Saturday, July 13, 2019
That said, another comment from Ms Sturgeon at the same event left the impression that she was minded to use the next Holyrood election to obtain a mandate, not for independence itself, but for a referendum. Yes, I know we already have such a mandate from the 2016 election, but the theory seems to be that yet another one might somehow break down Westminster's resistance. There was an intriguing comment in the New Statesman a week or two back that "many Scottish MPs" (whether this referred to SNP MPs, or Tory MPs, or both, wasn't made clear) now expected Nicola Sturgeon to engineer an early Holyrood election for that purpose. I must say that if we are going to go down the road of seeking a superfluous repeat of a mandate we already have, I would much prefer it to be done in a snap election, because at least that means less valuable time would be squandered. And it would almost be like a 'free hit', because under the rules, as long as a snap election takes place before November 2020, the next election in May 2021 would go ahead as scheduled. So if the snap election didn't work out as hoped, we would have another chance before too long. Probably the worst-case scenario for a snap election would be the SNP being returned as a minority government but without a pro-indy majority. (Although at the moment it seems that a pro-indy majority would be the most likely outcome.)
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Some good news from the Scottish subsample of the latest GB-wide YouGov poll...
SNP 45%, Conservatives 20%, Labour 13%, Liberal Democrats 10%, Brexit Party 9%, Greens 2%
YouGov's Scottish subsamples appear to be correctly structured/weighted, so the only problem with them is the small sample size.
Wednesday, July 10, 2019
GoFundMe allows fundraisers to remain open for donations indefinitely, so with your forgiveness I'll continue to promote it occasionally for a little while longer, although I'll try to do so less obtrusively than before. (I know there are always one or two people who are holidaying down a cave in Albania when the fundraiser is run, and only find out about it later on.) And as has been the case for many years, there'll continue to be a permanent "Donate" link in the sidebar (desktop version of the site only).
Thank you again, and hopefully you'll find the blog to be an interesting read over the weeks and months to come.
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As you probably saw the other day, Plaid Cymru has decided to take the highly unusual step of sitting out the Brecon and Radnorshire by-election and urging its supporters to back a unionist party (the Lib Dems) instead. My initial reaction when I first heard this was being contemplated was that it might just about make sense in the current circumstances, but only as a complete one-off. However, it appears that the new Plaid leader Adam Price sees the Brecon deal as merely the first step towards a more comprehensive "Remain alliance".
I must say I have my doubts as to whether that would be a runner in a general election. My guess is that we'll end up with something that looks very much like the recent past, ie. only a few limited and localised deals between the Lib Dems and the Greens in a handful of constituencies. Possibly the Lib Dems might also hold their noses and give some or all of the remaining Change UK MPs a clear run in return for Change not making too much of a nuisance of themselves anywhere else. But I strongly suspect that the Lib Dems will conclude that they have too much to lose from entering into a full-blown electoral pact with Plaid - it would almost certainly mean giving up on their hopes of retaking Ceredigion, for example.
But just suppose for a moment that it happened. It would be bound to lead to pressure on both the Lib Dems and the SNP to agree something similar in Scotland. That would be uncomfortable territory for both parties, not least because it would be almost unprecedented in modern times for the SNP to throw their weight behind an anti-independence party in any constituency. But could there be scope for the SNP to make what David Cameron might have called "a big, open and comprehensive offer to the Liberal Democrats"? The obvious shape of any pact would be that one party would stand aside if the other party is either the incumbent in the constituency or in a clear second place to a non-Remain party. That would mean the SNP standing aside in only four constituencies, and the Lib Dems standing aside in the other fifty-five.
Let's face it: the Lib Dems would be bound to turn the offer down, not only for the above reason but also because an arrangement with the SNP would drive a coach-and-horses through their 'double down on British nationalism' strategy by costing them an untold number of Tory tactical votes in their current constituencies. But they'd walk away from a Remain alliance at the cost of the moral high ground.
