Wednesday, December 24, 2014

A stupid (and possibly malicious) mythology about the referendum polls which must not be allowed to take root

I wasn't intending to post again until after Christmas, but there's an article on Political Betting this morning which I can't allow to pass without comment. It's written by ICM's former head of polling Nick Sparrow, and seeks to cast doubt on the reliability of polls that are conducted using volunteer online panels. That's fine in principle, because we've always known that the most which can be claimed about online polls is that they work reasonably well in practice, although they definitely shouldn't work in theory. But Sparrow's use of recent Scottish examples to illustrate his reasons for thinking that online polling may not even work in practice is, I'm afraid, utterly misconceived, and possibly even malicious in intent.

"What if that poll, you know the one that said “Yes” would win in Scotland, the one that panicked the whole political establishment into making wild promises for constitutional reform for us all was – how can I put this – wrong; the product of views expressed by people with stronger views and a more optimistic outlook than others? People who might be considered to be more likely to embrace a new vision of an independent future for Scotland, less concerned than others, for example that Scotland may not have a currency, or place inside the EU."

Yeah, and what if that poll was in fact bang on the money, at least to within the standard 3% margin of error? What if we had lots of supporting evidence for that from other polls, including from PHONE POLLS? You know, like the ICM and Ipsos-Mori phone polls that put the Yes vote on 49%, well within the margin of error of YouGov's 51%? Not to mention the face-to-face poll from TNS-BMRB that had Yes on 50%?

What if there are an awful lot of people out there who simply can't understand that polls are a snapshot of opinion at a particular moment in time, and not a "prediction" of how people will vote ten days later? What if, because of that elementary misunderstanding, a politically convenient mythology is doing the rounds in some quarters that the referendum was never in fact too close to call ("the Jocks were always too sensible for that self-government nonsense"), and that the perception that it was had been caused by a single "wrong" poll? And what if someone from the polling industry, who must know perfectly well that none of this makes any logical sense whatever, buys into that mythology (albeit in a deniable way, using weasel words) in order to pursue an agenda of his own? Wouldn't that be rather cynical and irresponsible?

The reality is that polls using all data collection methods (phone, face-to-face and online) were in almost total agreement by the close of the referendum campaign. They all overestimated Yes, but not by much. YouGov's own on-the-day poll overestimated Yes by just 1% - and that was a 2% drop from the previous day's poll. That's fully consistent with Yes support having reached somewhere in the region of the high 40s by the penultimate weekend (reported as 51% in one particular poll due to the margin of error), before slipping back - which ironically is likely to have happened mostly because of the "shock and awe" campaign of terror that was triggered by the London establishment's reaction to the very poll Sparrow is moaning about.

"What if online polls, comprising panellists with stronger opinions than others, being more optimistic and more volatile suggest in the run up to the next general election that the LibDems will be annihilated, UKIP and the SNP in Scotland are surging upwards, Farage and Salmond will be the new kingmakers and mould breakers? In the end the “Yes” campaign in Scotland did not do as well as predicted, but did it do better than it would have done if the polls had suggested the “No” campaign were always going to win comfortably? What if online polls over the next few months inflate UKIP and the SNP, thereby encouraging more voters to switch to them? In the end they may not do as well as predicted by some polls, but they may do better than they would have done had earlier polls not suggested they were on the march.

This means pollsters are not innocent observers of public opinion, but active participants in the political process; not only reporting public opinion but helping to shape it."

As already noted, the Yes campaign could well have done without the poll that put them ahead. That poll did indeed "help" to shape opinion, but in a way that was - sadly - contrary to what Sparrow is slyly suggesting. But his point about the general election polls is, if anything, even more absurd than his witterings about the referendum. Tell me, Nick - which poll was it that first suggested that the SNP were heading for a landslide next May? That's right - it was an Ipsos-Mori PHONE POLL. As it happens, that poll gave the SNP an enormous 29-point lead, which is considerably larger than the lead that any online poll has reported. YouGov themselves have been positively conservative in comparison to the phone poll - they've shown SNP leads of "only" 16 and 20 points respectively.

Has this guy even been paying attention?


  1. Reading it here, the last of the two paragraphs of the quote towards the bottom definitely read like he's telling them to stop it almost (by 'it', I mean shaping public opinion, as he claims they do, suppress true SNP or UKIP figures in case it encourages others to vote for them. If the pollsters ever go down that road (if they have never!), then that's the end of them as far as credibility goes. What's he implying renders polling pointless, unless you don't really want it to reflect reality.

    1. He gives the game away about where he's coming from with the tripe about how an independent Scotland would have been the only country in the entire world "not to have a currency".

  2. Andrew Neil is very vocal by always referring to the Yes lead as a "rogue poll" despite another poll also giving a Yes lead and the margin or error being consistent with all the other polling in the final weeks. I would think there is a lot of traction in seeing certain establishment voices want to build this narrative.

