I may have been in a small minority on this point, but I actually thought Question Time's attitude to Scotland in general and to the SNP in particular had improved somewhat over recent months. We seemed to have moved on from the incredulous reaction a viewer received last spring when he dared to ask why the SNP weren't represented in an edition of the programme recorded in England. Since then, a compromise seems to have been reached whereby the SNP do regularly feature in English-based episodes, but not every single week - which is perhaps fair enough given the unprecedented situation of Westminster's third-largest party being a Scotland-only outfit.
But as has now been well-documented, last night's show from Dundee was a monumental step backwards, and probably marked an all-time low - it was certainly even worse than the notorious Glasgow episode in 2010. What escapes me is the mathematical formula or guiding principles that could possibly have resulted in an audience that was so comically unrepresentative of the city, region, and even the nation that the programme was being filmed in. Were the BBC aiming for an audience that reflected the political views of the UK as a whole, and not of Dundee or Scotland? Nope, that can't be it, otherwise a small number of SNP supporters would be bussed down to England every week to make up their 5% share of the Question Time audience - and we all know that doesn't happen. Or perhaps the production team ignored the current state of Scottish public opinion, and simply aimed for a crude four-way split between SNP, Labour, Tory and Lib Dem supporters, with a smattering of Greens and undecideds thrown in? That's perhaps more plausible, although it's hard to see how it can be justified, because it must have led to a roughly 65-70% anti-independence majority among the audience in a city that actually voted Yes to independence by a wide margin. It wouldn't have been so bad if the discussion hadn't related to independence, but it clearly did to a significant extent. And isn't it fascinating that the artificial quota for each party could seemingly only be reached by bringing in loads of people from far outwith the Dundee area, and indeed from far outwith Scotland?
It's also worth amplifying a point made by RevStu earlier - David Dimbleby's claim during the programme that everyone had known at the time of the indyref than an in/out EU referendum was on its way is a piece of utter nonsense. Very few commentators anticipated an outright Conservative majority, which meant the odds actually seemed to be against an EU referendum - it wasn't going to happen if there was any form of Labour-led government, and whether it happened under a Tory-led government was expected to depend in large part upon the negotiating stance of the Liberal Democrats. But even if it was true that an EU referendum had looked certain eighteen months ago, that would still miss the whole point. The Better Together campaign claimed explicitly that only a No vote was a vote for continued EU membership - and they did that in spite of their knowledge that there was a very realistic scenario which could lead to Scotland being swiftly forced out of the EU against its will if it voted No. In a nutshell, the No vote was won under false pretences - and the London media were complicit in that, because they failed to challenge a very obvious deception. If the likes of Dimbleby had hounded the Tories over the contradiction of planning for an in/out EU vote at the same time they were inviting Scotland to vote No as the only way of guaranteeing EU membership, he might now have a point in saying that the Scottish people shouldn't be surprised by how things have panned out. But he didn't, so he doesn't.
* * *
Without much fanfare, there was a huge moment in the EU referendum campaign earlier this week. YouGov's recent batch of polling had seemed to indicate a significant swing towards Remain - so I was waiting with bated breath to see if the weekly ICM poll picked up the same trend. In fact, it went in completely the opposite direction, and showed a Leave lead for only the second time. That's unlikely to be a freak finding, because last week's poll was very similar (it was a dead heat).
If all of the online pollsters had agreed with YouGov, it might have started to look like the writing was on the on the wall for Leave - but instead the waters have been muddied further. ICM, often regarded as the "gold standard" of UK polling companies, has simply swapped places with YouGov as the more Leave-friendly firm. Why that has suddenly happened is anyone's guess.
Meanwhile, a new full-scale Scottish poll from YouGov suggests that the Remain lead north of the border has dropped sharply from 27 points to 17 points over the last month, which seems thoroughly counterintuitive given that the same firm has shown the opposite trend across Great Britain. Support for independence is unchanged at 46% - which makes it more likely that the modest drop in the Yes vote in the last YouGov poll wasn't a fluke. The most recent poll from Scotland's only regular telephone pollster (Ipsos-Mori) also showed slippage in the Yes vote - but still showed Yes in the lead. So we're no closer to knowing whether there is currently a narrow pro-independence majority, or a narrow anti-independence majority - it depends on the data collection method, and perhaps on other aspects of polling methodology.
SCOT GOES POP POLL OF POLLS
Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?
50/50 ONLINE/TELEPHONE AVERAGE :
Remain 45.9% (+0.1)
Leave 38.6% (n/c)
ONLINE AVERAGE :
Remain 40.9% (+0.2)
Leave 39.8% (n/c)
TELEPHONE AVERAGE :
Remain 50.8% (n/c)
Leave 37.3% (n/c)
(The Poll of Polls takes account of all polls that were conducted at least partly within the last month. The online average is based on twelve polls - five from YouGov, four from ICM, one from ORB, one from BMG and one from TNS. The telephone average is based on four polls - two from ComRes, one from Ipsos-Mori and one from Survation.)