Sunday, July 7, 2019
As you may have seen, the senior SNP MP Angus MacNeil and the former depute leadership candidate Chris McEleny have tabled a resolution that would require the SNP to use the next Westminster or Holyrood election to seek an outright mandate for independence in the event that the UK government refuse a Section 30 order for an independence referendum next year. I was startled to see an independence supporter on Twitter brand the plan as "childish" and "idiotic" - a rather bizarre outburst against the whole principle of parliamentary democracy, which recognises that a party has a mandate to implement a policy if it fought and won an election on a relevant manifesto pledge. A number of us asked the irate indy supporter what his alternative was. Was he just going to hold his hands up and say "well, it's been a good, clean fight, but London have said no, and that's the end of that"? All he came up with was that we needed to have majority support for indy before we could do anything - a very slippery answer that completely evades the issue. An unambiguous majority for Yes in the opinion polls would just give the increasingly unhinged imperialists in the Tory leadership an even greater incentive to refuse a Section 30 order, so what do you do then?
But actually, though, we shouldn't even let the point that "we need a Yes majority" pass without questioning the premise that there isn't a Yes majority already. There have been four proper independence polls this year, all of which have put Yes support in the high 40s, and on each and every occasion I've made the observation that it was an unusually high level of support from a polling firm (either Panelbase or YouGov) that have in recent years tended to show relatively No-friendly results compared to other firms. I'm not sure the full implications of that have quite sunk in.
For example, in the first half of 2018, when Ipsos-Mori put Yes support at 48%, YouGov were saying it was only somewhere between 43% and 45%. Now that Yes are on 49% with YouGov, doesn't it seem entirely plausible that a new Ipsos-Mori poll would put the figure at 51% or above?
In October 2018, when Survation had Yes on 47%, Panelbase had Yes on only 44%. Now that Yes are on 49% with Panelbase, would it really be that surprising if a new Survation poll put Yes on 51% or 52%?
It doesn't necessarily work that way, of course. At the end of the 2014 indyref campaign, when the hitherto No-friendly pollsters like YouGov suddenly showed a massive swing towards Yes, the other firms didn't follow suit. Instead, there was a sudden convergence between the findings of different pollsters - and something very similar happened in the EU referendum. So it's not certain that Ipsos-Mori or Survation would be reporting an outright Yes lead if they were polling right now - but for my money there's a reasonable chance that they would.
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Friday, July 5, 2019
I've expressed my concern before that the Conservative party, which down the ages has long rubbished opinion polls and said that "the only poll that matters is on polling day", is now trying to turn Scotland into an opinion poll democracy - in other words, a country in which you can ignore the way in which people actually vote because a YouGov poll of 2000 people is supposedly a more accurate representation of what they want. Hunt tried exactly that line today - he said that it didn't matter that a majority of the Scottish Parliament wanted a referendum, and that it didn't matter that people had knowingly voted for the parliament to have a pro-referendum majority. All that mattered is that a poll from God knows how many months or years ago supposedly shows that MSPs are going against the wishes of their constituents. Mackay pointed out that the most recent poll in fact shows that a majority are in favour of a referendum - to which Hunt feebly replied "there are lots of polls, Colin". So now it seems that Scotland isn't so much an opinion poll democracy as a "the last opinion poll that a British Prime Minister conveniently bothered to notice" democracy.
Except it gets even worse than that. When Mackay sardonically summed up Hunt's hypocrisy with the words "so your poll counts but mine doesn't?", Hunt effectively abandoned his belief in the overriding importance of polls and started waffling about how "people I talk to in Scotland" (ie. Tories) don't want a referendum. So in the space of two minutes, Scotland had been downgraded twice from an opinion poll democracy to a vague anecdote democracy.
As an aside, it's worth noting that Hunt's statement today that he will attempt to block an indyref even if the SNP win an absolute majority at the 2021 election flatly contradicts what he said on the subject only a couple of weeks ago. If I was a Tory member, and even if I agreed with Hunt's revised stance, I'd be a bit worried that the 'flexibility' of his views means that he can't be trusted to keep his word on other subjects. How can he be trusted to stick to his promises on Brexit, for example?
