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


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01:18 am


Adrian B
2012-04-06 16:50

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.
2012-04-06 17:41

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

2012-04-06 17:03

It must have been Cybernats voting “yes” to discredit the Scotsman. Everyone knows they’re nocturnal!
2012-04-06 17:13

At 5:10 PM

Should the independence referendum be brought forward from 2014?

Yes 12965 (54%)

No 11085 (46%)
2012-04-06 17:21

Just voted No result

Yes 12966 (+1)

No 11175 (-10)
2012-04-06 17:38


Yes 12967 (52%)

No 12103 (48%)

Must be a tombola poll.

2012-04-06 17:34

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 20:28

Cyber Onions reduced to tears! Okay I will get my coat!

2012-04-06 18:01

Press Complaints Commission me thinks.


50-50 now.

12969 (50%)
12965 (50%)

Take 9000 off the Yes for a true reflection.
2012-04-06 19:58

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 18:03

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 18:19

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!
2012-04-06 18:59

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.
2012-04-06 19:03

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 21:21

It,s called leverage.

2012-04-06 20:18

Surely there would be a log of web page hits vs votes cast? Some way of gettin that information?
2012-04-06 20:40

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!
2012-04-06 20:45

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?
2012-04-06 20:50

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 21:25

They should get their numbers wizard onto it. Bill Jamieson.

2012-04-06 21:25

Er, how about they come clean and explain their poll is rigged / corrupt.

2012-04-06 21:29

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!
2012-04-06 21:45

I hope we have more screenshots – useful ammunition.
2012-04-06 22:02

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.…/

2012-04-06 22:03

My wife has just commented that this cybershafting is worse than hacking
2012-04-06 22:59

17167 (51%)

16355 (49%)

2012-04-06 23:04

The no vote is increasing rapidly.
2012-04-06 23:20

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)

2012-04-06 23:33

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!!!
2012-04-06 23:36

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?
2012-04-07 10:10

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?


2012-04-06 23:42

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
2012-04-06 23:46

What they are doing is just silly. Whoever is behind that should be fired. It makes them more of a laughing stock.
2012-04-06 23:49

The poll widget is inserted wrongly ?

See the html code…/…
2012-04-06 23:50

24946 (55%)

20376 (45%)

23.50 o’clock
2012-04-06 23:57

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.
2012-04-07 00:28

If it is publicised that the hits are from the same IP addresses over and over I don’t think it will help them.
Hing em high
2012-04-07 00:41

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 08:23

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.

2012-04-07 07:51

Silly silly JP! It has got to a ridiculous figure now!
2012-04-07 09:25

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.
2012-04-07 09:47

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.

2012-04-07 10:10

Sat 7th April – 10:08

Scotsman Poll

Yes 85123 (74%)

No 29246 (26%)

Pathetic manipulation of an online poll.
2012-04-07 10:31

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?
Gordon Hay
2012-04-07 10:32

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.
2012-04-07 10:42

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.

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