Thursday, May 23, 2019

Davidson's line of attack lies in TATTERS as Panelbase poll reveals a majority of the Scottish public want an early independence referendum

Thanks to Scottish Skier for drawing my attention to a little-noticed detail from last weekend's full-scale Scottish poll from Panelbase: there is now a majority in favour of an early independence referendum.  On the rounded numbers, the split is 50% in favour, 50% against, but a close look at the unrounded numbers reveals the majority is just about there.

Total in favour of an early independence referendum: 50.2% (+0.7)
Total opposed to an early independence referendum: 49.8% (-0.7)

Of course those percentage changes are trivial and not statistically significant, but psychologically they're very important, because the Tories have repeatedly told us that the evidence shows there is no public appetite for an independence referendum.  Well, here is evidence showing the complete opposite.

To maintain consistency with a question they've been asking for years, Panelbase always split the pro-referendum position into two separate options, and support for the more radical option has also seen an increase since the last poll...

When do you think another Scottish independence referendum should be held?

There should not be another Scottish independence referendum in the next few years: 49.8% (-0.7)
When the UK has finished negotiating to leave the EU: 27.9% (-2.2)
While the UK is negotiating to leave the EU: 22.3% (+2.9)

That wording is getting close to being past its sell-by date, because arguably the UK has already finished negotiating to leave the EU.  So it could be said that 27.9% of the public think a second indyref should take place now, and 22.3% think it should already have taken place!  It certainly seems to be the case that half of the electorate want a referendum in the very near future.

A few points to bear in mind about today's election

* Last time around, the SNP were slightly closer than the Greens to preventing UKIP from winning a Scottish seat.  An extra 32,100 votes for the SNP would have stopped UKIP, whereas the Greens would have needed an extra 32,230.  That history lesson isn't strictly relevant to today's election, because the Brexit Party appear to be stronger in Scotland than UKIP were five years ago, and are probably guaranteed at least one seat.  But I did hear last night that someone was planning to 'tactically' vote Green, specifically because of their mistaken belief that the Greens were closest to denying UKIP in 2014.  So it's probably just as well to put the record straight.

* It's essentially impossible to cast a tactical vote under this particular electoral system.  The only limited exception to that would be if you're planning to vote for a very small party (such as Change UK) that has no realistic hope of winning a seat in the Scottish electoral region.  If so, you're probably wasting your vote, and you might be better off switching to a larger party.  But apart from that, to make a sound decision to switch tactically from one party to another, you'd need to know in advance exactly how everyone else is going to vote, and that knowledge simply isn't available.  The best proof of that point is the fact that three different pro-Remain "tactical voting" websites have managed to come up with three completely different and contradictory recommendations for Scottish voters: one urges a vote for the SNP, one backs the Lib Dems, and the third plumps for the Greens.  It's just glorified guesswork.  (And in the case of the website recommending a tactical vote for the Lib Dems, there may well be an agenda behind it.)

* A low turnout will almost certainly favour the Brexit Party, so the one and only reliable way of making things harder for Farage is to persuade as many of your pro-indy family and friends as possible to actually vote.

* There is no ceiling of support above which any party won't need more votes.  Many polling subsamples have put the SNP in the high 30s, enough to win three of the six seats.  But, because of the way the D'Hondt formula works, there'd also be a chance of a fourth seat with a few extra percentage points.  Of course there's always a possibility that the polls are overstating the SNP, in which case a fourth seat would be out of reach - but, if so, the SNP would still need votes to ensure they win three seats rather than just two.  There is no scenario in which they won't need as many votes as they can possibly get.

* If you want to help generate momentum towards an independence referendum, a vote for the SNP will have a bigger impact than a vote for the Greens.  Today's election will have no direct effect on the independence campaign - it's purely psychological.  And that being the case, what matters is how the media report the result.  The London media in particular are probably only dimly aware that the Greens are a pro-indy party, which means that a Green seat will be interpreted primarily as a victory for left-wing politics and environmentalism.  By contrast, every SNP seat will be reported as a direct endorsement of an indyref.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Latest YouGov subsample suggests a GAIN for the SNP - and a WIPEOUT for Ruth Davidson's Tories

So, with the caveat that this is only a subsample from a GB poll, albeit a relatively large one that has probably been correctly structured and weighted, here is YouGov's latest estimate of Scottish voting intentions for tomorrow's European election...

SNP 40%, Brexit Party 23%, Liberal Democrats 12%, Greens 9%, Labour 7%, Conservatives 7%, UKIP 2%, Change UK 1%

The seats allocation on those numbers would be: SNP 3, Brexit Party 2, Liberal Democrats 1.

I'd suggest that would be a 'curate's egg' outcome as far as momentum for the independence campaign is concerned - the SNP would gain a seat and would record an all-time high both in terms of votes and seats, and the Ruth Davidson No More Referendums (Theresa May Sponsored Referendums Are OK) Party would be wiped out.  But you can guarantee that the unionist media would focus all their attention on the two seats for the Brexit Party, because that would supposedly show that Scotland is nowhere near as pro-European as Nicola Sturgeon portrays.  What we really need is for the Brexit Party to only win one seat, and for there to be four pro-indy seats (ideally four SNP seats, but three SNP and one Green would be the next best thing).  That's still a perfectly plausible outcome, but it depends on the Brexit Party being a tad less popular than these numbers suggest.  There's no way of engineering it through tactical voting - the only control we can have over it is to raise turnout by getting the pro-indy vote out, because it's pretty likely that the lower the turnout, the better Farage will do.

Incidentally, although the polls have been consistently saying that the SNP should win either three or four seats, I still have some concerns that they might end up with only two.  It's not just the fact that they've underperformed expectations in recent European elections - think also of their 32% showing at the local elections two years ago, which was way, way below what the opinion polls would have led us to expect.  (That even caught John Curtice out - he was still talking about 40% as a potentially disappointing outcome for the SNP well after the results started to come in.)  So there's no room at all for complacency, and we need to get every pro-indy voter we can find to the polling stations tomorrow.

*  *  *

Here's the latest in Phantom Power's acclaimed Journey to Yes series of films, this time featuring a certain Portuguese-born Yes supporter who will be familiar to a lot of us from Twitter...

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Setting the record straight on the D'Hondt formula

A commenter on a previous thread has alerted me to a piece of polling analysis on Newsnet that is based on an entirely false premise.  The article claims that Best For Britain are wrong to suggest that the figures from their recent YouGov poll would translate into three SNP seats in the European Parliament, and that the correct figure should be two.  It also goes on to say: "Why Best for Britain have allocated 3 seats to the SNP when their poll results actually only give them just 2 is strange. Perhaps because of an unexplained adjustment or wider polling influence."

In fact, the Newsnet piece is wrong and Best For Britain are right.  The 38% of the vote that the SNP are given by the poll would comfortably be enough to win them three seats, and it would actually leave them not that far away from four.  This is not because of any "unexplained adjustment" or "wider polling influence" - it's simply because of how the D'Hondt formula works.  The Newsnet author wrongly believes that D'Hondt divides a party's vote by two every time it wins a seat, but that's not the case at all.  As Newsnet is a pro-indy website, this is clearly an honest mistake rather than anything malicious, but it's still important to set the record straight because it could lead to further confusion about how the voting system works.  (And Alex Cole-Hamilton would be only too delighted about that!)

The D'Hondt formula actually divides each party's original vote by the number of seats it has already won, plus one.  So this is how the calculation would play out if the Best For Britain poll happens to be accurate...

First count: SNP 38, Brexit Party 19.8, Greens 11, Labour 10.2, Conservatives 10, Liberal Democrats 7, UKIP 2, Change UK 2

SNP win first seat

Second count: Brexit Party 19.8, SNP 19 (38 ÷ 2), Greens 11, Labour 10.2, Conservatives 10, Liberal Democrats 7, UKIP 2, Change UK 2

Brexit Party win second seat

Third count: SNP 19 (38 ÷ 2), Greens 11, Labour 10.2, Conservatives 10, Brexit Party 9.9 (19.8 ÷ 2), Liberal Democrats 7, UKIP 2, Change UK 2

SNP win third seat

Fourth count: SNP 12.7 (38 ÷ 3), Greens 11, Labour 10.2, Conservatives 10, Brexit Party 9.9 (19.8 ÷ 2), Liberal Democrats 7, UKIP 2, Change UK 2

SNP win fourth seat

Fifth count: Greens 11, Labour 10.2, Conservatives 10, Brexit Party 9.9 (19.8 ÷ 2), SNP 9.5 (38 ÷ 4), Liberal Democrats 7, UKIP 2, Change UK 2

Greens win fifth seat

Sixth count: Labour 10.2, Conservatives 10, Brexit Party 9.9 (19.8 ÷ 2), SNP 9.5 (38 ÷ 4), Liberal Democrats 7, Greens 5.5 (11 ÷ 2), UKIP 2, Change UK 2

Labour win sixth seat

Final seat allocation: SNP 3, Brexit Party 1, Greens 1, Labour 1

Theresa trembles as phenomenal Panelbase poll puts support for independence at 48% - a three-year high

I'm not sure if this information was published at the weekend and I just wasn't aware of it because I don't pay the Murdoch Levy, but anyway, it turns out that the new Panelbase poll also asked the independence question, and the results confirm what appeared to be the case from two polls a few weeks ago - that Yes support is riding higher than it has been for years.

Should Scotland be an independent country?

Yes 48% (+1)
No 52% (-1)

To put this in perspective, Panelbase have recently been one of the most No-friendly polling firms, and for eighteen months between the early summer of 2017 and the autumn of 2018, they consistently had Yes on either 43% or 44%.  The last two Panelbase polls showed Yes had jumped to 47%, and now 48% is a three-year high.  It's very unlikely that such a sustained pattern is illusory - it does look like support for independence has increased significantly over recent months.  YouGov, of course, have shown the same trend.

