How to take the perfect #indyref polling station selfie

September 17th, 2014

 

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There’s been huge rows over people taking #indyref voting selfies - and we got the definitive answer on the legality of it from the Electoral Commission - but what if you want to take a selfie in the voting booth on September 18? Is that legal?

Yes. Kind of. Most definitely. Maybe.

We asked the Electoral Commission for specific rulings on this and they pointed us to Mary Pitcairthy, the Chief Counting Officer who said:

“While it is not necessarily a criminal offence to photograph a completed ballot paper either at home or within a polling place, it is strongly discouraged  as it could violate the secrecy of the ballot, which is fundamental to the integrity of the process.”

The Electoral Commission Scotland then pointed us to the Electoral Commission Report (May 2014, Page 38)and the Referendum Act 2013These basically say, don’t be disruptive (Schedule 7 Subsection 13) and don’t break the secrecy of others when voting (Schedule  7 Subsection 7).

So, in essence, it’s legal as long as you aren’t disruptive, noisy or including others.

But what’s the best way to tell the world how you’ve voted? (And remember, it’s only your vote you can share – you can’t take pictures or ask others how they voted.)

SIX STEPS FOR A VOTING BOOTH #INDYREF SELFIE

  • Before going into the polling station, turn the sound and flash off on your phone camera. Some people would be very nervous at the sound of a camera clicking when they are in a booth
  • Ensure you take a photo of only your own ballot paper without the ballot paper number visible (it’s on the back), or if in an enclosed polling station only capture yourself and the voting paper
  • Don’t be disruptive – if asked to stop do so as you could be ejected and banned from re-entering the polling station
  • Once you have taken the photo put your phone away and don’t take out again until you leave the polling station
  • Respect your fellow citizens, think – would you feel comfortable? If not, don’t do it
  • Do not ask others if you can take a picture or a video of them voting

WHAT YOU CAN’T DO IN THE VOTING BOOTH

The Ice Bucket Challenge. Just don’t.

 

By Kenny Murray. Kenny is Weber Shandwick’s Digital Assistant.


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The Wide Open Race

September 9th, 2014

 

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Niki Birrell examines a frenetic few days on the #indyref campaign trail

Anyone who’s just returned after a long weekend away without access to the TV or internet would be forgiven for wondering how on earth so much could have changed over the last few days. Indeed it’s highly likely that something dramatic will happen before I’ve finished typing this.

While the phrase “game changer” is often banded about, the developments since Saturday night have truly shifted the tone of debate. While there are many Yes supporters who have long held faith that Scotland would vote for independence come 18 September, most (if not all) in the No camp may have worried about how close the result would be while being fairly certain of victory.

Today the race is wide open.

Last week a YouGov poll showed a dramatic swing to Yes – it put the lead for the No campaign at six points, down from 14 points in the middle of August and 22 points early last month. While a shock, the No side could draw some comfort from the fact that no poll had yet put Yes in the lead.

Then on Saturday night Rupert Murdoch tweeted that a new poll in the Sunday Times would shock Britain and show that everything is up for grabs. This YouGov poll put Yes on 47% and No on 45%.  That represents a five point increase in Yes support since YouGov’s previous poll, conducted less than a week before, while No are down three.  Once the Don’t Knows are excluded, Yes are on 51%, No 49%.

YouGov

While a Panelbase poll released the same day as the explosive YouGov one painted a different picture, with No maintaining a four point lead, the YouGov results dominated. 

Cue two days of what I think can be fairly described as feverish excitement or chaos, depending on which side you look at. Below the dramatic headline figures lurked some equally dramatic findings. Both polls found that around one in three of those who voted Labour in 2011 say they will vote Yes – YouGov put this figure at 35%, up from 18% at the beginning of August.

