By Bob Duncan

Yesterday Evening, 5th April, I was reading a story in the online version of the Scotsman.  It was a rather pointless little piece about the leader of the Western Isles council and how he had opined that the SNP would not do as well as they expected to in the May elections.

The comments were almost universally antagonistic to the content of the piece, so I refreshed the page a few times over the next couple of hours, just to see what else might appear.

While reading the comments, I noticed the online poll which was on the subject of “Should the independence referendum be brought forward from 2014?” It was running at about 61% NO vs 39% Yes, much as it had been for several days. 

Interesting, I thought, how this seemed to directly contradict the claims of the UK consultation, which was published that same day and suggested 75% were in favour of an earlier referendum.  Even the heavily unionist readership of the Scotsman appeared to be on the Scottish Government's side of this issue.

Later that evening, I refreshed the page again, and was astonished to see that, while the No vote had remained static (in numbers), the Yes vote had suddenly advanced by several thousand and now showed a majority in favour of an earlier referendum date. 

By the following morning, this had climbed by thousands more, showing 72% support for Yes, and 28% for No.  Amazingly, the poll had swung to support the assertions of the UK consultation in just a few hours, and overnight at that.

At first I checked the date, but All Fools Day had long passed so another explanation was required. 

Had the poll been linked to a proforma on Labour Hame, perhaps? I searched, but I could find no such link.

Were Scottish Office staff putting in some overtime to keep Michael Moore happy?  But no, the number of new votes were in the thousands and the slimmed down Scotland Office surely can't muster those numbers.

Had some Unionist hacker discovered a way to spam the poll and provide some much-needed evidence for the UK government's position?  Possibly. This would need further investigation.

Then I discovered an insomniac blogger with sharper eyes than my own, A Sair Fecht.  He had spotted that, during the wee small hours, the Yes vote count had been reset to zero for a couple of minutes.  This makes it look much more likely that the fiddling, if that is what it was, took place inside the newspaper itself, as database access would be required to reset the count.

In truth, I don't recall witnessing such energetic fiddling since last year's Olympics.  I mean the Whisky Olympics in Stornoway, of course, not the expensive distraction of similar name in London.

Whenever I suspect a conspiracy or fraud, I always look first to see who benefits from it.  In this case, the Scotsman avoids the embarrassment of hosting a poll which contradicts the UK consultation “findings”.  That apparent benefit, along with the resetting of the count, would seem to point squarely at the staff of the Scotsman as being the most likely suspects - if indeed impropriety has taken place.

Think about that for a second.  A major national newspaper blatantly faking the results of its own poll to back up a discredited consultation, which the Scottish Secretary is selling as some sort of opinion poll.  Has the whole anti-independence movement dropped to a new, and previously unplumbed depth? Or is it simply time for me to reach for the tin-foil hat?

You be the judge.

01:13 am 


01:14 am


01:15 am


01:16 am


01:18 am


# Adrian B 2012-04-06 15:50
Well done on getting screen shots, its a pity that you don't have a screen shot of the counter after reset. But many others have been following this through the wee small hours and it has been documented on this very site.
# kendomacaroonbar 2012-04-06 16:41
0.56h yes 6455 (58%) No 4755 (42%)
0.57h yes 6598 v 4756
1.00h yes 6749 v 4757
1.01h yes 0 v 0
1.03h yes 6904 v 4757
1.04h yes 6948
1.05h yes 7000
1.06h yes 7108
1.07h yes 7141
1.08h yes 7171
1.09h yes 7195
1.15h yes 7542
1.16h yes 7622
1.17h yes 7658
1.18h yes 7684
1.19h yes 7710
1.20h yes 7799 v 4758
1.22h yes 7889 v 4759
1.23h yes 7946 v 4760
1.24h yes 8008
1.25h yes 8044

I have more records however,

you get the jist 1000 votes in 19 minutes at a time when most Scotsman readers are in bed
# Rannoch 2012-04-06 16:13
At 5:10 PM

Should the independence referendum be brought forward from 2014?

