Sunday, August 19, 2018

What actually is a "People's Vote" anyway?

It's sad to see an intelligent and talented man such as Rory Bremner (who I genuinely used to be a big fan of and in some ways still am) making a bit of a fool of himself with a hopelessly contradictory attack on the pro-independence movement.  He claimed on Twitter that Yessers need to accept the result of the 2014 independence referendum, stop demanding a rerun, acknowledge that Brexiteers are now the real enemy, and...er...join the campaign for a rerun of the 2016 EU referendum.  Quite why the 2014 result must be regarded as sacred for all time and the 2016 result must be immediately set aside isn't entirely clear.  Perhaps it's because the Leave campaign only won in 2016 by telling voters a pack of lies, which is completely different from how the No campaign won in 2014 in absolutely no way whatsoever.

Elsewhere, I was one of several people who "profoundly saddened" the leading anti-Brexit campaigner Professor Tanja Bueltmann yesterday.  There was an awful lot of "profound sadness" emanating from that direction, mainly because SNP supporters were challenging her view that any failure to support a UK-wide rerun of the 2016 referendum (a unionist project if ever there was one) constituted harmful "division". She pointed out that "until a couple of hours ago" she had been a supporter of Scottish independence, which begs the obvious question of just how meaningful or thought-through that support had ever been if an argument on Twitter was capable of ending it in the space of a single afternoon.  I mean, if arguing with people on your own side was enough to do the trick, James Mackenzie and the Richard gang would have converted me to No years ago.

I'm a bit puzzled by the whole "People's Vote" schtick in any case.  It seems to be intended to contrast with the 2016 referendum, which must have been some kind of "Elite Vote", in spite of the fact that 33 million people took part in it.  Yes, OK, it was a deeply unsatisfactory process because of the fact that the Leave campaign broke the rules, but how do you prevent that happening again?  Rules can always be bent or broken and nothing is likely to be done about it until long after the vote is over.  What else could be made different from the 2016 People's Vote?  Theoretically the franchise could be widened to include EU nationals and 16 and 17 year olds, and yes, that should be done as a matter of principle.  But in practice it would simply mean that Brexiteers wouldn't accept any narrow Remain vote as valid, and would immediately start campaigning for a third referendum.

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Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Let's state the obvious again: waiting until Yes support is at 60% is a recipe for Scotland never becoming an independent country

You might have seen that I was name-checked the other day in an article by Iain Macwhirter about a supposed danger of SNP disunity after Nicola Sturgeon makes her long-awaited decision in the autumn.  I think the first thing to say here is that any implication that there could eventually be a threat to Ms Sturgeon's own position as leader is faintly ludicrous.  She's by some distance the party's greatest asset, and it's obvious that any replacement in the foreseeable future would be a step backwards.  The two most credible alternative leaders are Humza Yousaf, who is probably the long-term heir apparent but needs more experience, and Angus Robertson, who has left active politics for the time being.

Nevertheless, Iain claims that Ms Sturgeon "wants to see support for Yes heading in the direction of 60% before she acts".  And it's quite true that, if this reading is correct, I and a great many others within the SNP would believe she's about to make a terrible mistake.  But my question is the same one I've asked of the BBC's Sarah Smith: how does Iain actually know that Ms Sturgeon intends to 'wait' for the impossible 60%?  Is he guessing?  Does he have a reliable source?  Has he had direct conversations with Ms Sturgeon on the matter?  He doesn't tell us, and doesn't even give us any clues.  I'll be more open and concede I have absolutely no private insight into Ms Sturgeon's thinking, but I do find it incredibly hard to believe that she would be foolish enough to set herself a fanciful target for pre-campaign Yes support that every scrap of logic suggests will not and cannot be met.  Even amidst the initial shock after the Brexit referendum result, Yes support only reached the low 50s.  Bearing that precedent in mind, how can anyone expect to get close to 60% without even campaigning?  The only people who would seriously set a 60% target are those who don't want an independence referendum to take place, and who don't want Scotland to become an independent country within their political lifetimes.  I believe Ms Sturgeon does want independence as soon as humanly possible.

Iain also suggests that Ms Sturgeon might use her autumn statement to abandon an independence referendum in favour of a push for a second EU referendum, but that sounds even less plausible than the 60% claim (which makes me suspect the whole thing may be wishful thinking on Iain's part).  In doing that, she would be endorsing the right of the UK electorate as a whole to overrule Scotland's own constitutional preference.  In short, she would be embracing the logic of unionism.  That is quite simply unthinkable for any SNP leader.  She could of course stipulate that the SNP would only support another EU vote if a double mandate was required (ie. the UK as a whole would only leave the EU if Scotland voted Leave), but as that would mean she would remain opposed to any referendum that might actually take place in the real world, what would be the point?  It would just be a monumental distraction from the real task in hand, which is to keep Scotland in the EU by means of independence.

I was interviewed about this subject on Radio Sputnik a few days ago, and you can read a transcript HERE (the audio file is also available at the bottom of the page).  Of course when you speak off the cuff you always forget to mention one or two things - basically the point I was trying to make is that the whole purpose of delaying a decision until the autumn of this year was to make sure there was clarity on the shape of Brexit at the time a referendum is called, and to demonstrate that the SNP had sincerely tried (but failed) to keep Britain as a whole in the single market and customs union before turning to an independence referendum as a last resort.  If the necessary clarity arrives on schedule this autumn, a decision can still be made at the planned time.  If it doesn't arrive, a nonsense would be made of the SNP's strategy if they pushed ahead immediately with an indyref just because of a date on a calendar, and I suspect most of the party membership would have no great problem with Ms Sturgeon deciding upon a very short further delay of a few weeks or months until we know whether there is going to be a no deal Brexit or not.  But what would not be accepted is any suggestion that the delay will be open-ended and could lead to the current mandate for a pre-2021 referendum expiring altogether. 

And I just don't believe that the membership will be asked to accept any such thing.

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Tuesday, August 7, 2018

John Curtice is wrong: the Yes rank-and-file would not accept the independence referendum being "kicked into the long grass" this autumn

"Ask John Curtice" was a Twitter meme a few years ago.  It was based on the BBC's endless attempts to get their money's worth out of Curtice's role as a studio pundit by asking him about topics that went quite a way beyond his true expertise as a psephologist.  People started to wonder only half-jokingly if Gordon Brewer might eventually invite Curtice to give relationship advice to viewers.

I was reminded of that earlier today when I saw that Ruth Davidson had jumped on a Courier article in which Curtice is quoted as saying that the odds are against a second independence referendum being held within the next five years, but "probably only marginally".  Needless to say, Davidson didn't mention the "only marginally" bit, which presumably should be taken as meaning that Curtice thinks there is at least a 40% chance of an early referendum.

What made me raise my eyebrows, though, is that Curtice seemed to be basing his assessment mostly on a psychological analysis of Nicola Sturgeon - something that as a psephologist he is no more or less likely to get right than you or I.  He clearly believes that Ms Sturgeon cares more about keeping her job than she does about independence, and therefore won't risk calling a referendum because she supposedly knows that she would have to resign as First Minister if she lost.  If I was Ms Sturgeon, I would feel somewhat insulted by that assumption.  She did, after all, join the SNP at a time when Labour would have been the more natural option for a careerist.  I see no reason to doubt that her commitment to independence is genuine, and that she will judge the success of her career by whether she achieved independence or brought it closer, and not by the number of years she stayed in office.  So, for what it's worth, our knowledge of Nicola Sturgeon's motivations would lead me to the opposite conclusion to Curtice's - ie. that an early referendum is more likely than not.

Curtice also attempts a bit of Kremlinology by reading huge significance into the supposed lack of activity during the summer.  Well, maybe, but remember that the referendum announcement in the spring of 2017 was a complete bolt from the blue as far as the media were concerned.  If Ms Sturgeon wants the same element of surprise the second time around, she wouldn't telegraph a decision in quite the obvious way that Curtice seems to have been looking out for.

What's missing from Curtice's psychological analysis is the psychology of the SNP membership and the wider Yes movement.  Expectations that the current mandate for a pre-2021 referendum will be used are sky-high, and it's hard to understand why Curtice thinks the rank-and-file would just shrug their shoulders if the announcement this autumn is a decision to kick the referendum "into the long grass", as he thinks is marginally more likely.  They might accept a very short further delay if the shape of Brexit was still not known, but not a decision to let the mandate expire.  They would quite reasonably ask: if the double-whammy of the destruction of the devolution settlement and Scotland being dragged out of the EU is not sufficient grounds for a referendum, what on earth would be?  What magnitude of disaster would we actually be waiting for?

Lastly, I'm bemused by the Courier alleging that SNP depute leader Keith Brown had "signalled" that a referendum would not be announced this autumn, and then providing a quote from him in which he signals no such thing.  I suspect there's a touch of journalistic wishful thinking in there.

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Scot Goes Pop Fundraiser 2018: You can find information about the fundraiser HERE, or you can make a donation HERE.