    As well as the Shock and Awe mentioned in the article, there's no mention of the "Quebec Effect" where people who would poll as Yes, intend to vote Yes but then bottle it when faced with the ballot paper and actually vote No. We don't know how large this effect is, it could easily be 3% and at 3% would mean that the polling data and result match almost exactly.

  3. I remember how in early 2011, polls which showed Labour way out in front encouraged everyone to vote Labour in May.

    Likewise ahead of the iref when MORI, TNS and Yougov all showed a very large no leads weeks ahead of the vote; that encouraged the polls not to subsequently close rapidly as the day approached.

    Seriously worrying that this guy worked for a polling company. Supposedly the 'gold standard' one too.

    I'd agree that the views of online panelists will be a bit different from the public as a whole. That's why we have a mix of different types of polls. All of these tend to come into similar ranges the closer we get to a vote, just as they did in the iref.

  4. Opinion polls in Scotland now awash with disproportionate Yes vote. This was talked about a few months before the ref. YouGov was apparently swamped with new Scottish members. Yes voters are extremely well organised I'll give them that.
    Polls used to be a good gauge of public opinion but sadly I wouldn't trust any Scottish opinion poll now - the yesers have ruined that too now.


    1. Aye, we've even infiltrated BT so that telephone random digit dialling is skewed towards Yes / SNP voting households (we have a database of every home and know what each person in Scotland supports / voted previously).

      Ahead of September, we also had crews following TNS when they were random door chapping. If we saw them heading towards a house that would in the end vote No (there's a time machine involved here, but it's complex so just go with me for now), they'd distract the TNS people while someone broke in and tied up any occupants before answering the door and pretending to be said occupants. Team was huge as we had to make sure the person that broke in was the right demographic for the TNS quota (which we got from insiders at TNS).

      This all helped us ensure that, on average, polls were fairly close to the final outcome. Some have argued that this was a stupid thing to do and we should have focussed on campaigning instead. I tend to agree in retrospect.

    2. I signed up to YouGov a few months before the referendum. (I actually did it after seeing people on better together's Facebook page urging No supporters to sign up to influence the polls, but no matter.) In the time before I got fed up and left again I was not invited to participate in any poll at all relating to the referendum, or politics in general. The only things I got sent were marketing research. YouGov aren't daft. They don't just send polls out to everyone on the list. Just like more traditional polling companies they select the people they poll to give a representative sample (or to get the result the people commissioning the poll are looking for but that's a different argument) and will recognise what is happening if a sudden influx of new people sign up right before a referendum.

    3. Just to be clear, my reply above is from a different "Anonymous" to the one making the original comment.

    4. From Anonymous (DOPY?)
      to Scottish skier.
      From Anonymous (Dopey)

      You may think that is funny but I believe you Nats might even have done all that.

    5. Keep the time machine under wraps. Work first started on it post 1979 but it took until 2006 to get a breakthrough. Just in time to use it to help the SNP take the most seats in 2007.

    6. No the yessers never ruined it those that wanted a no vote,The Establishment,ruined it by forcing people to fear their own ability and let them in Westminster take all that Scotland has for them and their families future and us Scots well we never deserved anything for giving up our country without a fight.The reason they pushed the yes vote was to scare a reaction from Cameron and co,as they are all the one party anyhow.

    7. We know that you don't have a time machine, otherwise Geoff Hurst wouldn't have 'scored' that goal. ;-)

    8. The original anonymous.
      My point is that yes voters are so well entrenched, so bitter, cunning that tgety are now skewing all polls.
      It is very easy for Yes voters to masquerade as a No voter / labour voter to say that they would now vote yes / SNP - especially in a phone poll as there is no history of attitudes.
      The "science" of polling is based on sampling a true cross section of opinion. Yesers have ruined the prospect of having an accurate sample because of their underhanded tactics - Scottish polls can no longer be trusted - another legacy of this bitter campaign!

  5. The entire premise starts out with the horseshit myth that has somehow taken hold among the westminster bubble chattering classes.

    ""What if that poll, you know the one that said “Yes” would win in Scotland, the one that panicked the whole political establishment"

    Wrong. It was never just one poll. It was a combination of that one poll, private polling, all the other public polling and the reports from the ground that panicked them. Needless to say it's convenient for the out of touch twits to now lay all the blame on one poll rather than admit they had no choice but to panic, but it simply doesn't square with the reality on the ground that the result was indeed too close for any side to take for granted when it got down to the wire. The totality of all the polling and the reports from the ground were what led to the No sides belated realisation that they had been taking it for granted for far too long and is precisely what explains their all encompassing omnipanic and the unprecedented wall to wall propaganda barrage from the overwhelmingly unionist media.