Yes 12965 (54%)

No 11085 (46%)
# cynicalHighlander 2012-04-06 16:21
Just voted No result

Yes 12966 (+1)

No 11175 (-10)
# cynicalHighlander 2012-04-06 16:38

Yes 12967 (52%)

No 12103 (48%)

Must be a tombola poll.
# Juteman 2012-04-06 16:34
Now they've been rumbled, the No vote is changing. Accident?
Tomorrows headline, "Cyber-nats wreck poll."
So blatant.
# Hing em high 2012-04-06 19:28
Cyber Onions reduced to tears! Okay I will get my coat!
# Hirta 2012-04-06 17:01
Press Complaints Commission me thinks.


50-50 now.

12969 (50%)
12965 (50%)

Take 9000 off the Yes for a true reflection.
# Jim1320 2012-04-06 18:58
Just voted No and it is now 19:56

Yes 15,835 53%
No 13,847 47%

I think it is seriously broken.
# Stevie Cosmic 2012-04-06 17:03
It's about time that bog roll got it's comeuppance. A quite stunning example of the unionist propaganda machine in action.....and coming undone before our very eyes.
# Adrian B 2012-04-06 17:19
For a news paper poll to get 2,000 - 3,000 votes would surely be considered a result by them, yet here we have in the region of 26,000 votes so far.

With all the nonsense that has been going on through the night are the Scotsman staff having a bit of fun at their readers expense?

I do not think that anyone who gets their news from NNS will take this poll seriously.

The Scotsman are on their own on this one. I think this poll will disappear over the weekend. Scotland deserves better!
# CharlieObrien 2012-04-06 17:59
Does the Scotsman have a circulation as large as their poll? Just asking I remember buying it once,only because Meg Henderson (The Writer) was doing a column in it,but sorry but not even with Meg in it could I be bothered with the rest,time she started writing in the Herald,or even raise the standard of the Express,would be good for all.
# jasp303 2012-04-06 18:03
There was a poll before. Something like... will new leader Lamont now beat SNP. I noticed the yes jumped up to take the lead in a very short period of time. It eventually was overtaken by no again over the coming days.

Reminds me of this online wrestling vote.

- " ran a contest involving Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair. I'm actually not sure what the contest was for. Anyway, we got numerous reports from people who said that if you vote for Flair, the total number for Hogan automatically increases by five." - The Wrestling Observer Newsletter: Feb, 1999
# J Wil 2012-04-06 20:21
It,s called leverage.
# steveb 2012-04-06 18:09
Hi folks.
It was said on another thread that the majority of voters who require our assistance in making the correct choices are Sun & DR readers.
And also taking into account that The Scotsman relies more and more on online advertising to keep some money coming in, then surely it is obvious to us all that we must never, ever, visit that site again.
We are the majority of its online visitors, we are the ones giving it the recordable hits which encourages sponsorship advertising.
They are sitting laughing at us now, they spout the unionists line, that pulls us into the trap, Bingo loads of hits from the cybernat brigade.
Complete boycott, not even a peak.
# Hing em high 2012-04-06 18:34
Took the ords right out of my mouth steveb.
# jurist 2012-04-07 00:32
'We are the majority of its online visitors, we are the ones giving it the recordable hits which encourages sponsorship advertising.'

Never occured to me that, but you're right. Lets boycott the online hootsman.
# patrickotic 2012-04-09 20:58
Good point Steve,
I've got the Scotsman site on my desktop, but will delete it now and won't be given them any more advertising revenue.

Every Little bit helps :-)
# Taldor83 2012-04-06 19:18
Surely there would be a log of web page hits vs votes cast? Some way of gettin that information?
# ammacj 2012-04-06 19:40
Scotsman deputy editor on Twitter, Kenny Farquharson ‏@KennyFarq, said

"Er, how about a less paranoid explanation: a big chunk of our web readership is US diaspora, in diff time zone."

