At the risk of tempting fate by complimenting a journalist too much, STV's Colin Mackay has often been noted for making an effort to be more even-handed than some of his peers in the Scottish broadcast media, and he proved that again today by ignoring a hostile Tory audience to put Jeremy Hunt on the spot over the utter nonsensicality of the leadership candidate's 'reasons' for saying he will attempt to block an independence referendum. Hunt tried to make out that he was "listening to the people of Scotland" and that "in the last poll he read" three-quarters of Scots were opposed to a referendum. That is almost certainly an intentional lie, because it seems phenomenally improbable that the very recent Panelbase poll showing a clear majority in favour of an early independence referendum wasn't at least brought to Hunt's attention, even if he didn't want to hear about it. And even in the highly unlikely event that the Panelbase poll has somehow completely escaped his notice, his characterisation of the "last poll he read" would still be profoundly and intentionally dishonest, because no poll has ever shown anything even close to 75% opposition to an indyref. (One possibility is that it's a reference to an Ipsos-Mori poll which showed that 22% favoured an indyref as soon as Brexit takes place...but that in total 41% wanted an indyref at some point before 2021. To claim that a poll showing that 41% of Scots want a referendum within the next two years somehow shows that three-quarters of Scots don't want a referendum at all is pretty brazen, to put it mildly.)
I've expressed my concern before that the Conservative party, which down the ages has long rubbished opinion polls and said that "the only poll that matters is on polling day", is now trying to turn Scotland into an opinion poll democracy - in other words, a country in which you can ignore the way in which people actually vote because a YouGov poll of 2000 people is supposedly a more accurate representation of what they want. Hunt tried exactly that line today - he said that it didn't matter that a majority of the Scottish Parliament wanted a referendum, and that it didn't matter that people had knowingly voted for the parliament to have a pro-referendum majority. All that mattered is that a poll from God knows how many months or years ago supposedly shows that MSPs are going against the wishes of their constituents. Mackay pointed out that the most recent poll in fact shows that a majority are in favour of a referendum - to which Hunt feebly replied "there are lots of polls, Colin". So now it seems that Scotland isn't so much an opinion poll democracy as a "the last opinion poll that a British Prime Minister conveniently bothered to notice" democracy.
Except it gets even worse than that. When Mackay sardonically summed up Hunt's hypocrisy with the words "so your poll counts but mine doesn't?", Hunt effectively abandoned his belief in the overriding importance of polls and started waffling about how "people I talk to in Scotland" (ie. Tories) don't want a referendum. So in the space of two minutes, Scotland had been downgraded twice from an opinion poll democracy to a vague anecdote democracy.
As an aside, it's worth noting that Hunt's statement today that he will attempt to block an indyref even if the SNP win an absolute majority at the 2021 election flatly contradicts what he said on the subject only a couple of weeks ago. If I was a Tory member, and even if I agreed with Hunt's revised stance, I'd be a bit worried that the 'flexibility' of his views means that he can't be trusted to keep his word on other subjects. How can he be trusted to stick to his promises on Brexit, for example?