Tuesday, April 9, 2019

The case for a consultative independence referendum

I've been having an exchange on Twitter with Iain Macwhirter over the last 24 hours about the possibility of holding a consultative referendum on independence in the absence of a Section 30 order.  I think it might be worth expanding on some of my points here, because 280 characters is a rather limiting format.

* First of all, there seems to be a perception that those of us who advocate a consultative referendum are arguing that it would somehow be superior to a Westminster-approved process.  That's not the case at all.  Of course a Section 30 order would be preferable, because it would dispense with any uncertainties caused by the possibility of a legal challenge, and would give voters greater confidence (albeit not absolute certainty) that their decision would be enacted.  So by all means Nicola Sturgeon should renew her request for a Section 30 order and await Theresa May's answer.  But if May once again says "no", a consultative referendum is an answer to the question "what then?"  And there does actually have to be an answer to that question - it's not as if we're going to say "thank you so much for considering our request, Prime Minister, and we humbly accept your decision".  And nor is it credible for us to keep seeking mandates for referendums at successive Holyrood elections if we know that the answer is still going to be "no" and if we have no intention of taking any further action.

* There also seems to be a perception that proposing a consultative referendum is synonymous with preparing the ground for UDI.  That'll be news to Alex Salmond and John Swinney, because under their leadership the SNP went into no fewer than four Holyrood elections (1999, 2003, 2007 and 2011) committed to holding an independence referendum within the Scottish Parliament's existing powers, and without any requirement for a Section 30 order.  The purpose of such a vote would not have been to provide a justification for UDI, but rather to secure a mandate for the Scottish government to enter into negotiations with the UK government on an independence settlement, which would then have been legislated for by strictly constitutional means.  Of course in the event of a future Yes vote the ball would be in the UK government's court - no-one can force them to respect the Scottish people's decision or to negotiate.  But I think Iain and others seriously underestimate just how difficult it would be for Westminster to completely ignore such a vote, as long as the turnout was at least respectable.  Psychologically it would be a game-changing moment, and the eventual outcome (albeit perhaps with a good few twists and turns along the way) would most likely be that either the mandate would be respected, or a compromise would be reached involving a further referendum held on an agreed basis.

* When I mentioned the possibility of a consultative referendum functioning as a gateway to a later Westminster-approved referendum, Iain reacted incredulously and suggested this meant I was conceding that a Section 30 order would ultimately be "needed" anyway, and that my argument was therefore a circular one.  Not at all: it would be infinitely preferable for the UK government to simply respect the outcome of a democratic vote, and that would very much be Plan A.  But if they remain intransigent, we'd then have a political dispute that can only be resolved by negotiation and compromise.  In other words, the Yes vote would then become very useful leverage.

* No matter how many times the claim is erroneously made, it is simply untrue to suggest that a consultative referendum would be "illegal", "non-legal" or "extra-legal".  This is not Spain - holding a democratic vote is not a criminal act in the UK, as Brian Souter proved by holding a private referendum on Section 28 in the year 2000, and as Strathclyde Regional Council proved by holding a consultative referendum in 1994 on the UK government's proposals to remove control of water from local authorities.  In fairness to him, Iain conceded that nobody would end up in jail for organising a referendum without a Section 30 order, but he insisted that "extra-legal" was appropriate language because the vote would not be legally binding.  That's a peculiar argument, because of course the 2014 referendum was not legally binding either, even with a Section 30 order.  David Cameron's government made a political commitment to respect a Yes vote, but there would have been no way of holding them to that commitment through the courts.  And if you think the distinction between a political commitment and a binding decision is a meaningless one, just look at the Supreme Court's refusal to uphold the Sewel Convention only last year.  There was actually a lot of concern in 2014 that a Yes vote might not necessarily lead to independence - I didn't share that view at the time, but the current uncertainty over whether Brexit will ever happen does illustrate the point rather nicely.  So essentially the only difference between a consultative referendum and the 2014 vote is that this time we probably wouldn't have a political commitment in advance that the result would be respected, but we'd nevertheless still be looking for that commitment once the UK government are confronted with the reality of a Yes vote.

* I'm puzzled by the automatic assumption that a consultative referendum would be boycotted by unionists.  The most likely way for a vote to come about would be for the Scottish Parliament to legislate for a Referendum Bill, which would then be probably be challenged in the Supreme Court, where it would either be upheld or struck down.  Would unionist parties really boycott a referendum that had been upheld as the law of the land by the United Kingdom's highest court?

* The main thrust of Iain's argument is that, as a result of the Edinburgh Agreement, it is now the established "constitutional position" that a referendum can only happen as the result of a Section 30 order.  That's self-evidently untrue, because the signing of the Edinburgh Agreement didn't in itself alter the British constitution one jot.  It's fair to say it did create a political precedent, but the British constitution is comprised of constitutional law and not of political precedents.  In any case, Theresa May has already binned the precedent of the Edinburgh Agreement by refusing to even enter into discussions on a Section 30 order when the elected Scottish Parliament voted to request one.  Clearly if one precedent no longer applies, something else has to take its place.

When I challenged Iain on his claim that a Section 30-approved referendum is required by "the constitution", he prayed in aid the fact that the current policy of the SNP leadership is that a Section 30 order must be sought.  I must say I'm bemused by the notion that SNP policy carries some kind of weight in British constitutional theory!

* Iain talked in reverential terms about "applying for a Section 30 order" as if that is a recognised constitutional procedure.  As far as I can see, what happened in 2017 is that Nicola Sturgeon sent a letter and it was completely ignored, which tells a rather different story.  There is pretty obviously no formal "application" process recognised by the UK government.

* As I understand it, Iain's alternative to a consultative referendum is to wait until 2021 and then seek yet another mandate for a referendum at the scheduled Scottish Parliament election.  That implicitly suggests he expects the UK government to cave in to democratic pressure - and yet he ridiculed the idea that the democratic pressure of a Yes vote in a consultative referendum could possibly yield any results.  That seems somewhat contradictory.  Essentially, any non-UDI route to independence depends on the belief that London will not behave like Madrid, and will ultimately respond to the verdict of the voters.  So the only question is which "democratic event" would be the most appropriate and effective way of securing the necessary leverage.  The case for a consultative referendum is that it avoids a needlessly long delay that clearly would suit the UK government down to the ground, and it also avoids creating a precedent that London can simply say "no" to a mandate for a referendum at its own whim.

49 comments:

  1. Tame House Jock, Wet-Nat, fence sitting shill for the MSM and london control.

    IW has not, is not, and never will be a supporter of Scotland.

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    1. Iain (not McWhirterApril 9, 2019 at 8:17 PM

      Iain McWhirter is one of the few journalists in Scotland worth reading. He's a journalist not a cheer-leader. I don't agree with everything he writes, but that doesn't make him wrong, and I don't think for a second that James is suggesting he is.

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    2. Anonymous: are you the incel guy who occasionally regales us on here about how much he hates political correctness and women? You have a similar tone.

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    3. I was addressing the anonymous poster at the start of this thread.

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    4. I was disagreeing with Anonymous but the other Anonymous said Anonymous was as wrong as Anonymous too. Then Anonymous quoted Anonymous to show how Anonymous was wrong.

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  2. I agree with most of the points you make here James.

    The UK Government should not be allowed to again get away with the "now is not the time" flim-flam response. It is a yes or no question, no more and no less. If the answer is no - which the UK government are obviously desperately keen to actually avoid publicly saying, even if that is essentially the message they wish to send - then other options must be considered, with a consultative referendum one of those options.

    I would not put it past Westminster to merely ignore the results of a consultative referendum (or a Yes one, anyway), so in reality it may not push things further forward anyway, other than to expose the fact that Scotland does not have a ready made exit mechanism from the UK (unlike, say, the UK from the EU). But, still, it would be an important option to consider in the try-something-else category. Simply getting additional mandates at further elections is not a route likely to lead to anything substantially different.

    However it seems relatively obvious now that the UK Government can rest easy for a while at least as its fairly apparent Nicola Sturgeon is not going to do anything until the outcome of Brexit's clear, and the way things are going with that who knows when that's going to be now? I understand the clear need for clarity on this before trying to renew any Section 30 request, but it doesn't exactly feel surprising that essentially tying everything to Brexit merely puts you completely at the mercy of someone else's situations/timing/incompetence.

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    1. Note that it is not possible to 'ignore' the result of a consultative referendum. It must be challenged or accepted by the English* government.

      If it's just 'ignored', Scotland just moves to independence and the international community will happily accept that. Only if London challenges the result will the international community be more wary of accepting it.

      It can be challenged in the courts and/or by sending in the jackboots. See Spain; which has taken both approaches.