Here's the proof that the 'Remain Voter' website can't be trusted

So just to recap: yesterday I expressed my suspicions that the 'Remain Voter' website might have some sort of agenda, because the explanation for their advice that pro-EU voters in Scotland should cast a tactical vote for the Liberal Democrats appeared to be absolute gibberish.  They stated that switching to the Lib Dems on Thursday could somehow help the SNP win a fourth seat - which is arithmetically impossible.

Today someone on Twitter wrongly stated that Remain Voter were claiming that people should vote for the Lib Dems because the SNP don't even have a chance of a fourth seat, and that any extra SNP votes would therefore be wasted.  This was my reply -

"They actually don't say that. Their advice is much more nutty than that. They say that the SNP *can* win a fourth seat, and that voting Lib Dem will help them do it. Mysteriously (or perhaps I should say understandably), they don't explain how that is arithmetically possible."

That attracted the attention of 'Remain Voter' themselves, who foolishly tried to cover their embarrassment with a grossly misleading response -

"No we don't say that. We say: "Recent polling shows SNP confidently gaining 3 seats with undecided Labour voters blocking a 4th. Remain Voter modelling shows LDs have the momentum to win a seat..""

And my reply -

"You little fibber. You've hurriedly edited your page - you know perfectly well that the previous wording was exactly what I said. It was as follows: "Remain Voter modelling shows LDs have the momentum to win a seat while helping the SNP win the 4th seat.""

In case you want to see the proof with your own eyes, click HERE to see what their website looked like two days ago.

I'll leave it up to you to decide whether you want to contract out your voting choices to an Anglocentric website that has proved itself to be so slippery and deceitful.

And this might also be a suitable moment to give another plug to the new Phantom Power film I was involved in.  I make the point in it that the SNP do indeed have a realistic chance of winning a fourth seat on Thursday - but only if they receive 40%+ of the vote.  Switching your vote to a unionist party like the Lib Dems sure as hell isn't going to help.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Your four-minute guide to how Thursday's European election could be a giant leap towards an independence referendum

A couple of weeks ago, I went to Bannockburn with the legendary pro-indy film-maker Phantom Power to record a short piece about the forthcoming European elections.  You can watch it below, and I think you'll agree that it ends on a suitably rousing note!

If anyone tells you that "tactical voting" is possible on Thursday, they're either misleading you or they don't know what they're talking about

Over the last few weeks I've made the point a number of times that it's not possible to "vote tactically" in the European elections, regardless of whether the intended effect is to increase the chances of Scottish independence or to increase the chances of Britain remaining in the European Union.  We all just have one vote for one party, and seats in the European Parliament will be allocated in proportion to the share of the vote received by each party.  It's hard to think of a voting system less conducive to tactical voting than that.  And yet in recent days there have been two determined attempts to convince the public that pro-Remain tactical voting is both feasible and desirable.  First of all Gina Miller gave a suspiciously hazy summary of research based on "machine learning" that claimed, among other things, that Remain supporters in Scotland should tactically switch to the SNP on Thursday.  Then a website called 'Remain Voter' gave an even sketchier explanation for their advice that Scottish voters should switch tactically to the Liberal Democrats.

As there is a direct contradiction between the two recommendations (Miller and 'Remain Voter' also contradict each other in Wales and some of the English regions), it hopefully won't be too controversial if I say that both can be safely ignored.  But what's going on here?  I suspect Miller's initiative is well-intentioned but misguided - she's probably seen the dramatic effect of tactical voting in first-past-the-post elections (it cost the Tories a lot of seats in 1997, for example) and imagines that the same can be achieved in any election, regardless of the voting system.  She's used opinion polling to estimate the state of current voting intentions and then commissioned experts to judge which tactical movements between one Remain party and another would maximise the total number of seats won by Remain parties.  But that's where she hits the age-old problem: the results you get out are only as good as the data you put in.  She's betting the house on her poll results being exceptionally accurate, and if they're not, her recommendations will have no sound basis.  Yes, she's using the most advanced polling methods, but the extreme level of accuracy required for the exercise is simply beyond what is actually possible.  I would guess her experts must understand that perfectly well, but if you're being paid handsomely it's easy enough to turn a blind eye to that sort of fundamental snag.

I'm rather less charitable about the motivations of the 'Remain Voter' website, because their stated logic for the Lib Dem recommendation in Scotland is so mind-bogglingly perverse that it's hard to believe there isn't some sort of agenda behind the whole thing.  Here it is in all its glory -

"Scotland is interesting! Recent polling shows SNP confidently gaining 3 seats with undecided Labour voters blocking a 4th.

Remain Voter modelling shows LDs have the momentum to win a seat while helping the SNP win the 4th seat.

Smart voting can win a seat from a pro-Brexit party while capitalising on Labour's lack of commitment to their majority Remain membership."

Yes, folks, they really are saying that "tactically voting for the Lib Dems" can somehow "help the SNP to win a fourth seat".  Which is arithmetically impossible.  The lack of explanation for how they think the laws of mathematics can be bent on this occasion is rather deafening.  Someone suggested to me on Twitter that if a very large number of Labour voters were to switch to the Lib Dems, that could achieve the claimed effect, with the Lib Dems taking one seat and the SNP taking four.  But that's not "tactical voting" - that's voters switching sides from a Leave party to a Remain party.  The whole thing is absolute gibberish.

The only limited sense in which there's a grain of truth in the claims about tactical voting is that if you vote for a pro-Remain party that has no realistic chance of winning a seat in your electoral region (that would apply to Change UK in Scotland and in most other electoral regions), you're wasting your vote and you'd be better off voting for a more popular Remain party (ie. the SNP, Plaid Cymru, the Greens or the Liberal Democrats).  But beyond that very narrow point, the system really can't be gamed, and you should just vote for whichever party you like best and agree with most.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

The dream dies for Davidson as sensational Panelbase poll suggests the Scottish Tories face TOTAL WIPEOUT at Westminster, with the SNP poised to take almost every Scottish seat

Scottish voting intentions for Westminster (Panelbase):

SNP 38% (n/c)
Labour 19% (-2)
Conservatives 18% (-4)
Liberal Democrats 10% (+4)
Brexit Party 9% (+4)
Greens 3% (+1)
Change UK 2% (-1)
UKIP 1% (-1)

Panelbase have consistently reported a lower SNP share than other firms, so I would guess a new poll from YouGov or Survation might show the SNP in the low 40s.  But even if Panelbase are correct, what's happening is that Labour and the Tories are taking a hammering from the polarisation of politics along Remain v Leave lines, while the SNP are holding steady at roughly where they were at the last general election.  And when the voting system is first-past-the-post, that's all they need to do.  On the Electoral Calculus projection, they'd win almost every seat in Scotland, with the Tories being completely wiped out and Labour reduced to just Ian Murray's seat once again.  In practice, that's unlikely to be how it unfolds - I suspect David Mundell and John Lamont might hold on for the Tories, along with maybe one or two others.  But the bulk of the seats the Tories took in the north-east two years ago would probably tumble.  That's remarkable, because those seats looked absolutely rock-solid until a few short weeks ago.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

The annual Eurovision post

Well, actually there are usually several annual Eurovision posts - this is the first year since starting the blog in 2008 that I haven't posted predictions for the two semi-finals.  But don't worry, I wasn't boycotting Israel or anything like that, so there's no need for Fiona Robertson to launch a bigotry inquiry.  I just ran out of time.

I know some of you get mildly homicidal when I start writing about Eurovision, so to sweeten the pill this year I thought I might make a small departure from my usual prediction post, and instead offer you some betting tips.  Even if you're not interested in Eurovision itself, you might be interested in making a little money out of it.  Obviously what you do with this advice is entirely at your own risk - it's just some general speculation about where the value might possibly lie.

The Netherlands, oddly enough, are the red-hot favourites to win this year, and if they do, it'll be their first triumph since the quintessentially dreadful Ding-A-Dong way back in 1975 (a song that Edwyn Collins memorably turned into a Bond theme two decades later).  Over the last few years, strong favourites have tended to win at a canter, but if you go further back, the contest is littered with highly-fancied entries that crashed and burned.  The most recent example was 2011, when France were expected to win but finished a poor fifteenth, which allowed Azerbaijan to emerge from the pack.  In this case I'm fairly confident the Netherlands will finish close to the top of the leaderboard, because the song is likely to be the favourite of the juries.  But whether it wins outright will also depend on the public vote, and that's where one or two doubts creep in.  It's actually possible to bet on the outcome of the public vote alone, and I'd suggest that the eye-catching Australian entry and Russia are both quite generously priced on that front.  Russia are particularly tempting, partly because they're the kings of political voting, and partly because their singer Sergey Lazarev won the televote (but not the jury vote) three years ago.  And at the risk of fuelling David Leask's suspicions, it's not a bad song at all.

When I first heard the UK's song in February, I thought it was "our" best entry for years and years and years, and I still think that, but it clearly hasn't caught the imagination of the fans, and you can get odds of close to 500/1 against a UK win.  In spite of uninspiring staging, I believe the song is significantly underpriced, probably due to fatalism brought about by years of poor UK results.  Probably the most sensible bet would be the 25/1 on offer for the UK to merely finish in the top ten, which seems insanely generous.  (For the avoidance of doubt, I don't think the UK will make the top ten, but I do think there's a greater than 4% chance of that happening.  4% is the percentage chance implied by the odds.)

The catchy-but-appalling San Marino song is also a rank outsider to make the top ten, and that's a semi-tempting one because you can guarantee the public will be voting for it as a laugh.  But you'd assume it'll be hammered by the juries.  (There again, the juries ranked the Israeli novelty song as high as third last year, so anything is possible.)

