Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Hey now, hey now, what can I say? Nothing's fair in love and war.

Just a quick post tonight because I'm very, very sleepy. One of the unexpected side-effects of the fundraiser last month is that when people ask me what I do for a living, the most logical answer is "I'm a crowdfunded blogger", because that's - albeit only temporarily - my biggest single source of income at the moment. I'm then often asked a follow-up question about the nature of the blog, and that's led on to discussions about politics that in the past I haven't really had. (I've overheard lots of conversations about the referendum over the last eighteen months or so, but very rarely participated in them.)

Yesterday I had a chat with a committed No voter, and it was interesting for a couple of reasons. Firstly (and very unfortunately) it seems that Yes campaigners had chapped on her door and taken entirely the wrong approach - they got her back up by very aggressively challenging her views, and asking her "so you want David Cameron to do X/Y/Z to Scotland?" She said they just weren't interested in listening. It was very dispiriting to hear that, given the fine reputation that Yes canvassers have built up, but I suppose with so many people involved in the ground operation it's inevitable that some will be more sure-footed than others.

The other thing she said was that she was worried about an independent Scotland not being a member of the UN. I did a sort of double-take at that point, because I assumed she meant the EU, but she really did mean the UN. I pointed out to her that practically every independent state in the entire world is a member of the UN, but her response was that there are no guarantees - we'd have to apply, and no-one could possibly know for sure what the outcome would be. I suggested that we could be pretty sure, given the UN's track record of hardly ever rejecting anyone. Although she conceded that the risk was very small, she insisted that uncertainty was uncertainty, and that this was entirely typical of what people were being asked to vote for by the Yes campaign. "Unless we can know..." she said.

What can we do in the face of a belief that even the tiniest and most implausible of risks should be sufficient to automatically preclude any positive decision to make a change? It leaves very little room for discussion in the context of this campaign unless the belief itself can be challenged. I suppose the one possible antidote is to remind people that a modest amount of uncertainty is an unavoidable part of life - as individuals we deal with small risks every day without ending up cowering in a corner, and voting No carries as much uncertainty (probably more) as voting Yes does. But I didn't say any of that, because to someone already exposed to an unwanted hard-sell on her own doorstep, I think it could easily have sounded like more of the same. So I mainly just listened.

Maybe this is an incorrect interpretation, but what I take away is that there are some situations where the most constructive thing we can do as Yes supporters is to simply reassure people that we do respect their own views.

* * *

While I'm vaguely on the subject of the fundraiser, I should take this opportunity to apologise for the fact that the Backers page still isn't up. I've made a start on it, but it's a much, much more time-consuming exercise than I ever expected, because I have to cross-check 169 emails from Indiegogo to make sure that no-one who requested anonymity is wrongly included. I'll finish it as soon as I can - I know it's not the main reason that people donated, but it's important all the same.


  1. If you had produced a letter from Ban Ki-moon confirming Scotland's immediate entry she'd have moved on to the Lonely Planet travel guide.

    There are certain people who feel British that will never vote Yes. They're the 17% who'd vote to join the union today on the same terms and those that pick 'British' when forced to choose between that, Scottish (74%) and other in the SSAS.

    You can find them on BT's facebook page. In contrast won't find any Devo Max Scots there; just not appealing at all.

  2. At the same time though, I believe a lot more is going on under the surface when people come out with this kind of argument.

    No voters often say their reasons is "There's too much uncertainty". They are not against independence because they are scared, they are scared because they are against independence and will say anything to back their case up.

  3. Doing a very long YouGov poll about different political issues. Eventually, it comes to an independence question like so:

    As you may know, a referendum on independence will be held in Scotland on 18th September 2014. Voters will be asked, "Should Scotland be an independent country?" Do you think you will vote "Yes" or "No"?
    Will vote "Yes"
    Will vote "No"
    Will not vote
    Don't know

  4. "they are scared because they are against independence"

    Yep. 'I don't like Alex Salmond' is the standard one.

  5. Ah yes, Yougov; the pollster that predicted a last minute Labour surge as the 2011 election approached, with the SNP's lead narrowing to just 7 points days before the election.