    Those unfulfilled panic promises and the astonishing spectacle of a media throwing all objectivity out the window are some of the prime factors in what is driving the growing strength of the SNP (and indeed the other Yes parties) while the likes of Labour are quite clearly in deep, deep shit. Quite simply the unionists gave zero thought to what would happen after they threw everything at Yes supporters and exposed their pet media mouthpieces as utterly biased. Turns out that 45% of scots on a colossal turnout didn't enjoy all the smearing of themselves by a media that revealed itself to be a corrupt and unprincipled mouthpiece for westminster establishment interests. Turns out that disgust, anger and the steely determination to change that unacceptable situation have translated into an SNP membership approaching 100,000 and polling that keeps indicating a Labour hammering of unheard of proportions in what was previously the strongest of their heartlands. Yeah, that's a real big shock, isn't it?


    No doubt a similar lack of thought was given to the medium to long term after the first Devolution referendum was lost. Needless to say the incomprehension that Devolution didn't kill the SNP "stone dead" is being matched by a similar level of cluelessness from westminster bubble pundits who seemed to think that No in the first indyref would also kill the SNP and Independence if not stone dead then very close to it. Nope! They could not be more wrong.

    We go into the new year with scottish politics basically indicating (though membership, activism and the polling) that the westminster parties and their leaders are hugely unpopular while support for the SNP is at an all time high and the other Yes parties have a very healthy growing base too. It could hardly be more obvious that scots have put westminster on their 'final warning', yet how many of the westminster leaders or the chattering classes London media even realise it? They will have to learn the hard way as always and it looks very like May is going to be that harsh lesson for them to ignore at their peril.

    1. An excellent piece Mike. Should be circulated to a wider audience.

  6. From Anonymous (Dopey)

    You may think that is funny but I believe you might even have done all that.

  7. Well done James. I read that tripe in Political Betting. Would not surprise me if Sparrow massaged his results to give answers he wants.

  8. Unionists using the excuse of panic,the reason to water down promises they made to Scottish people,Andrew Neil is the cheer leader,where in the VOW do the leaders say devomax?

    Gordon Browns Loanhead speech given live airtime BBC quickly put back in the vaults.

    Scots are now politically charged,and will reply GE 2015

  9. Who decided that there would be no exit polls? Unimaginable in this day when they're done for every election now. Who decided and why?

  10. everyone bangs on about 3.1% accuracy...totally forgetting to mention that the fact that the 3.1% only applies 95 times out of 100.
    5 times out of 100 I'd expect a poll to be less accurate than that. I'd be suspicious if that wasn't the case, or to put it another way, if there wasn't a "wrong un' " somewhere in the mix.
    Having said that, it's far too convenient to think that one poll in particular is the rogue, especially when other polls at or about the same time showed pretty much the same results and trend. 95 out of 100 doesn't mean the last 5 polls should be regarded as suspect!

  11. The original anonymous here...... 
    My point is that yes voters are so well entrenched, so bitter, cunning that they are now skewing all polls.
    It is very easy for Yes voters to masquerade as a No voter / labour voter to say that they would now vote yes / SNP - especially in a phone poll as there is no history of attitudes. 
    The "science" of polling is based on sampling a true cross section of opinion. Yesers have ruined the prospect of having an accurate sample because of their underhanded tactics - Scottish polls can no longer be trusted - another legacy of this bitter campaign!

    1. HA HA HA

      I thought the "cybernats" were supposed to be the bitter and paranoid people?

    2. Yeah "cybernats" aren't paranoid.'s just everyone else who thinks they are! Lol

    3. Jake - The Yes average across three or four polls on Sat 13th September was 49-50%. I remember this clearly because it was the one day when I switched to believing we would win.
      In the week of Shock and Awe's greatest intensity Yes climbed 1.5% in the poll of polls, 47.5 to 49, (which may give us cause for hope for iref2). The Vow was more decisive IMO, and was followed by all those 48/52 polls.

  12. James, you have attracted some real nutters from PB today.

    M :)

    1. I think Nick Sparrow has just suggested what some people have beleived has been happening with opinion polls most of this year. Opinion polls have been trusted based on the fact that their samples are correct but if the public is giving false information on previous voting intention etc then the poll is flawed

    2. Well, one thing the Scottish public is notorious for is lying to pollsters about 2010. Far too many say they voted SNP. Seems a stupid tactic to me if you wanted to skew polls as pollsters of course heavily down-weigh SNP respondents to correct. Yougov UK and populus UK are prime examples and where details are available.

      You can see it in Survations Scotland poll:

      2010 recalled vote:
      33% Lab
      32% SNP
      18% Con
      11% Lib

      The same people produce a perfect 2011 recall. Often the Scottish electorate tell you they gave the SNP a win in 2010 by a good few points.

      Stupid cybernats - can't even skew polls correctly! Luckily for them Survation doesn't weight to 2010. Although those idiot extremist cybernationalist separatist poll skewists are shooting themselves in the foot when it comes to UK-wide poll subsets where 2010 weighing is regularly applied.

      Come on cybernat black ops; say you voted Labour in 2010, not bloody SNP you fools!


    3. SNP vote has been overstated by polls at most elections and so was the Yes vote at indyref. There is a bravado/ populist factor in saying you'll vote SNP/ Yes but this changes in the ballot box.
      Good chance there will also be a "shy tory" factor at the GE (infamously seen in 1992) and quite possibly a "shy labour" factor in Scotland next year.
      All fine saying to a pollster you vote SNP but will transfer to labour vote on polling day to prevent tory government.

