Thanks to Marcia on the previous thread for alerting me to today's Panelbase poll on independence, which is far more encouraging than the recent Ipsos-Mori and TNS-BMRB polls. The main question has independence just eight points behind -
Yes 37% (+2)
No 45% (+1)
However, there is also a supplementary question asking how people would vote if they thought the next election would result in a Tory victory, or a renewed Tory-Lib Dem coalition. This produces a dramatic turnaround -
It would be interesting to know exactly how that question was framed, because there's always a danger with these hypothetical questions of giving respondents the impression they're 'supposed' to produce a different answer. Nevertheless, it does demonstrate a plausible reason for believing this referendum can be won, and one which will not please Tom Harris and friends, who will doubtless step up their attempts to lecture the Scottish people that wanting rid of the Tories is not a good enough reason to vote for independence. I dare say it all makes sense to a man who moved heaven and earth to install David Cameron in Downing Street.
UPDATE : Judging from the details of the poll that have been mentioned on the SNP website, it appears that respondents were actually asked both about how they would vote if they thought the Tories were going to win the election, and about how they would vote if they thought Labour were going to win. This increases the credibility of the findings (because it means the questioning was even-handed), but what's particularly fascinating is that support for independence also increases sharply when voters anticipate a Labour government, with the lead for the No side decreasing to four points.
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Although I switched on the TV in time to catch the result of the SNP conference vote on NATO the other day, I missed the debate itself. If I had been a delegate I would have voted to maintain the existing policy, so I was a bit troubled by suggestions that proponents of a change had used inflammatory language such as "grow up". RevStu's summary of proceedings has been very helpful in making sense of what happened -
"The real killer blow, though, came in a closing speech from Angus Robertson, the proposer of the motion.
Reminding the conference that he’d been in charge of the SNP’s two historic Holyrood victories, he led them onto the sucker punch – that even in the 2011 landslide they’d only secured 44% of the vote, and 44% wasn’t enough to win a referendum. It was a devastating point..."
I'm not sure about that. The SNP enjoyed a victory last year of extraordinary proportions, and the idea that they might have topped 50% if only they had been pro-NATO seems fairly fanciful. As RevStu reminds us later in his piece, polling evidence suggests that only 11% of the electorate want to leave NATO, so that clearly wasn't a bar to at least another 33% voting SNP. Indeed, it was probably a greater number than that, because some anti-NATO voters would presumably have voted Green, SSP, Solidarity or Respect.
The Greens have also been quick to correctly point out that this doesn't even mark a shift in the stance of the Yes campaign, which is multi-party and thus does not take a view on NATO. Of course some unionists and commentators will always insist on conflating the SNP's policy with "what will automatically happen under independence", so from that point of view there may be some tactical benefit to this change. But I very much doubt it will make a huge difference.
"The second-weakest argument, incidentally, was that staying in NATO would prevent Scotland from leading the entire globe to multilateral disarmament. With the best will in the world, the notion that what Scotland does could ever have even the tiniest impact on the nuclear policies of the USA, Russia or China is delusional tree-hugging insanity of the absurdest order."
True, but it's not unreasonable to suppose that Scotland refusing to join NATO would have a modest international impact, because it might check the momentum in favour of the organisation's seemingly relentless expansion. It could stiffen the resolve of a country like Finland to remain on the outside, for example.
"If you’re underneath a bomb, you don’t much care what kind it is.
This is something that’s puzzled us for decades, frankly. We really don’t get the hysterical opposition to nuclear weapons as opposed to other kinds of weapons. Go and ask the people of Tokyo or Dresden if they’re relieved that they got attacked with nice cuddly “conventional” weapons instead of nukes."
On that point I part company entirely with RevStu. The devastation wreaked on Tokyo and Dresden may have been comparable to the effects of the atomic bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but that's because nuclear weapons technology was in its infancy in 1945. Modern nuclear weapons have the potential to virtually (and some would argue literally) wipe out the human species. In that sense they are comparable to chemical and biological weapons, but not to conventional weapons. WMDs are quite rightly in a special category, and it should be the goal of every civilised nation to eliminate them.
However, as I've said before, a change in the SNP's stance on NATO membership isn't the end of the world (no pun intended). We're sure as hell not going to get out of NATO for as long as we remain in the UK, so the first priority is to achieve independence, and then those of us who want to leave NATO can set about campaigning to achieve that goal.
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NOTE : I've temporarily removed Better Nation from the blog list in the sidebar, because for some reason it was triggering a doom-laden warning on Chrome urging people to leave this blog immediately. It's almost certainly a false warning, and I'll put BN back on as soon as the issue is resolved.