Bogus names discovered on petition that attacked gay marriage

DOZENS of names were “falsely added“ to a controversial online petition against gay marriage that was handed to the Scottish Government as part of its consultation on the issue.

Ministers have been asked to “discount” the online petition of more than 9,000 names, amid claims about the “apparent fraudulent nature” of the document.

The UK Information Commissioner’s Office confirmed it had received a series of complaints from Scots who claimed their names had been posted on the website of Scotland for Marriage – a coalition including the Catholic Church formed to oppose proposals to change the law to allow same-sex marriage.

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Labour MSP Kezia Dugdale said a number of “furious” constituents had contacted her to say their names had been placed on the anti-gay marriage petition, which has been signed by former SNP leader Gordon Wilson, as well as senior figures from Scotland’s Episcopalians, the United Free Church of Scotland and the Evangelical Alliance.

However, Scotland for Marriage rejected claims it had put the false names on its website and suggested its opponents had deliberately posted them to “undermine” the group.

It is understood as many as 27 names have been identified as being “falsely added” to the Scotland for Marriage site, which the group ran alongside a separate campaign that saw 28,000 postcards protesting against gay marriage sent to the government.

A group that campaigns in support of gay marriage, seized on the allegations about the web page to question the validity of the postcard campaign, as well as the online petition.

Tom French, policy co-ordinator for the Equality Network, which sent 24,000 submissions to the consultation, said; “We are very concerned to hear that names have been falsely added to this petition. Officials will now have to consider whether they can trust the validity of the petition and the recent postcard campaign run by Scotland For Marriage.

“This is another good reason why the Scottish Government should make a decision on legalising same-sex marriage based on the strength of the arguments, not on a numbers game.”

Gay-marriage supporter Paul Gray, 21, a medical student at the University of Edinburgh, is among those who have complained their name was placed on the Scotland for Marriage site.

He said he was “shocked” when he saw his name on the group’s petition. “For the past few months, I’ve been really active on Facebook over this issue and have been involved in the equality campaign,” he said.

“Someone from the opposition could have seen my name on the web and just added it to their petition.

“I was completely shocked and feel as though this was about opponents of gay marriage trying to mock us.”

Ms Dugdale’s has written to health secretary Nicola Sturgeon asked her to “discount” the 9,045 names on the Scotland for Marriage petition, which is being considered as part of the gay marriage consultation.

The Labour MSP’s letter talked about the “apparent fraudulent nature” of the petition and said she understood constituents had “directly” raised allegations about their names being “falsely added” to it with the police.

A spokeswoman for the UK Information Commissioner’s Office said it had received a number of complaints alleging that names had falsely been placed on the Scotland for Marriage site.

She said: “We’d advise anyone who didn’t put their name to the petition to contact the campaign and ask it to take their names off. But if they refuse, we’d advise them to get in touch with us and make us aware of it.”

A spokesman for Scotland for Marriage suggested that supporters of gay marriage had placed their own names on the site in an “underhand tactic” to make it appear that Scotland for Marriage had dishonestly added names to the petition.

He said: “This appears to be a malicious attempt to undermine the campaign. A police investigation would be welcome.”

The Scottish Government declined to comment on the row.