Monday, July 1, 2019
Now, before anyone trots out the standard response of "anyone can edit Wikipedia, so don't complain, just put it right yourself", it isn't quite as simple as that. Someone has already attempted to reverse the edit, but within literally one minute the SNP and Plaid were removed again, with the following 'explanation' appended to the edit history -
"Please see the discussion on talk - strong consensus for removal of at least some columns, namely SNP/Plaid among most"
So I checked the Talk page, and as I suspected, this "strong consensus" turned out to consist of an in-group of only about six or seven people, all enthusiastically agreeing with each other based on their shared Anglocentric trance that it somehow makes perfect sense to remove the SNP but to retain parties that have far less support than the SNP. Before you look at the discussion, I should probably put a health warning on it, because it dismisses the SNP and Plaid as "regional" parties who should only ever be mentioned in the context of their own "areas" and who are "irrelevant" to the "national" picture. Someone quite reasonably points out that similar pages for other countries manage without any great fuss to include separate columns for ten or more parties, so there's no actual need for the UK page to be artificially edited down to seven. But that argument was shouted down on the basis that other countries have proportional representation and we don't, meaning that parties with relatively low percentage support can't hope to win seats. Which is a bit of a circular argument, because if the requirement for inclusion is the ability to win seats, how can you possibly exclude a party whose support is so geographically concentrated that it currently holds 35 seats under first-past-the-post and looks set to win considerably more in the next general election?
The only way of getting this ridiculous decision overturned is to change the "consensus" on the Talk page. I've made my point there already, but I'm only one voice. So if you're a Wikipedia editor and if you feel as strongly about this as I do, I would recommend that you leave a comment there and help to break the Anglo groupthink. If you're not familiar with commenting on Wikipedia Talk pages, you need to hit the edit button in the top right hand corner as if you were editing an article, and then simply add in your own comment in the appropriate place. You then 'sign' your comment by adding four tildes (~~~~) at the end of it.
Sunday, June 30, 2019
An independent Scotland would not be forced to join the euro. The Channel 4 "Fact Check" (sic) notoriously claimed a few weeks ago that it would be, which led to the comical spectacle of other Fact Check services demonstrating conclusively that the Channel 4 "Fact Check" was riddled with factual inaccuracies. The theoretical requirement for new EU states to move to adopt the Euro in the long-term is a legal fiction and everyone in Brussels knows it. No state can be forced to take the steps that would be necessary to switch currencies, as Sweden has been helpfully demonstrating in the sixteen years since it rejected Eurozone membership in a referendum.
An independent Scotland would not be required to join the Schengen Zone. The UK and the Republic of Ireland are both current EU member states, but neither are members of Schengen and instead have their own Common Travel Area. Whether or not there is a hard border after Brexit, Ireland is highly unlikely to be joining Schengen, and it's blindingly obvious that the EU would agree that any arrangement that is appropriate for Ireland as an EU state would also be appropriate for Scotland as an EU state.
Scotland will not "control fisheries" after Brexit. Fisheries was one of the key devolved powers that was subject to the Westminster power-grab last year, so control will in fact lie in London or more likely in Brussels - because we know that Scottish fishing communities have always been regarded by London as expendable in any horse-trading with the EU. Although it's true that many Scottish independence supporters do regard the Common Fisheries Policy as the worst thing about the EU, the reality is that we won't be "taking back control" of fisheries under Brexit, and that we'd therefore be sacrificing little by rejoining the EU as an independent state.
You see, that's the thing, Boris - if you want to blackmail a nation into submission, the threat actually has to be credible.
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2019 Scot Goes Pop Fundraiser: This is Day 31 of the fundraiser, and so far £8370 has been raised. That's 98% of the way towards the target figure of £8500. A million thanks to everyone who has donated so far, and I'm also extremely grateful to all the people who have left a kind comment with their donation. You can visit the fundraising page HERE.
You might have noticed that for weeks now, when a journalist or Tory politician has erroneously claimed that "there is still no appetite in Scotland for an independence referendum", I've been pointing out to them that the most recent poll on the subject actually found that 50.2% of the public are in favour of an early independence referendum and only 49.8% are opposed. Admittedly one thing that made it slightly hard to get that point across is that, after rounding, the published figures were 50% in favour and 50% opposed.
Well, that's no longer a problem, because the Sunday Times have today published more details of their sensational Panelbase poll from last weekend, and it turns out there is now a clear pro-indyref majority even after rounding. 52% are in favour of holding an early independence referendum (up 2 points on the last poll), and 48% are opposed (down 2).
You're in severe danger of running out of excuses, Ruth.