Despite requests he hasn't clarified this!
# Jim1320 2012-04-06 19:45
Why would the diaspora vote on this topic and vote more or less all at the same time and all the same way? Grasping at straws answer if you ask me and doesn't explain the sudden spike of Yes votes at 7pm tonight.

I rarely ever go to this site. How many votes do their polls normally get?
# Jiggsbro 2012-04-06 19:50
It also doesn't explain how the diaspora were able to zero the Yes count for a couple of minutes.
# J Wil 2012-04-06 20:25
They should get their numbers wizard onto it. Bill Jamieson.
# Hirta 2012-04-06 20:25
Er, how about they come clean and explain their poll is rigged / corrupt.
# Ben Power 2012-04-07 21:29
Quoting ammacj:
Scotsman deputy editor on Twitter, Kenny Farquharson ‏@KennyFarq, said

"Er, how about a less paranoid explanation: a big chunk of our web readership is US diaspora, in diff time zone."

Despite requests he hasn't clarified this!

Whoa there fella. Is this character seriously asking us to believe that the US Diaspora,---- that the descendants of Scots dispossessed of their rights by successive Westminster governments actually want Scotland to remain governed by London. Unbelievable.
Using the diaspora as a scapegoat is a bad move.
# Hirta 2012-04-06 20:29
Seems to me, reading many of his tweets, he's pretty defensive:!/KENNYFARQ

Certainly does not entice me to pick up a copy or read the Hootsman anytime soon!
# Hirta 2012-04-06 20:45
I hope we have more screenshots - useful ammunition.
# balbeggie 2012-04-06 21:02
a screenshot of 1 April is within this article - from what I can remember it had been showing figures like these for a couple of weeks. Seems odd for them to jump all of a sudden.
# MacSenex 2012-04-06 21:03
My wife has just commented that this cybershafting is worse than hacking
# Mark 2012-04-06 21:59
17167 (51%)

16355 (49%)

# kendomacaroonbar 2012-04-06 22:04
The no vote is increasing rapidly.
# doctor_zaius 2012-04-06 22:20
17464 vs 17590 at 2312

17632 vs 17732 at 2313

18220 vs 18161 at 2315

18513 vs 18300 at 2317

19995 vs 18791 at 2324

21085 vs 19382 at 2332

Do you think 'the bot' has been reprogrammed subtly? an uncanny 2 v 1 increase. 5000 votes in 20 minutes!

22093 vs 19865 at 2337 (democracy in spectacular action)
# westie7 2012-04-06 22:33
How many responses to this poll?
How many responses to the combined SG, and WM consultations?
How many online readers or pages hits?

As Karen Dunbars Mrs Olfactory says... I can definately smell Sh1te!!!
# Glasgow 2012-04-06 22:36
Where is this poll on the Hootsmon site?

I've just checked the front page and can't see it.

How on earth can 15 thousand Americans (aye right!) find it to vote for an early referendum and I can't find it at all?
# Glasgow 2012-04-07 09:10
Quoting Glasgow:
Where is this poll on the Hootsmon site?

I've just checked the front page and can't see it.

How on earth can 15 thousand Americans (aye right!) find it to vote for an early referendum and I can't find it at all?
Someone replied to my post with a link to the poll.

I voted on the poll and provided an update as at approx 23:07

The initial reply and then my further post have been deleted.

What's that all about?

Is this post going to be deleted?
# kendomacaroonbar 2012-04-07 12:04
I sent you the link and made a comment at the same time about credibilty of a well known poster..which on reflection was not the best idea. NNS probably censored (deleted) my response and the replies associated with it.
# sneckedagain 2012-04-06 22:42
This should be put into the public domain big time. It would make the Scotsman a laughing stock which is quite the worst form of death for a publication
# balbeggie 2012-04-06 22:46
What they are doing is just silly. Whoever is behind that should be fired. It makes them more of a laughing stock.
# Hirta 2012-04-06 22:49
The poll widget is inserted wrongly ?