    4. Is straw clutching all you have got left? How pathetic.

    5. "overstated by polls at most elections"

      Let's see in 2015.

    6. Given current polling, a vote for Labour would be completely wasted in most constituencies. It likely wouldn't be counted (vote for the losing candidate is 'wasted' under FPTP). In fact in constituencies where the Tories have a decent share, you might let them in by the back door by voting Labour.

      The safest bet is to vote SNP as that's what most people are planning. That way you have the best chance of your vote being counted and it helping beat the Tories in your constituency.

      Go to bed with Labour and wake up with the Tories...

      A vote for Labour is a vote for the Tories...

      Don't let the Tories in by the back door by voting Labour - vote SNP!...

      Note that this strategy is originally a Labour one - I didn't invent it. In the past, when Labour were 40%+ in polls and the SNP struggling in the mid 20's, voting Labour made some sense if you wanted not to waste your vote and to stop the Tories. Of course, now polls are the other way around, the strategy still holds; it's just SNP is the party to go for and Labour a wasted vote.

      So, Original Anon - don't give Scotland a Tory government by voting Labour. Vote SNP. They've already hinted they'd work with Ed and not the Tories. Could you forgive yourself if you voted Labour and threw your vote away, letting in the Tories?

    7. Scottish Skier -
      Labour won't go into coalition with SNP as Sturgeon has said she would not go into coalition with any party that supports Trident.
      The coalition you are hoping for will not happen. The 41 labour Scottish seats prevented a tory majority in 2010.
      Vote SNP for a tory majority government - or you could vote Labour and get labour :)

    8. James - Is the indyref 2014 all you have left? Soon to be "so last year" :)

    9. You don't seem to understand. Labour are on mid 20's and the SNP on mid 40's. A vote for Labour is utterly wasted unless polls pretty much completely reverse. All you'll do is increase the chances of a Tory taking the seat and help the Tories get a majority.

      See here about wasted votes:

      If the polls reverse then your argument would start to make some sense if you want a Labour government. Unless that happens, then a vote for Labour is a vote to help the Tories.

      Labour have said this for decades when the polls were the other way around (Lab on top and SNP struggling). I'm just saying do what Labour have always said to do: vote for the non-Tory party with the best chance of winning. That used to be Labour, now its SNP.

      You want to let the Tories in? Go ahead. Clearly you don't care about Scotland, only scraping a few extra Labour MPs at the price of handing the Tories some and sending them closer to victory.

    10. "Is the indyref 2014 all you have left? Soon to be "so last year" :)"

      I suspect that's your problem, not ours. I ended last year optimistic, even though we were a long way behind in most of the polls. This time I'm optimistic because we're miles ahead in the polls. Happy New Year.

      "The 41 labour Scottish seats prevented a tory majority in 2010."

      As did the six SNP MPs, the three Plaid Cymru MPs, and all the other non-Tory MPs.

      "Vote SNP for a tory majority government"

      One day, even members of the Scottish Labour party will understand how the basic laws of arithmetic work. But it appears that day is not today.

    11. When was the SNP overstated in a general election? In the run up to 2010 the SNP lost support directly to the Lib Dems after the leader's debates/Cleggasm. The final polls accurately predicted the SNP share. The final 2011 polls were also pretty much spot on 45%.

    12. Also, there is no evidence for shy Tory syndrome in online polls. As far as I can see from the polls in the run up to 2010, they pretty consistently remained within the 3% margin of error over and under their eventual result of 17%. If shy Labour syndrome exists it is a brand new thing.

    13. Scottish Skier -
      You don't seem to understand that Labour will not go into coalition with SNP. If they need a coalition it's far more likely to be with Lib Dems, who despite their low polling will still get approx 30 seats.
      % share of the vote does not really matter in GE it's what happens in individual seats that counts.
      If enough yes voters treat the GE as a re-run of the indy ref they could end up with a tory government. They will then learn the hard way and won't vote SNP again after that.

    14. Callum Finlay -
      The polls before the last 3 elections have overstated SNP (Holyrood, Council and Euro), also overstated the Yes vote and also overstated SNP at a Glasgow by election a few years back.

    15. Anon : Voters have already learned the hard way. They were foolish enough to listen to Jim Murphy when he promised in 2010 that Scotland could somehow keep the Tories out by voting Labour. They're not going to make the same mistake again.

      By the way, can you explain in precise mathematical terms how voting SNP will produce a Tory government? Thought not.

    16. No anon, you don't seem to understand that an SNP MP is the same as any other in terms of numbers reducing the Tory share.

      With one very, very important difference...

      They can block all Westminster legislation from being applied in Scotland if they wish if they have a majority of Scots MPs. Of course Labour MPs (or any other party MPs) could do this too if they didn't take the UK Labour whip as they are part of a ‘British’ party, not a Scottish one.