Saturday, June 29, 2019
Jo Swinson says that London should attempt to block an indyref because the SNP lost ground at the last general election. As Lesley Riddoch has pointed out, this means that if the SNP gain seats at the next general election (as opinion polls currently suggest they will), the Liberal Democrats would be morally obliged to support and facilitate an indyref. But that rather satisfying piece of inescapable logic shouldn't distract us from the nonsensical nature of Swinson's statement. Democracy would grind to a halt if majority parties that happened to lose seats at the most recent election were not regarded as having a mandate to act. In both 1987 and 1992, the Conservative government won an outright majority but suffered a net loss of seats. According to the Swinson Doctrine, then, the Thatcher/Major government should have been prevented by some mechanism from implementing its programme for ten of the eighteen years that it was in office.
Which begs the obvious question: if the majority party didn't have legitimacy to govern, who had legitimacy in its place? Should a minority party have been able to govern instead because it had forward momentum? In other words, should Labour's 229 seats have somehow been regarded as outcounting the Conservatives' 376 seats, because the 229 represented a net gain of 20 and the 376 represented a net loss of 21? And if so, how on earth would you have got such a system to work in practice? Lock up 200 Tory MPs so that Labour could outvote them?
Or, just to float the only other alternative I can think of, should nobody have been allowed to govern at all between 1987 and 1997?
And there are other questions too. If the only decisive factor is whether a party gains or loses seats at the most recent election, shouldn't the SNP's massive stride forward at the European election only last month mean that there is now an open-and-shut case for an indyref? If Swinson's answer to that point is "ah, but that was only a European election, not a Westminster election", how does she explain the fact that her own party in coalition government regarded the SNP as having a mandate to hold an indyref in 2014 based on its success in a Holyrood election rather than a Westminster election? (The SNP had a mere 6 Westminster seats at the time.) At what point did Westminster elections take over from Holyrood elections as the designated democratic event in which these matters are decided? Were the electorate informed of this abrupt change, and indeed of the reasons for it? Would it be unkind of me to suggest that Swinson appears to be making this stuff up as she goes on?
Jackson Carlaw says that London should attempt to block an indyref because a majority of parties (three out of five) in the Scottish Parliament are opposed to the idea. What I'm about to say is so blindingly obvious that it shouldn't need saying, but apparently it does: the crucial point in a parliamentary democracy is who can command a majority of seats, not who can command a majority of parties. If it worked the way Carlaw wants, his own government at Westminster would be powerless to act, because it's supported by only two parties in the House of Commons (the Tories and the DUP) and opposed by six (Labour, the SNP, the Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru, Change UK and the Greens). Indeed, the Carlaw Doctrine would instantly make elections completely redundant - all you'd have to do is round up all the random bods who have registered a party with the Electoral Commission and ask them for a show of hands. Carlaw could find himself outvoted by seventeen splinter communist parties.
It's also worth mentioning that the Carlaw Doctrine flatly contradicts Ruth Davidson's recent arbitrary "ruling" that a pro-independence majority at Holyrood is only valid if it's a single-party SNP majority and not if it's a multi-party majority comprising the SNP, the Greens and possibly others. So which is it to be, guys? Do you want broad multi-party support for a referendum, or are you insisting it has to be a go-it-alone SNP effort? I don't see how you can have it both ways.
Carlaw also says that the Tories are "not dictating to the people of Scotland" because the people of Scotland do not actually want a referendum. But he knows full well that the evidence on that point is mixed: the most recent poll on the subject (conducted in May by Panelbase) found that 50.2% want an early independence referendum, with 49.8% opposed. For reasons that aren't clear, YouGov polls have tended to show a more negative picture. When evidence on the state of public opinion is contradictory, you have two options: you can either make the decision yourself, in which case you are dictating to the people, or you can put opinion polls to one side and allow the people to resolve the ambiguity by means of an election. And, as it happens, the people have already done that: they elected a government in 2016 that had a manifesto commitment to an indyref in the event of Brexit. Why is Carlaw ignoring their verdict?
Rather confusingly, Carlaw spent a large chunk of his debate with Keith Brown the other night demanding that Brown should "name the day" for a referendum and commit to bringing out a White Paper - the pretty obvious subtext being that the SNP are running scared of holding the vote and the Tories want them to "bring it on". If I may gently say so to Jackson, it's rather hard to make that line of attack stick when in the next breath you're bellowing: "THE SNP ARE HELLBENT ON CALLING AN INDEPENDENCE REFERENDUM, BUT WE SAY NO, NO, NEVER!!!!"