Independence remains the only viable Brexit parachute

You may have seen that Thomas Widmann of Arc of Prosperity has written a blogpost in which he turns conventional wisdom on its head by suggesting that Magnus Linklater's notorious article in The Times (claiming that "the SNP's dithering" on EU membership is turning immigrants "angry") makes a perfectly logical argument which he largely agrees with.  In fairness, it's true that the generous interpretation Thomas puts on the article is not irreconcilable with the actual text, but I think most people would say that the operative words are "by Magnus Linklater".  This is not a man who wants Scotland to become an independent member state of the EU or who believes such an idea is even worthy of consideration, so the obvious conclusion is that he is indulging in sophistry by very vaguely giving the impression that the SNP can somehow secure Scotland's place in the EU without independence being required.

Thomas notes that it is correct to say that he, as an immigrant from another EU state, is angry about the SNP's alleged "dithering".  I think what we're seeing here is the tension between an EU citizen who puts the prize of continued EU membership above all else and sees Yes as a means to that end, and those of us who may be extremely pro-European but who nevertheless would be Yes anyway, and indeed probably would have been Yes even in the 1970s when the independence cause was associated with Euroscepticism.  I remember Thomas reacting with horror when I listed a number of extreme concessions that the UK government could theoretically make that I thought might be sufficient to justify the SNP dropping its opposition to Brexit in return for a deal.  One of my suggestions was Devo Max (genuine Devo Max, obviously, not the Jackie Bird version).  Thomas wanted to know why on earth I thought any deal that didn't involve staying in the single market or customs union could possibly be acceptable, and my answer was simply that genuine Devo Max would be such an enormous concession from London that it would be worth making our own sacrifice for.  That makes sense to me as someone whose primary goal is Scottish self-government.  (I think most of us, if forced to make such an improbable binary choice, would prefer an independent Scotland outside European structures to non-independence inside the EU.)  I can easily appreciate why it doesn't make any sense at all to someone for whom the whole point of Scottish self-government is as a means to remain in Europe.

That said, I think Thomas is dead right to point out again that the SNP has at least partly lost sight of the moral obligation it owes to EU citizens after persuading them to stay in Scotland in the immediate aftermath of the EU referendum on the basis that an indyref was coming and that it would secure full EU membership for Scotland.  Somehow the clarity of that pledge has got lost as the SNP fret about the votes shed to the Tories in places like Moray.  But those lapsed voters in the north-east were always unlikely to back independence in a referendum anyway, so there really oughtn't to be any tactical conflict between those who prioritise EU membership and those who prioritise independence - the most promising way to achieve both goals is to push ahead unapologetically with an indyref, either next year or the year after.

Unfortunately Thomas himself is now departing from that script by effectively abandoning independence as the most effective Brexit parachute, and is instead pinning his hopes on another UK-wide referendum to reverse the outcome of the last one.  That's not something the SNP can realistically be expected to campaign for, because they'd be conceding the right of the rest of the UK to overrule Scotland's constitutional wishes.  As it happens, I don't think it's a viable way of furthering Thomas' own priority either, because I cannot see any circumstance in which a Tory government would allow a referendum in which Remain was a possible outcome.  It would be electoral suicide for them to do so.  A snap general election followed by a second referendum held by an incoming Labour government is just about possible, but there would still be the formidable obstacle of Jeremy Corbyn's private but well-documented Euroscepticism.

The bottom line is that there is a far greater percentage chance of maintaining EU membership because of an indyref than there is of maintaining it because of a second UK-wide vote.  So although Thomas' priorities may differ slightly from most of the Yes movement, I can't see any reason why there should be a corresponding divergence on strategy.  We should still be marching in the same direction down the same road.  I do understand why Thomas feels misled and let-down, though, and I hope that Nicola Sturgeon's long-awaited decision in the autumn will remedy that.

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Scot Goes Pop Fundraiser 2018: You can find information about the fundraiser HERE, or you can make a donation HERE.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Scot Goes Pop Fundraiser 2018: An Update

Click here to go straight to the fundraising page.

There are times in life when you realise you're in the middle of making an incredibly stupid mistake, and you have to decide whether to see it through or to try to reverse what you've done, no matter how awkward and embarrassing that might be. As regular readers will be aware, I've been trying to fundraise over the last few weeks to help keep this blog going for another year, but I've been doing it in a fairly low-key way as a sort of bolt-on to last year's fundraising page. That was a really daft idea, because the £7000 target on that page was met twelve months ago and the money has since been completely used up, so there was no proper indication of how much I was trying to raise this year or how far away the new target was from being met. A significant amount was raised during July and the first couple of days of August - more than £3000, in fact, and a million thanks to everyone who has contributed. That's not quite halfway towards the rough target, though, and I began to realise that I was potentially going to have to bore people to tears with reminders about the fundraiser for months to come if I didn't bite the bullet and set up a new page with a more meaningful target figure. I was just in the middle of doing that when I suddenly noticed that it was perfectly possible to edit an existing fundraiser and adjust the target! Remind me to actually check these things in future. So I've now adjusted the target to £15,500. For the avoidance of doubt, that does not mean I'm seeking to raise anything like that amount during the current fundraising period - the running total stood at £7,800 after last year, so if/when the £15,500 target is met, that will mean that just over £7,500 has actually been raised this year.

Here are a few questions and answers about the fundraiser...

What's the plan for Scot Goes Pop over the next twelve months?

The mind boggles as to what might happen over that period. A Tory leadership contest? A snap general election? A referendum on the terms of Brexit? The calling of a second independence referendum? Any or all of the above could happen at any time and at very short notice. The beauty of these fundraisers is that it gives me the flexibility to drop everything and provide extensive polling analysis when called for, even if that temporarily becomes a task almost on a par with a full-time job. That was very much the case during the 2014 independence referendum, the 2015 and 2017 general elections, and the 2016 EU referendum. (Oddly enough, there was no spike in visitor numbers during the EU referendum in the way that there was for the other three votes, but I still gave you the round-the-clock polling analysis whether you wanted it or not!)

What gap in the market does Scot Goes Pop fill?

We generally only ever see opinion polls through a unionist filter. The vast majority of Scottish polls are commissioned by anti-independence clients in the media, and even if the results are favourable for the SNP or Yes, that's rarely the story that people actually read about. Scot Goes Pop's polling coverage is a pro-independence corrective to that bias, although I would stress that it isn't about propaganda or wishful thinking - I also spend a fair bit of my time correcting misinformation about polls put about by Yes people.

How many people does Scot Goes Pop reach?

I have to sheepishly admit at this point that I'm not quite sure. I've had Google Analytics installed for years, but it suddenly dawned on me a few months ago that I've had it set up incorrectly all along, and that the figures I was seeing completely excluded visitors to the mobile version of the site. So any traffic/visitor numbers I mentioned until the end of the last year were likely to be a very significant underestimate.  According to the latest figures from Traffic Estimate, the blog reached a combined total of 55,400 unique visitors across two domains over the last 30 days (48,400 for scotgoespop.blogspot.com, and 7000 in the early part of the month for the now-defunct scotgoespop.blogspot.co.uk domain).  I've no idea how accurate that is, but to give you a rough guide, it compares to an estimated 39,500 unique visitors for The Ferret, and 74,100 for Bella Caledonia.

Are the fundraisers your sole income?

No, of course not, and I really must stress that point for the benefit of our resident troll who likes posting comments along the lines of "get out of bed and do a proper job, you Jocknatsis scrounger". I have other writing-related income, and I'm glad to say I also do some work that has absolutely nothing to do with either writing or politics. However, I simply wouldn't be able to devote anything like as much time to the blog if it wasn't for the fundraisers.

Does the fundraiser help towards running costs?

Strictly speaking no, because the blogging platform I currently use is free.  However, there are a few miscellaneous expenses that are indirectly associated with blogging - for example travel costs if I'm asked to go somewhere for a podcast or rally or whatever, so the fundraiser does help with that.  In the past I've also experimented with using a portion of the funds on Facebook advertising, which is hopefully a win/win for all concerned - promoting this particular blog while also widening the reach of the wider pro-indy alternative media and its message.

Why don't you use the funds to commission an opinion poll?

In an ideal world I'd love to do that (if I can find a polling firm that is still willing to speak to me, that is!).  However, polls are expensive and I'd realistically only be able to do it if the target was significantly exceeded.  I've found in the past that fundraisers tend to only just about reach their target, so it's probably unlikely that I'd ever be able to take the idea forward, but I'll certainly keep an open mind about it.

What happens to the funds if you can't keep blogging?

That point always troubles me, because fundraisers are effectively there to cover a mountain of work that hasn't actually been done yet, and it's impossible to know when personal circumstances might suddenly change and get in the way.  As I've said in past years, if I wasn't able to keep going for any reason I would pass any remaining funds on to other pro-independence alternative media.

If everyone who has read this blog in the last month donated just 50p, would the target be met straight away?

Yes!