      The union works by consent. If our MPs say no to something, the rUK has to sit down and work it out with them or end the union. Our Labour, Lib and Tory MPs might vote no to something, but they still give consent for it to be implemented in Scotland as they take a British party whip. 'Scottish MPs' like the SNP won't. That's why they have never voted on English matters. It's not just principle, it's complete power over Scotland.

      If this was not the case, it wouldn’t be a union of equals, but subjugation of one nation by another. When English MPs vote something through and our Scots ones vote against it, it is the latter who are to blame for it happening in Scotland. By voting against, they just register protest when they could actually block it completely.

      So, I'll be voting for Scots MPs that can tell the Tories where to go whether they (Scots MPs) are in a coalition or not thank you very much. MPs that can just take devo max and say 'what are you going to do about it? End the union?’

      I won't be voting for some right-wing Tory-lite ‘red’ (ahem) back bencher who bends over for Ed Miliband / David Cameron and that I'll waste my vote on according to polls.

      Now have a nice Christmas and if you want to stop Tory policies being implemented in Scotland, vote SNP.

      If the SNP get 30+ MPs, all hell is likely going to break loose. The deadlock in N Ireland (because NI parties could not agree to give consent to Westminster for welfare reforms and budget cuts) will look like a picnic by comparison.

    17. Vote SNP for a tory majority government - or you could vote Labour and get labour :)

      What an innumerate statement. The SNP taking a seat from Labour has no effect on whether the Tories reach 326 seats.

    18. James / Scottish Skier -
      I do hope you guys are both dyed in the wool SNP voters.
      If you are previous labour voters then you are being lead a merry dance by David Cameron and co. His EvEl speach was cleverly planned to resurge the SNP vote and diminish the Labour Scottish vote. The tories are playing you guys like a fiddle.
      Next PM will either be Ed M or DC - I'm voting for Ed M's party. What about you guys?

    19. Keaton -
      % share of vote does not matter at GE. Tactical voting will come in to play in Scotland with tartan tories switching to tory - they may increase seats in Angus, Aberdeenshire and Perthshire.
      Minority tory government now also a possibility or tory/Ukip coalition. Best way to get a Labour government is to vote Labour. Need to ask yourself if you want tory lead government or labour government

    20. I was commenting on your earlier claim that voting SNP would help the Tories to achieve a majority, which for some reason you don't address in this post.

      As for the rest: in most of the seats in the three areas you mention, Labour are nowhere. I take it you would recommend voting SNP in Angus to stop the Tories getting in?

    21. "Next PM will either be Ed M or DC - I'm voting for Ed M's party. What about you guys?"

      I'm opting out of that bogus choice and voting for Scottish self-government - and it looks like tens of thousands of betrayed ex-Labour voters will join me in doing the same.

      On September 18th, we all had to make a choice between keeping David Cameron as our overlord, or ensuring that we were never ruled by an unwanted Tory Prime Minister ever again. You, it seems safe to say, voted to keep Cameron in power. That was your prerogative, but with a track record like that don't you DARE try and present the rest of us with a moronic false choice, just because you're scared that the likes of Ian Davidson might not be able to keep themselves in the manner to which they have become accustomed. And if you do try that "choose Ed or Dave" line on others, good luck - you don't seem to have noticed the unambiguous message from the polls that Scots think Ed Miliband would be an EVEN WORSE Prime Minister than Cammo.

      "I do hope you guys are both dyed in the wool SNP voters."

      If you mean "would I vote Labour if the SNP didn't exist?", the answer is no I wouldn't. I hold liberal and left-of-centre views, so of course I wouldn't vote for the authoritarian, right-wing party that Labour has become.

      "His EvEl speach was cleverly planned to resurge the SNP vote and diminish the Labour Scottish vote."

      Ah, so the hilarious unionist meltdown after the referendum was a STRATEGY?

      "Tactical voting will come in to play in Scotland with tartan tories switching to tory - they may increase seats in Angus, Aberdeenshire and Perthshire."

      Can we quote you on that? Anonymous Labour activist tells the Scots Goes Pop blog that it's "Vote Labour, get Tory" in large swathes of northeast Scotland?

    22. James -
      The SNP traditional voters "tartan tories" voted No in the referendum.
      Do you really think that tgey will vote SNP again? The party has been taken over as a far left uprising - these guys will revert to tory to keep labour and far left parties out

  13. I disagree with Sparrow. If anything, the YouGov poll actually galvanised the No side. From my own experiences when I canvassed for Better Together, I found that many No voters were going into September (Even in spite of the narrowing of polls that was occurring) with a complacent "It'll never happen" attitude. This worried me as I always thought that differential turnout could well win it for Yes.

    When I went canvassing the day after YouGov's 51% Yes poll, the difference couldn't have been more stark. There was a palpable sense of fear among many otherwise complacent No voters, a sense of "Oh shit, they might really win this". It became much easier for me to impress on them the importance of getting out to vote.

