by those 7,015 people who signed a petition thinking that their opinion would count for something.
The Govt’s analysis of the consultation responses can be downloaded here: