Monday, November 23, 2020

The SNP's defence submission is a 'modernisation' too far: it's time to reaffirm the long-standing commitment to *unilateral* nuclear disarmament

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Pro-indy parties make progress in Clackmannanshire East by-election

A rare advantage of being forced to have pre-moderation switched on is that I was able to intercept a comment the other night by a well-known unionist propagandist who was attempting to portray the Conservative hold in the Clackmannanshire East by-election as some kind of glorious, game-changing victory for unionism. In reality, the vote share for both pro-independence parties actually went up slightly, and it looks like the unexpectedly sharp increase in the Tory vote can be explained mainly by an intra-unionist swing caused by yet another Labour collapse. 

Clackmannanshire East by-election result: 
Conservatives 51.2% (+9.7) 
SNP 32.0% (+1.8) 
Labour 8.1% (-12.1) 
Greens 5.8% (+2.0) 
Liberal Democrats 2.9% (-1.4) 

If we'd seen this result in late 2017 or 2018, I might have interpreted the Tories' relatively strong performance as being of wider national significance. But at the moment we have tonnes of polling evidence, and indeed evidence from other recent local by-elections, that the Tories are struggling across Scotland and that the Douglas Ross experiment is failing. So the Clackmannanshire East outcome has got 'local factors' written all over it. It was a reasonably solid Tory ward in 2017 anyway - it contains Dollar, so it's very much the posh end of the county.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

To only focus on "disaster" would be our "biggest mistake"

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Scot Goes Pop / Panelbase poll: Scottish public think Nicola Sturgeon has outperformed her fellow world leaders in her handling of the pandemic

Last but not least in the Scot Goes Pop / Panelbase poll, we have an opportunity to see how Nicola Sturgeon shapes up in a league table of selected world leaders - and we all know how thrilled our unionist friends always are to see Ms Sturgeon receiving her due recognition alongside her fellow world leaders.  Bear in mind that this is a poll of voting-age respondents in Scotland.  

How good or bad a job do you think the following leaders are doing in their response to the coronavirus/COVID-19 outbreak?


Very Good: 2%
Good: 5%
Bad: 13%
Very Bad: 68%

Neither Good Nor Bad: 9%

Total Good: 8%
Total Bad: 82%

Net Rating: -74

I know there appears to be a small discrepancy in the numbers, but that'll be due to the effect of rounding.  As you'd expect, Trump has an abysmal reputation across all demographics and partisan loyalties, and interestingly there's no difference between Yes and No voters on this one - he has a net rating of -75 among people who voted Yes in 2014, and -74 among people who voted No.  There is, however, a slightly bigger difference between people who would currently vote Yes and No, which is logical enough, because the No coalition has shrunk in recent months and has presumably been left with a bigger percentage of right-wingers.  Trump's least-worst rating is among Conservative voters, but that's not saying much - exactly half of Tories say he's done "very badly".


Very Good: 29%
Good: 37%
Bad: 9%
Very Bad: 12%

Neither Good Nor Bad: 12%

Total Good: 66%
Total Bad: 21%

Net Rating: +45

What leaps out at me here are the differences between voters for the various unionist parties.  Ms Sturgeon has won over both Labour and Liberal Democrat voters, who give her net ratings of +28 and +51 respectively.  The die-hards who will presumably always say she's performing badly no matter what she does are mostly to be found among Tory voters, who give her a net negative rating of -21.


Very Good: 5%
Good: 14%
Bad: 21%
Very Bad: 43%

Neither Good Nor Bad: 15%

Total Good: 19%
Total Bad: 65%

Net Rating: -46

Ouch.  Would it be tactless of me to say these figures are a "disaster" for the unionist cause?  In a reverse mirror image of the results for Ms Sturgeon, only Tory voters give Mr Johnson a positive rating - although there are plenty enough Tories who hold him in disdain.  28% of them think he's handled the crisis badly or very badly.  The only other group where he gets even close to respectability is current No supporters, who give him a net negative rating of 'only' -13, but of course that'll be largely because such a significant percentage of current No supporters are Tories.


Very Good: 18%
Good: 34%
Bad: 5%
Very Bad: 4%

Neither Good Nor Bad: 23%

Total Good: 52%
Total Bad: 9%

Net Rating: +43

You wouldn't think there'd be such an ideological and/or partisan element to people's appreciation of Ms Merkel's assured response to the crisis, but in fact it appears that anti-European prejudices are rearing their ugly head here.  No supporters are more grudging than Yes supporters, and her least good numbers are to be found among Tory voters - although even they give her a positive rating of +18.  


Nicola Sturgeon: +45
Angela Merkel: +43
Boris Johnson: -46
Donald Trump: -74

I'm sure Douglas Ross and George Foulkes will gladly confirm that this outcome makes us all feel incredibly proud to be Scottish.  

* * *

You can read my comment piece in The National on the BBC results from the poll HERE.

Remember that the Scottish people were fearful about the future of devolution even *before* Boris Johnson called it a "disaster"

Alex Massie in the Spectator: "Speaking to his northern English MPs last night, Johnson declared that devolution has been 'a disaster north of the border' and was the biggest mistake Tony Blair ever made. The implication, quite obviously, is that in a better ordered world the Scottish parliament should be abolished." 

Just a reminder of how fearful voters were about the future of the Scottish Parliament before our beloved Prime Minister called devolution a "disaster"... 

If Scotland does not become an independent country over the next ten years, and if the Conservatives remain in power at Westminster, which of the following three outcomes do you think is most likely? (Scot Goes Pop / Panelbase poll, 5th-11th November 2020) 

The UK Conservative government will substantially increase the Scottish Parliament's powers: 23% 

The UK Conservative government will substantially reduce the Scottish Parliament's powers: 55% 

The UK Conservative government will abolish the Scottish Parliament altogether: 22% 


And of the potential electoral consequences of those fears... 

If the UK Conservative government substantially reduces the powers of the Scottish Parliament or abolishes the Scottish Parliament altogether, would you be more likely or less likely to support Scotland becoming an independent country?

More likely: 69% 
Less likely: 31% 

Incidentally, Alex Massie went on to say this: "Arguing that devolution has failed because Nicola Sturgeon is first minister is the same as arguing that Britain has failed because Boris Johnson is Prime Minister...A rotten government in Edinburgh no more makes devolution a disaster than Johnson proves the Union’s bankruptcy. (The answer, in each case, is to elect a better government.)" 

Which is fine, if you actually have the capacity to do that in each case. The Scottish people can certainly elect the Scottish government that they most want, but I'm at something of a loss to explain how Alex thinks they can elect the UK government they most want, given that Scotland only has 59 of 650 seats at Westminster.

*  *  *

Later today I'll publish the final batch of results in the Scot Goes Pop / Panelbase poll - watch a preview below.


Monday, November 16, 2020

Scot Goes Pop / Panelbase poll: Staggering three-quarters of voters think the BBC have failed to make the public aware of how the Internal Market Bill will reduce the Scottish Parliament's powers

As I mentioned the other day, one of the difficulties of polling about public attitudes to the Westminster power-grab contained in the Internal Market Bill is that most people aren't even aware of it, due to the mainstream media's abject failure to report it.  No-one would expect anti-independence newspapers to go out of their way to draw attention to something that would be unhelpful for their side of the debate, but what of the public service broadcaster that so many people look to and trust to give them impartial information?  I thought it might be worth asking respondents what they think about the BBC's non-reporting of the power-grab.   