Click here if you'd like to donate.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Questions for the BBC on the YouTube controversy

A great deal has been written about the closing down of the Wings and Moridura YouTube accounts, but there are a few points that I don't think have received enough attention yet.  The BBC suggested in their statement that the initiative for targeting the two accounts did not come from themselves, but rather that they always take action on copyrighted content when they receive a sufficient number of complaints.  This implies, somewhat implausibly, that dozens if not hundreds of public-spirited citizens have been spontaneously sending in complaints in an attempt to protect the BBC's copyright.  If there's any truth at all to it, much more likely is that any complaints sent to the BBC were malicious and politically motivated.  That would drive a coach and horses through the BBC's insistence that they take action on copyright regardless of the political views of the alleged "infringers", because self-evidently their own policy means that they would be taking more action against one side of the constitutional debate if it was the other side that happened to be putting in the bulk of complaints.

It may be, of course, that the "we take action whenever we receive complaints" thing is just a face-saving PR cover story anyway.  It has that sort of ring to it, a bit like Radio 1 pretending recently that they pulled an interview because it "wasn't good enough", and not because of the sea of outrage about the interviewee.  One obvious question is: how would someone actually go about alerting the BBC to a copyright infringement?  If there is an established procedure for doing that, is it really likely that large numbers of ordinary people would know about it?

The BBC appear to be alleging that the copyrighted material on the two channels was extensive enough to negate the "limited" fair use exemption.  That's a subjective argument, and one that a court might well disagree with.  But even if the BBC truly believe that their copyright has been technically infringed, it doesn't automatically follow that a state-owned and publicly-funded broadcaster always has to seek redress, or that it would be in the interests of those they serve for them to do so.  If it was drama or comedy, it would be an entirely different matter - they would be protecting the creative work of actors, writers, comedians, etc, who have a right to receive revenue when their product is viewed.  But who is being protected when the words of a politician who just happened to be speaking on the BBC are censored?  If there's a public interest in these videos being removed, why can't the BBC articulate what it is?  Why have they not even attempted to do so?

There's also an issue here about BBC centralisation and disrespect towards Scotland.  We were told a few months ago that BBC Scotland were about to make a conscious effort to build bridges with Yes voters and to win back the trust in the corporation that was lost during the independence referendum.  What looks like a political attack by the BBC in London on two leading pro-independence bloggers makes that task ten times harder.  Shouldn't it have occurred to the people responsible to clear such an enormously sensitive move with BBC Scotland, who after all were best placed to understand the repercussions?  If it didn't occur to them to do so, what does that tell you?

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On an unrelated subject, I just thought I'd bring the following to your attention.  Faisal Islam of Sky News has posted a screenshot of Pembrokeshire County Council's planning for Brexit, which makes an observation about devolution -

"There are powers in devolved areas which HMG [Her Majesty's Government] wishes to withhold from WG [Welsh Government] under the EU Withdrawal Bill that are currently implemented under EU law by Welsh local authorities.  How long they will be withheld, and for what purpose, is unclear.  This introduces some legal uncertainty for Welsh local authorities."

Perish the thought that there's any sort of power grab going on, eh? 

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Fundraiser: If you find Scot Goes Pop's polling coverage useful and would like to help it continue, donations can be made via the 2017 fundraiser page.  The initial £7000 target was reached last summer, but one year on that money has all been used up.  I know there are always lots of very worthy pro-independence causes looking for support, so I've held off for as long as I possibly could before actively seeking donations again.

The Chequers shambles brought UKIP back from the dead - and May's fear of UKIP could increase the chances of a no deal Brexit

One of the paradoxes of last year's general election is that the Tories had to increase their vote sharply just to avoid going backwards any further than they did.  Theresa May took 42% of the popular vote and yet lost the overall majority that had been won by David Cameron two years earlier with only 37% of the vote.  It's easy to dismiss what happened as a form of general polarisation in which both the Conservatives and Labour were bound to see their support increase while smaller parties were inevitably squeezed out, but in fact the processes that led to the Tory and Labour increases were largely separate.  UKIP voters went home to the Tories because the issue of Brexit seemed to be settled (laughable in retrospect, I know), while Labour were only able to capture former abstainers and Green voters because Corbyn had become leader - something that had absolutely nothing to do with Brexit.  So if circumstances had been different it would have been perfectly possible for the Corbyn surge to occur without any corresponding swing back from UKIP to Tory - and we're now starting to see what the effects of that would have looked like.

As you probably know, for several months in the early part of this year, the Tories had re-established a small but significant GB-wide lead over Labour, but that was reversed at the time of the Chequers "deal"/shambles.  Labour briefly went into the lead, but we now seem to be back to roughly a neck-and-neck race.  Although Labour may have taken some support direct from the Tories, the most important impact of Chequers appears to have been to bring UKIP back from the dead.  In every poll published in May and June, UKIP had been somewhere between 2% and 4%, and in most cases they were on 3%.  Since Chequers, they've been hovering between 5% and 8%, with the most common figure being 6%.  So their support has essentially doubled, and needless to say a lot of the extra votes are coming from the Tories.  In the last two YouGov polls, 9% or 10% of respondents who voted Tory in 2017 said they would now vote UKIP, which compares to an equivalent figure of just 3% in the last YouGov poll of June.  Labour's position relative to the Tories could therefore have improved without any direct boost for Labour at all (and indeed after the reversal of a temporary bounce that is effectively what has happened).

The question that forms in my mind is whether what we're currently seeing is merely a staging-post.  UKIP's support may be double what it was a few weeks ago, but it's still only half of what it was at the 2015 election.  With talk of Nigel Farage just possibly returning as leader next year, there's surely scope for a much bigger swing back from Tory to UKIP if the narrative of "Brexit betrayed" is allowed to develop.  There's no particular reason to think Labour would lose support to smaller parties at the same time, which means that the polls could move firmly into Labour overall majority territory by default.  Fear of that happening could be another constraint on Theresa May that will make it less likely that she'll agree to any deal remotely acceptable to the EU - thus further increasing the chances of a disastrous no deal Brexit.

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Fundraiser: If you find Scot Goes Pop's polling coverage useful and would like to help it continue, donations can be made via the 2017 fundraiser page.  The initial £7000 target was reached last summer, but one year on that money has all been used up.  I know there are always lots of very worthy pro-independence causes looking for support, so I've held off for as long as I possibly could before actively seeking donations again.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Any Blairite breakaway from Labour could be Christmas for the SNP

Subscribers to iScot magazine might remember that for my December 2017 column, I made a series of non-predictions for the year ahead.  That is to say, I made the point that the range of possibilities was much wider than the conventional wisdom would have you believe, and that there were a number of perfectly conceivable events being prematurely ruled out by pundits because of what the mood music happened to be at the end of the year.  For example, it seemed silly to me that the possibility of a Blairite/"moderate" breakaway from Labour at some point during 2018 was being completely excluded.

The small minority of you who bother trying to get past the New Stateman's intensely irritating registration-wall may have seen a recent piece by Stephen Bush in which he suggested that the prevailing private view among many Corbynsceptics is that a new party may well be necessary.  Now, admittedly there are only five months left in 2018, so if a breakaway does happen it's likely to be in 2019 or later.  But nevertheless this gossip (which should be taken seriously given Bush's track record) does go some way towards vindicating my point that the cowing of the Blairite tendency at one particular point in time did not tell you a great deal about what the position would be a few months later.  The rebels have cynically used the issue of antisemitism to breathe life back into their cause, and the question has reverted to being how to fight back against Corbyn rather than whether to do so.

If a new centre party emerges, would it be Christmas for the SNP?  Answer: probably, but not necessarily.  It's just possible that a fresh political force with a charismatic leader could ride the backlash against no deal Brexit and sweep all before it, including even the SNP in Scotland.  More likely, though, is that the new party would be strong enough to do severe damage to Labour, but not strong enough to come close to taking power itself.  The outcome would be a split and demoralised Labour and ex-Labour vote, which in a first-past-the-post Westminster contest would be a boon for any parties in competition with Labour in marginal seats.  That would obviously include the SNP.  There might even be limited benefits in a Holyrood election fought under proportional representation, because if either Labour or the new party fell below 5% of the list vote in any region, any votes they did receive in that region would be effectively wasted and would free up list seats for other parties.

It's worth bearing in mind, though, that the last time there was a breakaway from Labour, it was less widespread in Scotland than elsewhere.  It's no coincidence that George Robertson was one of only two members of the SDP's predecessor group in parliament who didn't ultimately join the new party.  Other Scottish MPs on the Labour right, such as John Smith, who would have been prime candidates to defect if they had represented constituencies south of the border, didn't even entertain the idea for a nanosecond.  There was a stronger cultural and emotional attachment to the Labour brand here than there was in parts of England.  Of course things have changed in the intervening few decades, and until the advent of Richard Leonard the Scottish party was almost starting to look like the last bastion of Blairism.  Many Scottish Labour MSPs will probably be sorely tempted to join a new party, but will sense deep down that by abandoning the Labour brand they would be giving up the one and only thing that makes them vaguely electable.  

Even if the history of the SDP breakaway repeats itself and Scottish Labour manages to basically hold together as English Labour falls apart, we can rest assured that the new party will still be beamed into Scottish homes courtesy of our wonderful homogenising broadcast media.  A split vote would effectively be imported from down south, and I suspect the SNP would still cash in quite heavily.