There are a few other entries that are odds-against to make the top ten, but which might be a value bet - the Czech Republic song is very infectious, Serbia have followed the dramatic Balkan ballad template that proved so successful for them a few years back, and Cyprus have a song that is fairly similar to their runner-up from last year.

*  *  *

And for those of you who aren't interested in either Eurovision or Eurovision betting, here is YouGov's latest Scottish subsample for the European elections.  It's an unusually large subsample of more than 600 respondents, which makes it almost as good as a full-scale poll, because YouGov (unlike other firms) are believed to weight their Scottish subsamples correctly.

SNP 39%, Brexit Party 20%, Liberal Democrats 13%, Greens 10%, Conservatives 7%, Labour 6%, UKIP 2%, Change UK 1%

Seats projection: SNP 3, Brexit Party 1 or 2, Liberal Democrats 1, Greens 0 or 1

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Ruth Davidson's campaign pitch is just sooooo 2017

So I received my official Ruth Davidson's Conservatives Election Communication through the door this morning, and a few points leap out at me...

* They seem to have entirely given up on voters with a primarily Scottish national identity.  Note the prominent usage of the Union Jack and the total absence of the saltire.  They've travelled a long way since the likes of Michael Forsyth co-opted the saltire as part of the unionist brand in 1990s.  Now, doubtless their strategists would point out that Ruth Davidson has had greater electoral success than Michael Forsyth, but it does mean they're limiting themselves to a niche market - British identity is much weaker in Scotland than Scottish national identity.  It would be reasonable to suggest that this approach was far more compatible with Davidson's aim in 2016 of becoming the largest opposition party than it is with her current stated objective of becoming First Minister.

* They seem to have entirely given up on Remain voters.  How on earth do you win a majority in Scotland if you only want people who are BOTH self-identifying Brits AND Leave supporters (38% of the population in 2016 and now a touch lower)?  It's even harder now that the Brexit Party seems to have become overnight the natural home for passionate Leavers, which means that the Tories are effectively left chasing after the voters who do want Brexit but don't particularly prioritise it.

* They're testing the credulity of voters with a bizarre juxtaposition between the "no more divisive referendums!" message and their insistence that "the result of the divisive referendum we held ourselves only three years ago MUST be respected!!!!"

* I wouldn't actually rule out the possibility that lazily rerunning the 2017 anti-indyref message could gain some traction - but if it does, that could conceivably split the Brexit Party vote and help the SNP.  I'm not even joking.  If yesterday's YouGov subsample is right about the Scottish Tories only being on 6% of the vote for the Euro elections (a perfectly plausible figure given that the Tory vote across Britain is just 10%), they're well below the de facto threshold for winning a seat, and an extra 1% or 2% of votes for them will be wasted votes.

* If a vote for the Conservatives in this election is a vote to "tell Nicola Sturgeon - no more referendums", doesn't it logically follow that if the Tories are wiped out and the SNP gain a seat (as the YouGov subsample implies will happen), the public must want a referendum?

Could Ruth Davidson be facing an ABRUPT END to her political career? SHOCK YouGov research puts the Scottish Tories in SIXTH PLACE for the Euro elections

Every day seems to bring word of a poll showing even more progress for the Brexit Party, and the latest from YouGov is no exception.

Britain-wide voting intentions for Westminster (YouGov):

Conservatives 24% (-5)
Labour 24% (-5)
Brexit Party 18% (+3)
Liberal Democrats 16% (+3)
Greens 7% (+2)
SNP / Plaid Cymru 5% (+1)
Change UK 2% (-1)
UKIP 2% (n/c)

Scottish subsample: SNP 41%, Labour 15%, Conservatives 14%, Brexit Party 12%, Liberal Democrats 10%, Greens 5%, UKIP 1%, Change UK 1%

Britain-wide voting intentions for European Parliament (YouGov):

Brexit Party 34% (+4)
Labour 16% (-5)
Liberal Democrats 15% (+5)
Greens 11% (+2)
Conservatives 10% (-3)
Change UK 5% (-4)
SNP 3% (n/a)
UKIP 3% (-1)
Plaid Cymru 1% (n/a)

Scottish subsample: SNP 38%, Brexit Party 21%, Liberal Democrats 11%, Labour 10%, Greens 9%, Conservatives 6%, Change UK 2%

To say that public opinion is fast-moving at the moment would be the understatement of the century.  It seems like no time at all ago that we thought the hardline Brexit vote would be split down the middle between the Brexit Party and UKIP, and that the hardline Remain/anti-independence vote would be split between the Lib Dems and Change UK, perhaps meaning that all four parties might miss out on a European Parliament seat in Scotland.  But the Brexit Party and the Lib Dems seem to have decisively won the side-battles against their ideological cousins, which turns our expectations for the Euro seat allocation upside down.  If by any chance the YouGov subsample is completely accurate, the six Scottish seats would be distributed as follows: SNP 3, Brexit Party 2, Liberal Democrats 1.  There would be no Labour or Tory representation at all - the first time in history that Scottish Labour would have been wiped out in the European Parliament.

Although the Tories slumping to a scarcely believable fifth place across Britain is the most eye-catching aspect of the poll, the Scottish Tories' 6% share in the Euro subsample is also worthy of note.  Will the myth of Ruth ever recover?

As far as the Westminster figures are concerned, this wouldn't be the first time in recent decades that we've seen weird numbers that amounted to nothing when an election came around - remember the SDP surge, or the Cleggasm, or the temporary lead for William Hague during the fuel crisis of 2000.  But I do wonder if this time could be different, particularly if Britain hasn't yet left the European Union by the day of the election and if Brexit passions are still running high.  Almost anything could happen.  I talked the other day about the nightmare scenario of Nigel Farage ending up as Prime Minister, but we shouldn't overlook the lesser-but-somehow-equal nightmare of Jo Swinson walking through the doors of Number 10.  The Lib Dems' 16% share, which looks thoroughly unimpressive compared to the achievements of Charles Kennedy, is nevertheless enough to put them just eight points off the outright lead.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Opinium poll suggests Farage has a chance of becoming Prime Minister

It's not very often that Nicola Sturgeon tweets about a Britain-wide opinion poll, and I was initially slightly puzzled as to why she singled out ("it's time for independence, Scotland") today's new poll from Opinium.  It shows Labour with a six point lead over the Tories, with Nigel Farage's new Brexit Party one point further back in third place.  On the face of it, that's better for Labour and less good for the Brexit Party than other recent Euro election polls.  But then I took a closer look and realised it's not a Euro election poll.  It's a Westminster poll.

Britain-wide Westminster voting intentions (Opinium):

Labour 28% (-2)
Conservatives 22% (-3)
Brexit Party 21% (+4)
Liberal Democrats 11% (n/c)
Greens 6% (+1)
SNP 4% (+1)
UKIP 4% (n/c)
Change UK 4% (+2)

(Note: I've updated the above figures to include the SNP and Change UK, and also to correct the percentage changes - it turns out there was also an earlier Opinium poll that we didn't know about.)

Yes, folks, Opinium really are saying that if there was a general election tomorrow, the current governing party would be essentially tied with a hard-right populist party that was only formed a few weeks ago.  That almost certainly wouldn't translate into parity in terms of seats, because the first-past-the-post electoral system would punish the Brexit Party for support that is too evenly spread.  But the flip-side of the coin is that once a party becomes popular enough, it suddenly gets rewarded for evenly spread support - that's how the SNP ended up winning almost every seat in Scotland in 2015.  Nigel Farage is potentially only a few percentage points away from becoming Prime Minister in a snap election.

Is it credible to believe that this nightmare scenario could actually unfold in real life?  As an election approaches, voters often revert to old habits - for example, the Liberal Democrats still ended up in third place in 2010 in spite of the "Cleggasm" that temporarily propelled them into a lead in the polls.  But there could be a tipping point if Tory MPs start defecting to the Brexit Party.  It's certainly conceivable that if Britain hasn't left the European Union by the time the election is held, Nigel Farage could end up leading a sizeable group of Brexit Party MPs in the House of Commons.

Meanwhile, it must be some kind of record for any party to be leading a Westminster poll on just 28% of the vote.  It's perfectly conceivable to win a majority on that sort of vote if you have a big enough lead over the second placed party.  Would there come a point where even the Labour and Tory dinosaurs might start to conclude that the perversities of first-past-the-post are getting beyond a joke? 

*  *  *

UPDATE: A Westminster poll from ComRes shows much the same picture, except that it actually has the Brexit Party in second place...

Britain-wide Westminster voting intentions (ComRes):

Labour 27% (-6)
Brexit Party 20% (+6)
Conservatives 19% (-4)
Liberal Democrats 14% (+7)
Change UK 7% (-2)
Greens 5% (+2)
SNP 3% (n/c)
UKIP 3% (-2)

Friday, May 10, 2019

Hats off to Haddington as SNP give Ruth Davidson's Tories the FRIGHT OF THEIR LIVES in by-election belter

So this is more like it, after the slight disappointment of the by-election in Dundee last week. Haddington and Lammermuir isn't particularly SNP territory - the party finished third in the ward (albeit a strong third) last time around, at a time when there was a clear SNP lead nationally. In yesterday's by-election, they moved into a clear second place as the Labour vote collapsed.

Haddington and Lammermuir by-election result (9th May 2019): 

Conservatives 35.0% (+6.0)
SNP 29.5% (+3.5)
Labour 21.5% (-12.2)
Liberal Democrats 12.2% (+4.9)
UKIP 1.7% (n/a)

That's the result on first preferences, but the SNP were even closer to victory than those figures suggest. Of the hundreds of Labour voters who transferred on the decisive count, 56.2% went to the SNP and only 43.8% to the Tories - once again giving the lie to the notion that the Labour support can be regarded as part of some sort of monolithic unionist bloc. If the Tory vote drops significantly in some of the crucial north-east marginals at the next general election, Ruth Davidson shouldn't expect unionist tactical votes to save her. Labour supporters in those seats may even be rather more tempted to cast a tactical anti-Brexit vote for the SNP.