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      *For the purposes of ending the treaty of union, the challenge would be coming from England.

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  3. Hate to say it but the reason for a S30 is that that's the way legislative power is meant to be transferred both to and from Holyrood.

    Something that has been ignored in the eagerness of Westminster to strip powers from Holyrood. Or rather they hope will go unnoticed. Why they legislate then declare it protected.

    In 2014 the power being transferred was the ability to redraw the boundaries of the territory legislated by Westminster to exclude Scotland's.

    The reason it was granted was because Holyrood had a mandate to hold the kind of consultation being proposed here. If Wesminster has tried to repeal there's every possibility that attempt would have failed. I think the current mandate has also been passed by Holyrood and unchallenged either at restart by the Presiding Officer or anyone else.

    However the way Westminster has redefined normal so it can overrule Holyrood at a whim would render even a S30 no guarantee.

    Then again a Westminster intervention to attempt to overturn a Holyrood legislated referendum within its devolved competence would almost certainly backfire even if it succeeded.

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  4. If someone could crowdfund to raise enough money to do a Soutar and hold an indipendent referendum on independence, I think it would be worthy at least £20 and, I Would vote Yes again and again.

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    1. Souter did make a few Bob from privatisation.

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  5. Am I right to think that really important 'customers' of the message containing Scotland's claim of independence are 1. The UN and 2. The EU. With other international bodies also agreeing to respect our claim of independence being welcome but not required.

    That claim should be demonstrated via a clear democratic 'Event'. Call that event a referendum sanctioned or not sanctioned, or a general election to one of the parliaments Scotland sends members to sit in. (Possibly not the EU Parliament where we send only six members.)

    Manifesto(s) must all therefore major on a claim of independence and our parliament must continue to demonstrate sound, sensible running of the country.

    Creation of the post-independence route to successful Scotland; Constitution, Central Bank, regulators, currency paraphenalia, etc must proceed immediately. Independence parties should very shortly be able to point to elements of successful Scotland as positive electoral levers which will support citizens into our future.

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  6. Threats of boycotting are there to manipulate the SNP into setting a minimum percentage of the electorate saying yes before it can be claimed the result would still stand if all those boycotting has taken part.
    Even if the SNP don't fall for that trick then false claims of a large scale boycott will be used to inflate the Nos. There'll be attempts at persuading some who vote yes to not bother. Possibly by saying it'll be a landslide for yes.

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  7. Use the forthcoming EU elections as an Indy plebiscite based on a mandated majority of votes cast for pro-EU parties. A pro-EU majority is then used to de-couple from rUK.

    rUK can then take as long as it likes to gaze as its own pro-Brexit belly-button concurrent with squeezing each others boils.

    We, meanwhile, get on with being an independent nation within EU.

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    1. EU elections, just like UK union elections, are not national elections, so therefore carry little to no weight in terms of indy mandate.

      They represent how people want to see the larger union governed so long as Scotland is within these, which is why neither MEPs nor MPs have the legislative power to either pass a referendum bill, or an independence one (if a Yes vote occurs).

      At most, UK and EU elections might give a hint as to general public opinion, but even that's tentative. After all, for example, the reduced SNP share in 2017 was naff all to do with support for indy 'tomorrow', which remained constant (or even climbed a little). All we saw here was the standard 'two horse race' UK FPTP effect kick in again, with a reduced Scots (more pro-SNP) voter turnout due to it being our first EVEL election where Scots MPs would, as a result, be second class (not able to hold most cabinet / shadow cabinet positions).

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  8. Britain is not known for being a tough negotiator. It tends to fold and beg for more time / help when it comes to international dealings. This is the view of other countries anyway, and I can see where they are coming from.

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  9. James, it's good that you're drawing attention to the section 30 problem.
    The one thing we know for certain about May is that she is a master of equivocation.
    As long as she is PM we can expect nothing but evasiveness.
    Sturgeon is making a huge mistake waiting for clarity.

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  10. I fear all roads will lead eventually to UDI and like Puigdemont our politicians will have to face a rather unwelcome reality. The real question is do we go there sooner or later?

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  11. Couple of Scottish subsamples. THe BMG ones are now out.

