CAMPAIGNERS behind a petition against Scottish Government proposals on gay marriage have been criticised for allowing the names of Edinburgh students to be signed up to the document without their knowledge.
Scotland for Marriage has attracted more than 9000 online signatures from those opposed to the consultation on the controversial issue within the last two weeks.
Yesterday, it emerged that at least 27 students, most of them thought to be from Edinburgh University, had been added to the petition without their knowledge.
Many of them had been working on the students’ association rival campaign for gay marriage, suggesting the move had been malicious.
The names were all uploaded from the same computer, according to the website administrator.
The National Union of Students criticised the Scotland for Marriage movement – backed by the Archbishop of Edinburgh Cardinal Keith O’Brien and other high-profile figures – for allowing the students to be added to the public document.
In response, the faith movement said it had been targeted by “malicious individuals” trying to discredit the petition, including those who had posted numerous messages of abuse to them.
Matthew McPherson, president of Edinburgh University Students’ Association (EUSA) and one of those whose name appeared on the list of supporters, said: “As someone who represents an organisation which has thrown its weight behind the campaign for equal marriage, I must say I was surprised, to say the least, when I saw my name on this petition.
“What’s most concerning for the Scotland for Marriage campaign is that it throws every one of their signatures into disrepute.”
Fellow student Stuart Tooley added that he and his friends had been targeted. He said: “In my view, this petition is totally discredited, and the MSPs should take no notice of it.”
The Scottish Government has promised to consult on new legislation allowing gay marriages in churches.
Currently only an e-mail address is needed to sign up to the petition, but Scotland for Marriage said it would be considering more stringent controls.
Spokesman Colin Hart said: “Prior to this we’ve had people uploading obscene names, quite anti-Roman Catholic sentiment, pretty nasty stuff.
“Despite that we are determined to continue with our petition.
“We’ve removed those whose names have been added to the list without their knowledge.”