As you probably saw yesterday, Nicola Sturgeon "slapped down" Jeremy Hunt (to use official Express terminology) and told him that the people of Scotland, rather than random Tory leadership candidates, will decide their own country's future. Hunt's riposte was -
"Yes the Scottish people will decide. In poll after poll they’re telling you no to indyref2. So I won’t give in to your grandstanding."
Which is as much as to say: "Yes, Nicola, the Scottish people will decide, and I will be the sole arbiter of what they have decided, and regardless of what they say my adjudication will be that they have said No. Hope this helps." But there's also another little problem (OK, massive problem) with Hunt's claim that "poll after poll" has shown that the Scottish people are opposed to an independence referendum. The problem is simply that the claim is untrue.
The most recent published poll on independence was conducted roughly one month ago by Panelbase. A total of 513 respondents agreed that there should be an early independence referendum, either "while the UK is negotiating to leave the EU" or "when the UK has finished negotiating to leave the EU". 508 respondents said there should not be a referendum in the next few years. In percentage terms, that means 50.2% of the population support an early indyref, and 49.8% are opposed. Have a look at the datasets for yourself if you don't believe me, Jeremy. You'll find them HERE.
But even if Hunt's basic claim wasn't such an obvious falsehood, there would still be something deeply troubling about the way he and other senior Tories seem to want to make opinion polls an integral part of the British constitution. Whatever happened to the pre-election mantra of Tory leaders down the ages: "The only poll that matters is on election day"? If Jeremy Hunt had his way, the new rule would be "we don't need to hold an election because I've just seen a YouGov poll". It wouldn't be so bad if there was the slightest reason to believe that opinion polls can be relied upon to estimate public opinion with an exceptionally high level of accuracy, but we know that's not the case from multiple recent examples. Polling actually seems to be somewhat less reliable than it was a few decades ago (probably due to the demise of the landline phone).
Meanwhile, Hunt's three "tests" for being willing to consider a Section 30 order are as barking mad as might have been predicted. Firstly, he agrees with this week's incarnation of Ruth Davidson that the SNP would have to win a single-party overall majority at Holyrood before a referendum would be a possibility. I can't think of another parliamentary democracy anywhere in the world in which two parties who win a majority between them are not allowed to implement a policy they agree upon. During the Tory-Lib Dem coalition years, you didn't hear John Bercow saying -
"The Ayes to the right, 327. The Noes to the left, 308. But as the Ayes include both Conservative and Liberal Democrat members, the vote is not valid. So the Noes have it. Aw-daaah, unlock."
Secondly, Hunt wants the SNP to run their currency position past him. That's a bit like saying the opposition party will only be allowed to contest an election if the government has given the green light to its manifesto. Hunt's Britain sounds like it would be a bit of a tinpot affair.
And thirdly, he wants Nicola Sturgeon to rule out a "wildcat vote" (sic), which is a bit of a circular argument, because if the Section 30 order was forthcoming, there'd be no conceivable need for a "wildcat vote" (sic), would there?
You know, it's amazing: before Ruth Davidson won her stunning victories in the 2016 and 2017 elections by coming a very distant second to the SNP, the complaint from both the Tories and the mainstream media used to be that Scotland had become a "one-party state". And yet the one sure-fire effect of the Hunt/Davidson insistence that the SNP need a single-party majority will be to deter independence supporters from flirting with smaller pro-indy parties on the Holyrood list vote. If the Tories want to restore the "one-party state", they're going absolutely the right way about it.
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2019 Scot Goes Pop Fundraiser: This is Day 18 of the fundraiser, and so far £7266 has been raised. That's 85% of the way towards the target figure of £8500. A million thanks to everyone who has donated so far, and I'm also extremely grateful to all the people who have left a kind comment with their donation. You can visit the fundraising page HERE.