Resignation over survey

A DISAGREEMENT over a “flawed” opinion survey has led one Ferryden community councillor to resign over the issue.

Daniel Paton said his move has been prompted by concerns over how the community council is dealing with GlaxoSmithKline’s (GSK) application for two wind turbines at is factory across the South Esk from the village.

He also criticised chairman Gordon Brown, a GSK employee, for his “self-imposed absence” from meetings when the subject was discussed. As an employee, Mr Brown had declared an interest early on, indicating he felt it would be inappropriate for him to be part of the community council’s discussions on the matter.

Members agreed at their January meeting to proceed with a survey after it emerged that some villagers who support GSK’s application had felt “intimidated” by local turbine protesters and that they could not express their opinions publicly. It was run online, by paper ballot and through the Review with the aim of allowing members to form their collective response to GSK’s planning application.

Mr Paton, however, who was absent from the meeting, said he had doubts over the survey’s validity but felt his concerns about multiple voting have been “brushed aside”.

He said: “Unfortunately the survey methodology is flawed. Concerns about multiple voting were expressed at the meeting. The solution adopted was to use postcodes and to disqualify whole postcode areas where fraud was suspected. Is it fair to disqualify every voter in a postcode area on the basis of suspicion?

“In any case the use of postcodes is not an adequate protection against multiple voting since it only gives the number of postal addresses but not the number of residents. The electronic system allows only one vote from one computer, potentially excluding some voters but allowing anybody with access to more than one computer to vote several times. Paper forms were available in unlimited numbers at polling stations making multiple voting possible but virtually undetectable.”

Mr Brown this week said he stood by the decision to run the survey, which was amended and approved by members at their January meeting.

He said: “I think the survey has gone extremely well. While it may be imperfect, because there are flaws in any information-gathering process, it was as good a method to reach as wide an audience in the community as possible.

“Daniel has been a valued member of the community council for many years, and hopefully at some point he may reconsider his position.”