That said, Haddington and Lammermuir is obviously a solid result for the Tories as well, and defies recent opinion polls by showing no sign of any loss of support to pro-Brexit parties. (There was no Brexit Party candidate, but UKIP were there.) I suspect it's a case of horses for courses, though, and that voters will behave very differently at the Euro elections.

An all-out independence push would have been better, but 'Stop Brexit' is still a far more inspiring message than 'Stronger for Scotland' was

There were two obvious possibilities for the SNP's pitch in the European elections - they could either make it all about independence and seek a 'quadruple lock mandate' for an independence referendum, or they could urge Remain voters to use the SNP as a vehicle to stop Brexit.  It's clear from the campaign launch that they've plumped full-bloodedly for the latter option.  There's a paradox here, because that may well prove to be a strategically sound decision from the SNP's own party interests - it does seem intuitively likely that favourable showings in recent opinion polls can be partly attributed to the clarity of the 'stop Brexit' message, and after all the Remain constituency in Scotland is somewhat bigger than the Yes constituency.  But ultimately the SNP exist to bring about independence, and any strategy that maximises the party's support while squandering an opportunity to win an independence-specific mandate may be counterproductive in the long-run.

It's important to stress, however, that this doesn't mean that the SNP have entirely failed to learn the lesson of the 2017 general election.  One reason why refusing to campaign hard on independence in 2017 was such a mistake was because there was no alternative message that was going to inspire people to go to the polling stations - all we had was the vague "Stronger for Scotland", which couldn't even begin to compete with the directness of the Tories' "No to Indyref 2" as a get-out-the-vote device.  This time, the alternative to a straightforward independence pitch does have every chance of capturing people's imaginations.  And because it's only a couple of weeks since Nicola Sturgeon restated her intention to hold a pre-2021 independence referendum, a good result for the SNP is bound to be seen as some kind of endorsement of an indyref, regardless of the exact campaign message.  So although I would have preferred this election to be used for an in-your-face push towards independence, it's fair to say I can live with the decision that's been made.

*  *  *

Somebody posted the Euro ballot paper on Twitter, and what leapt out at me is that Nigel Farage appears to have missed a trick by registering his party name as "The Brexit Party" rather than "Brexit Party", which means he misses out on being top of the ballot on alphabetical order.  (I had actually been assuming for months that one of the main reasons he chose the name was precisely because it started with a 'B'.)  Instead, pride of place goes to Change UK, whose presence on the ballot as an independent force may spell trouble for the Liberal Democrats.  I wouldn't by any means dismiss the Lib Dems' chances of nicking a seat in Scotland - although their success in the English local elections was wildly exaggerated, they'll still have gained momentum from the way in which it was reported.  But they're fishing in the same pond as Change UK - both parties appeal to hardline Remain voters who oppose independence, and if that vote is split, it could make it much harder for the Lib Dems to reach the de facto threshold for a Scottish seat, which in turn could create an opening for other parties (including the SNP).

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Last call to register to vote in the European elections

It's 7pm as I write this, so you now have only a few hours left to register to vote in the European elections (that is, if you aren't already registered as a result of responding to the household enquiry form a few months ago).  I realise that the majority of people reading a politics blog will already be safely registered, but what's more likely is that you know someone who isn't - maybe a young person, someone who has recently moved house, or an EU citizen.  If so, and particularly if they're pro-independence, cajole them, bribe them, do whatever it takes, but make sure they're registered by midnight.  The link to the registration page is HERE.

Remember that EU citizens also have to fill in an additional form (I believe it's some sort of declaration that they won't be voting twice in the European election in two different countries).

Monday, May 6, 2019

On the subject of "monetising the Yes movement"...

You're probably aware by now that the ostensibly pro-indy journalist Neil Mackay has been at it again.  Not content with his proposal a few days ago that would essentially make it impossible for Yes to win any future referendum by introducing a 1979-style "60% rule", he's now penned a dismal "exclusive" that continues his war against much of the Yes movement, and which prays in aid quotes by a number of senior SNP people who probably should have known better.  I'm inclined to agree with this response from Thomas Widmann of Arc of Prosperity fame -

"I've often thought the SNP leadership actually would rather be without a movement. Of course they like the membership fees and having somebody who will deliver their leaflets, but they'd rather people didn't speak or act in public if they're not paid by the party to do so."

Those who were quoted on-the-record by Mr Mackay were careful in how they chose their words (although I did roll my eyes to the heavens at Alyn Smith's conspiracy theory stuff about "false flag" Yes accounts, which if taken too far could easily lead us down a Leask-style rabbit hole where we'd all start accusing each other of being Russian agents).  But there were a couple of rather more provocative comments which, unsurprisingly, no-one was brave enough to put their name to.  For example:

"Much of this [Cybernat trolling] is about who can monetise the Yes movement. It’s about who is getting the most clicks, donations and subscriptions."

I have a shrewd idea about which SNP parliamentarian may have said that, although I won't name any names in case I'm wide of the mark.  But what I would say is that the individual in question almost certainly draws a salary well in excess of the income that anyone could realistically draw from a DIY fundraiser, so I'd suggest he or she ought to be rather more circumspect about accusing others of "monetising the Yes movement".  Just like anyone else making a living (either in whole or in part) out of their support for independence, he or she can only really justify that in the long run by producing results.

I don't particularly feel my ears burning at the mention of monetisation, because although I'm one of the relatively small number of Yes people who have fundraised over the years, I don't think anyone could (credibly) accuse me of using abusive tactics to advertise this blog.   But then again, if it's not someone like me, who are these mysterious people that are supposedly using abuse to generate an income?  Presumably the dig is partly directed at Stuart Campbell, simply because he's a bit sweary sometimes, but who else is there?  Let's be honest here: being a troll on social media is not a particularly effective money-making strategy.  If you look at the genuine trolls and ask yourself how much they're making out of it, the answer is pretty obvious: absolutely nothing.

I suspect the parliamentarian who made the accusation knows full well that there is no link between "Cybernat abuse" and "monetisation".  So why knowingly say something that isn't true?  I would guess it goes back to Thomas' insight: this is an attempt to pathologise any 'non-authorised' Yes activity.  It doesn't really matter whether you're coaxed into believing that 'unofficial' initiatives are motivated by money, or by support for Vladimir Putin.  Just so long as you end up believing they're all thoroughly illegitimate, that'll do fine.

UPDATE: I've seen one or two people claim that the widespread anger about Neil Mackay's article is misplaced because the criticisms within it are only directed at a tiny minority of the Yes movement.  But that excuse is deeply disingenuous.  Look at this quote from Stewart McDonald MP, for instance...

"just f**king chill out a bit, and you can quote me directly on that ... some of the anger is over the most absurd things...on the face of it you might feel that it’s a bit annoying that X wasn’t top of Reporting Scotland or this headline was particularly unfortunate – fine we all get p****d off with something like that but just chill out a bit and think about things in the grand scheme of things. I think sometimes they wind themselves up so much."

If Stewart thinks that people getting annoyed about the running order on Reporting Scotland is somehow part of a Cybernat online abuse problem, then he's the one that is losing the plot.  Stewart has a long-standing personal view that there's no great problem with the mainstream media, and he's perfectly entitled to that view, but I'm afraid that if his call for respectful debate is to have any meaning, that principle also has to apply within the Yes movement.  He can't just go around pathologising legitimate views that he happens to personally disagree with.  Forcefully making the point that the BBC buried their coverage of the Westminster power-grab last year does not make you a Cybernat troll.

Remember when Stewart complained to the Speaker about Dennis Skinner being appallingly rude to him?  I wonder how he'd have reacted if others in the Yes movement, instead of showing solidarity, had told him to "stop winding himself up so much" and to "f***ing chill out a bit" and to "think about things in the grand scheme of things"?  I suspect he might have had something to say about that.

UPDATE II: I've just caught up with the fact that Mhairi Hunter, the Glasgow councillor, expressed her sympathy with the article's agenda by saying "some Yessers are trash and we do need to disassociate ourselves from them because they are trash".  It goes without saying that this is appalling, dehumanising language that wouldn't be appropriate from anyone, let alone from an elected councillor.  It never ceases to amaze me how often the people who set themselves up as the civility police end up embodying the very thing they demonise others for.  Several hours after grudgingly accepting that she shouldn't have used the word "trash", Ms Hunter still hasn't deleted her comment.  I trust that those who have been most vociferous about online abuse will call her out for it, rather than nod along with it.

Friday, May 3, 2019

SNP gatecrash the English local elections by seizing control of Dundee City Council

So here's a paradox within a paradox within a paradox.  On Scottish local elections night two years ago, the SNP failed to win an overall majority in any council, and yet they've somehow pulled that feat off tonight on English local elections night.  Winning a single by-election was enough for them regain outright control of Dundee City Council after two years of running a minority administration.  The SNP gained the crucial seat from Labour, and yet it was a poor result for the SNP.  Confused?  Well, it's our old friend, the STV voting system, making everything a bit complicated again.  The vacancy was caused by the death of a Labour councillor, but the popular vote in the ward was dominated by the SNP last time around.  They haven't done as well tonight, and Labour have made a significant comeback.

