Saturday, January 16, 2010

One-fifth of Britons think that the SNP should be excluded even from 'Scotland-specific' TV debates!

You might think it would be a tough sell in a country that prides itself on fair play to seriously suggest that the party that has won the most recent elections for three out of the four tiers of democratic representation in Scotland (Scottish Parliament, local government, European Parliament) should be completely excluded from the major televised debates that are seemingly about to be shown in Scotland. But it seems the propaganda campaign to justify this outrageous proposed stitch-up has succeeded beyond its proponents own wildest dreams - a new Angus Reid poll shows that 19% of Britons think the SNP should even be banned from the Scotland-specific debates! To put this absurdity in some sort of context, the only reason Scottish debates have been proposed with such fanfare is that it's hoped the SNP's participation in them will provide some kind of legal cover for the party's exclusion from the main debates. A bogus proposition, of course, that I suspect the Scottish courts would see through easily if asked to adjudicate - only some kind of SNP 'monologue' could hope to correct the injustice of their exclusion from the main debates, not a programme in which their political opponents get yet more coverage, adding to their already vastly unfair share. But I'd be intrigued to see how on earth the broadcasters would go about justifying the suggestion that the SNP should not even qualify as one of the three leading Scotland-wide parties!

Here are the European election results from just seven months ago, lest anyone has forgotten -

SNP 29.1%
Labour 20.8%
Conservatives 16.1%
Liberal Democrats 11.5%

Even if we take the one weak link in the SNP's recent performances - the Westminster election of 2005 - the party still outranked the Tories in both the popular vote and in terms of seats. The fact that 20% of Britons feel that a cosy three-way all-Unionist affair would be entirely appropriate for a Scotland-specific debate against such an overwhelming weight of evidence illustrates yet again just how stubborn is this media-perpetuated fantasy of British "national" uniformity in the popular imagination down south.

Fortunately this matter will not be adjudicated upon by the court of UK public opinion, but if necessary by real courts, on the basis of laws, guidelines and precedents that for years now have recognised the SNP's status as a national party on a par with the other three.


  1. Almost unbelievable, but you should never associate fair play with Britian. It is a image that they thought up for themselves, to go with cricket, and memsahibs and invading other people's countries and stealing all their stuff.

    It enough to make you despair.

  2. PS... I just noticed that you were 27th best poster... Congratulations, quality posts James.

  3. Thanks, Tris, but putting that in the blog description was intended to be a bit tongue-in-cheek! There are probably only about 100 or 150 or so 'core' posters at, so finishing 27th wasn't really that brilliant. Still, I was a tiny bit jealous of all those 'Total Politics top 50' badges, so I thought I might as well make the most of what I have!

  4. The problem for Scots with this poll is that the pollsters don't understand the right questions to ask because they don't understand what the SNP and PC object to or what they want.

    The question on SNP participation was:

    Separate debates will be held in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland among all the main parties but the SNP and Plaid Cymru believe that they also be included in the main debates. Which of the following most closely resembles your view?

    1. SNP and Plaid Cymru should be included in all the debates

    2. SNP and Plaid Cymru should just be included in Scottish and Wales specific debates

    3. SNP and Plaid Cymru should not be included in any debates

    I would actually choose number 2 because I don't believe that the SNP should be on a UK wide debate. However I believe that for any debate which is broadcast in Scotland then the SNP should be on it as they have a legal right to be on it.

    That would mean blanking out any debate from Scottish screens which didn't include the SNP whether it was broadcast from London or Edinburgh or labeled as a Scottish or a UK debate.

    The proper question should have been:

    Should any debate broadcast in Scotland include the SNP?

    My answer to that would always be yes.

    The way the question is asked often has an effect on the answer.

    As you point out, the fact that 19% didn't want the SNP or PC to be on the Scottish and Welsh debates which are only there for the SNP and PC in order to give the broadcasters a legal fig leaf is an indication that 19% of those polled had no clue about the issue they were polled about.

  5. I agree, Doug. Even on a more basic level, I think in these three-option polls, people who don't have a strong view will always tend to go for whatever is presented by the pollster as the 'middle option', as they would instinctively assume that is the 'fair compromise'. Whereas of course separate Scottish leaders' debates are no compromise at all - they would almost certainly have happened anyway.