ALEX Salmond's "national conversation" on Scotland's constitutional future was last night dismissed as "a chatroom for cybernats" by Labour after it was suggested as little as 1.5 per cent of Scotland's population had logged on to its website.
Written answers given to Lord Foulkes, a Labour MSP, showed that, while there had been 353,061 hits on the site, these came from 59,554 unique users. Lord Foulkes claimed this represented about 1.5 per cent of the electorate, although it is not clear how many of these users are from Scotland.
This pales in comparison to popular social networking sites such as Facebook, which has an estimated 800,000 users in Scotland and millions of hits.
Last night, an SNP spokesman accused Labour and other Unionist parties of failing to engage with anybody in their constitutional commission.
The "national conversation" website is the centrepiece of a 40,000 three-year package to engage with the people of Scotland on the country's future.
Launching the initiative last August, Mr Salmond said it was "the most wide-ranging, inclusive and direct effort from any Scottish government to engage with every person who has a view on the future of our nation".
But last night, Lord Foulkes asked:
"Who is talking in this national conversation? Just short of 60,000 users is a small amount and, even if they all came from Scotland, which I doubt, that represents a mere 1.5 per cent of the electorate.
"The whole site seems to have been designed to attract the small army of cybernats who bombard media and political websites in Scotland in an attempt to create a distorted view of public opinion.
"This is underlined by the fact there is no proper registration for people who leave comments. All they (are] asked to do is put a first name and location, which they can make up."
He added: "It's interesting 41 comments have been removed, but there are still anti-English remarks bordering on racism (on the site]. This is less of a national conversation and more of a cybernat chatroom set up at taxpayers' expense."
An SNP spokesman said:
"(Lord] Foulkes and Labour should look at their constitutional commission, which has engaged zero members of the public.
"The national conversation is engaging with hundreds of thousands of ordinary people so they can help shape Scotland's future.
We are also engaging with major organisations and, this week, we received the backing of the Scottish Trades Union Congress for the national conversation."
TALKING A GOOD CHANGE
THE National Conversation, launched by the SNP, is the official Scottish Government review into Scotland's constitutional future.
The initiative hopes to get people's views through its website and roadshows.
The pro-Union parties have launched a rival constitutional commission which will not look at independence but only more powers for the Scottish Parliament.