    Con: 28
    Lab: 17
    LD: 6
    UKIP: 2
    SNP: 40
    Greens 6

    with TIG / Brexit Party

    Con: 28
    Lab: 22
    LD: 3
    UKIP: 2
    SNP: 36
    Greens 5
    Brexit Party: 5

    Also had one out from Hanbury Stratergy for Open Europe. Data collected via app so as Stephen Bush has pointed out - treat with caution:

    Con: 22.8
    Lab: 25.1
    LD: 5.8
    UKIP: 2.9
    SNP: 33.3
    Greens 4.8

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    1. Is this for the European Parliament? Labour seems quite high and UKIP quite low

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    2. No Westminster, as said they collect data through app so probably an outlier due to problems with weighting
      https://twitter.com/stephenkb/status/1115981080019050496

      If polling by app could be weighted properly then you would of assumed that one of the big companies would of done it by now.

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    3. SNP + Green up here too, with Labour tanking.

      We could do with a few full Scottish polls from 3 or so different sources.

      Given people in Scotland can't vote for minor English parties, I'm not sure TIG and Brexit are relevant. I doubt these two will be contesting many seats here! I do hope Brexit contests the EU elections so Coburn loses his seat to a vote split.

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  12. I am right in thinking that May sitting outside in the hall while all the European leaders discuss what to do with Angleterre is the 'seat at the top tables' BetterTogether were talking about in 2014?

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    1. Big risk for the EU is that if they go for short extension that probably leads to No deal cliff edge and then Parliament voting to revoke to stop no deal (easily a majority for that). Then UK if fully at the big table with full power of veto and a Eurosceptic new PM causing all sorts of havoc.

      And I think you mean Royaume-Uni, Angleterre is not a EU member state of the EU (nor is Écosse, Pays de Galles or Irlande du Nord for that matter)

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    2. No, no I mean Angleterre. I'm married to a European and work on a daily basis with a load of them. They call England 'England' and Scotland 'Scotland'. The 'UK' or 'Great Britain' (in native languages as appropriate) are just not names they ever use. They all know Scotland didn't vote Brexit and the mess is England's.

      So, Angleterre is correct, just as the mother in law said on the phone earlier.

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    3. That's great,the EU however calls it the United Kingdom, because thats the member state. Scotland is not relivent to them, hence no special Brexit deal like NI and Gibraltar would get.

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    4. No, they'll be saying 'England', just like the mother in law. This is why when you go to Europe (any beyond), people don't overhear you speaking English and then ask if you are 'Great British' or 'UKish'.

      I imagine the topic of Scotland it potentially seeking membership as an indy state crops up regularly. They aren't incompetent over there; they're preparing for all eventualities. It's not as if Sturgeon isn't in regular contact with them, and has been over to see Barnier often enough.

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    5. Sturgeon's main problem right now, as barnier will remind her, is that the EU can't make an open, formal offer of membership to Scotland (should it vote for independence) until the UK legally brexits. The moment the UK exits and starts doing new trade deals outside the EU, so the EU can doing the same and courting Scotland.

      It's a real problem for May too. Hence 'now is not they time'.

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    6. No they use the word 'British' or Brits. Hear it regularly when dealing with Europeans and non Europeans alike. Very strange you don't. For examples of it being used see Tusk overnight or Varadkar both used British/Brits.

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    7. Lol. No, they don't. Europeans never ask if you are British, they ask if you are English. Then you reply, 'Non, je suis Ecossais(e)', and they laugh and apologise for making that 'braveheart' mistake.

      I've spend a good part of my life with family in France...I work at a university stuffed with people from abroad...and in the oil industry which is likewise..I've traveled the world with that job... and not once have I ever been asked if I was 'British'. It is 'English', or, more rarely, 'American'.

      This is because they never watch France take on 'Britain' in the Euros or World cup....6 nations etc. It's because England has always been England to them ('British' as an identity only rises after WWII). It's because when they ask people speaking English in their countries if they are English / where they are from, these reply 'English / England' (unless they are Scots). They even wave English flags and stuff.

      In some former colonies you might find more prevalence of 'British' (but used instead of English, e.g. the POMs), especially the 'white English' ones, but in Europe, the English are the English, the Scots the Scots etc.

      Although on the technical documentation, it of course is UK, GB etc.

      As noted, British is a relatively new identity; it peaks briefly in those born after WWII, but has been in decline since then. See the census 'National identity' vs age. In England it's even younger; only really took hold with thatcherism; it was her attempt to create one Britain.

      English people now do use the term to mean England as a result, but the Europeans don't.