Do you think the BBC have done enough to make the public aware of the changes to the Scottish Parliament's powers proposed by the Internal Market Bill?  

Yes 23%
No 77% 

I was actually quite staggered by that result - I thought we might see an even split, with independence supporters being critical of the BBC and unionists more content.  But in fact this is a rare example of literally every demographic or political group mentioned in the datasets reaching the same conclusion.  89% of SNP voters, 68% of Labour voters, 74% of Liberal Democrat voters, 62% of Conservative voters, 86% of Yes supporters, 63% of No supporters, 77% of people born in Scotland and 76% of people born in England all agree that the BBC have failed to properly inform the public. 

My guess is this will have happened because of a straightforward logical process.  Having been just asked a question that summarised the changes to the devolution settlement that the Internal Market Bill entails, respondents will have come to the inescapable conclusion that what is happening is important enough that the public should know about it, and will also have realised that they've heard very little about it on the BBC.  Even for many Tory voters, that will have left only one possible answer to the question. 

So to summarise what we've learned from this poll: when the public know about the power-grab, they think it breaches The Vow and shouldn't happen without a referendum, but many of them don't know about it because the BBC haven't told them, and they think that's wrong.  I'm not sure that's a great look for the state broadcaster.

*  *  *

There's still a little bit more to come from the poll - if you'd like to be the first to know, you can follow me on Twitter HERE.

*  *  *

You can read my piece in The National about last night's results HERE.

VIDEO: Preview of tonight's question in the Scot Goes Pop / Panelbase poll

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Scot Goes Pop / Panelbase poll suggests strong backing for a Plan B: Almost two-thirds of voters want the Scottish Government to take decisive action to circumvent Westminster's attempts to 'veto' an independence referendum

Quite a number of you specifically asked me to use the new Panelbase poll to ask about support for a Plan B option for securing an outright independence mandate if the UK Government continues to refuse a Section 30 order. I was initially sceptical, because I had posed questions about the two main Plan B ideas in the earlier polls this year. The January poll found backing for the Scottish Parliament going ahead with legislation for a referendum, and allowing the courts to decide whether the vote can take place. And then the June poll found even stronger support for the option of using a scheduled election to obtain an indy mandate. I wasn't sure there was much to be gained from repeating those questions. However, it was pointed out to me that with big votes coming up very soon at the SNP conference, it was important to have up-to-date information about the public's wishes. So on this occasion I decided to simply ask about the general principle of pressing ahead with a Plan B. 

Imagine that the pro-independence parties win a majority of seats in next year's Scottish Parliament election, but the UK Government still refuses to agree to an independence referendum. In that scenario, do you think the Scottish Government should ensure the Scottish people are given a choice on independence over the course of the next parliamentary term, or should it accept that the UK Government has a veto on an independence referendum? 

The Scottish Government should ensure the Scottish people are given a choice on independence: 63% 

The Scottish Government should accept that the UK Government has a veto on an independence referendum: 37% 

If I had been writing the question a week later than I did, I might have worded it slightly differently, because 'accepting a veto' closely echoes language used in the SNP leadership's draft motion for conference, which is based on the questionable assumption that simply saying "we don't accept the veto" will by some metaphysical means force the UK Government to grant a Section 30 order. It's important to stress that the result of this question indicates that the overwhelming majority of the public want the Scottish Government to actually take action to circumvent the veto, rather than continuing to talk impotently about how "unsustainable" the situation supposedly is. 

60% of Labour voters think that there should be a democratic choice on independence, regardless of Downing Street's wishes, as do a very healthy 46% of Liberal Democrat voters. However, I couldn't help but think it's richly ironic that a slender majority of people who vote for a party with the words "liberal" and "democrat" in its name think there should be a Westminster veto on the democratic process in Scotland! (Admittedly the subsample of Lib Dem voters is pretty small.)  As you'd expect, the strongest support for the veto comes from Tory voters (86%), people who voted No in 2014 (61%), and people who would still vote No in a second indyref (82%). 

Tonight's second question is a little different from the others. When I ran the poll in June, Dr Tim Rideout of the Scottish Currency Group asked me to add on a question about currency, and offered to provide funding to cover the additional cost. It was already too late in the day by that point, but he made the same request this time, and I agreed. So this question was written by Tim (or at least he was the one that sent it to me), although I did tweak the wording just slightly before submitting it to Panelbase. 

The SNP's policy is that if Scotland becomes independent, a new Scottish currency would be introduced as soon as practicable after Independence Day, to ensure that Scotland has control over its own monetary and fiscal policy, and interest rates. To what extent do you agree or disagree with this policy? 

Completely agree: 30% 
Somewhat agree: 29% 
Somewhat disagree: 12% 
Completely disagree: 29% 


Bear in mind that what is described in the question as the SNP's policy is what was passed at conference last year, and is somewhat more radical than the leadership's own wishes in calling for a new currency "as soon as practicable". Naturally the strongest backing for the policy comes from current Yes supporters (89%), people who voted Yes in 2014 (86%), and SNP voters (87%). But intriguingly half of Labour voters want a Scottish currency in the event of independence, as do a significant minority of 2014 No voters (37%). 

You'll doubtless have spotted that this result appears to directly contradict the recent Survation poll for Progress Scotland, which showed support for retaining Sterling in the long-term. The reason for the difference is probably that the new question briefly explained the rationale for a change of currency. It looks like respondents were convinced by the need for Scotland to be able to control its own monetary policy and interest rates.

Speaking personally, I'm a tad ambivalent on this subject, because polls that specifically mention the pound (as the Progress Scotland poll did) tend to find there's an emotional pull for voters towards retaining a currency they're familiar with.  But the experience of 2014 suggests that having a credible policy that doesn't depend on Westminster acting reasonably may ultimately be more important than having a policy that is superficially popular.  So on balance I'm inclined to think that moving towards a new currency with a degree of urgency is the correct approach.

*  *  *

There's still more to come from the poll over the coming days - if you'd like to be the first to know, you can follow me on Twitter HERE.

*  *  *

You can read my piece in the Sunday National on last night's results HERE.

VIDEO: Preview of Sunday night's questions in the Scot Goes Pop / Panelbase poll

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Scot Goes Pop / Panelbase poll: More than three-quarters of voters expect the Tories to take more powers away from the Scottish Parliament or abolish it completely - and if that happens, almost 70% will be "more likely" to support independence

Last night's results from the Scot Goes Pop / Panelbase poll suggested that voters think the removal of powers from the Scottish Parliament that is currently underway is in breach of "The Vow" that was so pivotal to the No side in winning the 2014 indyref.  But what of the future?  Do voters have confidence that the UK Government will nobly draw a line after the current power-grab and leave Holyrood in peace after that?  Unsurprisingly, the answer is no.

If Scotland does not become an independent country over the next ten years, and if the Conservatives remain in power at Westminster, which of the following three outcomes do you think is most likely?

The UK Conservative government will substantially increase the Scottish Parliament's powers: 23%

The UK Conservative government will substantially reduce the Scottish Parliament's powers: 55%

The UK Government will abolish the Scottish Parliament altogether: 22%


What ought to be of greatest concern to unionist strategists is that the fears over the future of devolution very much extend to the coalition of support that delivered the No vote in 2014, presumably including many voters who were swayed by the bogus assurances that the Scottish Parliament was permanent and would become much more powerful.  74% of Labour voters, 77% of Liberal Democrat voters, 67% of No voters from 2014, and 59% of people who are currently minded to vote No again, expect that Holyrood will be diminished or abolished over the coming decade. 