    1. Will thanks for trapping us in poverty.

    2. A very merry Christmas to you too, friend! Always warms the heart for my efforts to be appreciated over the festive season.

  14. wee jock poo-pong mcplopDecember 24, 2014 at 6:59 PM

    "palpable sense of fear". Indeed. So you could see that your Project had been working, then?

  15. If England votes Tory we get Tory and if England votes Labour we get Labour as it has done 99.94% of the time.

  16. I think Stoat is right to say that the poll benefited the No campaign, there is no doubt that they also delivered a better turnout of their voters than the Yes campaign. Hopefully lessons will have been learned. Although perhaps the poster could reflect on what exactly is positive about scaring so many of the electorate in Scotland in the manner that the No campaign did.

    I have to say that I find it sad that so many people in Scotland voted for the nation not to run all of its own affairs, and government. I know that around 25 per cent of people view themselves as British, but for the rest to vote against full Scottish self government is a dire state of affairs. How on earth can you deliver a good, positive and healthy nation and society in Scotland, if more than 50 per cent vote against full self government? I simply do not understand this mentality at all.

    1. For most people it was not about sekf governance / Nationhood etc. It was about the drastic effects thus would have on our daily lives. Independence would have meant 10-15 years of hardship to many more people. People could have lost their jobs, houses being repossessed and businesses going under due to the uneccasary risk of independence. The recent oil price drop has highlighted just how dangerous independence would have been - this would have lead to a 6% drop in GDP. What would that gave done to the reliance on foodbanks. Goods abd services would have cost more, banking was going to be more expensive (incresing mortgages and bank loan rates etc) no real currency and no central bank to safeguard bank deposits.
      Thankfully not everyone was blinded by Scottish Nationalism.

    2. Oh give it a rest - the referendum is over, you can ease up on the "we're all doomed, I tell ye" propaganda for a couple of years.

    3. Leaving aside the hilarious obliviousness you display as you shriek about the dangers to prosperity after Labour and now the tories have trashed the economy and seen the gap between rich and poor continue to widen - at least educate yourself to a reasonable standard before trotting out sub Daily Mail style imbecility on here for us to laugh at.

      Thankfully not everyone has the IQ of a walnut and believes everything they see in the Daily Mail or on the BBC.

    4. Mick Pork -
      If you want to believe crank websites like WoS and want to ignore the fact that the oil price crash in an Iscotland would not have made this country poorer then that's up to you.
      There is certainly nothing on WoS worthy of being educational it's nothing more than pro independence fanzine website littered with inaccuracies

  17. It was of course only a matter of time before the dimmest of the Labour cheerleaders matched Clegg's ostrich faction for sheer head in the sand out of touch twattery. After all, little Ed is polling even worse than calamity Clegg which is a truly breathtaking 'accomplishment'.

    Which brings us to the two words that utterly destroy Labour's desperate and tired bleating about letting Cameron and the tories in. (no, not "Red Tories" though that is admittedly a fairly close second.)

    Ed Miliband.

    That's all you need to say to the scottish public whenever panicking Labour minions try to raise the spectre of a tory government. Just how stupendously out of touch are Labour not to have noticed that little Ed isn't just less popular than calamity Clegg in scotland but (somehow) less popular than the incompetent fop Cameron?

    Not that he's rated much higher elsewhere of course but it is simply inconceivable that the scottish public think so very, very little of Ed Miliband if they were convinced he was either capable of winning a majority or indeed any fucking use whatsoever.

    So by all means keep reminding the scottish public that Labour arrogantly think they are entitled to their vote no matter what and just where that vote would go. To a Labour leader in Ed Miliband who could scarcely be more unpopular and who the scottish public know cannot win a majority.

  18. I have never before heard the argument Scottish Skier makes above that if the SNP hold a majority of Scottish seats they could block all Westminster legislation from being implemented in Scotland simply by refusing to vote on it.
    We have an unwritten constitution. What exactly is the mechanism by which this comes about?

    1. Well, I grew up with 'Vote SNP if you want independence'. It was understood that if you elected the SNP as a majority of MPs, then they'd have a mandate to start negotiations for independence (or at least to hold a referendum). We are after all a union of countries, with Scotland sovereign. The referendum made that clear to the world so nobody could dispute it any more. Sure we chose to stay, but it demonstrated how we are free to leave if we wish and London does not dispute that (it can't legally as the closest thing the UK has to a constitution is the international treaty of union).

      Now, in such a situation, the SNP would hold half of Scots MPs or more and and policy they put forward could just be voted down by the rest of the commons surely, including any move for independence?

      Ah, but that would no longer mean we were a union, but England subjugating Scotland against the latter's democratic will.

      That's where we are. The HoC can't block the SNP MPs if the SNP have a mandate for something and they have a majority of Scots MPs. Whether that's independence or devo max. Even without a mandate, can still work. The SNP can't really push something that's not in their manifesto, but they can still block other stuff from Westminster until agreement is reached. You have been seeing this happening to an extent in NI at the moment; NI chooses to be part of the union and not Ireland. It's free to go too. Its MPs are roughly split between nationalist and unionist with some neutrals. Hence the deadlock and the fact that George's welfare reforms, cuts etc have yet to be properly implemented.