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    8. https://www.lepoint.fr/europe/pour-echapper-au-brexit-l-angleterre-veut-fusionner-avec-le-portugal-01-04-2019-2305066_2626.php

      Pour échapper au Brexit, l'Angleterre veut fusionner avec le Portugal

      https://www.lemonde.fr/international/article/2019/04/11/france-et-angleterre-desunies-pour-la-vie_5448626_3210.html

      France et Angleterre, désunies pour la vie

      https://www.lalibre.be/actu/international/brexit-ces-habitants-de-l-extreme-nord-de-l-angleterre-qui-esperent-un-no-deal-dur-comme-fer-5c890f9e7b50a60724b7b474

      Brexit: Ces habitants de l'extrême nord de l'Angleterre qui espèrent un "no deal" dur comme fer

      https://www.bvoltaire.fr/donald-trump-chez-la-reine-dangleterre-un-elephant-au-salon-de-the/

      Donald Trump chez la reine d’Angleterre : un éléphant au salon de thé ?

      etc etc etc...

      UK/GB is a droll, technical geo-political term they learn in geography/history.

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    9. Three of those articles talk about specific places in England and the other refers to the Queen of England (of course there is no Queen of England). When talking about Brexit generally they use Britain

      https://www.lemonde.fr/royaume-uni/

      German papers do the same as do major international titles such as NYT Washington Post.





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    10. Are you seriously arguing that the e.g. French people don't call English people what they are, i.e. English?

      This is brexit levels of fairies and unicorn type delusion. An imagined 'one blood and soil nation' britishness that just doesn't exist.

      Sure the politicians and the papers use the correct droll technicals term for state the where these should be used, but in general conversation, my wife, her countryfolk and beyond, know exactly who's created this grand mess; 'les Anglais'.

      And only one of those articles referred to a place in England in the headline, and so what? It didn't refer to a place in 'Brexit Britain' did it, but 'Angleterre'.

      Anyway, enough. This is ridiculous. 'Oh so I hear you speaking English. This must mean you are not English right, but...how do you say Royaume Uni-ish?'.

      Jesus, it's not even possible to be 'UKish' or even 'Great British'.

      'British' = English anyway. To include Scotland, you need to add the 'Great', as that then covers the whole of the larger of the two main islands. Scots are not Brits, they are 'Great Brits' if we are to be correct. In Northern Ireland, they are 'Great British and N. Irish-ish'. Hence the complaints about 'Team GB' excluding them. If the G was left off, the Scots would be complaining too, and rightly so.

      So, even if they say 'British', they mean 'English', just like most English people do when they say it, as that's what British means.

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    11. I'm not English i'm Scottish and class myself as British. So no British does not mean 'English'.

      British: adj belonging to or relating to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland or its people:

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    12. If you want to (technically) class yourself as English (or Welsh as they are one kingdom encompassing Roman 'Britain') from 'Britain' (excluding Scotland) then that's your choice.

      I'm Scottish (and Irish) and that makes me 'Great British', for now at least. I'm not British though and have no direct British relations.

      This is why, in conversation:

      Warm beer + cricket = English = British

      But...

      Haggis, neeps and tatties =/= British, but = Scottish

      However, it would raise less eyebrows if haggis was at least referred to as = 'Great British' because that correctly covers Scotland.

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    13. Again in the English Language

      British: adj belonging to or relating to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland or its people.

      Therefore i'm not 'technically' classing myself as English - i'm Scottish and British.

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    14. Okey dokey. If you are over in Europe and tell people you are 'British', they will 100% assume you are English.

      You can bet your bottom heavily brexit devalued £ they will absolutely not assume it means you are Scottish. There will be no mention of braveheart, kilts, whisky or haggis; it will be red bus and big ben jokes all round.

      But on you go. It's up to you.

      The funniest thing about is all is that N. Irish 'English' (i.e. British) commonly get asked if they are Irish, which is just glorious. They do sound like Mrs Doyle on St. Patrick's day after all.

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    15. Not really bothered what people presume to be honest, perfectly possible to be Scottish and British, it seems to be you whos bothered making up some made up Great British nationality which does not exist in the English Language or any legal system (you are a British Citizen not Great British Citizen).

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    16. Legally I'm a Scottish national. I'm not a British national. You can check my French marriage certificate if you like. Or my birth certificate; not a single mention of British on that formal legal document anywhere (because there is no such thing as British law). To make my marriage legally sound, the French needed legal documents from the country I was a national of, i.e. Scotland.