To me, this speaks to the strategic blunder that the Conservatives made in abandoning the so-called "respect agenda" under Ruth Davidson's leadership.  Having spent years trying to convince voters that Tory rule was not a threat to the Scottish Parliament, they suddenly noticed that devolution - or at least devolution under SNP control - was unpopular with a militant core of unionist support, and that it was therefore possible to win a few extra Tory seats by reverting to the old anti-devo or devo-sceptic posture.  But they've lost sight of the fact that the militant core of unionism is only a minority of the Scottish population, and that the pro-devolution majority are listening to the rhetoric as well.  

If the UK Conservative government substantially reduces the powers of the Scottish Parliament or abolishes the Scottish Parliament altogether, would you be more likely or less likely to support Scotland becoming an independent country?

More likely: 69%
Less likely: 31%

Once again, it's not just the Yes die-hards who are saying they would be more likely to back independence in that scenario - so are 71% of Labour voters, 59% of Liberal Democrat voters, 50% of people who voted No six years ago, 32% of those who would currently vote No, and even 27% of Conservative voters.  

Put these results together, and what have you got?  Voters believe the UK Government is likely to follow a course of action - either abolition of Holyrood or a further significant power-grab - that would clearly make a bigger Yes majority much more attainable.  That expectation may be all that is really needed, if Yes campaigners can constantly remind voters of the ongoing threat to devolution and point to the power-grab in the Internal Market Bill as an example of what may be yet to come.

*  *  *

There's still more to come from the poll over the coming days - if you'd like to be the first to know, you can follow me on Twitter HERE.

*  *  *

You can read my piece in The National on last night's results HERE.

VIDEO: Preview of Saturday night's questions in the Scot Goes Pop / Panelbase poll

Friday, November 13, 2020

Scot Goes Pop / Panelbase poll: Two-thirds of voters say the Internal Market BIll breaches The Vow - and demand a referendum on whether the Westminster power-grab should go ahead

You might remember that when I first floated the idea of crowdfunding another poll, my plan was to test public reactions to the Westminster power-grab that is currently underway due to the Internal Market Bill.  As it turned out, Progress Scotland had only just conducted a poll that covered the Internal Market Bill extensively, and so at that point I expected to move on to other topics instead.  However, the questions asked in the Progress Scotland poll effectively tested reactions to what people already knew about the Internal Market Bill, which obviously in most cases won't have been very much, because the mainstream media haven't exactly been falling over themselves to keep the public informed about the power-grab.  The respondents who did have a view were mostly hostile to the Bill, but there were an awful lot of people who just didn't know.  I came to the conclusion that there would be value in posing a question that briefly summarises the effect of the Bill on the devolution settlement, thus allowing us to see how people react when they're actually in the know.  I also decided to ask about the democratic principle of whether the Scottish people should get to decide in a referendum whether or not powers are removed from the Scottish Parliament - which seems to me important given that those powers are currently there because of the landslide in favour of the devolution settlement recorded in the 1997 referendum.

The UK Government is currently seeking to pass the Internal Market Bill.  The House of Lords Constitution Committee has stated that the Bill would change the current powers of the Scottish Parliament by allowing the UK Government to override laws passed in Edinburgh, by imposing new restrictions on the Scottish Government in relation to goods and services, and by removing powers from the Scottish Government on state aid.  Do you think these reductions in the Scottish Parliament's powers should only take effect if the Scottish people agree to them in a referendum?

Yes 66%
No 34%

There have been some complaints about the question wording, but I would urge everyone to read the Lords committee report and then judge for themselves whether the summary contained in the question is fair.  I would strongly contend that it is.

Support for a referendum on the power-grab cuts across the partisan divide - 87% of SNP voters, 67% of Labour voters, 49% of Liberal Democrat voters, and even 33% of Conservative voters are in favour.  Indeed, exactly half of people who voted No in the 2014 indyref think there should be a referendum before the powers are removed.

I also asked a follow-up question about whether respondents think the power-grab is consistent with the Vow that was published on the front page of the Daily Record in the week of the indyref -

Before the 2014 independence referendum, the three largest anti-independence parties issued a "Vow" promising that the Scottish Parliament is permanent.  If the changes to the Scottish Parliament's powers proposed by the Internal Market Bill take effect without the Scottish people agreeing to them in a new referendum, do you think the Vow will have been kept or broken?

The Vow will have been kept: 37%
The Vow will have been broken: 63%

The notorious unionist troll Steve Sayers loudly complained on Twitter that this question was illegitimate, on the grounds that the "permanence" part of the Vow had supposedly been honoured with wording inserted into the Scotland Act.  But the whole point is that this is a matter of interpretation - can an institution be said to be "permanent" just because it remains in existence in some form, or is it actually necessary for its existing powers to be maintained in full?  Respondents were free to express either view, and unfortunately for Sayers their interpretation of the Vow clearly differs from his.  Again, substantial numbers of non-SNP voters agree that the Vow is being betrayed - including 57% of Labour voters, 56% of Liberal Democrat voters, 34% of Conservative voters, and a remarkable 52% of No voters from 2014.

*  *  *

There's still lots more to come from the poll over the coming days - if you'd like to be the first to know, you can follow me on Twitter HERE.

*  *  *

You can read my piece in The National on yesterday's headline voting intention numbers HERE.

VIDEO: Preview of tonight's questions in the Scot Goes Pop / Panelbase poll

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Scot Goes Pop / Panelbase poll: History made again as the pro-independence vote rises to 56% - the highest ever in a Panelbase poll, and in any online poll conducted by a BPC-affiliated firm

I seem to have set expectations sky-high with my video teaser this morning, so I hope you're all happy with this outcome - Yes have hit 56% in our latest exclusive Scot Goes Pop / Panelbase poll, and that's an all-time high in Panelbase polling. 

Should Scotland be an independent country? (Scot Goes Pop / Panelbase poll)

Yes 56% (+1) 
No 44% (-1)  

(Before Don't Knows are excluded, the figures are Yes 51%, No 40%. The fieldwork was conducted between the 5th and 11th of November, and 1020 respondents were interviewed. Percentage changes are measured from the most recent Panelbase poll, which was commissioned by Business for Scotland in August.) 

It's been obvious from social media, and also from one or two posters on the comments section of this blog, that unionists have been frantically looking for some signs of hope that the Yes majority might be narrowing slightly as the autumn wears on, and as they've continued chipping away at Nicola Sturgeon over her handling of the pandemic. They certainly won't find any such hope in this poll. Technically a 1% increase isn't statistically significant and might potentially be explained by margin of error 'noise', but anything outside a polling firm's normal range ought to make us sit up and take notice, however small the movement needed to get there. This is the eighth Panelbase poll in this calendar year, and the sequence of results for Yes is 52-49-50-52-54-54-55-56. That does not look like a Yes vote that has started to drift downwards after peaking in the summer. Quite the reverse. And it also shouldn't be forgotten that until relatively recently Panelbase were actually on the No-friendly end of the spectrum, and for several years regularly showed the Yes vote hovering in the lowly 43-45% range. We've come a long, long way since then. 

This is a landmark poll in quite a few ways - 

* It's the highest ever Yes vote in a Panelbase poll. 

* It's the highest ever Yes vote in a poll conducted online by any British Polling Council-affiliated firm. 