    Also gave the lowest SNP share of any pollster ahead of 2011 at 28% in 2010.

    Impressive predictive record.

  6. Apologies for double post (I wish Blogger let you edit comments). It then follows up with:

    Many people don't vote in elections these days. How likely is it that you will vote in the referendum on Scottish independence that will be held on 18th September 2014?
    Very likely that I will vote
    Fairly likely
    Neither likely nor unlikely
    Fairly unlikely
    Very unlikely that I will vote
    Don't know

    Followed by: How happy or how disappointed would you be if the "yes" side won the referendum?
    Answer is a scale of one to ten.

    Then: And how happy or how disappointed would you be if the "No" side won the referendum?

    Then: How likely is it that Scotland will choose to become an independent country? (Scale of 1 to 100)

    What proportion of people do you think will vote in the Scottish independence referendum? (Scale of 1 to 100). I found this one a little odd to ask, to be honest.

    If Scotland votes to remain part of the United Kingdom, should the Scottish Parliament have more powers than it does at present, fewer powers, or should the Parliament's powers stay about the same as they are now.
    It should have many more powers
    It should have some more powers
    It should have about the same powers as it does now
    It should have fewer powers than it does now
    It should have many fewer powers than it does now
    Don't know

    And if Scotland votes to remain part of the United Kingdom, do you think that the powers devolved to the Scottish parliament will change?
    It will get many more powers
    It will get some more powers
    It will neither gain nor lose any powers
    It will lose some powers
    It will lose many powers
    Don't know

    How fairly do you expect the Scottish referendum to be conducted? (Scale 1 to 5 with 1 being fairly).

    Now hitting the char limit...

  7. Would you say that each of these nations gets more or less its fair share of UK government spending? (Asks about Scotland, England and Wales on a 1 to 5 scale with 1 being much less and 5 being much more).

    Which institution do you think should make most of the important decisions for Scotland about...
    The level of taxes
    The NHS
    Defence and foreign
    Welfare benefits
    The police
    Options were Scot Gov, UK Gov, Other or DK.

    If Scotland becomes independent, how likely is it that... (Scale of 1 to 5 and DK)
    The general economic situation in Scotland would be worse
    The gap between rich and poor would become smaller
    Scotland would have a weaker voice in the world
    Scotland would keep using the pound
    Scotland would retain its membership of the EU on the same terms as the UK (I didn't like this question. It felt like that was two questions in one.)
    I personally would be better off

    How sure are you about what would happen to Scotland if it became independent or if it stayed in the United Kingdom? (Scale 1 to 4 with 1 being very unsure rising to very sure. Also has a DK option).
    If Scotland stayed in the UK
    If Scotland became independent

    Then it's followed by Scottish Parliament voting intentions (General Election intentions were asked much earlier on).

    Have any of the following contacted you about the Scottish Independence Referendum in the previous four weeks? Please tick all that apply.
    The Yes Scotland Campaign
    The Better Together Campaign
    Scottish National Party
    Scottish Labour Party
    Scottish Liberal Democrats
    Scottish Conservative Party
    Scottish Green Party
    Any other organization campaigning for independence
    Any other organization campaigning against independence
    None of these
    Don't know

    Earlier you said that you would be most likely to vote Yes in the upcoming referendum. How certain are you that you will vote that way? (Can assume that if I said No it would ask the opposite. Scale of 1 to 7 starting at not certain at all).

    One topic of the referendum debate has been whether Scottish households would be better or worse off under independence. According to Alistair Darling from the ‘Better Together’ campaign, the security and business opportunities offered by the Union makes Scots more prosperous. But Alex Salmond says that Scotland’s finances are “healthier than those of the UK as a whole” and so Scots would be better off under independence.
    Which of these best describes your own view on what would happen to Scottish households if there was a ‘Yes’ vote?
    Definitely be better off
    Probably be better off
    Not at all sure
    Probably be worse off
    Definitely be worse better off
    Don't know

    Overall, on a scale from 1 (very unsure) to 7 (very sure), how sure are you about what would happen in Scotland if it became independent? (Feels like it's repeating itself. Anyway uses same 7 point scale as before).