      I qualify through my Scottish nationality for British citizenship*. However, I also qualify for Irish citizenship and will be using an Irish passport for travel going forward. So as it stands, I'm Irish when abroad.

      If I really must be termed British, then 'Great British' please as I'm not English and it's just fucking ridiculous to take about British Haggis, a Brotch on the rocks, British kilts and British Nessie.

      ---

      *Citizenship and nationality are not the same thing obviously. I'm a European Citizen but obviously not a European national.

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    17. Great British citizenship does not exist, you are British Citizen (of course as you have dual nationality you can revoke your British Citizenship i am surprised you have not done so as you seem to find it so offensive).

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    18. Your passport is a 'Great British + NI' passport. See the front cover.

      If abroad, and someone asks me if I'm English, I'll say no I'm Scottish. I'll not say 'British' because I'm perceptive enough to understand they are asking my nationality; the clue was in them saying 'English'. I'm not English and British is a citizenship, not a nationality.

      Q: Quelle est votre nationalité?
      A: Écossais

      Q: Quelle est votre citoyenneté?
      A: Britannique et Européen

      This is why, unlike national passports, our UK union passport says ‘British Citizen’, not e.g. just ‘Francaise’ like the wife’s passport, or ‘Irish’ like Irish ones.
      Anyway, if you prefer to state your citizenship rather than nationality when asked overseas, then that's up to you. If someone asks my wife if she’s German, she won’t correct them by saying ‘No, I’m European’. That would just get her funny looks.

      Given I don't use a British passport (because it will be basically rubbish soon as it won't have free movement), I'm not sure what there is to 'revoke' exactly. I can't revoke my eligibility for one and neither can the English government.

      Anyway, I think we're going around in circles. I appreciate you like the idea of a one nation 'Britishness', so please enjoy that and the sunshine!

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    19. Surely in the strictest sense Scottish Skier you are a UK citizen or perhaps UK subject. Should Scotland become independent then you would be a citizen of Scotland.

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  13. I wonder if May opened by reminding all the leaders her red line was that they and their smelly furriner families not be allowed to freely live and work in the UK? Also that if they have family already here, then she's going to force these to ask her for permission to stay in their own homes on pain of deportation?

    I know she insisted this be put as the first line of her deal.

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  14. So the Brexit nightmare now continues until Halloween. Since we will now be voting in the European Parliament election, it was nice timing to get a fresh poll today. Scottish split:
    SNP 32% (+3)
    Con 24% (+7)
    Lab 22% (-4)
    Change UK 6% (new)
    Lib Dem 5% (-2)
    Brexit Party 5% (new)
    UKIP 4% (-7)
    Grn 2% (-6)
    (Hanbury Strategy/Open Europe)

    It points to the Tories picking up David Coburn’s seat as the former UKIP-leader’s old party continues to split and collapse (Coburn himself left UKIP long ago due to their extremism). A surprisingly weak showing from the Lib Dem and Greens, no doubt due to the strong support for the new Change UK party, but also due to them being drowned out in the current Brexit fervour.
    Change UK would need to take another huge chunk (about 5 points) out of the Labour vote in order to take an MEP off them. Possible, but unlikely.

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  15. Why is the SNP vote so low?

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  16. My super conservative running average of UK-wide poll Scotland subsamples (Westminster intention).

    Updated to include BMG.

    >20 point lead for the SNP over Con now. Was only 11 points at the beginning of the year.

    44.2% SNP
    22.8% Con
    18.2% Lab
    7.6% Lib
    2.6% UKIP
    2.4% Green

    That gives +17 seats to the SNP, putting them on 52/59.

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  17. Dianne Abbott really is one of the best tools there is for Independence there is, the thought of her actually being Home Sec must make the most hard core yesser want to leave the UK.

    The Shadow Home Secretary said the Wikileaks founder had become a target of the authorities because he had “exposed wrongdoing by US administrations and their military forces”.

    No he became a target because he was accused of a serious crimes in Sweden and instead of fighting his innocence through the legal process he decided to flee the UK for 7 years ( the Ecuadorian embassy is considered Ecuadorian 'soil' even through it is in London).

    What he did was no different than this:
    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-47892602

    Fleeing to avoid trial and possible prosecution. Everyone has the right to be innocent until proven guilty, what they don't have is the right to try and avoid and obstruct justice.

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  18. Who exactly is this Prince Andrew guy? I'm totally confused about who's who in the Royal Family and how they are related to each other. Is it a program? Thanks.

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