      Short of sending in tanks and ending the union by turning it into an occupation, there's nothing Westminster can do but negotiate.

      This is why Westminster fears SNP MPs far more than them in Holyrood.

      They don't fear our Tory, Lab and Lib MPs because they take British party whips and vote on English laws. By doing so they give up the right to veto British/English laws being applied to Scotland. They could stop SVEL and veto EVSL, but they won't. They're British.

      The union functions if we keep electing British parties in Scotland to Westminster. If we elect Scottish parties which won't take a British whip in majority, everything changes.

      SNP know this but will not necessarily shout it out; better to keep cards close to their chest. They will stand on a devo max mandate however (at least I fully expect them to), giving them the mandate and power to transfer tax and spending to Holyrood. Westminster would have to work something out with them on this unless it wants to end the union.

      Think about it this way; how would Westminster force through legislation in Scotland without the permission of Scotland's MPs and Holyrood (Westminster laws have to pass through Holyrood right now just as they used to be implemented by the Scottish office and formerly the SoSfS)? It can't basically, not unless it invades. What if it tried to stop Scotland getting any block grant? Well, that would cause economic chaos and the Scottish government could e.g. fight back by passing a law saying all taxes in Scotland are now going to Edinburgh. They are in charge of the police, courts etc after all...

      Put SNP in Westminster and Scotland is in control.

      Merry Christmas!

    2. No offence Scottish Skier, but this is absolute crap.

      The SNP having a majority of seats in Scotland does not give them a mandate to block any Westminster legislation.

      Nice story, but completely fictional.

    3. So you are saying that Scotland is is a colony Boab? That if the SNP won a majority of Scots MPs pre-Holyrood, England could stop Scotland holding a referendum by voting down the SNP? (this 'old way' of course still applies and you saw the wails from unionists when it was mentioned by the SNP in passing, confirming what I'm saying)

      Interesting concept Boab.

      Can you direct me to where this is written? Your 'English MPs have full control over Scotland / England owns Scotland / Scotland is a colony of England' thing? Pretty incredible it true. Why didn't they just say No to our recent iref? Would have saved a lot of bother.

      What's happening in NI? Why doesn't London just force through all the welfare reforms and budget cuts if England owns Northern Ireland like it does Scotland?

      And if the SNP said No, how would our English masters 'force' the legislation upon us?

      Would they send troops? Would the English close Holyrood with tanks? That's what it would be; not the 'British' closing Holyrood, but the 'English' (I don't see the Welsh and NI MPs voting to end Scotland's devolved parliament but even if they did, that would still be subjugation of one nation by others).

      Scotland consented to join the union. It continues to consent to Westminster rule by electing British unionist parties. If it elects nationalist or 'devo maxist' parties with mandates as a appropriate, that consent is varyingly withdrawn.

      I'm happy to have the above debated and people offer explanations as to how England can just rule Scotland as a colony, by force if needed of course. Dismissing what I say as fantasy, even in the face of evidence (e.g. 'vote SNP if you want independence') isn't the best response.

    4. All you are doing SS is expressing/explaining the Scottish perspective or understanding of the 'Union' we find ourselves in (an understanding I agree with incidentally). It does not however take on board the realities of the 'English' (=British) understanding or perspective of this 'Union' they have created.

      You ask 'Can you direct me to where this is written?'

      Yes here: Annex A, Opinion: Referendum on the Independence of Scotland - International Law Aspects. British Government legal opinion from Proffessors James Crawford and Alan Boyle. 10th Dec. 2012

      para 35 and 95.

      (95.) '.... Whether or not the UK is the continuator state of England, Scotland was extinguished in 1707, so this possibility may not depend on Scott's [or yours, or my own] view that the UK was created by the Treaty of Union' (35.) An alternative view is that as a matter of international law England continued, albeit under a new name and regardless of the position in domestic law, was simply enlarged to incorporate Scotland.'

      You and I may not like it SS, or subscribe to it but that is the most recent official legal position of the UK State on it's own formation. ('Our' UK State.)

      You put forward some options the UK has of continual rule in Scotland as somehow ludicrous and impossible. Everyone of which has been practised enthusiastically by the UK state whenever faced with equivalent situations in the past.

      I am not forecasting such events, but such events in the past were as a result of Westminster's inability to plan, adjust and modify itself to it's new reality. UK's current Empire mindset as illustrated by our various foreign military adventures around the world does not, to me, indicate much scope for optimism however.

      As far as Boab's point is concerned, I think he understands that simply 'expecting' England (=Britain) to happily conform to our reading of 'the Constitution' sounds naive in the extreme.

      These are the reasons I have been perplexed by the loud and vociferous voices from our own side post referendum (I think Boab was one, not sure so apologies Boab if I am wrong) ruling out, absolutely, any form of UDI. All the more perplexing when UDI is well understood and internationally accepted Legal mechanism to gain Independence from an intransigent State .

