Blow for Sarwar as Scotland Office admits UK Government consultation accepted anonymous responses

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By G.A.Ponsonby

Scottish Labour’s Deputy Leader Anas Sarwar’s attack on the integrity of the Scottish Government’s referendum consultation has suffered a setback after it emerged that the UK Government’s own consultation accepted a similar proportion of anonymous responses.

In an embarrassing admission, the Scotland Office has confirmed that 101 of the 3000 submissions (3.3%) failed to provide any identity, the figure for the Scottish consultation was 3.5%.

The office, headed by Scottish Secretary Michael Moore, also admitted that no fewer than 118 individuals had submitted multiple responses that had led to rejections.  The Scottish Government consultation found no evidence of multiple submissions from the same person.

In a statement released last night the Scotland Office said: “During our consultation period we received 101 responses without an individual email address.  We believe these were sent via an online form, but as we had no means of identifying individual responses, we did not include these in our consultation.

“There were also 118 cases where we received more than one response from the same person … we only recorded one reply in each case.”

The statement follows calls from the SNP for the same level of scrutiny to be applied to the UK wide consultation than has been promised will apply to the Scottish Government submissions.

The SNP has also claimed that there are concerns over the proportion of submissions to the consultation apparently made from a Labour run website.

The admission by the Scotland Office is embarrassing for Scottish Labour’s Deputy Leader MP Anas Sarwar who insisted the Westminster led consultation was far more robust than the Scottish Government’s process.

Mr Sarwar’s boss MSP Johann Lamont has echoed claims made by Mr Sarwar that the Scottish consultation was rigged by the SNP.  However figures subsequently published by the Scottish government appeared to disprove the accusation.

The revelations will prove uncomfortable for BBC Scotland who have given the Scottish Labour complaints very high profile coverage at the expense of other more serious stories, giving rise to concerns over the broadcaster’s editorial decision making.

Critics will be watching with interest to see if the admission from the Scotland Office receives the same level of coverage and whether Mr Sarwar or Ms Lamont will face questions from BBC interviewers as a result.