    Now, on a scale from 1 (should definitely stay in the union) to 7 (should definitely become independent), which number best reflects your own position on what Scotland should do? (Honestly feels like it's repeating itself now).

    After that it goes on to other topics. Thought you might be curious. It's fairly broad in topics so I'm not sure how much of it will appear.

  8. Of course the gap was actually 14-18 points...

  9. TheeForesakenOne,

    I did this very poll from YouGov around 6 to 8 weeks ago. Remember thinking it was very odd and loaded questions. Def a BT or Labour poll.

    Don't think we will see anything published unless it can be used against Yes.

  10. @Chris Knowles:

    I didn't find the questions particularly loaded although there was certainly an overall tone to them that made it feel like it was coming from a Unionist perspective (Especially asking me over and over again how sure I was)

    The load of questions about various world leaders was interesting, though. As well as some economic calculation ones. It feels like they were trying to test the financial and political knowledge of respondents.

  11. I did this survey at least ten days ago.
    Are they repeating it, or is it just a massive sample they are taking?

  12. What about just asking, 'In an ideal world would you like the idea of an Independent Scotland?'

    If the answer is NO then you will know not to waste any more time and energy.

    If YESbut, then go on and ask what their fears of a YES are as maybe you can answer some of them.

    This is the type of conversation where having irrefutable evidence of a. where their fear has come from (article, No Thanks leaflet or UK spokesman etc.) and b. irrefutable evidence of the dishonesty of that claim (FT articles, Hansard, Letter from Department of Work n Pensions, etc.)can really show, sympathetically , the untrustworthy nature of the NO campaign that they and every other voter in Scotland is being subjected to.

    I think sharing that truth sympathetically and face to face with scared NO voters is probably the best use of a door step encounter. An Aye Write leaflet gives them a source to follow up on any other fears they might have but now have a seed of doubt about.

    If their answer is YES (great) then we should ask if they have any questions which have been raised with them by friends and family that they were not too sure of how to answer? You might be able to help answer it or find someone who could. I.e. encourage and help them with information on making the case for YES among their close friends and family.

    This will be my strategy in 2 weeks time when I get home. I am currently hunting down and printing out BT,NoThanks Fear smears along with the irrefutable proof of their lies. Taking longer than I thought!


  13. I like Braco's suggestions.

    Bella published a post of mine that many Yes voters really didn't like, but it wasn't meant for them! Many others who are having conversations with No and Undecided voters seemed to find it really helpful.

    I've put it up on a stand alone wordpress site, in case anyone wants to use it for their No or Undecided friends. It's not an exciting post but seems to do the trick for many: http://september19th2014.wordpress.com/

  14. Personally I'd be grateful if people would accept that there are pessimists and people naturally resistant to change out there. To think that inside every No voter is a Yes waiting to get out, if only they could hear "the right argument" is like the stereotype of Americans thinking inside every foreigner is an American waiting to get out.

    Surely time is better spent pursuing undecideds rather than butting heads with people, who for whatever reason have made up their minds.


  15. I agree, a gentle approach with reassurance and a recognition of risks on both sides is best to gather in the undecideds or soft No's.

    Don't even bother with the hardcore No voters.

  16. Andy,
    I would agree with you IF the MSM, BBC and other broadcasters were engaging in an open honest and balanced debate through which the general voting public were able to weigh the strengths and weaknesses of each side and come to an informed decision.

    This is not happening. In fact, this is exactly the scenario the Better Together,NoThanks UK esablishment campaign is determined to avoid happening.

    No Cameron/Salmond debate. The elected Prime Minister of Scotland is unwilling to stand in front of his elected Scottish Holyrood opponent and publicly defend his vision of this UK. Why?

    BetterNO refusing to put up speakers for open public debates with YES. Why?

    Attempts by BetterNO to stop YES Campaign tables at Gala days and public events etc. on the grounds that they have not organised one themselves. Why?

    Answer. They think they are in the lead at the moment and so want to avoid any discussion through fear of losing voters. BetterNO want victory through ignorance, not through a well informed electorate. Why?

    It's obvious. A well informed electorate tends, on balance to favour the YES arguments. The opposite is also true and well understood by BetterNO.

