I have waited for years to be asked my opinion by an opinion pollster ormarket researcher. I have strolled past people on the street with clipboards, smiling, walking back again, still smiling with a Woolies bag, walked back again, with a slight grimace and The INdy, and then back again, with a copy of the Telegraph – covering a variety of potential demographics for tall blokes with glasses of a certain age.
I was stopped once by a market researcher. The first question was,
“How many units of alcohol do you drink in a week?”
“Thank you very much”
and my opportunity to contribute to the general gaiety of national life vanished.
Last week, though, it finally happened. A short bearded man in a silver car pulled up outside the house, and turned. He was carrying a clipboard and my interest was piqued. He tried a neighbouring house, then another. As I threw open the windows shouting “Pick me” he realised that he may have a volunteer and trotted up to the door.
“I’m from MORI conducting a survey on behalf of the Scottish government”
“Come in. Would you like a cup of tea, or to add my name to lists to contribute to other surveys?”
The survey should have lasted twenty minutes.
An hour later – having criticised the formulation of a number of questions as being meaningless or for failing to realise potential nuances in individual views consequently rendering questions over-simplistic - a slightly shell-shocked researcher left, more grey-haired, more harassed, but grateful for the opportunity to have a thorough scrutiny of his questionnaire.
I was left a pen, and a leaflet, and assured that a follow up survey would be conducted – albeit by someone else…
So, what was the topic of this survey for Mr Salmond’s government? Well, I can’t reveal the exact subject – but, it’s on a topic where a bill is due to be introduced within weeks, a bill which – I happen to know – has been at least partially prepared; and given this where it is clear that policy has been formulated in advance of the “consultation exercise”. Given that this proposed legislation was announced months ago, to consult at the end of the process rather than at an earlier stage (and from what the MORI guy said, this is the reality as I am part of the pilot survey with the full survey being rolled out in the next few weeks) clearly indicates the regard that the policy and ministerial team holds for opnion on the matter; and if they are genuinely consulting only now to help to formulate policy – then the bill as introduced will be worse than useless, and an abuse of the parliamentary process, because any matters of substance will only be introduced at Stage 2 as amendments.
Given that there has not yet been a consultation paper on the topic (a prerequisite for bills in the Scottish Parliament), and Holyrood has not exactly been swamped with legislation since the change of administration, on could ask what on earth they’ve been doing (or not doing) to have a consultation so near the date the bill should be introduced, and at a stage where it is not possible to analyse responses and have an impact on the legislation.