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Fundraiser: If you find Scot Goes Pop's polling coverage useful and would like to help it continue, donations can be made via the 2017 fundraiser page.  The initial £7000 target was reached last summer, but one year on that money has all been used up.  I know there are always lots of very worthy pro-independence causes looking for support, so I've held off for as long as I possibly could before actively seeking donations again.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Tonight (and every other night until the end of time) Scottish Labour are gonna whinge like it's Nine-teen-Se-ven-ty-Nine

It's always bemused me that there are two opinions about the SNP's history that seemingly nobody is allowed to express because the self-appointed experts have already long since decided that they are wrong.  Those opinions are:

1) That the SNP did the right thing by withdrawing from the Scottish Constitutional Convention after initial discussions.

2) That the SNP did the right thing by voting in favour of a motion of no confidence in the Callaghan government in 1979.

The first opinion is actually very easily defensible, and indeed in my view is probably correct.  Labour were refusing to even nominally allow independence to be considered by the Constitutional Convention as a valid possible outcome.  Therefore, by staying in the Convention, the SNP would have been endorsing an explicitly anti-independence endeavour.  That would have been a strategically foolish thing to do, because the constitutional proposals of all the main non-Tory parties would have become identical.  Why would anyone have bothered voting SNP when you could back exactly the same devolution policy by voting for a Labour government?  As it turned out, the SNP were electorally more successful in the 1990s than they were in the 1980s (their 32.6% share of the vote in the 1994 European election was at the time a new record high), which would tend to suggest that leaving the Convention and retaining their USP was extremely wise.  And of course devolution happened as quickly as it would have done if the SNP had been inside the Convention.  Indeed there's an argument that it happened more quickly, because external electoral pressure from the SNP helped keep Labour honest.

The 1979 question is more finely-balanced, because it's fair to say that neither the SNP nor Scotland gained anything by the decision to vote against Callaghan.  But here's the thing: it's not at all clear that anything would have been gained by not voting against Callaghan.  Which is probably why Tommy Sheppard said the unsayable a few days ago by noting that, even with the benefit of hindsight, he would have voted the same way if he had been an SNP MP in that position.  The Daily Record then provided a helpful reminder that they remain a completely unreformed Labour fanzine by leaping on that comment with the disgraceful headline "Senior SNP MP slammed for claims nationalists would vote for Thatcherism again".  Sheppard of course had said no such thing, because the SNP did not 'vote for Thatcherism' in 1979 or at any other time.  The vote against Callaghan was not a vote for a change of government, but was instead a vote for hastening a general election in which the British people could elect any government they liked.  The public could, for example, have significantly improved Callaghan's position by re-electing Labour with an outright majority.  If they had done so, would it have meant that the SNP had "voted for Callaghanism"?  No, it would still have meant that they voted for a slightly earlier election and for nothing else.

The subtext of Scottish Labour's decades-long whinge about the 1979 vote is that the SNP allowed the British people to overrule Scotland's wishes by installing Margaret Thatcher as Prime Minister.  It's hard to know where to start with hypocrisy like that.  Suffice to say that Labour believe as a matter of principle that the British people should be able to overrule Scotland's choice of government, and the SNP categorically do not.  When Labour campaigned for a No vote in the independence referendum, they were shamelessly campaigning to allow the 1979 scenario to play itself out again and again and again and again into infinity.  If we had a media worth its salt, that point would be put to Labour every time the subject is raised.

But leaving Labour's nonsense aside, did the SNP make the right call in 1979?  Look at it this way.  For years, they had used their voting power within a hung parliament to attempt to bring about an elected Scottish Assembly.  They had done so by repeatedly backing the Labour government in confidence votes on the condition that devolution legislation would go ahead.  What actually happened is that dozens of Labour MPs sabotaged the Scotland Bill by inserting the 40% rule, and Callaghan let them get away with it by indicating he was not going to respect the majority Yes vote in the 1979 referendum.  (Contrary to popular belief, the Scotland Act 1978 did not say that a failure to reach the 40% threshold would automatically lead to repeal.  The Secretary of State was required to table a repeal order, but Callaghan could then have whipped Labour MPs to vote against it, which if done successfully would have meant devolution going ahead as planned.  He chose not to do that.)  The informal agreement between Labour and the SNP had therefore been broken, and it had been broken by Labour.  Were the SNP really supposed to react to that state of affairs by saying "oh it doesn't matter, we'll reward your broken promises and continue propping up your government in return for absolutely nothing?" 

Four decades on, Labour's answer to that question, and indeed the Labour-supporting media's answer to that question, is "yes".  I would suggest that's not remotely a realistic answer. 

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Fundraiser: If you find Scot Goes Pop's polling coverage useful and would like to help it continue, donations can be made via the 2017 fundraiser page.  The initial £7000 target was reached last summer, but one year on that money has all been used up.  I know there are always lots of very worthy pro-independence causes looking for support, so I've held off for as long as I possibly could before actively seeking donations again.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Latest figures suggest Scot Goes Pop is Scotland's fifth most-read alternative media site

Apologies for another self-indulgent stats post (in fairness I think the last one was in March!), but like other bloggers I do sometimes have to fight to make sure Scot Goes Pop gets the full recognition it's due.  Indyref2 have today published a ranking of Scottish alternative media websites based on monthly traffic estimates from the appropriately titled Traffic Estimate site.  Scot Goes Pop is on the list in sixth place with 44,400 visitors, but that's an underestimate because for some reason Traffic Estimate are now splitting the blog's traffic between two domains - scotgoespop.blogspot.com (44,400 visitors) and scotgoespop.blogspot.co.uk (16,800 visitors).  Given that we're talking about unique visitors, can those two figures be treated cumulatively?  Not necessarily - there may be a little overlap, although I strongly suspect that most people who visit the blog multiple times in a month do so on the same domain every time.  So the correct figure is probably much closer to 61,200 than to 44,400.

When I first discovered Traffic Estimate a few months ago, the .com domain was showing zero visitors and the .co.uk domain was showing anything between 60,000 and 80,000 visitors.  Why the flipover?  I don't really know, although one possible explanation is that Facebook links to Blogger now seem to be automatically directing to the .com domain, no matter which address is manually added.

I've also noticed that John Robertson's and Jason Michael's sites are missing from Indyref2's ranking list.  Assuming there are no other omissions, and assuming that other sites aren't suffering from the same multiple domain problem, here is the correct top nine.  I've put an asterisk next to Scot Goes Pop's traffic to take account of the slight uncertainty over how to treat the cumulative figure.

Wings Over Scotland 211,400
CommonSpace 88,800
Wee Ginger Dug 80,000
Bella Caledonia 79,800
Scot Goes Pop 61,200*
Talking Up Scotland 59,000
Indyref2 48,600
Random Public Journal 42,200
The Ferret 42,100

Obviously these are very broad ballpark estimates, but if Scot Goes Pop really does receive in the region of 60,000 unique visitors every 30 days, what would that mean?  It would suggest that getting on for 1% of this country's entire population drops by every month.  Not too shabby for a one-man operation.  That being the case, it may be a good moment (ahem, cough, violent sneeze) to mention the ongoing fundraiser.  I've been using last year's fundraiser for the sake of convenience, although that may prove to be a mistake because a specific target figure can often be a motivating factor for donations.  Basically you have to subtract £7800 from the figure on the page to calculate how much has been raised so far.  That means just over £2000 has been donated in the current fundraising period, and a million thanks to everyone who has contributed.  I have £7000 in mind as a very rough target, so that will be reached when the page says £14,800.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

The exclusion of the SNP from the summaries of poll results is arbitrary, Anglocentric and indefensible

As I've spent a fair bit of the last 48 hours having exchanges (sometimes downright surreal exchanges) about this subject on Twitter, I thought I might as well make the point here as well.  It's a very simple one.  Here is how the Britain Elects account reported the results of the new YouGov poll a couple of days ago...


I'm not having a go at Britain Elects specifically, because the above is absolutely typical of how most news/political outlets summarise such polls - ie. with no sign of the SNP (or indeed of Plaid Cymru).

How do you think any reasonable person would be most likely to interpret the absence of the SNP?  I'd suggest they'd reach one of two conclusions.  Either: a) respondents in the poll were not given the option of expressing a voting intention for the SNP, or b) the SNP were on less than the 2% of the vote enjoyed by the Greens, the lowest-placed of the five parties that were deemed worthy of a mention in the summary.  But both of those conclusions would be completely incorrect, meaning that by either accident or design people are being very seriously misled.  In reality, the SNP and Plaid Cymru received 5% of the vote in this poll, putting them in a clear fifth place ahead of the Greens, and only just behind UKIP in fourth place.  (Because YouGov lump the SNP and Plaid together as a single option for GB-wide polls, it's impossible to separate out the support for each of the two parties, but given what we know about their respective levels of support it's inconceivable that the SNP would have received less than 4% if offered as an option in their own right, and would still have been well clear of the Greens.)  Why, then, is the sixth most popular party reported as if it was the fifth most popular?  Why is the fifth most popular not even mentioned at all?