It’s therefore not surprising that yesterday Gordon Brown seemed to decide that enough is enough. After George Osborne made a vague and confusing pledge on Sunday to set out a “plan of action” on the implementation of new powers for Scotland, yesterday it was suddenly announced that the former Prime Minister would set out a timetable that evening during a speech in Loanhead. It wasn’t immediately clear on whose behalf Gordon Brown would be speaking or whether he’d be detailing what powers would be devolved or just setting out a timeline. Meanwhile a new TNS poll was also expected which would confirm whether the race had narrowed to the extent shown by YouGov.

During his speech, Gordon Brown set out a timetable for delivering “nothing less than a modern form of Scottish Home Rule.” His plan has now been endorsed by all three pro-Union parties which means that a common position on what powers will be devolved will be agreed ahead of the next General Election. The agreed timetable is:

  • In the event of a No vote, work is to begin on the new legislation the day after the referendum
  • A “command paper” is to be published by the present UK government setting out all the proposals by the end of October
  • A white paper is to be drawn up by the end of November, after a period of consultation, setting out the proposed new powers for Scotland
  • A draft new Scotland Act is to be published on 25 January (Burns Night)

This, Gordon Brown emphasised, would allow whichever party forms the government after next year’s general election to table legislation “immediately upon taking office.”

Meanwhile the TNS poll also showed a major swing to Yes and put both sides in a dead heat on 50% each once Don’t Knows are excluded.

As if that wasn’t enough excitement, today it was announced that this week’s PMQs are being abandoned to allow the UK party leaders to travel to Scotland to campaign.

Alex Salmond has said the campaign to keep the Union was now in “absolute panic” and asserted that we are witnessing the “disintegration” of the No campaign. The flurry of announcements following Sunday’s YouGov poll has certainly given the impression of chaos and panic within Better Together.

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The spotlight will be brightly focussed on Scotland from now until the vote as news organisations, politicians and commentators from outwith Scotland have suddenly realised that the No side are not going to walk it next week.

Victory is very much up for grabs by either side. The momentum is undoubtedly with the Yes campaign and Better Together need to pull themselves together for the last week if they are to be in with a chance.

While the excitement levels have reached fever pitch, it’s also worth remembering that if one side scrapes victory, as is now looking likely, it means that almost half of voters will be left deeply unhappy come 19September. This is not ideal when it’s such an important decision being made.


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YouGov shows #IndyRef tightening

September 2nd, 2014

 

YouGv

The latest #indyref poll was published last night. A joint YouGov poll for the The Sun and The Times revealed the latest prediction:

Yes — 42% (+4)

No — 48% (-3)

Don’t Know — 10% (-1)

Clearly, there has been a shift in support to Yes which many will attribute to last week’s events where Alex Salmond ‘won’ the second televised debate.

On the long term YouGov trend, which we’ve been tracking since May 2012, we can see No losing support and Yes gaining. In May 2012, Yes sat on 33% with No at 57%. That 24 point lead has shrunk significantly to just 4 now.

These results also mark Yes’ best result and No’s worst since May 2012. Never before have No dropped below 50% in a YouGov poll and nor had Yes breached 40%. This will cause as much concern for Better Together as it will cause excitement at Yes Scotland HQ.

However, there is still a large caveat: in 68 polls since May 2012, Yes have never led No. And with just two weeks to go, on the basis of this poll, Better Together only need to convert just over 2 out of every 10 undecided voter to their side to secure victory.


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Democracy in a digital age

August 29th, 2014

 

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There’s been some tizzy over the last few days about people posting and sharing pictures online of selfies not only of ballot papers but filled in postal votes. Some say you should be jailed for it, others say it is harmless. I think it’s the finest expression of personal democracy.

A wiser man than me called Ian Cairns once pointed out that democracy isn’t the right to vote – it’s the right to choose to vote. There’s a subtle difference and it’s hard to argue with.