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2019 Scot Goes Pop Fundraiser: This is Day 30 of the fundraiser, and so far £8290 has been raised. That's 97.5% of the way towards the target figure of £8500. A million thanks to everyone who has donated so far, and I'm also extremely grateful to all the people who have left a kind comment with their donation. You can visit the fundraising page HERE.
Wednesday, June 26, 2019
Paging Carole Malone: Sorry, Carole, but every single opinion poll this year has shown that support for independence is significantly higher than 45%
"Every time they do a poll it says that the figures now for staying within the union are higher than they were at the time of the referendum."
What is it about opinion polling that makes people feel entirely comfortable in making something up that they would like to think is true, go on television and present it as fact, and then have it go completely unchallenged? And yes, Fiona Bruce, I'm looking at you. In this case, Carole Malone's claim is not only untrue, it's the opposite of the truth. There have (inexplicably) been only four polls this year that have asked the standard independence question, and every single one of them has shown that support for independence is now significantly higher than the 44.7% recorded in the 2014 referendum. Here they are...
Panelbase, April 2019: Yes 47%, No 53%
YouGov, April 2019: Yes 49%, No 51%
Panelbase, May 2019: Yes 48%, No 52%
Panelbase, June 2019: Yes 49%, No 51%
If you look at the list of polls on Wikipedia, you'd get the false impression that there was also a fifth independence poll this year conducted by Survation using a "non-standard question", which supposedly showed a much bigger No lead. In fact, that wasn't an independence poll at all - it was a propaganda poll commissioned by Scotland in Union which asked respondents about whether they wanted Scotland to "leave the UK", rather than whether they wanted Scotland to become an independent country. "Leaving the UK" covers a wide range of possibilities of which independence is only one. Others include becoming part of another existing state, or becoming a self-governing dependency like Jersey. However, even if you include the Survation poll as an independence poll (and you shouldn't), it would still be the case that four out of five polls this year have shown Yes support at higher than 45%. So Malone's claim is completely untrue no matter which way you look at it.
Incidentally, it's not even the case that Malone's claim used to be true but no longer is. Although support for independence appears to have increased markedly over the last nine months or so, a clear majority of polls conducted over the entire period between September 2014 and now have shown Yes at 45% or higher.
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I've been meaning to mention that I was interviewed down the phone on IndyLive Radio last week. You can listen to the show on catch-up HERE - the bit with me starts at just after the 2 hour mark.
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2019 Scot Goes Pop Fundraiser: This is Day 27 of the fundraiser, and so far £8020 has been raised. That's 95% of the way towards the target figure of £8500. A million thanks to everyone who has donated so far, and I'm also extremely grateful to all the people who have left a kind comment with their donation. You can visit the fundraising page HERE.
Sunday, June 23, 2019
Bombshell Panelbase poll shows support for independence at a three-year high - even without Boris Johnson as PM
No 51% (-1)
Incidentally, the finding that there won't be much of a Boris bounce was supported at Britain-wide level by a Survation poll yesterday, which suggested that the Tories would enjoy a net gain of only two points with Johnson as leader, and that the Brexit Party would only slip back four points. The Tories and Labour would be tied for the lead in that scenario.
Panelbase also have Holyrood voting intention numbers...
Scottish Parliament voting intentions (constituency ballot):
SNP 42% (+1)
Conservatives 20% (n/c)
Labour 16% (-2)
Liberal Democrats 11% (+3)
Scottish Parliament voting intentions (regional list ballot):
SNP 39% (+2)
Conservatives 20% (+1)
Labour 16% (-2)
Liberal Democrats 10% (+2)
Greens 7% (n/c)
The SNP's 42% on the constituency ballot is their highest vote share in any Panelbase poll since 2017. In a way it's strange that the Tories are doing a little better in the Holyrood vote than in the Westminster vote, although that may simply be because some voters don't think there's much point in switching to Farage's mob in a Scottish Parliament election.
There would be a very clear pro-independence majority in Holyrood on those numbers, and the SNP wouldn't be far away from an outright majority of their own.
2019 Scot Goes Pop Fundraiser: This is Day 24 of the fundraiser, and so far £7925 has been raised. That's 93% of the way towards the target figure of £8500. A million thanks to everyone who has donated so far, and I'm also extremely grateful to all the people who have left a kind comment with their donation. You can visit the fundraising page HERE.