      Scotland lost her Independence through a majority of it's MPS declaring UDU in 1707. Scotland's MPs declaring UDI , by democratic majority, may eventually be it's only way back out again.
      well worth the effort and very thought provoking.


    5. Merry Christmas everybody BTW! :-)


    6. SS : The situation is different in Northern Ireland because welfare is devolved. If Westminster wanted to impose welfare reform they'd have to suspend the assembly or strip it of one of its key powers.

  19. "That's fully consistent with Yes support having reached somewhere in the region of the high 40s by the penultimate weekend (reported as 51% in one particular poll due to the margin of error), before slipping back - which ironically is likely to have happened mostly because of the "shock and awe" campaign of terror that was triggered by the London establishment's reaction to the very poll Sparrow is moaning about."

    James, has it occurred to you - it certainly has to me - that the supremely Establishment Peter Kellner, most of whose previous polls deliberately downsized the Yes vote through various weighting tactics, is just the man to deliberately light a firework up Westminster's arse through skewing this "rogue" poll, in order to galvanise the No side into throwing everything and then some at Yes?

    It worked - short term. Longer term, as Mick's post eloquently explains, it is boomeranging badly.

  20. Merry Christmas to all, even wee Labour trolls.

    p.s. if you are convinced that the Tories are going to win seats in "Angus, Aberdeenshire and Perthshire" -- fill your boots at the expense of Mr Ladbrokes.

    Tories are 20/1 to in Angus

    12/1 in Perth and North Perthshire

    5/2 (third favourite) in W. Aberdeenshire

    1. Merry Christmas
      Checked out some odds -
      SNP only odds on favourites to take 4 of the 41 labour seats. Dundee West, Ochill and South Perthshire, Falkirk and Livingston.

      Merry Christmas

    2. You are Mike Smithson and I claim my £10 prize.

      Voters will determine who wins which seat and not any betting site.

    3. Thanks for the tip; various SNP to win bets made. I don't normally gamble, but this is an opportunity not to be missed. Free money basically. Punters down south obviously not following Scottish polls! Bookies will be pleased with them betting on Labour - will make the former a tidy sum.

    4. Scottish Skier -
      Not free money at all. Have you ever seen a poor bookie?
      % share of the vote irrelevant at GE, there are 59 seperate elections in Scotland at the GE, not just one.
      Bookies very rarely get it drastically wrong. SNP will get 15-20 seats tops

    5. Of all the lazy chestnuts that people come out with, "the bookies very rarely get it wrong" is the silliiest of the lot. The bookies actually have a poor track record on politics - even Mike "can't be arsed" Smithson would tell you that. My favourite (which I've mentioned here umpteen times) is that they had Labour as overwhelming odds-on favourites to win most seats in 2007 for several hours AFTER Brian Taylor had announced that the SNP were winning.

    6. "SNP will get 15-20 seats tops"

      That will be why the bookies have the over/under line on SNP seats at 24.5 and have SNP favourites to win most seats (8/15 with Ladbrokes).

  21. The Crawford and Boyle analysis is fundamentally broken.

    While they correctly identify that a vote for Independence by Scotland is not to "leave the UK" but to DISSOLVE the UK - the only legal proposition for this outcome - they then fantasise about "Scotland was extinguished" with absolutely no evidence for their contention. They make the statement that England is the continuator state as a subjective opinion then treat EVERYTHING subsequent to this based on the false premise.

    It is broken analysis which would not stand up to the first test in Law. The UK would be dissolved, the status of England both in 1707 and as the lead of rUK would be completely undecided.

    1. Alasdair,
      WE can agree on that obviously, my point being that THEY won't, and when 'they' make up 85% of the UK population and occupy all seats of meaningful power, 'reasonable' argument proving the faulty nature of their constitutional belief structure is very liable to fall on deaf ears or worse, outraged ears!

      This is similar to an atheist arguing with a believer. Neither is able to comprehend the obvious truth of their perception. This is almost as basic, as it encompasses a conflicting perception of the UK's 'creation myth'.


  22. " The HoC can't block the SNP MPs if the SNP have a mandate for something and they have a majority of Scots MPs."

    I think the point at which your analysis falls down is that you believe the SNP can take their seats in parliament and yet decide whether Westminster is sovereign on an issue-by-issue basis. If they take their seats in parliament and take the oath, they agree to be bound by the rules and conventions of parliament, the rulings of the Speaker, etc. Not voting (abstaining) on something is not the same as rejecting the right of the body you are a member of to rule on that issue.

    One of the most important conventions of the House of Commons is that any member can vote on any issue that comes before the House. If that is broken because of EVEL, then in the long run it will be very damaging for the Union, as I think you would agree.

    If the SNP chose to stand for election on a platform of UDI if they won a majority of Scottish seats, I would expect them to abstain from parliament (like Sinn Fein) afterwards. That would bring the issue to a head and the British government would then have to decide (as in the Irish case) how to respond.