    It's our job on the yes side to counter that wholly cynical BetterNO strategy by engaging with EVERY voter and providing the alternative arguments from which they can then make a decision from an informed position. Be that a YES vote or NO vote. What's wrong with that?

    Your attitude ensures the cynical campaign of non engagement wins. It maybe the outcome you are after but it's certainly not mine.


  17. SS : The person I spoke to didn't say anything at all about disliking Alex Salmond or the SNP, and she didn't strike me as being a particularly political person, so I doubt if she'd be on Better Together's Facebook page. What worried me is the possibility that her encounter with the over-zealous Yes canvassers may have tipped her over the edge from being an 80% or 90% No voter to being the 100% No voter that she now appears to be. She was really annoyed about that incident.

    TheeForsakenOne : It would be fascinating to know if YouGov are getting different headline numbers when they ask the question in that way - ie. about how people will vote on the actual referendum date (emphasised by the "WILL VOTE YES/NO" in the possible answers). It's possible that it doesn't make much difference, but there must be a reason why they're using different wording for unpublished No campaign internal polls.

  18. Braco,

    I can't think of convincing counter points. I'd agree traditional media has been mostly one sided, I personally think a Cameron/Salmond debate would play better for Yes than No due to the whole 'Eton toff tells us what to do' narrative. I haven't got a clue what goes on at Better Together, No Thanks campaign HQ. I'd tend to think of them as incompetent rather than cynical though.

    I think the person that James spoke to is broadly speaking in the same camp as me, voting No but not feeling any attachment to the campaign or the things it says. It may be a conceit, but I feel my intention has been arrived at independently based on my judgement of the pros and cons, not because of the invisible hand of the establishment.

  19. "I'd tend to think of them as incompetent rather than cynical though."

    I think I've said this before, but:
    When planning: Assume malice.
    When forgiving: Assume incompetance.

  20. James the lady you encoutered is one of those finger in the ears fearties.
    I don't know if she did or did not have canvassers at her door and if they sad anything.
    However it is my experience that people like that lady would invent any story to justify their position.
    BT is built on lies and scares,only fools actually believe it.
    my biggest bugbear is the people on TV or radio you hear saying "We just don't have enough information" they are either 24 carat liars or imbeciles ,or both.
    There has never been more information in Scotland .
    The bottom line is simply this if our media and broadcasters were just even handed the YES vote would be getting weighed ,not counted.
    Only those with their noses in the trough or the feeble minded could possibly vote NO.

  21. "However it is my experience that people like that lady would invent any story to justify their position."

    No, it was absolutely clear to me that she was telling the truth.

  22. SO much for the NON-STORY TSE and so many other out of touch twits on politcalbetting claimed it was.

    Cameron's spin doctor Coulson GUILTY in the longest criminal trial in english history.

    I'm currently laughing at the incredible ignorance and idiocy being spouted on PB by those who knew f**k all about phone-hacking for years and have clearly learned nothing since.

    The case against Brooks relied heavily on evidence against her involving her assistant Cheryl Carter who the defence portrayed as ditsy and too stupid to
    be involved in a cover up. So while Brooks verdict is still a shocker for the CPS, (particularly considering some of the 'mistakes' they made in evidence collection highlighted by private eye) and a indeed anyone who knows how the tabloids operate, there was simply far less direct evidence after the deletion of millions of emails and documents at NewsCorp.

    I also doubt the incompetent fop Cameron will be entirely comfortable knowing Brooks is now free to leak whatever she pleases about their close friendship.

    Regardless, we're also now likely to get a great deal of the background to Coulson's employment including very specific warnings from the likes of Clegg and others that will now come back to haunt this pitiful and morally bankrupt PM Cameron.

    There's also far more to come on this as it is NOT the end of the road for either News UK, Trinity and quite a few others.


  23. Andy,
    yes he is an Eton toff, that as our Prime Minister (though without a Scottish mandate), is indeed telling us what to do.

    And all under the UK's current political system, for which this referendum (in order to decide whether or not it should remain the status quo) was expressly called.