See the html code
# Mark 2012-04-06 22:50
24946 (55%)

20376 (45%)

23.50 o'clock
# steveb 2012-04-06 22:57
guys please, we have to stop this. They are getting more hits than normal on their site due to this suspect poll. Stunts like these, or outrageous headlines couple with the rabid unionists comments, send us running onto their site and going back over and over again. Hit after hit.
Hit them where it hurts, reduce their advertising revenue, stay away.
# xyz 2012-04-06 23:28
If it is publicised that the hits are from the same IP addresses over and over I don't think it will help them.
# BikerSco 2012-04-06 23:55
Quoting xyz:
If it is publicised that the hits are from the same IP addresses over and over I don't think it will help them.

It wont make any difference, they measure unique hits only, if the same i.p visits the site it will only count it once.
# Hing em high 2012-04-06 23:41
They have numbers greater than the actual readership now. I keep hearing th spurious arguments about how we have to read the crap to know what they are up to and what they are saying.

Not in that anti Scottish rag we dont!

I will second your message to stay the heck away from it!
# Robert Louis 2012-04-07 07:23
Good point, steveb. I've been thinking about this, and the silly nonsense 'amazon' stories, and considering their current share price (6p) and their finances in general, it could be seen by some as an attempt at sensationalism to attract page hits, to show to investors, in order to secure funding.

Mind you, it is a pretty short sighted strategy if it is the case.

I make a point of not visiting their website anyway.
# Lulsec 2012-04-07 06:51
Silly silly JP! It has got to a ridiculous figure now!
# tartanfever 2012-04-07 08:25
POLL NOW AT 85,500 YES (bring the referendum forward.)

No's at 24,000 or so.

So, 60,000 votes came in last night.
# Jim1320 2012-04-07 08:47
This is good - let's see Kenny explain this away. Looks like someone forgot to switch the bot off.

There comes a point when it just becomes funny. It reminds me of Spitting Image doing the Russian elections and giving the results of the next election at the same time.
# Sleekit 2012-04-07 09:10
Sat 7th April - 10:08

Scotsman Poll

Yes 85123 (74%)

No 29246 (26%)

Pathetic manipulation of an online poll.
# Jim1320 2012-04-07 09:31
Over 100,000 votes cast. Incredible! I rarely ever visit this site and I think this is the first poll of theirs I have seen. What sort of numbers do they regularly get?
# lumilumi 2012-04-07 15:51
I think in the region 10,000 total, max.
# Gordon Hay 2012-04-07 09:32
The "poll" now appears to be closed, with the final figures almost exactly mirroring those of the UK "consultation". Odd that c.114,000 went on-line to vote in this poll but only c.2850 did so for the UK consultation, and just c. 35,000 (supposedly) buy the paper.
# Soixante-neuf 2012-04-07 09:42
I don't think you have any real evidence this was done by the Hootsmon staff themselves. Could have been anyone reasonably tech-savvy as far as I can see. The question is, was it some geek 'avin a larf, or a real attempt to manipulate public perceptions?

And where did the 'no' votes come from? A different geek, retaliating? Or the same geek playing silly buggers? Who knows. It's all pretty silly.

The one thing the Hootsmon are culpable for is leaving the poll up there when it's very clear it has been interfered with and manipulated.
# kendomacaroonbar 2012-04-07 11:04
I was monitoring the site for some time and I witnessed both totals being reset to zero. This, in my opinion can only be done in house.
# lumilumi 2012-04-07 15:59
I think you might be right, we wouldn't want to think that a well-respected newspaper would rig their own poll.

Techy-savvy people can get up to all kinds of no good - or good, depending on your personal view on things.