* It's the joint-highest ever Yes vote in any sort of credible online poll (it's only equalled by the recent JL Partners poll). 

* It's the joint second-highest Yes vote in any credible poll conducted by any firm (only surpassed by last month's famous Ipsos-Mori poll, which of course was conducted by telephone). 

Drilling into the details, we see a now-familiar pattern. Yes command the support of a very impressive 42% of people who voted Labour in 2019, and 28% of people who voted Liberal Democrat - the latter can probably be explained by the impossibility of Scotland rejoining the EU if it remains part of the UK. Almost one-quarter (23%) of No voters from the 2014 referendum are now in the Yes column, whereas only 8% of Yes voters have moved in the opposite direction. And the gender gap of days gone by has essentially vanished - 56% of men and 55% of women support independence. 

We also have voting intention numbers for both Westminster and Holyrood. The SNP remain in an utterly commanding position, although understandably the figures don't quite match the almost absurd heights that were recorded when Panelbase last asked these questions for the Sunday Times in the early summer.

Scottish voting intentions for Westminster: 

SNP 50% (-3) 
Conservatives 21% (n/c) 
Labour 20% (+1) 
Liberal Democrats 5% (-1) 
Greens 2% (n/a) 

Westminster seats projection (with changes from 2019): SNP 56 (+8), Conservatives 2 (-4), Labour 1 (n/c), Liberal Democrats 0 (-4) 

Scottish Parliament constituency ballot: 

SNP 53% (-2) 
Conservatives 21% (+1) 
Labour 18% (+3) 
Liberal Democrats 5% (-1) 
Greens 3% (n/c) 

Scottish Parliament regional list ballot: 

SNP 46% (-4) 
Conservatives 20% (+2) 
Labour 17% (+2) 
Greens 8% (n/c) 
Liberal Democrats 6% (n/c)  

Scottish Parliament seats projection (with changes from 2016): SNP 71 (+8), Conservatives 25 (-6), Labour 19 (-5), Greens 9 (+3), Liberal Democrats 5 (n/c) 

So in contrast to the recent Survation poll, the Tories are clinging on to second place, but it's reasonable to suggest they're now in some danger of ceding their position as the largest opposition party next May. 

A few days ago, you might have seen a rather amusing meltdown from several hard-core unionists on Twitter, who had taken this poll and were angrily brandishing screenshots of the 'shockingly biased' supplementary questions (most of which were written by me, but Panelbase also added on a few questions for a different client). I'm totally comfortable with the wording of those questions, which you'll be seeing over the coming days, but for now what I'd say is this: regardless of your opinion of those questions, it makes literally no difference whatsoever to the credibility of the headline Yes/No results, because Panelbase - like all reputable pollsters - always ask the main voting intention questions before any of the other questions. So respondents cannot be skewed or influenced in any way.

You may have seen that, just by chance, YouGov conducted an independence poll with almost identical fieldwork dates, and showed a slightly different result, with the Yes vote dipping a little from 53% to 51%.  The fact that we have two polls conducted at the same time, with both showing minor margin of error changes in different directions, suggests to me that the situation on the ground has remained pretty steady since Yes reached its new high watermark during the summer.  So as enjoyable as it is watching the likes of Andrew Bowie 'celebrating' a poll showing a Yes majority, they're probably barking up the wrong tree.

There are plenty more results to come from the Scot Goes Pop / Panelbase poll - if you'd like to be the first to hear about them, you can follow me on Twitter HERE.

VIDEO PREVIEW: Scot Goes Pop poll on independence incoming

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Who is still betting on Trump to win an election he's already lost?

Just a quick update on my earlier post about the inexplicable fact that the betting markets were still implying that Donald Trump had a 5% chance of winning an election he's already lost.  I would have expected common sense to kick in at some point, but incredibly it's gone the other way - at the time of writing, Trump is now implied to have around a 9% chance of winning.  Which begs the question, who on earth is placing these obviously doomed bets on Trump, and why are they doing it?

Someone suggested on Twitter that it might simply be that people who successfully bet on Biden are closing out their position, which effectively counts as bets on Trump.  That's technically a possibility, but it doesn't really make sense, because any such phenomenon will have been balanced out (perhaps more than balanced out) by people who placed pre-election bets on Trump and now think it's Christmas because they were somehow able to retrieve some of their stake by cashing out long after the election result was known.  

It must be that there are an awful lot of true believers out there who actually accept the fairy-tales about industrial-scale fraud and who think the Supreme Court will overturn the election results in three, four or five states and that Trump will be inaugurated for a second term in January.  When people are behaving as irrationally as that on betting markets, there's a golden opportunity to cash in.  To pretty much remove any risk, the thing to do would be to place a lay bet against Trump (as opposed to a positive bet for Biden), and that will cover any unlikely scenario in which something happens to Biden.  All you'd need is for Trump not to be declared winner of the election, which he won't be, and you'll have locked in a 9% profit.  I'm still not tempted to do it, simply because a huge stake would be required to get a half-decent return.  But this is just about the closest thing you'll ever see to free money.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Return of the Poll of Polls shows an average Yes vote of almost 55%

Long term readers of the blog will recall that in the run-up to the 2014 indyref, I regularly updated the Scot Goes Pop Poll of Polls, which differed from other Polls of Polls in one key respect - it only included the most recent poll from each individual polling firm.  Because there were such wide disparities between the No-friendly and Yes-friendly firms, it seemed obvious to me that you'd get wildly misleading trends if you went back and forth from a sample that was 75% comprised of YouGov polls to one that was 75% comprised of ICM or Panelbase polls.  I eliminated that problem by ensuring the balance between firms remained exactly the same in each update.

Since 2014, it's rarely been feasible to apply the same method, because there usually haven't been enough independence polls from a broad enough range of pollsters.  But for obvious reasons, the last few weeks have seen a flurry of polls, and they've come from no fewer than six different firms - two of which (Savanta ComRes and JL Partners) had never polled on independence before.  Here's what the average of the most recent poll of each of the six shows...


Should Scotland be an independent country?

Yes 54.8%  
No 45.2%

There's no longer the chasm between Yes-friendly and No-friendly firms that we used to see a few years ago.  But for what it's worth, the most No-friendly firms at the moment are YouGov and Savanta ComRes (both of which have Yes on 53%) and the most Yes-friendly firm is Ipsos-Mori (which has Yes on 58%).  Curiously, Survation are currently closer (54%) to the No-friendly end of the spectrum, even though we've always tended to regard them as a relatively Yes-friendly firm.

Monday, November 9, 2020

Why don't the media hold the Tories accountable for *their* past statements on when and how a second independence referendum can be held?

We all know why the claims that the 2014 indyref was a "once in a generation" vote are bogus. The words were not contained or implied in the Edinburgh Agreement, and whenever Alex Salmond used them, he was always at pains to point out that he was only expressing a "personal view" about likely timescales, rather than making a commitment that the SNP would be bound to for decades to come. Indeed, on one occasion when Jeremy Paxman pressed him to go further, he pointed out that no government can bind its successors, and added "don't be daft". And as no less a person than Professor John Curtice pointed out just the other day, it's also not possible for an SNP leader to bind the electorate - it's up to voters to decide how often they want to have referendums, and their democratic rights cannot be curtailed by a personal opinion that one particular politician happened to hold six years ago. 