A mistake?

An oversight?

Nope, it's the intentional withholding of information, and it's done as a matter of routine.  Over the last two days, apologists for this downright weird practice have put forward a number of speculative justifications for it, and not one of them makes any sense.  I'll go through them individually.

"Not editing out the SNP's vote would give a misleading impression of the trend in Scotland, because trivial changes that might barely register at Britain-wide level would be enough to make a big difference in terms of seats."  This doesn't stack up, because essentially the same is true of both the Greens and UKIP - any seats that they might win depend on very localised contests, meaning that their national share of the vote is hardly even relevant.  In 2015, UKIP took 13% of the vote but won just a single seat.  If the media can 'take the risk' of revealing information about the popularity of the Greens and UKIP that has little or no relevance in terms of seats, it's murderously hard to understand why the public must be 'protected' from similar information about the SNP.  The bottom line is that in a first-past-the-post election, the number of seats won by each party is only very weakly correlated to the share of the vote.  The winner of the popular vote may or may not be the largest party in terms of seats.  A third party with 17% of the vote may win more than twice as many seats as it did a decade earlier with 23%.  The purpose of polls is not first and foremost to predict the number of seats for each party, but rather to estimate each party's absolute popularity in terms of votes.  In that respect, the fact that the SNP is on 5% of the vote in this YouGov poll is no more or less important than the fact that the Greens are on 2% or that UKIP are on 6%.

"The estimated vote for the SNP is less reliable than the vote for Britain-wide parties, because it is drawn from a tiny subsample, not the full-scale GB sample."  Not true.  YouGov allow respondents across Britain to select the SNP/Plaid as a voting intention option, as can be seen from the fact that the two parties between them have 1% support in London in this particular poll.

"Nevertheless, in practice the vast bulk of support for the SNP and Plaid comes from Scotland and Wales, so effectively is based on a subsample that is too small to be statistically reliable."  That's really an argument for not taking individual subsamples too seriously, which indeed they shouldn't be.  But the SNP's GB-wide vote is not a subsample figure - it's rounded to the nearest percentage point and therefore normally falls in a range between 3% and 5%.  If anything, the SNP's reported vote is more stable than the reported vote for the Britain-wide parties and isn't subject to random variations outside the standard margin of error - which is what you'd expect if the charge of an unusual level of statistical unreliability had any truth to it.

"The SNP's support is not only effectively drawn from a small Scottish subsample, but one that might be incorrectly structured - for example, it might have far too many pensioners, or too many women."  Not so.  YouGov indicated a couple of years ago that they had decided to start structuring and weighting their Scottish subsamples separately to improve the accuracy of their polls.  It seems highly unlikely that they reversed that decision at any point, because their subsample figures have become (relatively) more stable since then.

"The SNP should be edited out of poll results because not everyone in Britain can vote for them."  That's a British nationalist argument rather than a statistical one, but it doesn't even make sense on its own terms, because not everyone in Britain can vote for UKIP or the Greens either.  In the 2017 general election, the Greens stood in only 467 of the 650 constituencies, and UKIP stood in only 378 of 650.  Both figures were sharply down on the candidates for each party in the 2015 election.  Nobody has a clue how many candidates UKIP and the Greens will put up at the next election, which means that in all probability many respondents will have told YouGov in good faith that they plan to vote for one party or another even though they will not be able to do so.  If reporting the SNP's Britain-wide vote "lacks context", reporting the Green or UKIP vote must inevitably lack a great deal more context.  And yet nobody would dream of withholding that information (unless of course the numbers fell to a statistically insignificant level).

There is no possible logic to the exclusion of the SNP from poll summaries.  It's an arbitrary decision rooted in Anglocentricity.

*  *  *

Fundraiser: If you find Scot Goes Pop's polling coverage useful and would like to help it continue, donations can be made via the 2017 fundraiser page.  The initial £7000 target was reached last summer, but one year on that money has all been used up.  I know there are always lots of very worthy pro-independence causes looking for support, so I've held off for as long as I possibly could before actively seeking donations again.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Yes vote stands at 46% in Scot Goes Pop Poll of Polls

It's been ages since I last calculated a polling average on independence, so I thought it might be time to give it a spin.  For those who don't remember, the Scot Goes Pop Poll of Polls takes into account only the most recent poll from each firm that has asked the independence question at some point in the last six months.  Back during the indyref, I had an exchange with a pollster (I think it was someone from Ipsos-Mori) who was insistent that my method didn't make sense, and that a Poll of Polls should take into account all of the most recent handful of polls regardless of which firms had conducted them.  I pointed out to him that the 'house effects' in indyref polls were so extreme that his preferred method would generate crazily misleading trends - if you went from one average that was mostly based on polls from No-friendly firms (such as YouGov) to another average that was mostly based on polls from Yes-friendly firms (such as Panelbase), you'd get the firm impression there had been a sharp swing to Yes even if no such thing had actually happened.

The gap between pollsters is no longer as extreme these days, but there are still differences.  Panelbase has moved to the other end of the spectrum and is now a No-friendly pollster, usually reporting a Yes vote that is a little lower than one or two other firms such as Survation.  Needless to say YouGov remain a firmly No-friendly outfit, and as you know I've always been a bit cynical about them.  It's hard to escape the conclusion sometimes that they start from the assumption that the Yes vote should be on the low side and work backwards to find a methodology that will produce that outcome.  During the indyref, when they were still under the control of Labour supporter Peter Kellner, they used the notorious "Kellner Correction" to split SNP voters into two distinct categories and weight them separately, which magically produced figures that were much more No-friendly than other online firms - until the closing weeks of the campaign, when the small SNP group that they were artificially upweighting showed an enormous swing to Yes.  That was why Damian Lyons-Lowe of Survation argued on the evening of September 18th that the campaign had not had much impact on voting intentions, while Peter Kellner standing right next to him was equally insistent that the swing during the campaign had been dramatic.  It's impossible to know who was right, although I do suspect that if YouGov had been picking up a pro-Yes swing several months before polling day rather than a couple of weeks before, they might have changed their methodology again to make that swing look less significant.  Not because they were consciously trying to 'rig' anything, but because Kellner was bringing unionist preconceptions to the table and was much more likely to search for reasons why Yes was being overestimated, rather than the reverse.

Anyway, for today's update of the Poll of Polls, four polls are taken into account: very recent polls from Panelbase and Survation, a poll from YouGov that was conducted in early June, and a poll from Ipsos-Mori that was conducted in early March.  Obviously March is quite a while ago now, but that probably doesn't make too much difference - polling numbers on independence have been relatively stable of late.

SCOT GOES POP POLL OF POLLS

Should Scotland be an independent country?

Yes 46.0%
No 54.0%

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If you haven't seen it yet, here is the second edition of Phantom Power's groundbreaking Nation documentary series starring Lesley Riddoch.  This time the focus is on Iceland.  Incidentally, did you know that more people speak Welsh than Icelandic?  And yet try telling the people of Iceland that their national language is "useless" and that they should just get on with speaking English like normal people do...


Thursday, July 19, 2018

If an outright mandate for independence is sought at a parliamentary election, it should be done at Holyrood 2021, not Westminster 2022

You may have seen that Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp's column in The National today sets out what he believes is the most likely timetable for seeking a mandate on independence.  As you know, I entirely agree with him that the mandate must and will be sought in the near future, and it's great to see that point being made unapologetically by such an influential figure.  However, I do disagree with him about a number of the specifics.

First of all, he thinks Nicola Sturgeon may not renew her request for a Section 30 order until April or May of next year - by which time, of course, Scotland will already have been dragged out of the EU.  (That will be the case unless the exit date is extended by mutual consent, which is theoretically allowed under Article 50 but seems unlikely at the moment.)  I believe it would be a great mistake to let Brexit become an established fact on the ground before any action at all is taken.  The referendum itself may or may not have to wait until after Brexit, but the public should certainly know long before 29th March that an alternative choice is coming.  In any case, Nicola Sturgeon has been consistently saying for the last year that she will make her judgement this autumn, and if she were to backtrack on that, it would play into the London media's preferred (bogus) narrative that a referendum is to all intents and purposes off the table for the foreseeable future.  I do expect the announcement could be delayed until the tail-end of autumn, though, and I would just note in passing that Scotland's national day happens to be 30th November - the final day of meteorological autumn.  (Mind you, that choice of date might be just a little too obvious!)

Secondly, Gordon argues that when the Section 30 request is made, there is only a 50% chance that Theresa May will refuse it.  I would say the chances are more like 99% or higher.  The Tories have put all their eggs in the "now is not the time" basket, and nothing will change on that front until one of two things happen: either a) they suffer the shock of losing a significant number of seats in a Holyrood or Westminster election, or b) Nicola Sturgeon sidesteps the Section 30 problem altogether by calling a vote against Westminster's wishes.  That does not mean, however, that a Section 30 request should not be made - quite the reverse.  But when the moment comes, it should be made abundantly clear to Theresa May that "now is not the time" is not an acceptable answer - we will require either a "yes" or a "no", and if no such answer is received by a specific date, a "no" will be assumed and we will move on to other options.