Dundee North-East by-election result (2nd May 2019):

SNP 46.9% (-6.9)
Labour 38.1% (+11.1)
Conservatives 8.4% (-0.7)
Anti-Cuts 2.8% (+1.5)
Greens 2.4% (+0.8)
Citizens First 1.4% (n/a)

It's difficult to make much sense of the direction of travel there - it's completely out of line with other recent Scottish local by-elections, with recent Scottish opinion polls, and even with the English local elections, in which so far Labour seem to be taking a pounding. Probably those on the ground in Dundee would know the explanation - perhaps the Labour candidate is particularly well known, or perhaps there was some local factor that was suppressing the SNP vote.

*  *  *

It seems to me that the obvious point a lot of commentators are missing about the English results is that, at least to a large extent, the Brexit vote had nowhere to go.  Nigel Farage's new Brexit Party didn't stand, and UKIP only stood in a small minority of wards.  So if the Tories do end up with a surprise lead in the projected national vote, as now looks possible, there'll be no great mystery about the divergence from opinion polls showing a Labour lead - it'll have happened because some disgruntled pro-Brexit voters reluctantly stuck with the Tories yesterday in the absence of a clear alternative.  They won't have the same problem later this month in the Euro elections.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Setting an artificial threshold of 60% for a Yes victory isn't "bold" - it's ultra-conservative and anti-democratic

You've probably seen Neil Mackay's rather provocative list of "issues" that the Yes movement must supposedly address in order to win.  Unsurprisingly it has sharply divided opinion, with some of the criticism spilling into unpleasant personal comments.  But as was the case with Peter A Smith, the fact that the abuse must be deplored does not mean that parts of the criticism can't be justified.  Mr Mackay's advice is a very mixed bag - some of it is eminently sensible, such as the reminder that using insulting words like 'Yoon' does no-one any good.  (I would make exceptions for ironic or satirical use, but the basic point is sound.)  Some of it is misguided, such as the idea that we should all stop marching for independence, on the basis that shoving saltires in the faces of No voters does nothing to win them over.  This entirely misses the point of the marches, which is not to convert No voters directly, but rather to raise the morale of Yes supporters, to boost the visibility of the campaign, and to generate a sense of momentum.  And some of the advice is needlessly divisive, such as the suggestion that those in leadership positions should shun certain Yes supporters by unfollowing them on social media - which would simply alienate one part of the movement from another without actually winning a single extra vote.  Paul Hutcheon may have based his entire "investigative journalism" career on the shock value of who doesn't ignore who on Twitter, but real people don't give a monkey's.

Mr Mackay's most controversial point of all is smuggled in at the end.  He argues that the movement should decide that nothing less than 60% Yes support is required for change - he thinks this would be a "bold" and generous step that would impress the unpersuaded.  Now, I've read this part of the article multiple times, and I still can't quite work out what Mr Mackay is getting at - is he suggesting that we should not call a referendum until Yes is at 60% in the polls, or is he actually suggesting that the rules of the next referendum should be rigged in favour of the No side to ensure that they only need 40.01% of the vote to "win"?  I suspect the ambiguity may be intentional, because there is a near-consensus in the Yes movement that the 40% rule in 1979 was an outrage against democracy that must never be repeated in any form.  It's unlikely there would have been as many people recommending Mr Mackay's article as a "must-read" if they had realised he was channelling George Cunningham. 

And it would actually make a complete nonsense of all of the high-minded suggestions for building Yes support, because what happens if those ideas work?  Suppose the banning of marches, the sending of people to Coventry on Twitter, and the introduction of a 60% rule somehow win over No voters by the bucket-load, and we score a highly impressive 59% of the vote in the next referendum?  The returning officer will just turn around and say: "Sorry, under the Vote Adjustment Rules, 41 is a bigger number than 59, and you've actually lost.  Try again in a generation."  Supermajority requirements aren't "bold", they aren't daring, they aren't radical - they're ultra-conservative, anti-democratic, and make the status quo insanely difficult to reform.

Even if we're generous to Mr Mackay and assume he wasn't proposing a supermajority, but merely that we shouldn't hold a referendum until 60% has been reached in the polls, that would still to all intents and purposes be an argument against a referendum and against independence, because in the real world 60% is utterly unachievable before the referendum campaign actually starts.  If even the initial shock of the Leave vote in June 2016 was only enough to get Yes into the low 50s, I'm struggling to see how we'd get much higher than that without calling a referendum and inviting people to focus on the choice.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

The Tories are overplaying their hand by moving from "now is not the time" to "Scotland will never be allowed to choose"

In the spring of 2017, when Theresa May first trotted out her notorious line of "now is not the time", we were reliably informed by journalists who had spoken to government sources that the choice of words had been extensively road-tested.  The Tories wanted to refuse a Section 30 order, but they were anxious to do it in a way that wouldn't inflame Scottish public opinion and end up increasing support for independence.  They apparently found in focus groups that "now is not the time" hit a sweet spot that got middle-of-the-road voters nodding along.  It wasn't a flat no, it wasn't forever, but there was just too much going on with Brexit, it was too soon after the first indyref, so you know, not just now, Nicola.

Why do the Tories appear to be abandoning that circumspection?  Why does "now is not the time" appear to be giving way to words that effectively mean "Scotland is a prisoner in the United Kingdom and is no longer allowed to leave"?  If you were being generous, you would think that maybe there have been yet more focus groups, and more private polls, revealing a sea-change in Scottish public opinion which has left the Tories free to say any outrageous thing they want without have to worry about boosting support for independence or for an independence referendum.  But that seems unlikely.  I think they just got carried away with their (qualified) success in the 2017 general election and now believe that negativity about an independence referendum is an inexhaustible goldmine that will continue to generate votes for the Scottish Tories.  It'll never win them a majority, or anything close, but they no longer care what the majority think, because they've found in our Alice Through the Looking Glass politics that they can "win" elections and reap the full rewards of that by coming a distant second and getting little more than one-quarter of the vote.  They may still care to some extent about saving their "precious, precious union", but they've come to believe that will take care of itself while they get on with pursuing the narrow electoral interests of the Tory party.

The thing is, though, the union may not take care of itself.  It's easy to dismissively say no to a referendum, and to give the impression of doing that with some sort of moral authority, when the most recent election produced substantial SNP losses (albeit from an exceptionally high base, which of course no-one ever bothers to mention).  It'll be a rather different story after the European elections if opinion polls are correct in pointing to SNP gains.  And it'll be a completely different story after any snap general election if opinion polls are right in suggesting the SNP could once again take more than 50 of the 59 Scottish seats.  By that point, any further obstructionism from Westminster on a Section 30 order could start to look like what Tony Blair used to call "an unreasonable veto".  There might then be considerable public sympathy for Nicola Sturgeon as she looks at ways forward in the absence of a Section 30 - assuming she can be persuaded to overcome her reluctance to act without London's 'permission'.

The other problem is that, paradoxically, the Tories' campaign against a referendum two years ago may only have been successful in producing seat gains because Theresa May had not actually said no to a referendum.  If you want people to be motivated to go to the polls to stop Indyref 2, they have to believe the 'threat' is real.  By moving from "now is not the time" to a flat no, the Scottish Tories may have destroyed their own electoral USP.  We'll soon find out.

*  *  *

Last night's blogpost was about the ITV reporter Peter A Smith, who in his interview with the First Minister wasn't remotely interested in the case for or against a referendum, but merely wanted to taunt her about the supposed fact that the all-powerful British state wasn't going to let her have one.  "Yeah, and which Tory is going to agree to a referendum?  Michael Gove?  Boris Johnson?  Who?"  It strikes me that Iain Macwhirter has been arguing in much the same spirit recently - instead of being outraged at the thwarting of democratic Scottish mandates, his anger and scorn is directed at those who aren't 'realistic' enough to accept that Theresa May's veto is the end of the story.  "And you think Jeremy Corbyn is going to give you your Section 30, do you?  Get real."  (I'm paraphrasing, by the way, before anyone jumps down my throat.)

This is really odd, because Iain spoke for all of us in 2011 by reacting incredulously to exactly the sort of views he is now espousing.  He sat in a TV studio as John "The Gardener" McTernan informed the nation that the election of a majority SNP government was neither here nor there, and that there wasn't going to be an independence referendum because under our constitutional arrangements that was entirely Westminster's call to make.  Iain told him in no uncertain terms that it was exactly that sort of arrogance that had just cost Labour power at Holyrood.

Iain has clearly been on something of a journey over the last eight years, because he is now the John McTernan in this debate.  How he ended up there, and why he's quite so passionate in his embrace of the Westminster veto, is something of a mystery.  He's been telling us for months that Nicola Sturgeon understands perfectly well that a pre-2021 referendum is impossible, and yet in his column on Sunday he expressed bafflement that she was now raising expectations for a vote she supposedly couldn't deliver. "The First Minister used to be an honest speaker who said what she meant, scorned waffle and spin, and wasn't afraid to face harsh realities. To see her resort to weasel words and obfuscation is saddening."  Hmmm.  Isn't it just possible that she is being honest, and she just happens to honestly disagree with Iain's assessment of whether an early referendum is achievable?  Couldn't her announcement be reasonably interpreted as a sign that Iain has for some time been wide of the mark in his reading of her intentions?  I make no pretence at being able to see inside her mind, but surely that's at least one logical possibility?

*  *  *

In his comprehensive response to Iain Macwhirter's article, Wee Ginger Dug once again expressed his view that if a Section 30 order is not forthcoming, the best way forward would be to use the next Holyrood election to seek an outright mandate for independence.  He believes that a consultative referendum held without a Section 30 wouldn't work out, because the broadcast media would ignore it and the unionist parties would boycott it.  I agree that using the Holyrood election is a perfectly good plan, but I do think Paul is underestimating the potential of a consultative referendum.  If the Supreme Court upheld a Referendum Bill passed by the Scottish Parliament, it would become the law of the land, and it would then be tricky for unionists to boycott it, and it would certainly be very hard for broadcasters to ignore it.