But even if it wasn't a lie to say that the SNP closed off any possibility of a second indyref for the next twenty years and that they aren't allowed to change their minds, it's reasonable to ask: why aren't the Tories held to the same standard? Here are clear statements that Tory politicians have made since 2014 - 

* Ruth Davidson, in her capacity as Scottish Conservative leader, said that it would be constitutionally improper for Westminster to block an independence referendum if pro-independence parties won a majority of seats in a Holyrood election on a manfesto commitment to hold a vote. 

* Alister Jack, in his capacity as Secretary of State for Scotland, said that the 2021 Scottish Parliament election would determine whether a second independence referendum is held. Just to leave us in no doubt about what he was getting at and the full implications of it, he specified (absurdly) that only an overall single-party majority for the SNP would be deemed a trigger for a referendum, and that a combined majority for different pro-independence parties would not be sufficient.

Why wasn't it the end of history when the Tories made those statements? Why do the media allow them to continue making up the rules as they go on, without holding them accountable for crystal-clear undertakings they have already given? Why, in a nutshell, is it only SNP politicians who aren't allowed to change their minds? 

*   *   * 

Talking of glaring contradictions, I was bemused by this summary of Pete Wishart's reasoning for rejecting a 'Plan B' - 

"SNP critics of Plan B argue the strategy of holding out for a Section 30 order is working with support for independence at record levels. They contend if the PM is not going to grant a Section 30 he is unlikely to enter independence talks." 

The same is true in reverse, surely - if you believe that the PM is unlikely to enter independence talks even if there is a mandate for independence, it's also phenomenally improbable that he will grant a Section 30 order simply because there is a mandate for a referendum and a pro-indy majority in the polls. That makes the case for Plan B unanswerable - if you're conceding that you're going to be facing a brick wall of intransigence in Downing Street, you'll plainly be much better equipped if you have an outright mandate for independence in your pocket, rather than merely a 79th mandate for a referendum. 

*   *   * .

Sunday, November 8, 2020

I'm not tempted, but just for your consideration...

Friday, November 6, 2020

Day of despair for Douglas Ross as the Tories go backwards in Aberdeen by-election, and are on course to lose TWELVE SEATS in next year's Holyrood vote

I didn't get round to updating my post about the Survation poll yesterday, so for the sake of completeness here are the party political voting intention numbers, with more good news for the SNP and the Yes movement.

Scottish voting intentions for Westminster: 

SNP 52% (+1) 
Labour 20% (-1) 
Conservatives 18% (-2) 
Liberal Democrats 8% (+2) 

Scottish Parliament constituency ballot:

SNP 54% (+1) 
Conservatives 19% (-1) 
Labour 18% (-) 
Liberal Democrats 8% (+1) 

Scottish Parliament regional list ballot:

SNP 43% (+2) 
Labour 19% (+1) 
Conservatives 17% (-1) 
Greens 10% (-) 
Liberal Democrats 7% (-1) 
Brexit Party 2% (-) 
UKIP 1% (-) 

Holyrood seats projection (with changes from 2016 result): SNP 69 (+6), Labour 25 (+1), Conservatives 19 (-12), Greens 11 (+5), Liberal Democrats 5 (n/c)

For anyone who still doubts that the list vote is generally the more important ballot, please note that the Tories are in second place in the constituency ballot, Labour are in second place in the list ballot, and that translates firmly into Labour being in second place in the seats projection.  The exact reverse occurred in 2016 - Labour clung onto second place in the constituencies, but were pushed into third place in terms of seats due to what happened on the list.  

The phenomenon of the Tories' status as the largest opposition party being seriously threatened should perhaps be seen as a 'house effect' of Survation's methodology, because the last Survation poll showed something similar, but other firms have not corroborated those findings in the meantime.  That said, there's no doubt that the Tories are now performing much more poorly than at the peak of the revival under Ruth Davidson.  The new leader Douglas Ross must take his share of the blame for that, because the position seems to have worsened slightly since he took over, and that's coincided with dire personal ratings for him being reported in a couple of polls.

The situation the Tories now find themselves in is arguably reminiscent of where the SNP were just after they elected John Swinney as leader twenty years ago.  They had it all worked out - Alex Salmond, for all his qualities, had supposedly been too abrasive to make the ultimate breakthrough, whereas John Swinney was more like a friendly older brother, impossible to dislike, a bit of a reassuring bank manager figure in the mould of John Smith.  There was just one snag - the voters didn't react to him in the way they were supposed to react, and polls consistently showed that he commanded less confidence than all three of the other main party leaders.  The SNP weren't deterred - they thought the public just hadn't had enough of a chance to get to know Swinney, and he would become popular with time.  But after four years they finally had to admit to themselves that the dial wasn't moving, resulting in the unexpected comeback for Alex Salmond that changed Scottish politics forever.

Same story with Douglas Ross - the public are supposed to like him, but the public haven't read the script provided for them, and my suspicion is they won't change their minds.  How long will it take for the penny to drop?

More evidence that the tide has gone out on the Conservatives can be found in the result of the Kincorth, Nigg & Cove by-election, which although a routine SNP hold, showed a swing of approximately 4% from Tory to SNP.

Kincorth, Nigg & Cove by-election result (first preferences):

SNP 47.4% (+6.7) 
Conservatives 20.2% (-1.3) 
Labour 12.2% (-5.3) 
Independent - Finlayson 10.5% (-0.4)
Liberal Democrats 3.6% (-1.6)

Thursday, November 5, 2020

Sparkling Survation survey sustains the sequence: eleventh poll in a row to show pro-independence majority

Survation have traditionally been one of the most Yes-friendly pollsters, but oddly that hasn't really been the case during the current spell of sustained pro-independence majorities - they haven't been showing a Yes vote even higher than that reported by other firms (in the way that Ipsos-Mori did, for example).

Should Scotland be an independent country?

Yes 54% (+1)
No 46% (-1)

54% does equal the all-time high for Yes with Survation - but that high was previously recorded long before this year.

In some quarters you'll see this being billed as the twelfth Yes majority in a row, but in my view it's the eleventh - I think to be consistent you really need to only include polls that ask the standard question.

More to follow...

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Biden: never in doubt (much)

So my winning track record on political betting remains intact - an hour or two ago, I cashed out my bet on Biden for a decent profit, although I must admit it was a rollercoaster ride to get to that point, and I almost lost my nerve at one stage.  Even though Biden was very much a value bet before the results started to come in, probably the optimum time to bet on him would have been at around 2am, when incredibly the odds implied that Trump had more than a 75% chance of winning.  I couldn't make head nor tail of that, because at the time Biden had built up decent leads in Ohio and North Carolina - states he didn't even need to win.  My best guess was that punters had massively overreacted to Trump holding Florida against expectations.  

But of course, a couple of hours later, the tables had turned.  Trump had not only secured a comeback win in Ohio and taken what looked like a decisive lead in North Carolina, he had also rapidly built up what looked like telling leads in states that were actually much more vital to Biden's chances, namely Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania.  The experts repeatedly cautioned that those numbers might well be misleading due to the order in which different types of votes were being counted, but I remembered waiting for a Clinton comeback in those states in 2016 that never materialised, so I started to wonder if the sensible thing to do would be to cash out at a loss.  I decided to risk seeing if anything had changed after a few hours sleep, and by the time I woke up, as if by magic, Biden had the upper hand in Michigan and Wisconsin.  Although the margin in each case is narrow, those in the know are convinced it won't be overturned, meaning that Biden is assured of a majority in the electoral college unless Trump can overturn his narrow deficit in Nevada, which by all accounts is also unlikely.  And even if an improbable comeback does occur somewhere, it still might not be enough if Biden squeezes out a win in Georgia, which is considered perfectly possible.