Thirdly, Gordon believes that if a Section 30 order is refused, the alternative option should not be a consultative referendum.  He thinks there would be a danger of a unionist boycott which would remove legitimacy from the vote.  As I've said before, I don't understand that argument, because a consultative referendum would be an each-way bet - the unionist parties might not boycott it, in which case it becomes binding to all intents and purposes, but if they do, a Yes vote becomes inevitable and the anti-independence mandate of September 2014 will no longer be uncontested.  Either way, it's a major step forward.

Nevertheless, there is of course the possibility that a consultative referendum may not be possible if the Supreme Court strikes the legislation down, in which case we would need the Plan C of using a scheduled election as a de facto referendum.  Which brings me to the fourth of Gordon's points that I disagree with.  He thinks that the Westminster election of 2022 should be used as the mandate vote, and that the 2021 Holyrood election should merely be used to establish a mandate for using the Westminster vote to seek a mandate.  There are all sorts of problems with that idea, not least the fact that we don't even know whether the next general election will take place before or after the Holyrood vote - it could be any time up to 2022, including even this autumn.  But the biggest issue is that a Westminster election will be a British contest in which media coverage will be dominated by British issues, and in which the independence issue will be treated as a colourful sideshow.  It's plainly far more appropriate (and more strategically promising for that matter) to seek a mandate in a Scotland-only election.  Given the first-past-the-post voting system, a Westminster election also carries the significant risk of a contradictory mandate - one where pro-independence parties win the majority of seats but anti-independence parties win a majority of the vote, as happened last year.  The proportional representation system used at Holyrood doesn't eliminate that risk altogether, but it does reduce the risk significantly.  There's no way, for example, that either pro-independence or anti-independence parties could win a majority of seats at Holyrood on less than 40% of the vote.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

An independence referendum looks ever more inevitable tonight as Tory rebels FAIL to vote down a hard Brexit

As I understand it, the SNP's strategy on an independence referendum since last summer's "reset" has been to focus all their energies on full-bloodedly and sincerely attempting to secure a soft Brexit for the whole UK, knowing that if they failed, they could then look the public in the eye and say with total honesty: "Every conceivable avenue for remaining in the single market and the customs union as part of the UK has now been exhausted.  Independence is the only game in town from now on."

That means, paradoxically, that their honest endeavours could have been moving them a little further away from their primary political objective.  Both last night and tonight, SNP MPs have taken part in knife-edge votes on the Trade Bill.  If they had been on the winning side in those votes, a softer Brexit would have looked much more likely, and the case for an early independence referendum would have looked considerably less clear-cut.  But courtesy of the very small and eccentric band of hard-core Labour Brexiteers, the most important votes were all lost.  Theresa May's astonishing capitulation to the Rees-Mogg faction yesterday has been confirmed by the Commons, we are hurtling towards either a Hard Brexit or a no deal Brexit, and it looks increasingly hard to see how Nicola Sturgeon will be able to justify to herself (let alone to anyone else) a decision to let the current mandate for an independence referendum expire.

The London media may still be in a state of absolute denial about it, but with a decision about a referendum still promised by the autumn, the day of reckoning cannot be far off now.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Heartbreak for the mainstream media as "Operation Hush-up" fails - Survation poll reveals widespread public awareness of the power-grab

It's actually been quite difficult to get to grips with the new Survation poll that has been gradually released by Cleggy and the Vow-Meisters over the last few days, because as far I can see only the datasets for the questions on independence have been published so far.  Survation's website isn't the most user-friendly, though, so it's difficult to be 100% sure.  The latest figures to be released today relate to the removal of powers from the Scottish Parliament, and on the face of it would seem to confirm that the issue has now cut through - in spite of the heroic efforts by the BBC and other parts of the mainstream media over the last few months to mention it as little as possible and to downplay its importance whenever they do mention it.  41% of respondents agree that Westminster grabbing back 24 of Holyrood's existing powers amounts to a "power-grab" (logical enough, you'd think), while 34% disagree.  Perhaps the closeness of that result may seem a little disappointing, but when you consider that the SNP have been fighting against a virtual news blackout on this subject, I'd suggest we should look upon the glass as being very much half-full in this case.

The only caveat I'd add is that in the absence of the datasets it's not clear exactly what question Survation asked.  As we all know, people are very hostile towards the Tories and suspicious of the UK government's intentions (with good reason), and so it could be that if they were asked "the Tories are doing X, but say it doesn't mean anything, do you believe them?", that could have generated the 41% result without there necessarily having been as much pre-knowledge of the power-grab as we'd like to believe.  But we'll find out more when the wording of the question is eventually published.

I've been a bit tied up over recent days writing articles for The National and iScot (and yeah, OK, watching the World Cup and Wimbledon may have had something to do with it as well), so I didn't get round to adding some analysis of Survation's voting intention numbers for Holyrood and Westminster.  Here are a few belated thoughts.  I speculated in my piece in The National that the SNP's best poll showing since before the June 2017 election might be due to the walkout from the Commons a few weeks ago.  Of course the other potential game-changer was the Chequers "deal" and the subsequent spate of ministerial resignations, which took place in the middle of Survation's fieldwork period.  We should certainly take that seriously as a possible explanation, because there's plenty of polling evidence that it's shifted public opinion at Britain-wide level - there's been a swing from Tory to Labour that essentially reverses the trend of the last few months.  The odd thing, though, is that the Scottish Tory vote is not substantially down in the Survation poll - they've remained static in the Westminster vote, and have only dropped one point on the Scottish Parliament constituency ballot, which can easily be explained away as margin of error 'noise'.  (They're down four points on the list ballot, but I'd be inclined to take that less seriously given the apparent tendency of some respondents to treat the list as a second preference vote.)  Weirdly, it's Labour that appears to be suffering the most - the opposite of what is happening at Britain-wide level.  How do we explain that?  Perhaps pro-European voters are looking for the best available option, and in England that's Labour, but in Scotland it's the SNP?

Both UKIP and the Liberal Democrats - parties that are on opposite extremes of the Brexit debate - are doing unusually well in the Survation poll, which would tend to confirm that Europe is on voters' minds to a greater extent than usual, and might suggest that other changes in the poll have a similar explanation.  In case you've been wondering why the seats projection for Holyrood gave the pro-independence parties a majority of seats on a minority of the vote, part of the explanation is that UKIP's 5% list vote is effectively 'wasting' a significant chunk of unionist votes, because it's just short of what would be required to actually win any seats.  If UKIP's list vote was to continue to rise, or if all the UKIP votes were to go to the Tories, the seats projection would look somewhat less favourable from a pro-independence point of view.

In relation to Survation's inexplicable decision to suddenly stop including 16 and 17 year olds in their independence polling, someone asked on an earlier thread whether that meant they were also excluding EU nationals.  The answer is that I don't know, because that information simply isn't available in the datasets.  If Survation are now using the Westminster franchise rather than the Holyrood/local government/indyref franchise as the basis for their sampling, it would seem logical that they would be excluding EU nationals as well as 16 and 17 year olds, which might theoretically be leading to a marginal underestimation of the Yes vote.  But that's just speculation at this stage.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

More about that sensational Survation poll

Just a quick note to let you know that I have a new article in The National about yesterday's Survation poll, which put the SNP back up to levels of support that haven't been seen since before the general election.  You can read the article HERE.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Spectacular Survation poll suggests SNP are on course for landslide

Scottish voting intentions for next UK general election:

SNP 42% (+3)
Conservatives 24% (n/c)
Labour 23% (-4)
Liberal Democrats: 8% (+1)

Scottish Parliament voting intentions (constituency ballot):

SNP 43% (+1)
Conservatives 24% (-1)
Labour 21% (-4)
Liberal Democrats 9% (+3)

Scottish Parliament voting intentions (regional list ballot):

SNP 33% (+1)
Labour 21% (-2)
Conservatives 19% (-4)
Greens 11% (+2)
Liberal Democrats 9% (+1)
UKIP 5% (+2)

I've got a few things on today, so I'll update this with analysis when I have a chance, but a couple of quick observations...

Most importantly, this is the most favourable poll for the SNP and the pro-independence parties since the general election.  If these numbers were replicated at the ballot box, there would still be a pro-independence majority at Holyrood, the SNP would regain all of the six Westminster seats they lost to Labour last year, and would even regain the bulk of the twelve seats they lost to the Tories.

Secondly, it appears from the partial datasets published yesterday that 16 and 17 year olds weren't interviewed for the poll.  If that isn't a misprint, it represents a major and inexplicable retrograde step for Survation, who previously have been good about interviewing the correct electorate.  It raises the question of whether the 47% figure for Yes published yesterday may have been a smidgeon too low.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Drama as Survation poll shows support for independence INCREASING - and almost half of Scots DEMAND that Nicola Sturgeon should call a referendum

The ever-delightful Cleggy and the Vow-Meisters have today published their latest full-scale Scottish poll from Survation.  It tells a familiar tale, with respondents roughly split down the middle on whether Nicola Sturgeon should call a second independence referendum.  A total of 42% think she should, and 49% think she shouldn't.  Bear in mind there's a margin of error of 3%, meaning those numbers are close enough to being a statistical tie as makes no difference. 