Democracy is not about the vote, it’s about you being able to participate in society and its politics in any way you choose:

  • You want to vote, you have the freedom to do so
  • You want to tell the world how you voted, free from state persecution, you have the freedom to do so
  • You want to keep your vote a secret and tell no-one? You have the freedom to do so.
  • You don’t want to vote, you have the freedom to chose not to
  • You think they are all rotten and want to stand for Government/Council/PTA yourself? You have the freedom to chose so.
  • And democracy also means you have to respect the (non-violent) rights of others even if you disagree

And not only do you have the freedom, you have the right. That’s democracy, that’s the right every person has in this country. If you live in a true democracy, the right not to vote is every part as valid as the right to vote. And the word here to remember is that it is your vote to do with as you want (except sell).

Digital expression has been used by many groups to gain further acceptance or legitmacy. It has helped 17 year olds with acne take on the world, it has raised awareness and money for charities and made unlikely celebrities.

Digital in this day and age is not about bytes or ones and zeros: it’s about sharing. The phrase Web 2.0 may be an overblown cliche but one fact from it is that people like to share things – from what would once have been considered private to the obvious.

But people share, often for free. We share love, we share kindness, we share information and sadly sometimes we also share hate but we share – and we will continue to share.

And that includes sharing pictures that reveal how people are posting.

At the time of typing this, there seems to be confusion over what is legal and what is not but I think it would be a hard thing for the Electoral Commission or others to consider penalising those who go online and reveal their own vote or share the an already public vote image. Here’s why:

  • Let’s be honest, it just wouldn’t be British in the noblest sense of the word. Expressing a democratic opinion peacefully? You’d fine or jail someone for that?
  • In the Terms and Conditions of most social media sites people accept that they give up the right to privacy with the material they share online.
  • By extension, most people now know that what they post publicly is there for the world to see (because changing privacy settings isn’t too hard on these channels)
  • Technically, hosting these images may make Facebook, Google, Instagram, Twitter, Kiltr, YouTube and others also liable as publishers (depending on the interpretation of Terms and Conditions) – you’d take them on?
  • Given that the majority of pictures posted so far seem to be backing Yes in the vote, can you imagine the cries of paranoid cybernats calling political consipiracy theory if the state chased these people up?
  • Equally, you would remove someone’s vote as valid because they posted it online? That’s democracy? No, it sounds more like a Burnistoun or Limmy sketch (“The Yes side won but because Big Tam in Govan and Mary D’oll from Partick posted their Yes votes online, we’ve ruled them out and the No’s win.”)

Democracy. People die for it, people die for the right to vote, people die for political expression. Come September 18 that won’t happen to you. You can vote and tell the world or not. That’s your choice, that’s your right.

That’s democracy.

Craig is the Digital Strategist for Weber Shandwick in Scotland. This is his personal opinion.


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What is Scotland?

August 19th, 2014

 

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To vote for an independent Scotland, we must first answer the question ‘what is Scotland?’, says Jon McLeod

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There’s a lot of Scotland in Derbyshire.

A statue of Bonnie Prince Charlie next to Derby Cathedral. Highland Games in Ashbourne. A haunted pub called The Gate in Brassington that was used as a Jacobite field hospital.

Why the obsession, you ask? Well Derby, of course, was where the Young Pretender decided he should turn back on his march to London.

The decision is commemorated at Derby City Museum, which has retained the panelled room where the ‘council of retreat’ took place. There’s also a rather unkind pie chart in the museum’s information booklet, which shows Charlie to be more Italian and Polish than Scots.

I suppose it is that way with all great heroes – they’re always rather less than they seem, and you should certainly never meet them.

But the tale also points up one of the wrinkles in the Scottish independence debate – namely the question of what is a Scot and what is Scotland. What am I, born in a bit of Cyprus that is considered British for military reasons, never lived in Scotland, but with a name as Scottish as haggis?

Bonnie Prince Charlie was an Italian-Pole marching to London with French support, as Hanseatic troops sailed to the aid of London’s Dutch monarch. Just shows what a crazy mixed up country we already were back then.