I would guess at this stage that Trump's main hope will be that Biden ends up owing his electoral college majority to a narrow win in a single state - that would at least give the appearance of reasonableness to any legal challenge.  But if Trump needs the courts to alter the results in two or three states, his efforts to stay in office are going to look a bit desperate.

I don't actually think it'll take the army to remove him from the White House in January, but ideally he'll want to spin this out for as long as possible to build up a victim/conspiracy narrative, possibly with a view to another tilt at the presidency in 2024.

Sunday, November 1, 2020

Pool and share, Yookay-style

Just a quick note to let you know that I've written today's online-only 'National Extra' piece, about how wonderfully convenient it is that the extension of furlough suddenly became possible when the south of England faced lockdown.  You can read it HERE.

The case for backing Craig Murray as SNP President

The honorary role of SNP President has in some ways just as impressive a pedigree as the position of party leader.  The legendary Robert Bontine Cunninghame Graham (aka Don Roberto) was President but never leader, and the same was true of Roland Muirhead, Donald Stewart and Winnie Ewing.  Both positions were held by Robert McIntyre and William Wolfe.  In a more rational world, the presidency would have been the natural role for Alex Salmond to take on if he had been welcomed back into the SNP fold after his acquittal - imagine the barnstorming speeches he could have given to finish conference every year, sending the membership off with a spring in their step.  In the absence of such rationality, though, Mike Russell is probably the next-best candidate for the job, and there's no real doubt at all that he will get it.

First of all, though, he faces a challenge from Craig Murray, who is using the contest to make the case for much greater urgency in the quest for independence.  I must say I'm very disappointed in the scathing reaction from certain quarters to Craig's decision to throw his hat into the ring.  Presumably the most faithful leadership loyalists believe, as I do, that people should stick with the SNP and not flirt with no-hoper splinter parties.  That being the case, it inescapably follows that the SNP must remain a broad church and that dissenting voices must be heard.  Craig is doing absolutely the right thing - staying in the party, fighting his corner, making his case, and giving the members (or rather the delegates) a meaningful choice between two competing visions and strategies.  He will, presumably, define success not as victory but the securing of a substantial minority vote to demonstrate to the leadership the depth of feeling about the need for a route-map to independence that does not accept the validity of a Westminster veto.

To me, that looks like a highly desirable outcome - the current popular leadership still firmly in charge, but pushed by members towards considering a more realistic and effective strategy.  So I've nominated Craig for the role of President, and I'd urge you to do the same if you're a member of the SNP and agree with me about the need for a Plan B.  You can nominate him by logging in to your SNP member account, then clicking on "elections" and then "nominations".  Don't be deterred by the customary attempts to deligitimise Craig as a "crank conspiracy theorist", because this isn't actually about Craig Murray anyway.  Mike Russell will be the President - this is about seizing an opportunity to make our voices heard at a conference which isn't even being permitted a direct vote on Plan B.  

Oh, and as for the synthetic outrage at Craig's rather imaginative wheeze of running an advert in support of his campaign in The National, I'd have to ask - have these people never seen a paid advert before?!

Saturday, October 31, 2020

A bit more on that incredible JL Partners poll

Just a quick note to let you know I have a piece in The National about yesterday's JL Partners poll, which showed the pro-independence vote at an all-time high (in online polling) of 56%.  You can read the article HERE.

Friday, October 30, 2020

History made again as Yes vote soars to 56% - the highest ever in an online poll

Today brings word of something of an oddity - the first ever poll on independence conducted by a firm called JL Partners, which doesn't seem to be affiliated to the British Polling Council (or not yet, at any rate).  However, the pedigree of the people running it appears to be beyond question.  How and why the poll was commissioned is unclear, because the fieldwork took place well over a month ago, meaning it is less recent than the Savanta ComRes poll that put Yes on 53%, or the legendary Ipsos-Mori telephone poll that had Yes on an all-time high of 58%. For some reason the results have been held back until publication today in Politico, who don't appear to have been the clients.  

Should Scotland be an independent country?  (JL Partners, 17th-21st September 2020)

Yes 56%
No 44%

As far as I can see this is the highest ever Yes vote in an online poll, slightly exceeding the 55% recorded in a Panelbase poll commissioned by Business for Scotland in August.  I would usually add the caveat that it's difficult to find records of polls conducted in the early days of devolution, when TNS/System Three quite often reported pro-independence majorities.  However, to the best of my recollection those were all face-to-face polls, and I don't think there was anything quite like this anyway.

I think there may well be something in the suspicion that has been expressed in the comments section that this was originally an internal poll - maybe for the UK government, maybe for a political party, or maybe for a very well-financed unionist organisation.  The giveaway is the sheer number of supplementary questions that were asked.  I can imagine a pollster self-funding a poll on independence to advertise its services, but there's no way it would go to quite these lengths.  So the million dollar question is: why would a unionist client want to belatedly publicise some extremely negative results? Perhaps there's some kind of internal battle going on, and someone wants to change the narrative.  The poll has been framed as reflecting very badly on Boris Johnson's leadership (and in fairness it objectively *does* reflect very badly on Boris Johnson's leadership), so that may be a little clue.

Scottish voting intentions for next UK general election: 

SNP 56%
Conservatives 18%
Labour 15%
Liberal Democrats 7%
Greens 3%

This appears to be the SNP's best ever vote share in a Westminster poll - even in the run-up to the 2015 election they didn't exceed 54%. It's also the Tories' worst showing, and their first sub-20 showing, in a Westminster poll since last year's election.  Labour, meanwhile, have equalled their lowest share since last December.

Scottish Parliament constituency voting intentions: 

SNP 58%
Conservatives 18%
Labour 12%
Liberal Democrats 8%
Greens 2%

Scottish Parliament regional list voting intentions:

SNP 54%
Conservatives 18%
Labour 13%
Liberal Democrats 8%
Greens 5%

Those are obviously catastrophic results for the Tories, but it gets worse.  There's also a question on public attitudes towards the Conservative party, and it brutally unmasks the extent of hatred among people who don't vote Tory.  73% have a negative view, and only 22% have a positive view - just barely above the actual current Tory vote, which is already down to the abysmally low levels John Major was receiving in the mid-to-late 90s.  The whole Ruth Davidson circus might as well never have happened.

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Starmer foolishly chooses the path of internal division

It seems a very long time ago now that the Labour leadership contest was underway and Paul Mason was describing Sir Keir Starmer, seemingly with a straight face, as one of the "left" candidates.  That looked a bit of a stretch even at the time, but it's true that Starmer was presenting himself as reasonably equidistant between Corbynism and Blairism, and as someone who wouldn't trash either period of the party's history and who could bring different factions together.  Today that pretence has been cast to the wind.  There has clearly been a pre-planned drive, straight out of the Blair play-book, to demonstrate to the public by some theatrical means that Labour has "changed".  The sacking of Rebecca Long Bailey and the suspension of Jeremy Corbyn wouldn't have been precisely mapped out in advance, but there can be little doubt that the new leadership were just waiting for even the slenderest of opportunities.