And remember Strathclyde Regional Council's consultative postal referendum on water services in 1994?  That didn't receive a huge amount of pre-publicity and was boycotted by the Tories, and yet it somehow produced a turnout of over 70% - more than you'd get in a general election these days.  If anyone has a recording of STV's live coverage of the result, it would be a good one to upload to YouTube.  The reporter at the count (I think it might have been a youthful Bernard Ponsonby) told viewers that the organisers of the vote would be very happy if 40% of ballots had been returned.  When the actual figure was announced, he started shouting: "That's an astonishing turnout!  That's an astonishing turnout!"

Monday, April 29, 2019

ITV speaking power to truth

Peter A Smith, the Scotland correspondent for ITV News (which these days is a depressingly pale imitation of the past glories of ITN), conducted an interview with Nicola Sturgeon the other day.  It went on for several minutes, but somehow never moved beyond the one and only question that Smith seemed interested in hearing an answer to: what was Ms Sturgeon's "strategy" for getting round the Tories' obstructionism on a Section 30 order?  Now, in one sense that's not an unreasonable question, because as a number of us on the Yes side have pointed out, there are a couple of obvious ways forward that wouldn't require a Section 30, and in an ideal world we'd like to hear Ms Sturgeon commit to one or other of them as a Plan B just in case "now is not the time" turns into "never is the time".  But Smith didn't come across as a man who was pursuing an exercise in intellectual curiosity about why the Scottish Government are so needlessly reluctant to act without Westminster's permission.  Instead, as he shouted in ill-mannered fashion over the First Minister's answers, his subtext appeared to be: "Give up, know your place, and accept there is no strategy that can get you a second referendum. Stop giving your supporters false hope."  And that really wasn't a great look when the argument he was shouting down was that the UK government should and will simply accept the democratic choice the Scottish people have already made to hold a referendum in the lifetime of this parliament.

As a clownish postscript to the interview, Smith triumphantly announced on Twitter that the UK government had since "reiterated" that it would not allow an independence referendum to take place, and then added "back to you, First Minister".  Which was as much as to say: "No, no, you weren't listening the first time, it really is hopeless.  Ready to give up now?"

Given that he was essentially trolling the SNP leadership, it perhaps wasn't surprising that Smith attracted a fair bit of ire from SNP and Yes supporters, and unfortunately some of it took the form of personal abuse.  He was perfectly within his rights to complain about that, but the manner in which he did so simply cast further doubt over whether he is living up to his duty of impartiality as a broadcast journalist...

"A selection of the joy sent my way since interviewing Nicola Sturgeon.
These so-called ‘cybernats’ (a useless, reductive term I don’t like) are no worse than other fragile individuals. The problem of people not liking their views being reasonably challenged is just endemic now."

That's about as cynical a dog-whistle as you'll ever see.  He might as well have put on a Francis Urquhart voice, and said: "You may think that there's such a thing as a 'Cybernat' problem, and you may feel that these screenshots bear that out, but I'm afraid that I could not possibly agree with you".  It was astonishing to see that one or two people were naive enough to take his protestations that he "doesn't like" the word Cybernat at face value.  Can any of us imagine him reacting to unionist abuse with the words "these so-called CyberBrits" or "these so-called Yoons"?  Nope, thought not.

Basically he's inviting us to make a straight choice between taking the side of abusive people on the internet, or accepting that his interview style was an example of fearless journalism that was legitimately challenging the views of a political leader.  Well, in much the same way that I reacted to George W Bush telling us that we were either with him or we were with the terrorists, I'm going to opt out of that moronic false choice.  I have no truck with personal abuse of journalists and politicians, and I wish people on all sides would stop doing it. But that doesn't mean I'm daft enough to believe that Smith was nobly speaking truth to power.  He was actually doing the polar opposite of that, and attempting to shut down Nicola Sturgeon's views by telling her that "power says no".

Speaking power to truth has long been the preference of the UK broadcast media.  Can you recall a single interviewer in the run-up to the indyref shouting over the answers of David Cameron or Gordon Brown or Alistair Darling, and demanding to know "but does 'permanent' mean that the Scottish Parliament's existing powers can never be removed?" or "how can the Scottish people be expected to vote for a plan that you won't actually devise until the referendum is over?" or "what recourse will the Scottish people have if this turns out to be the baloney it appears?" or "on what date will you resign if none of this ever sees the light of day?"

Of course you can't.  It was all "oooh, how interesting, do tell us more, and why not call it Devo Max?"

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Drama as new Panelbase poll continues to show support for independence at unusually high levels

Like the proverbial London buses, you wait ages for a full-scale Scottish poll, and then three come along all at once.  Hot off the press is Panelbase's latest polling on independence...

Should Scotland be an independent country?

Yes 47% (n/c)
No 53% (n/c)

Now this is a really interesting one, because I know some people will take a casual look at the numbers and argue that the no change position means Panelbase have failed to detect the same surge that YouGov found.  But what we have to remember is that this is no change from an unusually good Panelbase poll for Yes last December.  Panelbase have recently (along with YouGov) been one of the more No-friendly pollsters, and the 47% in December was the highest share they had reported for Yes in more than two years.  In fact, between the spring of 2017 and the autumn of 2018, they had never reported a Yes vote higher than 45%, and the more typical figure was 44%.  

So that would tend to leave the impression that there has indeed been a significant rise in Yes support, although it muddies the waters as to when exactly that increase took place.

There's some confusion on social media about the Westminster numbers in the poll, but they appear to be as follows (I'll correct them if they prove to be inaccurate)...

Scottish voting intentions for Westminster (Panelbase):

SNP 38% (+1)
Conservatives 22% (-5)
Labour 21% (-1)
Liberal Democrats 6% (-1)
Brexit Party 5% (n/a)
Change UK 3% (+1)
Greens 2% (n/c)

It's no great surprise that the SNP's share of the vote is lower than in the Survation and YouGov polls, because Panelbase have consistently painted a less rosy picture for the SNP than other pollsters.  In this case it barely seems to matter, though, because thanks to the two main unionist parties struggling so much, and in particular thanks to the combined Labour/Tory vote being split down the middle, the SNP are on course for massive seat gains even if Panelbase prove to be closest to the truth.  The seats projection based on a uniform swing is: SNP 46 (+11), Conservatives 8 (-5), Liberal Democrats 4 (n/c), Labour 1 (-6).

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Landmark YouGov poll suggests SNP are on course for landslide victories at the next Westminster and Holyrood elections

First things first: I have another new article at The National website (yes, the second today!), this time about the implications of the sensational new YouGov poll.  You can read it HERE.

By now you've probably caught up with the other details from the poll that we didn't know about last night, but here they are for the sake of completeness...

Scottish voting intentions for Westminster:

SNP 43% (+3)
Conservatives 20% (-5)
Labour 17% (-4)
Liberal Democrats 9% (+1)
Brexit Party 4% (n/a)
Greens 3% (n/c)
Change UK 2% (n/a)
UKIP 1% (-1)

Although those numbers differ quite a bit from the Survation poll the other day, the seats projection based on a uniform swing is absolutely identical: SNP 51 (+16), Liberal Democrats 4 (n/c), Conservatives 3 (-10), Labour 1 (-6).

We've focussed a lot on the sudden slump in Scottish Tory support, but these are also truly desperate days for Scottish Labour.  To put it in perspective, the Tories are polling lower with YouGov than they were in the Survation poll that put them in third place, but in this case it's actually enough to hold onto second place quite comfortably because Labour support has collapsed as well.

In principle, do you think there should or should not be a referendum on Scottish independence at some point in the next five years?

Should be a referendum: 42% (+2)
Should not be a referendum: 48% (-4)

An anonymous commenter on the previous thread made a sarcastic comment about Scottish Skier "trying to make 42 sound like a bigger number than 48", but the reality is that YouGov - for reasons I don't fully understand - have consistently reported less enthusiasm for a second indyref than their fellow polling firms.  A 42/48 split is considerably better than it's been in the past.  I wouldn't be surprised if a firm like Panelbase would now be showing a majority in favour of an early referendum.

It's an intriguing development, because it's only a few weeks ago that the media were breathlessly telling us about "private research" that supposedly showed opposition to a referendum "hardening".

Holyrood constituency ballot voting intentions:

SNP 46% (+5)
Conservatives 22% (-5)
Labour 16% (-6)
Liberal Democrats 7% (+1)
Brexit Party 4% (n/a)
Greens 3% (+1)
Change UK 1% (n/a)

Holyrood regional list ballot voting intentions:

SNP 37% (+5)
Conservatives 20% (-6)
Labour 15% (-6)
Greens 10% (+1)
Liberal Democrats 7% (n/c)
Brexit Party 5% (n/a)
Change UK 2% (n/a)

The seats projection in the Times has the two pro-independence parties on a combined total of 74 seats, and the unionist parties on 55.  That would represent a sharp increase in the current pro-independence majority in the Scottish Parliament - quite a contrast from most recent polls which have suggested there would be no such majority at all.

Westminster shudders as the announcement of Indyref 2 is followed by dramatic YouGov poll putting support for independence at 49%

As I've learned over the years, an email notification of a midnight comment from Marcia can mean one thing, and one thing only.  Forget about Scotland in Union's fantasy polls with daft questions, here's the real deal from YouGov using the standard question on independence, and the result is nothing short of sensational.

Should Scotland be an independent country?

Yes 49% (+4)
No 51% (-4)

Due to the standard margin of error, this is a statistical tie, ie. it's impossible to know for sure which side is actually in the lead.  In recent times, YouGov have reverted to their former status as one of the more No-friendly pollsters, with backing for Yes fluctuating in a narrow band between 43% and 45%.  Self-evidently a sudden jump to 49% looks like a major breakthrough, although there's always just a possibility that a single poll showing something new might be misleading due to an extreme case of sampling variation.  But we're not exactly short of potential reasons why support for independence might have increased over recent weeks and months, so YouGov could well be picking up something genuine.  It'll take another poll or two to be sure (this is the first credible poll on independence from any firm since the end of last year).