The 42% in favour of a referendum break down as follows: 23% want Ms Sturgeon to call a referendum this autumn, and 19% want her to call it later.  The wording of the question on this point is deeply unsatisfactory, and I strongly suspect that most respondents will have wrongly assumed that they were being asked whether a referendum should actually take place this autumn.  What Survation are really asking is whether a referendum should merely be announced this autumn, but they don't spell that out, and therefore the results on timing should be taken with a massive dose of salt.  It's actually quite impressive that one-quarter of the population seemingly want a referendum to take place in as little as two or three months' time!  And of course the 19% who chose the 'later than the autumn' option could mean that they think this winter or next spring would be the appropriate time - they aren't given the opportunity to specify what 'later' actually means.

Disappointingly, Survation have misrepresented their own numbers on this occasion in a much more serious way than the Daily Record have. It's quite rare for a polling company to do that, but the short Survation article on the poll is headlined "Scottish Voters Opposed to Second Independence Referendum".  As you can see for yourself, that's quite simply untrue - the 42% in support of a referendum, when combined with the small number of Don't Knows, outnumber the 49% who are opposed.  There is no absolute majority in either direction, and it's anyone's guess why Survation are so keen to give the false impression that there is.  Maybe a mole from Tory central office has infiltrated their PR department?

The only other result to be published from the poll so far is the straight question on independence, and it shows a modest increase in the Yes vote - albeit one that can potentially be easily explained by the margin of error.

Should Scotland be an independent country? (Don't Knows excluded)

Yes 47% (+1)
No 53% (-1)

Presumably we'll see Holyrood and/or Westminster voting intention numbers tomorrow or over the coming days.

 *  *  *

Fundraiser: If you find Scot Goes Pop's polling coverage useful and would like to help it continue, donations can be made via the 2017 fundraiser page.  The initial £7000 target was reached last summer, but one year on that money has all been used up.  I know there are always lots of very worthy pro-independence causes looking for support, so I've held off for as long as I possibly could before actively seeking donations again.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

The Brexit delusion over who calls the shots

I don't know about anyone else, but I've been rubbing my eyes in disbelief over the last few hours.  If you've been listening to the mainstream media's verdict on what was agreed at Chequers, you'd be forgiven for thinking that the fabled Brexit deal that Theresa May has been tasked with striking needed only to be a deal with the rest of her own Cabinet, and not with the European Union.   By that rather lower standard, what's just happened might indeed be seen as a stunning personal triumph for the Prime Minister and a guarantee of a (somewhat) softer Brexit, exactly as Stormfront Lite is claiming tonight.  The agreement will only be subject to a few modifications if Brussels raises any objections, reveals the Guardian, which apparently believes that the EU has only a limited consultative role in the whole process.  It's the old imperial delusion - decisions are things that happen in London.  The same commentators who complacently tell us that an indyref is a non-starter because Theresa May will say "no" also apparently believe that it's a mere point of trivia that the EU have already ruled out many elements of May's Brexit proposal.  Back in the real world, without the EU's assent there is no deal at all, and that would mean the hardest of hard Brexits.

A rare injection of realism was provided by Sam Coates of the Times, who acknowledged that the EU may well still insist on a straight choice between a looser Canada-type deal, and the Norway model that would entail the retention of the single market.  But he argued that the Chequers proposal was around 80% of the way towards the Norway model, thus making it that much easier for the Prime Minister to jump towards Norway if forced to choose.  What he didn't expand on is the consequence of such a decision.  It's highly debatable whether the government really are now 80% of the way towards Norway, but even assuming for the sake of argument that they are, the reason they haven't travelled the remaining 20% of the distance is that doing so would completely breach the red lines on formally leaving the single market and ending freedom of movement.  Some say that a soft Brexit is inevitable because there is a natural parliamentary majority for it - but that majority is cross-party in nature, and neither the government nor the Prime Minister are sustained in office on a cross-party basis.  I find it inconceivable that a Tory government led by Theresa May could keep Britain in the European Economic Area or retain freedom of movement, even if they wanted to.

And if that proves to be correct, there are only really four alternatives -

1) The EU backs down and accepts British cherry-picking of the most desirable aspects of the single market and customs union.  This is almost unimaginable because it would create a precedent that Eurosceptics in other member states would try to follow, thus risking the unravelling of the EU.

2) A Canada-type deal is negotiated after all.  This is possible, but it would require turning the super-tanker around, because it's clearly not close to what Theresa May has in mind at the moment.  It would mean a very hard Brexit in any case.

3) There is no deal at all.

4) The Prime Minister's failure to strike a deal (or a deal that is consistent with her red lines) triggers a political crisis that results in a change of leadership and/or a general election.

I can recall at least two previous occasions when we've been told that the PM has made a decisive move towards a soft Brexit, only for us to realise weeks later that there had been no change of any real significance.  I fully expect the same to prove true on this occasion.

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Fundraiser: If you find Scot Goes Pop's polling coverage useful and would like to help it continue, donations can be made via the 2017 fundraiser page.  The initial £7000 target was reached last summer, but one year on that money has all been used up.  I know there are always lots of very worthy pro-independence causes looking for support, so I've held off for as long as I possibly could before actively seeking donations again.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Thoughts on the Plaid Cymru leadership election

This speaks volumes about just how unequal this "union of equals" actually is, but I would have been totally oblivious to the fact that a Plaid leadership election is now underway if I had been reliant on the London-based mainstream media.  I just happened to stumble upon the information on Twitter.  Adam Price and Rhun ap Iorwerth, both highly charismatic and telegenic figures who have long been regarded as obvious leaders of the future, are both challenging Leanne Wood for the top job.  To put this development in perspective, imagine that John Swinney had not resigned as SNP leader in 2004 but had instead been challenged by both Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon.  Totally unthinkable given the closeness of those three people, but just imagine.  That's the sort of scenario Plaid are facing - there's not just the question of whether the current leader will survive, there's also the subplot of a battle between two different Kings Over The Water that only one (at most) can possibly win.  It really is the leadership contest to end them all.

I've followed Rhun ap Iorwerth on Twitter for quite some time and he's always come across as extremely progressive, so I was surprised to see the suggestion in a BBC Wales article that he might be more receptive to an arrangement with the Tories than Leanne Wood is.  I know unsubstantiated gossip from the BBC should be treated with healthy scepticism (if you believe Sarah Smith's running commentary on Nicola Sturgeon's supposed 'private views', you'll believe anything), but what doesn't seem to be in any dispute is that Mr ap Iorweth is taking a pro-nuclear stance by supporting the construction of the Wylfa Newydd nuclear power plant in his constituency, while Leanne Wood is taking the opposite stance as leader.  That's a classic case of local people backing nuclear power while those further away from the plant paradoxically tend to be the ones more worried about environmental and health effects - we used to see much the same pattern in the debate about Dounreay.  But that doesn't necessarily mean that the people further away don't have a more clear-sighted perspective, of course.

The same BBC Wales article characterises Adam Price as seeking equidistance between Labour and the Tories, with the implication that this also puts him somewhere in between Mr ap Iorwerth and the more Labour-friendly Ms Wood.  I do seem to recall, though, that back in 2007 Mr Price was a key cheerleader for the idea that Plaid should opt for coalition with Labour and not with the Tories and Lib Dems.

If the suggestion that Ms Wood is the most left-wing of the three candidates is true, and from what I know about her I can believe there might be a grain of truth in it, that would leave me with a big headache if I was a Plaid member with a vote.  Ms Wood is probably closest of all the candidates to my own political views, but my gut feeling is that the Welsh public might look upon either Mr Price or Mr ap Iorweth as credible potential First Ministers, in a way that they perhaps don't with Ms Wood. It's the age-old dilemma - do you vote for the candidate with the best policies, or for the best candidate?  Having seen what happened to Labour after head ruled heart in 1994, I suspect I would probably follow my heart and vote to re-elect Ms Wood - although there would be a loud, nagging voice inside my head wondering if I was doing the right thing.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Pressure mounts on Theresa May to pass a Section 30 order after UK House of Commons UNANIMOUSLY votes to accept the sovereignty of the Scottish people

When it emerged last night that the SNP were about to hold an opposition day debate in the Commons on the Claim of Right, I speculated on the pickle the unionist parties might get into depending on how they decided to vote.  I expected the Tories to vote against the motion, in which case they would have to explain why they were opposed to the Scottish people's right to self-determination, and I thought Labour and the Liberal Democrats might abstain, in which case they would have to explain why they were refusing to support the founding principle of their own Scottish Constitutional Convention.  In the end, all three parties declined to walk into that trap.  They all backed the motion, which meant that it passed by acclamation - essentially a unanimous vote without a single MP registering an objection (not even the notorious 'Mr Upskirt').