In my view this is a terrible strategic misjudgement from Starmer.  You don't suspend the person who was leader of your party only six months ago (and at the general election less than a year ago) on such feeble grounds, or if you do, you can expect to reap the consequences.  This is how you entrench intra-party warfare, and the electorate generally punish parties perceived to be divided.  Blair got away with it in the 1990s because the left had essentially already been vanquished by Neil Kinnock and John Smith.  That is not the situation just now - Corbynism remains a strong force within Labour, and research shows that a large proportion of the Labour membership regard Corbyn as having been one of their party's best ever leaders.  One extreme outcome could be a Corbynite exodus to a new party, which would be a lose/lose for all concerned - a new left-wing force would be highly unlikely to win any seats at the next election, but it could well knock a few percentage points off Labour's own vote and help keep the Tories in power.


Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Housekeeping Note

Apologies to everyone for switching pre-moderation on, then off, then back on again.  I'm afraid this Hokey Cokey routine may be the pattern of things to come, because I'm simply no longer willing to tolerate our resident troll, and he just doesn't seem to have got the memo.  I know people will say "oh but you put up with GWC for years", but this latest character is much darker - he's profoundly racist (against Scots and others), homophobic, and just about every other facet of bigotry you can think of.  A fair proportion of the Jockbashing trolling is directed at me personally ("Hey Scotty the Scrounger, Get Bedxit Done", etc, etc) and I make no apology for saying that has played a part in my decision.

Of course there are also troll comments from other directions, and I was particularly bemused by a lengthy anonymous comment yesterday from a chap who pompously informed me that he was going to stop reading the blog because I had failed to apply any critical thought to the story about my sister's phone being found under twenty feet of sand on Gullane beach.  Honestly, if you feel the need for a self-important rant of that sort, take it elsewhere.  I simply related the story as I had picked it up, and no, I didn't stop to consider whether the twenty feet thing was feasible.  I now gather it was actually twenty centimetres.  A shout-out to Latvia, by the way, because at least one of the couple who found the phone is Latvian.  They go metal detecting in different locations every weekend and are hoping one day they might find a Roman coin.

Turning to another subject, the fundraiser for the next Scot Goes Pop poll has reached its target - in fact as things stand it's exceeded the target by precisely £1!  A million thanks to everyone who donated - both large and small donations were absolutely crucial to getting us there.  I had a real blast from the past earlier today - my old 'friend' from the 2014 indyref, Lap Gong Leong, contacted me from Hong Kong with a couple of suggestions for poll questions.  In fairness they were perfectly reasonable suggestions, and I'll consider them with all the other great suggestions that you've left in the comments section.  Hopefully we'll get some more good results from the poll - but, as always, remember there are no guarantees.

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Viva Metal Detectors

Those of you who follow me on Twitter may recall that, several weeks ago, I mentioned that my sister had lost her phone on Gullane beach.  I tried all the obvious things - apart from Twitter, I also posted on several East Lothian buy & sell groups, and a couple of days later we went back to Gullane and retraced her steps.  It became painfully obvious at that point that high tide covers most of the beach, and the place where she thought she had most likely dropped the phone was submerged in water.  So we pretty much abandoned hope of getting it back.

But a few days ago, she was contacted by a couple in Edinburgh with a metal detector.  They had found it buried under twenty feet of sand.  They then dried it out with rice for three days, managed to get it charged up, and found my sister's contact details on it.  We've just received it back from them.  Almost unbelievable.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

A good - if obvious - tip for the US presidential election

As I've mentioned before, I have a winning track record on political betting, albeit based on a very small number of bets over the years...

* A few months before the 2010 general election, I was bullied (all right, badgered) into a supposed mug's bet by a certain "international thriller writer" on Stormfront Lite.  He was convinced the Conservatives would win an overall majority, I begged to differ.  I won.  (He then sent me his latest novel in lieu of my winnings.)

* A couple of years before the 2014 indyref, I was bullied (all right, badgered) by another Stormfront Lite poster into another three "unwinnable" bets - a) that Yes would win, b) that Yes would not lose by more than a 15% margin, and c) that 16 and 17 year olds (or "children" as someone sneered) would have the right to vote.  I won two of the three, and made a net profit.

* At some point prior to the 2015 general election, I made a final private bet with a Stormfront Lite poster (Antifrank, no less), although there wasn't any bullying involved this time.  He thought Labour would gain more seats from the Scottish Lib Dems than the SNP would, and I took the opposite view.  I won.

* On the day of the 2016 EU referendum, although I still thought Remain were the most likely winners, I placed a bet on Leave because it seemed to me the odds were ludicrously out of kilter with opinion polls that were still very tight.  In retrospect people's reasons for being so certain of a Remain victory were extremely circular - one group of people was convinced because another group of people was convinced.  There were always dark murmerings about private polls, but the reality is those would have been showing much the same as the public polls.

* Six months later at the US presidential election, I toyed with a bet on Donald Trump on a similar basis to my Leave bet.  In the end I held off until well after the polls closed, but remarkably, even after it started to become clear that things were going Trump's way, Hillary Clinton remained the clear favourite and it was possible to get extremely good value odds on Trump.  I've noticed that when surprise election results occur, there often seems to be a 'lag' effect on the betting markets.  It's as if punters can't quite accept what they're seeing with their own eyes.  The same thing happened in the EU referendum, and also when Bernie Sanders won Michigan.  

* On the day of the run-off for the 2017 French presidential election, I spotted an opportunity for a value bet on Macron securing between 65% and 70% of the vote.  The provisional exit poll figures suggested he could go very close to 65%, yet the odds on that outcome remained very steep.  As soon as the official exit poll predicted he'd be slightly above 65%, I cashed out and took a partial profit straight away to be on the safe side (although obviously with hindsight I wish I hadn't).

* In this year's Polish presidential election, I placed a bet against Andrzej Duda, who was mysteriously the strong odds-on favourite in spite of being more or less level in the polls.  I lost, but I'm still convinced it made perfect sense as a value bet.

So, armed with that track record, let me point out something that should be blindingly obvious - there is overwhelming evidence that Joe Biden is heading for a convincing victory next month, and yet the odds on the betting exchanges imply that Trump still has a roughly 1 in 3 chance of winning.  It just doesn't add up.  I'm not saying that a bet on Biden is 'free money', there's still an element of risk, but for Trump to win something pretty improbable would have to happen - either there would have to be a systemic polling error of a magnitude much greater than was seen in 2016, or a random event would have to occur to totally change the trajectory of the campaign, and it would have to be a dramatic enough event to overcome the substantial lead Biden presumably already has as a result of early votes that cannot now be changed.

The bottom line - if you don't mind your money being tied up for a couple of weeks, a bet on Biden (or perhaps a lay bet against Trump for extra security) is just about the most clear-cut value bet you'll ever see.

*  *  *

Click HERE for the Scot Goes Pop poll fundraiser - just £300 away from reaching its target!

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

An SNP Plan B is essential for neutralising the Tories' leaked tactics for thwarting an indyref


I normally agree with Michael Gray about most things, but I can see a rather huge logical problem with his reaction to the Tory war gaming on how to thwart an independence referendum.  The leaked tactics are not really about changing minds on independence - they're about subverting the democratic process even while support for independence is high. So if the SNP and the wider Yes movement define 'success' as strong opinion poll support for independence, in the absence of concrete progress towards an indyref or towards independence itself, we'd be playing straight into Westminster's hands.