There are also figures for European election voting intentions, which if anything are even more astonishing - according to the Times front page, the SNP are on 40%, with the Brexit Party on 13% and the Tories on just 10%.  I haven't found the vote shares for other parties yet, but it looks like it could be touch and go as to whether the Scottish Tories would hold their only seat in the European Parliament, while the SNP would be in with a very real chance of doubling their representation from two to four.

We can't say we haven't had fair warning of this - it's very much in line with what the Scottish subsamples from YouGov's GB-wide polls have been showing over the last couple of weeks.  But somehow seeing it in a full-scale poll is still quite a shock.  10% would easily be an all-time low for the Scottish Tories in European elections, but my question is whether they've been as low as that in any type of national election, ever?  We'd probably have to check the records from centuries ago to be sure of the answer to that one.

I must admit I struggled to keep a straight face when I reached the bit of the Times article that suggested the poll results were bearing out Tory fears that a lengthy Brexit extension could scupper Ruth Davidson's chances of becoming First Minister in 2021.  Now, it's quite true that a) the Tories are taking a hammering because of the extension until October, and b) if Brexit still hasn't happened by the time of the general election they could easily end up losing the majority of the seats they gained from the SNP two years ago - even though those seats, with only one or two exceptions, had looked absolutely rock-solid until this month.  But as for Davidson's chances of becoming First Minister...well, they weren't looking too hot even before this happened, were they?  I always wondered how on earth she thought it was even theoretically possible, unless of course the moon turned into green cheese and the Corbynite leadership of Scottish Labour installed her in office.

UPDATE: I've now located the full European voting intention numbers...

SNP 40%
Labour 14%
Brexit Party 13%
Conservatives 10%
Greens 7%
Liberal Democrats 6%
Change UK 6%

What stands out there is the stupidity of Change UK in putting up candidates in direct competition with the Liberal Democrats.  With a joint slate the two parties might just about have been in line for a seat - but as it is they appear to be knocking each other out.

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REGISTER TO VOTE: This may be a timely moment to urge you, and your nearest and dearest, to register to vote in the European elections (if you're not already registered as a result of the annual household enquiry form, I mean).  The deadline is just over a week away, and you can register online HERE.  Don't miss the chance to send the clearest possible message to Westminster that Scotland is determined to have a choice on its own future.

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I have a new article in The National, about why Scotland in Union are almost certainly deluding themselves if they think the Electoral Commission would ever approve a referendum question that asks about "remaining in the UK" or "leaving the UK".  You can read it HERE.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Shock poll shows the sun setting on the day of Davidson as the Scottish Tories return to third place, and the SNP retain their massive lead

Extremist anti-independence propaganda organisation "Scotland in Union" have released their latest Survation poll, and not for the first time it's backfired on them spectacularly by suggesting that the SNP are set to make sweeping gains from the unionist parties in any snap general election.  What's new, though, is that it also shows the Tories returning to their once-familiar third place - and given the current seepage of Tory votes to the Brexit Party and elsewhere, it would be a brave person who predicts that they won't be staying there.

Scottish voting intentions for Westminster (Survation):

SNP 41% (+1)
Labour 24% (+1)
Conservatives 22% (-2)
Liberal Democrats 8% (n/c)

On a uniform swing, this would see the SNP make a mammoth net gain of 16 seats, taking them to 51 - not all that far away from their 2015 high watermark of 56.  The Tories would be reduced to rubble, losing 10 of their 13 seats.  And Labour would be practically wiped out, with Ian Murray once again the last man standing in Edinburgh South (assuming he's still in the party by the time the election comes around).  The Lib Dems would break even and retain their current 4 seats.

As with any "Scotland in Union" poll, the independence figures can be safely ignored because a non-standard question was used to get the desired result (although of course that won't stop the unionist media breathlessly reporting them as if they actually mean something).  We've known for many years that asking poll respondents whether they want to "remain in the United Kingdom" produces more favourable results for the anti-independence cause than the standard question.  Why that would be the case is anyone's guess - I sometimes wonder if there's a degree of confusion about what the 'United Kingdom' actually is, and if some respondents might wrongly assume they're being asked whether they want to retain the monarchy.  But it's not worth worrying about, because we know from the experience of the 2014 referendum that standard independence polling is more accurate than these 'alternative' polls.  The most recent standard polling continued to show Yes in the mid-40s or higher.

(And as I always point out, any poll that asks about 'leaving the UK' should not technically be considered an independence poll at all, because it's perfectly possible to leave the UK without becoming independent.  We could leave the UK to become a crown dependency, or a freely associated state, or we could become part of another country.)

You can tell that "Scotland in Union" are a bit disappointed with the results of the question on when and if the next independence referendum should be held, because their spin is that not holding a referendum at all emerged as "the most popular option with 34% support".  What that rather conveniently doesn't mention is that all the other options involved holding a referendum at some point, and the combined support for those pro-referendum options was 57% - which, I think you'll agree, is a rather larger number than 34%.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Nicola Sturgeon's statement of intent on a pre-2021 independence referendum is a positive step forward

Stuart Campbell of Wings Over Scotland reacted impatiently to Nicola Sturgeon's statement this afternoon, pointing out that it failed to explain how the Scottish Government propose to actually overcome London's obstructionism on a Section 30 order.  And I agree that in an ideal world, she would have said "we want a referendum to take place with a Section 30 order, but it will take place anyway" or " if a Section 30 order is not granted, we will use the Holyrood election to seek an outright mandate for independence".  But given how negative some of the mood music has been, I think it's fair to say that Ms Sturgeon went about as far as we could have realistically hoped for today, and if I'm being honest she went a bit further than I expected.  It's worth contrasting what she could have said if the narrative of certain journalists had been proved right, and what she actually did say.

* She could have simply said that because of the Brexit extension, she was waiting until at least October to make any decisions at all.  Instead, she announced some substantive decisions today.

* She could have said that because of the uncertainty over Brexit, and "in the national interest", she was going to let the current mandate for a pre-2021 referendum expire and seek a fresh mandate at the next Holyrood election.  She instead did the polar opposite of that, and declared her intention to hold a referendum before the 2021 election.

* She could have set out an aspiration for a pre-2021 referendum, but let the momentum fizzle out by taking no concrete steps to move us closer to that referendum being held.  Instead, she announced legislation that will prepare the ground for a referendum even before a Section 30 order is sought.

* She could have done what Joyce McMillan suggested a few months ago, and declared that it would be wrong to seek an independence referendum for as long as we know the Tory government will refuse a Section 30 order.  Instead, she left no room for doubt that a Section 30 order will be formally requested well before the 2021 election.

* She could have stated absolutely and unequivocally that Westminster permission is required for an independence referendum.  If you read some journalists' paraphrasing of her statement, you'd be forgiven for thinking that's exactly what she did say.  But she didn't.  She instead used words to the effect that a Section 30 order would be needed to put the legal position beyond doubt, thus leaving the door slightly ajar - on paper at least - for action to be taken in the absence of a Section 30 order.  It's blindingly obvious that she isn't remotely attracted to the idea of a consultative referendum, but at least she didn't needlessly rule it out.

So, all in all, I'm reasonably happy with the statement, and I think it leaves us in a better position today than we were in yesterday.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

No, Mark Ruskell, it's not possible to vote "tactically" in the Euro elections to stop UKIP or the Brexit Party

In my naivety, I had thought that the difference between the Holyrood and European Parliament voting systems would mean that I wouldn't have to spend any time over the next few weeks debunking the familiar claims that everything would be right with the world if only SNP supporters would "vote tactically" for the Greens or other radical left parties.  I assumed that a simple system in which every elector just casts a single vote for a single party, and in which seats are allocated in proportion to the share of the vote each party receives, would encourage the Greens to just concentrate on making the positive case for a Green MEP to be elected.  But nope, it seems they just can't help themselves.  Here is what Green parliamentarian Mark Ruskell had to say on Twitter a few hours ago -

"Having a chat with a couple of SNP voters today, had to remind them of the disastrous ‘get Tasmina as our third MEP’ campaign was at the last Euros, just let UKIP in through the backdoor. Polling shows Greens are front runners to take the seat off UKIP and keep Farage out."

That tweet is so spectacularly dishonest on multiple counts that it's difficult to know where to start.  First of all, it's true that the Greens made an extremely contrived pitch in 2014 that there would be a better chance of preventing UKIP taking a seat if SNP supporters switched tactically to the Greens.  The idea was that the SNP were 'guaranteed' to win two seats, and that thereafter the D'Hondt calculation would divide the SNP vote by three, meaning that excess votes would be wasted on the SNP, leaving the Greens as the only progressive party that could stop UKIP grabbing the final seat.  But the snag for Mr Ruskell is that this claim was not, as he implies, borne out by the eventual result.  Quite the reverse, in fact.  The D'Hondt calculation for the final seat was as follows...

UKIP 140,534
SNP 129,834
Labour 116,073
Conservatives 115,665
Greens 108,305
Liberal Democrats 95,319

Now, of course, the Greens would argue that the fact they were in fifth place for the final seat is somewhat misleading, because the numbers for the parties above them were (with the exception of UKIP) affected by D'Hondt, and that what you therefore need to do is look at the absolute number of extra votes each party would have needed to pip UKIP for the last seat.  But even if you look at it that way, the SNP would have needed 32,100 extra votes, and the Greens would have needed 32,230.  So the SNP were undoubtedly closer on any measure, and if we were being cheeky we could even claim that this proves Green supporters were to blame for letting in David Coburn because they failed to tactically vote SNP.  In reality, that would be very silly, because under this voting system it's almost impossible to know which way to vote if you want to cast a tactical, negative vote against a particular party.  The only way in which it might be possible would be if you knew in advance, and in precise detail, how everyone else is going to vote - and you can't know that, because opinion polls simply don't offer that extreme level of accuracy.  (Some would argue that they don't even offer a basic level of accuracy.)