OT, reminds me of the Cybernat coup of the Con 'Friends of the Union' campaign. You don't even have to particularly techy-savvy to register domain names - so the Cons were singularly inept and stupid when they failed to register friendsoftheuni - the one that first, intuitively springs to mind (most people won't think to add 'conservative' to the beginning of the rigamarole). I've been much entertained by my daily dose of www.friendsoftheuni propaganda!

Haven't actually heard much from the official Tory Friends of the Union campaign. Has it been buried? Along with the latest dearly departed Tory supporters?
# Caadfael 2012-04-07 10:04
As for trying to blame "the diaspora" that definitely puts the HOOT in Hootsmon!
It'l be interesting in a month's time to see who gets sacked, and if theres a change in editorial direction reflected by the share price.
If there is, and its a big IF, it MAY be worth a punt, but in the meantime I'll stick with Scotgold, at least that'll do some good for Scotland!
# John Souter 2012-04-07 10:13
As a technophobe I haven't a clue as to whether this is done by jiggery-pokery.

But were I a lawyer I would argue the argument for taking the referendum forward has been accelerated by the fact few in Scotland want the Union to continue for a minute longer than is absolutely necessary.
# lumilumi 2012-04-07 16:33
Hush! Don't give any lawyers any ideas! ;-)

I think the SG schedule is very reasonable. Allowing time for proper consultation (not the Westmister afterthought of a consultation flooded by SLab pro-formas) and proper, reasoned public debate - if only the Westmister parties would concur, instead of playing petty party-political Westminster games. Instead of thinking about Scotland on its own merits.

We're talking about important things here. The Scottish Government has to come up with a blueprint of what independent Scotland would be like (while the unionists will not define their 'jam tomorrow' alternative). The Government (SNP) wants input from all political parties and all sectors and levels of society. Labour has shown its true colours, it blankly refuses to co-operate (the Bain Principle), Tories won't on principle, even though privately... (Murdo Fraser is straing at the leash to become the right-of-centre(not Tory) party leader in an independent Scotland). The Greens will be co-operative, and the LibDems... Who knows what they'll do. They certainly don't.
# Vincent McDee 2012-04-07 14:30
Amazingly the "cachondeo" (look in dictionary) keeps on.

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Should the independence referendum be brought forward from 2014?

101890 (77%)

30683 (23%)

The Britsman is supposed to have no more than 137.000 readers, how fantastic their unanimous colaboration and the inviting of few thousands friends.
# Jim1320 2012-04-07 14:47
LOL perhaps they can't stop it
# PrideoftheClyde 2012-04-07 15:15
How many 'yes' votes until it starts looking totally ridiculous? Or has it already? I reckon 250,000 which should happen probably by tomorrow at this rate. Pretty soon this online poll will have a better turn out than most Scottish elections.
# lumilumi 2012-04-07 15:49
Nah, they won't stop until 5,000,000 have voted for the unionist position. So that they can say that EVERYBODY wants the ref brought forward. ;-)
# PrideoftheClyde 2012-04-07 16:10

No : 2
Yes: The population of China.

Poll closed.
# cynicalHighlander 2012-04-07 16:43
Still open

Yes 112794 (73%)

No 41368 (27%)
# lumilumi 2012-04-07 17:27
Excuse me, but isn't the Hootsmon's circulation someting like 30,000+

This is getting beyond a joke.
# Sleekit 2012-04-08 15:24
Now over 190,000 votes cast.

Interesting with a paper thats got such a small readership!!!
# Jim1320 2012-04-07 16:42
Never really go there all that often and looking at the tone and standard of the arguments in the comments section I don't think that is a state of affairs I will be likely to change.

In the scheme of things the poll is irrelevant - and if cheating is the only way that the Unionist camp can win a poll even on a rabidly Unionist paper like the Scotsman then this is good news.
# lumilumi 2012-04-07 17:22
Well said, Jim1320.