    You can hardly consider this some unfair advantage to YES. Surely? If so the playing field you are now complaining about IS the creation of the Union.

    Seems to me that you are excusing (to yourself) non engagement in an attempt to avoid justification of the unjustifiable (to Scottish public opinion at any rate).

    Sorry but this is arch political cynicism and the route cause of why the Union is in the democratically derelict position that it is.

    As for your last paragraph. Yes I am more than happy to accept that you are politically aware and have come to your decision in the full knowledge of the counter arguments out there. This of course is your right, just as it is mine.

    I will not accept however, that just because you feel happy with the balance of argument and information made available to you prior to your settled decision that somehow everyone else out there is.

    This is a political campaign. What on earth are you advocating? That a decision be come to on the 18th of September devoid of social interaction and discussion? All the time assiduously broadcasting and complaining of 'not enough information!' every second day from the BetterNO MSM of course.

    Sorry Andy but that's just not how this decision was ever going to pan out.

    You may be as bored with the referendum as you come across (though I doubt it), but come the last couple of weeks before the vote, Scotland will be on fire with this debate.

    I certainly don't fancy your (or BetterNO's) strategy working too well in that political environment. But we shall see. That's what makes this thing so interesting isn't it.


  24. James, I just assumed from your description that the person is a solid No. Giving weird reasons for being No combined with 'attacking' Yes people is fairly standard. As you've not heard the other side of the story, I'd be cautious about judging the canvassers. However, you know much more than me so it's your call.

    We've a nice friend from N. Ireland. On the subject of the referendum though, she goes nuts and gets abusive about Yes, Salmond etc. Her world is crumbling and she's lashing out irrationally. It's all about her identity, even though she'll never say so and rolls out the whole standard BT stuff.

    If someone seems strongly No, I tend to ask them straight up. Do you feel more Scottish or more British? If they say exactly equal or more British then you are wasting your time most likely. Their country is Britain. No rational argument will change that.

    It is all about national identity in the end; same as every other independence movement. If someone is identifying with Scotland as a/their country, be they Scottish, English, Pakistani, Polish, then most likely in the end they'll vote Yes. If they feel Britain is their country (with Scotland region of it), then it's most likely a No.

    The British identifying group are the ones campaigning for the union on facebook, the streets etc. You won't discover any devo max Scots campaigning for BT even if they say 'Erm, No... (but I might still change my mind)' on the phone to MORI.

    Devo maxers support independence; they're just pragmatic. They don't support the union, certainly as is, otherwise, we'd not have less than 30% saying they definitely support No. Devo maxers also do not hold independence nor its supporters in contempt as solid unionists do.

    So Andy's both right and wrong. There are some voters who no amount of effort will change their mind. They are emotionally attached to Britain. It is their country.

    However, a good third of the current No vote are actually Yes interested if you can get them to take that step. It's why they don't say they will definitely vote No even though that's the answer they're giving right now.

    It's also why BT are in a blind panic. They know the identity issue will likely define the outcome, just as it did in 1979 and so perfectly in 1997 Q1+Q2.

    The evidence would suggest their poll lead is of the same mirage nature as Labours pre-2011 one.

    Don't know why people get nervous around natID. I guess it's because BT link it to 'blood and soil'. I laughed at darling linking blood and soil saying 'It's all about identity'. Of course it is about identity; the very nature of civic nationalism is identity with a nation. Countries wouldn't exist without it.

    Darling et al. know the majority of Scots are not attached to Britishness like he and co are. It both infuriates him and scares the shit out of him because that's how these things in the end are decided. It's the way it has always been in human society.

    France is France because the majority of people in France feel French and have decided to be France... Simple as that.

    Scotland used to be quite British. Never equally to Scottish, but for a brief period around the time of universal suffrage through the war and into the post-war consensus, it did. Socialism created a British society that Scots could feel part of / identify with. Thatcherism took it away and with no empire left, there ceased to be a reason for union.

    Scotland has not become more Scottish, but progressively less British as right-wing individualism has been promoted by Britain. That's not conducive to nation building for a nation is a society and a society is ultimately a form of socialism.

    Ironic that the party of the union could not see that they were the reason for its demise.

    Waffle over.