The Prince should, of course, have marched on, if the great artist Hogarth is to be believed. His hilarious painting of the press-gang raising troops on the northern fringes of London depicts just what a rag-taggle, drunken shower lay in store, spilling out of the pub at the call to arms.

Viewed from Westminster, the Scottish independence debate is almost entirely one-sided: ours is a unionist Parliament, and the overwhelming majority of political, press and media comment is squarely behind the ‘no’ campaign.

And it’s been a dreary campaign, only enlivened by the decision to use Al Green’s classic ‘Let’s Stay Together’ and Alastair Darling’s seemingly steroid-fuelled trouncing of Alex Salmond in the STV debate.  

The passion – or venom – of the ‘yes’ campaign hasn’t really permeated the collective political consciousness down south – except for the weird stuff about people being rude to J K Rowling. We hear talk of a grass-roots campaign, WOM (word of mouth) that may yet produce a surprise ‘yes’, despite the 57-43 split against that outcome in the polls as I write.

Yet the mood in Westminster is one of the pro-independence campaign about to be consigned to the dustbin of history.

Of course, a future alternative, which might prove more attractive to many outside Scotland is the option of invoking the Pictish ‘Auld Alliance’ with France.

A vote to approve a deal with France to swap Scotland with Burgundy, or Aquitane (including Bordeaux) has its attractions after all.

 

Jon McLeod

Chairman, UK Coporate, Financial and Public Affairs at Weber Shandwick

Jon is one of the country’s most experienced corporate communicators and lobbyists, with a strong track record in regulatory, financial and legal affairs.


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IndyRef’s biggest unanswered question: what if it’s a draw?

July 18th, 2014

 

Electoral workers begin counting votes in the fiscal treaty referendum in Dublin, Ireland

We all know what happens if the Pro-Indy movement wins (split up of the UK) and what happens if the Better Together movement wins (status quo) but there’s a third possibility no-one has considered: What if the #indyref leads to a draw?

Now before you scoff, it’s unlikely, but it’s not impossible. We spoke to Paddy Power and they put it at 1,000-1 which is the exact same odds Ladbrokes would have given you for Germany beating Brazil 7-1 in the World Cup semi-final. In fact when you look at the results of the last few elections they mostly end with an even number.*

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So what happens if there is a draw? It’s already been stated that there will not be a recount of the votes. Equally the normal council election rules of straws being pulled out a hat or the toss of a coin to decide don’t apply.

So what happens?

We reached out to the Electoral Commission and asked the straightforward question: “what happens in a draw?” After all, there must be something covering all eventualities in the Edinburgh Agreement or other paperwork, yes? To quote Bruce Willis in Armageddon, “you must have people around here thinking this stuff up?”

No.

In the words of the Electoral Commission: ”There is no provision [for the eventuality of a tie in the independence referendum] so it would simply be the declared result.”

So that means if it’s a draw, the status quo prevails, yes? Apparently not. The “no provision” part of the above means that there is no plan in place if it is a tie for either of the ruling. Not penalties, not mud-wrestling, caber tossing or a comparison of Facebook likes. No one knows what happens and who would be in charge.

We’re asking Better Together and Yes Scotland what they think should happen in the event of a tie and we’ll let you know what they say. But in the meantime, what do you think should happen?

* Every UK election since 1997 has had an even number of votes (31,284,698 in 1997; 26,366,992 in 2001; 27, 148, 516 in 2005 and 29, 687, 604 in 2010). In Scotland, every election since the Parliament was set up has been even numbers when you look at just the constituency votes except 2003. If you look at the total number of votes (including List MSPs) the numbers have been all odd.

UPDATE: We’ve just learned that STV’s Robert Dawson Scott wrote a mini-play for The National Theatre of Scotland on this very topic. And you can watch it below:

Dead Heat | The Great Yes, No, Don’t Know Five Minute Theatre Show from National Theatre of Scotland on Vimeo.

By Craig McGill 

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Craig is Weber Shandwick‘s Digital Strategist. 


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