One suggestion is that Westminster will not give a definitive 'No' to a Section 30 order in the aftermath of an SNP majority victory next year, but will instead imply that it's merely a 'No' in the short-term - essentially a rehash of Theresa May's "now is not the time" wheeze.  If the SNP leadership remain boxed in by their insistence that the Section 30 process is the only valid route to a referendum, it's not hard to see how they could be successfully strung along for years without a great deal of effort.  A vague (false) sense that a concession might be around the corner would be enough.

There's also an indication that Westminster could put together its own unilateral package on 'further devolution' (a complete joke given that the existing devolution settlement is in the middle of being gutted by the Internal Market Bill), hold a Yes/No referendum on it, and thus bypass the independence question altogether.  That could potentially be quite an effective tactic unless the SNP stand ready to force a consultative indyref at around the same time.  How else would they react to Westminster's referendum?  Urge a boycott?  Ask people to vote for new powers that are better than nothing, but spend the campaign complaining that they don't go far enough?  Neither of those options would be particularly fruitful, and afterwards Westminster would just say that the new settlement within the UK is Scotland's "settled will".

Incidentally, even the merest possibility of another Vow-style promise of more devolution should be a warning to us of the importance of making abundantly clear to people that devolved powers are being taken away right now.  The BBC are failing in their duty to keep the public informed, and the recent Progress Scotland poll confirmed that there is still considerable ignorance out there.  So it really is up to us - we can't let Westminster get away with a false narrative that the history of devolution has been a one-way process of powers being steadily granted to Holyrood.

The only part of the war gaming that looks pretty naive and hopeless is the idea that the EU can somehow be "co-opted" into saying that there is no road back to membership for an independent Scotland.  Quite how Britain is supposed to have gained sufficient goodwill with the EU during Brexit negotiations is something of a mystery.

*  *  *

Steve Baker calling for the disestablishment of the Church of England in response to four bishops criticising the Internal Market Bill in a letter to the Financial Times is quite possibly the funniest thing I've read all year.

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Click HERE for the Scot Goes Pop poll fundraiser - just £500 away from reaching its target!

Monday, October 19, 2020

Your suggestions for poll questions, please

First of all, thank you to everyone who has donated to the crowdfunder so far.  I was particularly grateful to Paul Kavanagh for spontaneously helping to promote it, literally just a couple of days before he was taken ill.  It was great to see him in such good form in his telephone interview with The National the other day, and I know that all our thoughts and good wishes continue to be with him as he recovers.

After just over a week, £5208 has been raised of the £6000 target.  As always happens, the rate of donations has slowed as time has gone on, so there's no guarantee we'll make the target, but with a bit of luck it should now be possible to commission another opinion poll of some description.  I'm still mulling over the timing - it'll be at some point between now and mid-December.  But now is certainly not too early to be thinking about possible questions, so if you have any brilliant suggestions, please leave them in the comments section below.

On a completely unrelated subject, someone raised concerns the other day about the supposedly unappealing range of candidates for President of Scotland we'd be faced with if we became independent and then abolished the monarchy.  So I'd also like to ask for your nominations for President, and then maybe I'll run a strictly unscientific internet poll about that.  I'm looking for serious nominations, mainly - I'll be interested to see if we can demonstrate that we can produce Presidents that are just as good as Ireland has managed of late.  (And remember that even if we retain the monarchy, we'd probably still need a Governor-General, which amounts to the same thing apart from the lack of democratic accountability.)

Even Jim Bergerac isn't safe from the Westminster power grab...


Friday, October 16, 2020

The Scottish Tories suddenly have a Lib Dem problem

I asked earlier how on earth the SNP had managed to hold on to win the Ellon & District by-election when there were more than enough Lib Dem voters to see the Tories home on transfers.  Well, the answer is very simple - here's how the Lib Dem votes transferred for the final count.

Conservatives 161
SNP 159
Non-transferable 165

Nobody could ever accuse the Lib Dem leadership of being equidistant between the Tories and the SNP, but it looks like their voters suddenly are.  And if you think about it, that's perfectly logical, because Lib Dem voters are typically opposed to both independence and Brexit, so there's no longer any particular reason why the Tories would automatically be the more attractive option.

The Tories would appear to have now lost a major advantage in constituency tussles with the SNP, because tactical votes from Lib Dem supporters will probably be going in both directions.  And arguably there's a warning here for the Lib Dems themselves - will their voters stay loyal if they train too much of their fire on the SNP and independence, and not enough on the Tories and Brexit?

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NEW CROWDFUNDER: On Saturday I launched a fundraiser for the next Scot Goes Pop poll on independence, which I intend to commission at some point between now and Christmas.  If you'd like to donate, please click HERE.

SNP's victory in Ellon & District by-election is proof that the surge has reached Tory-friendly areas

I'm not entirely sure whether it was sensible for a local council by-election to have taken place yesterday, but it did, and it was in the sort of place where by-elections in recent years have routinely seen the Tories hold off any SNP challenge.  The very different result this time demonstrates how much the political weather has changed.

Ellon & District by-election first preference result:

SNP 42.4% (+10.5) 
Conservatives 41.7% (+0.8) 
Liberal Democrats 10.2% (-9.5) 
Labour 2.9% (-4.7) 
Greens 2.8% (+2.8)

Technically this was an SNP 'hold', but the Tories had a very healthy lead in the popular vote in the ward last time around, so they could have 'gained' the seat even with a substantial swing against them.  Indeed, they would have been expected to gain the seat even with the SNP having a slight lead on first preferences.  It's slightly mysterious it didn't work out that way, because the Lib Dem vote was substantial enough to mean that unionist transfers should have got the Tories over the line handily.  Is the unionist bloc vote breaking down?

Thursday, October 15, 2020

'Settled will'

I've been asked by two or three people whether the 58% Yes vote in yesterday's Ipsos-Mori poll has changed my view on whether 60% is unattainable.  It actually hasn't, although let me be clear about what I mean by that.  It's certainly not unthinkable that there could be the odd individual poll with a figure of 60% or higher, but I still think it's very unlikely that we'll consistently see that level of support over a sustained period.  As things stand, there still hasn't been a single online poll showing a Yes vote higher than 55% - and that's significant, because the vast majority of polls are conducted online.

In a sense the whole 60% thing may now be academic, though.  It was only ever a point of discussion because of the suspicion that the SNP were using an unattainable 'target figure' as an excuse for putting off an independence referendum indefinitely.  That no longer seems to be a danger, because Keith Brown stated yesterday that independence is now the "settled will" of the Scottish people.  Those were clearly very carefully chosen words, and strongly imply that the 52-58% we've seen in recent polls is 'enough' as far as the SNP leadership is concerned.  (Although I'm not sure if Andrew Wilson was trying to push back against that when he described the people's will as "settling" rather than "settled".)

When John Smith famously described devolution as Scotland's settled will, he meant that support for a Scottish Parliament was astronomically high, that it hadn't changed for many years, and that there was therefore no need to hold another referendum to test public opinion.  Ironically, none of those points apply to the current situation - it's a mere seven months since a poll last had No in the lead, so it can scarcely be said that public opinion is no longer subject to fluctuation or change.  And I think we can safely assume that Nicola Sturgeon won't be using the Yes lead in the polls as a justification for declaring independence without a referendum.  But however dubious the usage of the words "settled will" may be, it's still incredibly heartening to hear them being used.

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NEW CROWDFUNDER: On Saturday I launched a fundraiser for the next Scot Goes Pop poll on independence, which I intend to commission at some point between now and Christmas.  If you'd like to donate, please click HERE.