But of course there are also consequences that flow from backing the Claim of Right.  If, when Nicola Sturgeon renews her request for a Section 30 order, the answer continues to be "no", it will be reasonable to ask what the Tories actually meant when they voted in favour of "the sovereign right of the Scottish people to determine the form of Government best suited to their needs".  As a veteran of interminable back-and-forths about Devo Max with Tory supporters on Stormfront Lite, I'm well aware of the argument that the sovereignty of the Scottish people cannot be absolute when the objective is an enhanced form of self-government within the United Kingdom, because any change in the UK's internal constitutional arrangements affects the whole of the UK and can only be decided by mutual consent, not unilaterally.  But that excuse falls apart if you're still claiming that the sovereignty of the people is not absolute even when the decision is about whether to leave the UK altogether.  The choice on independence really is nobody's business but Scotland's, and the sovereignty of the Scottish people means nothing if it doesn't mean the right to say "Now Is Not The Time is an interesting opinion, but we disagree with it, and the decision is ours, not yours".  It means exactly the same right to decide whether to leave at a time and manner of our own choosing that the British people exercised in relation to the EU.


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Fundraiser: If you find Scot Goes Pop's polling coverage useful and would like to help it continue, donations can be made via the 2017 fundraiser page.  The initial £7000 target was reached last summer, but one year on that money has all been used up.  I know there are always lots of very worthy pro-independence causes looking for support, so I've held off for as long as I possibly could before actively seeking donations again.

Border checks at Gretna Green? We're totally cool with that, say majority of Scots in new SHOCK poll

As you've probably already seen, the latest release from the new Panelbase/Wings poll asks how people in Scotland would feel about border checks if that were necessary for Scotland to enjoy the same special status in relation to the EU that has been mooted for Northern Ireland.

If Northern Ireland were to be granted special status which effectively meant it remained in the EU, but saw the imposition of customs and immigration checks between it and the rest of the UK, which of these is closest to your opinion?

The same status should be granted to Scotland: 53%
The same status should NOT be granted to Scotland: 26%

I think that's quite possibly the most remarkable finding in the poll so far, and it has all sorts of interesting implications.  The question is not sneakily worded in any way - it lays on the line that the border checks being talked about are the sort traditionally associated with a hard border between two sovereign states.  And yet, in spite of the fact that Better Together thought their fairy tales about barbed wire fences and Trump-style walls were a major Achilles heel for Yes back in 2014, an absolute majority of respondents - even when Don't Knows are taken into account - clearly do not believe that border checks are a dealbreaker.  And if they're not a dealbreaker for voters pondering an intra-UK border, it's hard to see why they would be a dealbreaker for voters thinking about a border between an independent Scotland and rUK.

In practice, of course, people are typically poor at answering hypothetical questions, and after being exposed to a second helping of Project Fear, they might well suddenly decide that border checks are quite scary after all.  In a way, the dream scenario would be if Scotland did actually gain the kind of special status referred to in this poll, because it would allow people to get used to a lot of the things associated with independence before making what would be a much smaller psychological jump.  That is one of the many reasons why the Tories will never allow it to happen.  But this poll leaves the Tory government with another problem: if the majority were not deterred by the mention of border checks, that means they must feel very, very strongly that it would be unacceptable for Scotland not to be given any special status awarded to Northern Ireland.  Can the government risk a massive public backlash in Scotland at a time like this?  If not, it significantly reduces their options in resolving the impasse over Brexit.

And a final thought: if people were not deterred by border checks, that must also mean they feel very, very strongly about the benefits of "effectively remaining in the EU".  That constitutes another timely warning that it could be a big strategic blunder for the SNP to water down its pro-Europeanism in pursuit of the minority of Yes voters from 2014 who want to leave the EU.

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Fundraiser: If you find Scot Goes Pop's polling coverage useful and would like to help it continue, donations can be made via the 2017 fundraiser page.  The initial £7000 target was reached last summer, but one year on that money has all been used up.  I know there are always lots of very worthy pro-independence causes looking for support, so I've held off for as long as I possibly could before actively seeking donations again.

Bend It Like Blackford

The SNP's brilliant psychological tactic of forcing five lengthy parliamentary votes while England were playing a World Cup knockout match is surely destined to become the stuff of legend.  Labour abstained on the votes, as is the Labour Way, but nevertheless the Tories couldn't all go home or head off to the pubs because there needed to be enough of them around to outvote a few dozen SNP and Plaid Cymru MPs.  In the end, well over 100 of them saw it through, which probably means that a great many Tories who would very much like to have seen the England match missed a large part of it.

A lot of sanctimonious drivel has already been spoken and written about this episode, but what I found truly contemptible was the revelation that Tory minister Margot James had physically approached the SNP during the votes and demanded that they think of Westminster's staff.  It was as if she truly believed she was looking at a political party that had completely taken leave of its senses, and that needed to be snapped back into self-awareness about the consequences of its irresponsible actions.  Er, hello?  It's only a matter of weeks since Margot James' party destroyed Scotland's devolution settlement after just nineteen minutes of parliamentary 'debate', during which no Scottish MPs were permitted to speak.  The settled democratic will of the Scottish people, as overwhelmingly expressed in the 1997 devolution referendum, was casually overturned by the imperial authorities in the manner in which a fly might be swatted away and instantly forgotten about.  Until an independence referendum is called, the only way that Scotland's elected representatives can fight back against the squashing of our country's democracy is by clever use of the parliamentary rulebook to cause small amounts of disruption, thus making the London government realise that its actions do at least have some bothersome consequences - which in this case meant that a limited number of highly-paid staff missed part (and only part) of a game of football.  Oh how frightful.

Yes, Margot, there is one political party that has lost all sense of perspective about what is happening, and that needs to be forced to belatedly confront reality.  But that party is not the Scottish National Party.

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We're about to see a second day of clever parliamentary tactics from the SNP, because they've called an opposition day debate on the Claim of Right.  The motion that MPs will be asked to vote for or against notes straightforwardly that the Scottish people have the "sovereign right...to determine the form of government best suited to their needs".  The simplicity of the motion presents all other parties with a dilemma.  Can Labour and the Liberal Democrats really abstain on a Yes/No vote about the founding principle of their own Scottish Constitutional Convention?  Will the Tories be able to come up with an explanation for saying that the Scottish people do not have the right to determine the form of government best suited to their own needs?  The way each unionist party votes, and justifies how it votes, will be taken down and used in evidence against them - particularly in the next independence referendum.

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Purely by virtue of a freakishly favourable draw for England, we're now suddenly staring down the barrel of a 1966 scenario.  And the fact that an England victory from 52 years ago is still being insufferably rammed down our throats on a daily basis is a useful clue as to why we might, on the whole, be better off not having to deal with a much more recent repeat performance.  But we may have to face the fact that if The Catastrophe is yet to be averted, it's now most likely to happen in the final.  England probably have a slightly better than even chance of beating Croatia - their toughest potential semi-final opponents.

I've always thought the best way of countering the mythology of 1966 is to promote the truly concrete past achievements of the Scotland team - as opposed to clinging to relatively meaningless single game triumphs such as the 1967 win against England, or the 1978 win against the Netherlands.  By 'truly concrete' I mean the fact that any retrospective world rankings going back to the start of international football would put Scotland in the number one position for long spells, and also the fact that Scotland won the defunct British Home Championship - the oldest and for a long time the most prestigious international tournament - on a remarkable 41 separate occasions.

On that theme, I was browsing through some of Wikipedia's articles about the British Home Championship a few hours ago, and just by chance I landed on the article about the 1979/80 edition of the tournament.  Now I've seen some brazen Anglocentric wording in my time, but just take a look at this effort...

"The tournament also finally marked the end of a decade of extremely poor international football results for all the Home Nations. Apart from disappointing Scottish performances in the 1974 and 1978 FIFA World Cups, no British side had been represented at a major football tournament since England were knocked out by Germany at the 1970 FIFA World Cup. In 1980, England finally qualified for the 1980 UEFA European Championship and although their performance was unspectacular it did lay the groundwork for the appearance of three of the Home Nations at the 1982 FIFA World Cup in Spain. The Home Championships thus allowed spectators and coaches an impression of the reorganised British sides and their capabilities in competitive football."

It's almost exquisite, isn't it?  England's qualification for the 1980 Euros was the first time a British team had qualified for a major tournament since England in 1970, unless you count Scotland qualifying in both 1974 and 1978 but obviously you won't count 1974 and 1978 because Scotland are not England.  That complete gibberish actually made sense in someone's head.

I was initially a bit daunted by the major surgery that would be required to make the article less risible, but after a bit of thought I edited it to read as follows...

"The tournament also marked the end of a decade-long era in which Scotland had been the only British side that managed to qualify for major international football tournaments, in the 1974 and 1978 FIFA World Cups. In 1980, England finally ended that Scottish dominance by qualifying for the 1980 UEFA European Championship and although their performance was unspectacular it did lay the groundwork for them to join both Scotland and the revitalised Northern Ireland at the 1982 FIFA World Cup in Spain. The Home Championships thus allowed spectators and coaches an impression of the reorganised British sides and their capabilities in competitive football."

I may have gone a bit to the other extreme by talking about a "decade-long era" of "Scottish dominance", but sometimes you need to go to the other extreme just to balance out the nonsense.