I'd argue that any online poll is irrelevant because they do not pass the rigourous tests of randomised sample etc. Basically they're just bits of fun.

Strange, though, that The Scotsman would rig their own poll, or allow it to be rigged. Not just a bit of fun but an attempt to influence popular opinion.

I think The Scotsman is thoroughly discredited. If the poll-rigging did not start with them, they ought to have halted the whole thing when they noticed anomalies. They didn't.

The poll is a joke, and so is The Scotsman.
# gus1940 2012-04-08 16:50
JP are probably trying to tempt D.C. Thomson into buying The Scotsman and selling it alongside their other comic offerings The Dandy and The Beano.
# Hirta 2012-04-07 22:53
Has anyone actually emailed the editor of this toilet paper to alert (him) the poll is grossly malfunctioning?
# Lulsec 2012-04-08 12:19
"Strange, though, that The Scotsman would rig their own poll, or allow it to be rigged. Not just a bit of fun but an attempt to influence popular opinion.!"
A bit of fun... in what way would it influence opinion?
# ds12 2012-04-08 23:03
If someone put a new labour or tory leaflet through the door it would go directly in the bin,right.
So why oh why do some folk continually go back to look at their website ????
Their paper is dead,ignore it.
# gus1940 2012-04-09 09:06

General Quarters, General Quarters - This Is Not A Drill.

An alleged bra tycoon has resurfaced in The Mail and Ret-rd supposedly heartbroken but still managing as per usual to get a plug in for her company.

Readers of The Scotsman should beware that after JP has read the rest of the media she will be splashed all over tomorrow's edition of the bogroll.
# flyingscotsman 2012-04-09 13:51
From a technical point of view, and after some testing of the form, it looks like it only accepts 1 vote from a single IP address over the period of at least a day. That means if it wasnt the Scotsman staff fiddling with the poll then the person who did fiddle with the poll would have had access to tens of thousands of IP addresses to cast all those votes over a single day. So it would have had to have been a fairly experienced hacker. You decide which one is more feasible but experienced hackers tend to choose bigger targets and not some random poll on a site that doesnt have much of an audience. Just saying.
# Dundonian West 2012-04-09 14:14
I've stopped clicking on any Scottish Rags' on-line site--be it poll or political news----I just steer clear of them completely.
Every click is money to them,and that,I will NOT do.
Last Saturday my Dad phoned to tell me he was withdrawing his adverts from the Scotsman,for reasons stated above.
Told him it was about time!
What business would wish to be associated with a paper that's going down the tubes fast?
# flyingscotsman 2012-04-09 15:05
To be honest its clicking the adverts that matter, and if you visit the site and dont click the adverts, the clickthrough rate for the adverts will decrease and so decreasing the value of the adverts on the page.

Besides I use Firefox + Adblock to remove adverts from sites that are being too intrusive. I highly recommend it, and make sure that worthwhile sites like NNS always have the adverts visible.
# Dundonian West 2012-04-09 15:21
Thanks for that flyingscotsman.
Re my Dad,I'm referring to his adverts in the newspaper itself.Sorry about any confusion.
# Lulsec 2012-04-10 19:22
Firefox + Adblock, only stops clickthrough traffic. The visit counter will still be seen by advertisers.
# kendomacaroonbar 2012-04-10 09:35
o/t The Scotsmans double dip recession poll temporarily reset to zero values at 10.01 today... there definately appears to be 'issues' with the Scotsman's (ahem) polling software
# Lulsec 2012-04-10 19:21
The issues lie elsewhere online, political consultations for starters. The zeroing does happen when loading the page as a client, especially if your bandwidth is throttled unexpectedly. Should be even by 9pm.
# gus1940 2012-04-11 07:17
I see that The Scotsman has temporarily suspended its on-line comments facility. I don't suppose it has anything to do with last week's farce over the Opinion Poll. Said poll was replaced yesterday with a new one.

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