There's also a rather amusing contradiction between the logic of the Greens' pitch for tactical votes in the European election, and the logic of their pitch for tactical votes in Holyrood elections.  As you might recall, I've always conceded the point that the Greens are technically correct that it would be possible to reliably "hack" the Holyrood system and get extra pro-independence MSPs, but only if the tactical voting on the list is extraordinarily widespread.  Much more likely is that it would be small in scale, and at that sort of level it would be much more likely to backfire, and could even up reducing the number of pro-indy MSPs.  The response I usually hear to that reality-check is: "You're thinking too small, James!  With the power of the Yes movement ANYTHING is possible!"  And yet implicit in the call for tactical votes in the Euro elections is that you don't actually need to worry about anything more than a very small number of your fellow SNP supporters doing it.  If you did need to worry about that, you wouldn't be remotely tempted, because you'd know that if the tactical voting drive was too 'successful' and if every SNP supporter 'lent' their 'excess' vote to the Greens, there wouldn't be two guaranteed seats for the SNP.  There would in fact be zero seats for the SNP.  In Euro elections, you can't use one vote for your favourite party and then use another vote tactically.  We all just have one vote, and if the SNP don't get enough of those, they won't win any seats at all.  Simple as that.

To turn to Mr Ruskell's claim that "polling shows Greens are front runners to take the seat off UKIP and keep Farage out", there is no truth in that whatsoever.  Thus far there haven't even been any full-scale Scottish polls for the Euro elections.  All we have are a few Scottish subsamples from GB polls, and they simply don't offer any comfort to the notion that the Greens will be involved in a direct fight with either UKIP or the Brexit Party for the final seat.  For example, of the three YouGov subsamples to date, one has suggested that both the Greens and the anti-Europe parties will miss out on a Scottish seat, one has suggested that both the Greens and the Brexit Party will take a seat, and only one has suggested that the Greens will take a seat and the anti-Europe parties will fall short.  Even in the latter example, the Greens were not projected to be the ones responsible for Farage's failure - in fact, the final seat was effectively a scrap between the SNP and the Tories, with the SNP marginally coming out on top.  So maybe the clarion call should be "Green supporters must vote tactically for the SNP to stop the Tories!"

A broader point is that there may be circumstances in which it's not arithmetically possible for any party to stop Farage.  In a proportional representation system, if the Brexit Party get a big enough share of the vote, they'll be awarded a seat, no matter how the votes are shared out between the other parties.  That being the case, it's much wiser to focus on which party you want to win a seat, and not which party you want to fail.

So the answer to the question "which party should independence supporters vote for in the European election?" is SNP if you prefer the SNP, and Green if you prefer the Greens.  If you're not that bothered between the two parties, my own personal opinion is that you'd make a bigger statement about independence by voting SNP.  Votes for the Greens will probably be interpreted in London media and political circles as environmentalist and left-wing votes, and not primarily as votes for independence.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Is Davidson PLUNGING towards CALAMITY? Second YouGov poll in as many days shows Ruth's Tories facing MELTDOWN

How the mighty have fallen.  Just two years after her 'spectacular triumph' in the general election (ie. 'only' losing to the SNP by 8%), it genuinely does now look possible that Ruth Davidson is about to lead the Scottish Tories to an all-time electoral low.  A second YouGov subsample in as many days has the Tories on just 10% of the Scottish vote for the European Parliament, which even with the help of proportional representation wouldn't be quite enough to retain the one seat they currently hold.

Britain-wide voting intentions for the European elections (YouGov):

Brexit Party 23% (-4)
Labour 22% (n/c)
Conservatives 17% (+2)
Greens 10% (n/c)
Liberal Democrats 9% (n/c)
Change UK 8% (+2)
UKIP 6% (-1)
SNP / Plaid Cymru 5% (+1)

Scottish subsample: SNP 42%, Greens 13%, Labour 11%, Conservatives 10%, Brexit Party 9%, Liberal Democrats 7%, UKIP 6%, Change UK 4%

Now remember these are just subsamples, and can't be regarded as reliable estimates of Scottish public opinion.  But the pattern of low numbers for the Tories has been so consistent that it's hard to believe it doesn't reflect something real - and in any case YouGov appear to structure their Scottish subsamples more carefully than other firms do.

You know the drill by now - just regard this as "a bit of fun", but here is what the seat allocation would look like if the subsample happened to be exactly accurate...

SNP 4, Greens 1, Labour 1

The Tories would miss out altogether after being pipped for the final seat by the SNP.  For what it's worth I think it's pretty unlikely that the SNP will take four seats in the real world.  In past European elections they've tended to underperform what the opinion polls suggested, so it's easy enough to imagine them ending up in the low 30s, which hopefully would still be enough to take three of the six seats - the most they've ever had.

At Britain-wide level, the four-point drop in Brexit Party support in the space of one day looks a bit odd.  It could just be random sampling variation, but I wonder if it was caused by respondents for today's poll only being asked the Euro-election question after being asked for their Westminster preferences.  That might have put them into more of a 'Westminster mindset', which would be less favourable for Farage's mob.  If the datasets are to be believed, yesterday's poll didn't appear to ask for Westminster voting intentions.

Strangely, there's also a ComRes poll out today that has the Brexit Party lagging in third place for the Euro elections.  When I first saw it I wondered if it was a phone poll, because that would have been the most obvious explanation for such a wide disparity between two firms.  But no, it's an online poll just like YouGov's, so the true position is anyone's guess.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

DEVASTATION for Davidson as BOMBSHELL YouGov poll suggests the Scottish Tories could be WIPED OUT in the European elections

As they say on reality TV shows, I've "been on a journey" over the last few days.  At the start of the weekend I was stating quite confidently - and I think with a fair bit of justification - that the Tories were likely to take two of the six Scottish seats in the European elections.  Now it appears the limit of their realistic ambitions is to hold the one seat they currently have, and it's far from clear they will even manage that.  The reason?  Simply that voters who would probably be solidly Tory in Westminster, Holyrood or local elections appear to be deserting the party in droves for the Euro-vote, to send a message about Brexit.

Britain-wide voting intentions for the European elections (YouGov):

Brexit Party 27% (+12)
Labour 22% (-2)
Conservatives 15% (-1)
Greens 10% (+2)
Liberal Democrats 9% (+1)
UKIP 7% (-7)
Change UK 6% (-1)
SNP / Plaid Cymru 4% (-2)

Scottish subsample: SNP 35%, Labour 16%, Greens 13%, Brexit Party 13%, Conservatives 10%, Liberal Democrats 5%, UKIP 4%, Change UK 3%

Now, of course no individual Scottish subsample can be regarded as reliable, but this is the latest of several in a row to put Ruth Davidson's party at an abysmally low level for the European elections, and well below what they routinely score in Westminster subsamples.  That's unlikely to be a coincidence, so it seems that Tory support - even in Remain-dominated Scotland - is heavily dependent on a hard Brexit vote that is now ready to punish the party for a perceived betrayal.  It's rather satisfying to see Davidson finally get some long-overdue comeuppance for her near-comical flip-flops over the Brexit issue, although in all honesty this would probably still be happening no matter what she had done.

Just for "a bit of fun", here is what the Scottish seats allocation would look like if the YouGov subsample happened to be bang-on accurate.

SNP 3, Labour 1, Greens 1, Brexit Party 1

Yup, that's right.  Zero for the Tories.  Nothing.  Nada.  Zip.  Whisper it gently, but there's a chance that, just this once, Ruth Davidson won't be winning the Scottish Politician of the Year award.  Indeed it's very hard to imagine how her adoring fans in the media would cope with the discovery that it's actually possible for the Tories to go backwards on Ruth's watch.  For example, this would be a significantly worse performance than Annabel Goldie managed in 2009, when the Scottish Tories took 17% of the vote and one seat.  In terms of the popular vote, it would be the worst Scottish Tory performance in any Euro-election ever - not even John Major and Ian Lang managed to fall this low.

Although the Brexit Party surge has largely come at the expense of the Tories, it's also a cause of concern for the SNP in an indirect way, because it's possible that the SNP will be in a dogfight with an anti-Europe party for the final seat (as happened last time around).  It would have been far more helpful if the Brexit vote had remained split down the middle, but it looks like the BBC's lavish coverage for Farage last week has done the trick, and from now on the previous UKIP vote will move across wholesale to the Brexit Party.

There's good news and bad news for the Scottish Greens: this subsample shows them winning a seat, but as it shows the Brexit Party winning a seat as well, it directly contradicts the careful messaging that there's some sort of straight choice between a Green MEP and a far-right MEP (with the implication presumably being that supporters of other parties should 'lend' their vote to the Greens to stop Farage).  Ironically, the last YouGov subsample showed neither the Greens nor the anti-Europe parties winning a seat.  The reality is that, because of the way the voting system works, it's very difficult to tell for sure which party is best-placed to prevent the Brexit Party taking a Scottish seat - assuming it's even possible to do that at all.

Probably the media line on any Scottish Tory collapse will be that this is a freakish one-off caused by unusual circumstances, and voters will come home to the Tories for the general election.  That's true, but perhaps only up to a point - we know from past experience that Farage is capable of carrying over at least a portion of his European Parliament successes into a general election.  That may not win him any Westminster seats under a first-past-the-post system, but it's certainly possible that it could cost the Tories a lot of seats, including in Scotland.  Things might suddenly be looking up for the SNP in their former heartland of the north-east.