Saturday, June 12, 2021

Mebyon Kernow on the up

As the eyes of the world have been on Cornwall over the last few days, this might be a good moment to mention that the Cornish nationalist party Mebyon Kernow, a sister party of both the SNP and Plaid Cymru, did reasonably well in the elections to Cornwall Council last month - it increased both its vote share and its number of seats.

Popular vote:

Conservatives 37.9% (+2.7)
Liberal Democrats 18.5% (-11.3)
Independents 16.3% (-4.0)
Labour 11.3% (+3.3)
Greens 9.1% (+7.1)
Mebyon Kernow 5.3% (+2.0)

Seats:

Conservatives 47 (+1)
Independents 16 (-14)
Liberal Democrats 13 (-25)
Mebyon Kernow 5 (+1)
Labour 5 (-)
Greens 1 (-)

It's not easy for a minority party to win multiple seats under first-past-the-post, and the increase from four to five is even better than it looks because the overall number of seats on the council was drastically reduced for this election.  Sadly, though, in an overall sense the result was probably a setback for Cornish autonomy, because the Tories took control of the council with an overall majority.  The previous council leader had been an independent, and was on record as regarding Cornwall as a Celtic nation worthy of Scottish/Welsh-style devolution.  It's hard to imagine a Tory administration taking a similar attitude.

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Have you signed our parliamentary petition calling for devolution of powers over broadcasting to the Scottish Parliament? If you haven't yet, you can do so HERE.

Thursday, June 10, 2021

All systems go: PLEASE SIGN the parliamentary petition calling for powers over broadcasting to be devolved to the Scottish Parliament

My persistence (and your persistence) has finally paid off - at the third attempt, I've managed to get a petition published on the UK Parliament website.  It calls for the full devolution of broadcasting powers to the Scottish Parliament, and also incorporates my original call for a Scottish entry at the Eurovision Song Contest.  This is a very timely moment to be considering the question of where decisions relating to broadcasting should be made, because the Westminster power-grab is currently being replicated within the BBC's own internal structures - control over BBC Scotland's studios is being seized by London, and since BBC Scotland is but a mere branch office, there's not a damn thing they can do about it.

The new Director-General of the BBC, Tim Davie, is a former Tory politician, and his political views have quite clearly not changed one iota - his notion of "addressing BBC bias" is, ludicrously, to make the corporation even more right-wing and British nationalist.  The chances of it reflecting on, let alone addressing, the catastrophic mistakes it made during the 2014 independence referendum, are now even more remote.

Before starting this petition, I did an internet search for "devolution of broadcasting" and discovered to my surprise that it's recently been a much more live topic in Wales than in Scotland.  There's a hilarious article from last year in which the director of BBC Wales declares himself to be "neutral" on transferring powers from London to Cardiff but then lists umpteen sneering reasons why it shouldn't happen, and not a single reason why it should.  If that's what "neutrality" looks like, the mind boggles as to what he'd be saying if he was opposed to the idea!

If the petition reaches 10,000 signatures, the UK Government will be required to respond to it.  If it reaches 100,000 signatures, it will be considered for debate in the Commons.  (I believe it depends mainly on whether there's been a recent parliamentary debate on the subject, and off the top of my head I've no idea whether that's the case.) To reach those target figures will require a lot more than simply promoting the petition on this blog, so if this is a subject you feel strongly about, please share the petition on social media and let your friends and family know about it.

To view and sign the petition, please click HERE.  As the new Eurovision bigwig would say: you're good to go.  (Incidentally, if you were one of the 21 people who signed on Friday before the petition was checked for publication, your signature already counts.)

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

No, polls do not show "consistent" support for self-ID - indeed the weight of evidence is that there is overwhelming opposition to the principle of self-ID

Note: Stephen gives preferred pronouns of they/them, so out of basic courtesy (not because of diktat from the thought police) I'm going to do my best to use those, although I do feel the need to explain what I'm doing, because it would otherwise look like a very odd use of vocabulary. I'm also inclined to wonder aloud whether there's an issue with blocking people on Twitter and still expecting them to use the pronouns you have listed on your Twitter profile.

I suspect the reason Stephen chose that particular moment to block me was because they knew where the conversation was inexorably heading otherwise - they would have asked me to supply proof that the polling evidence was not consistent, and it would have taken me about five seconds to do that.  Here, for example, is a YouGov poll from 2018, with a neutrally-worded question on self-ID commissioned by Pink News (not exactly a hotbed of 'TERF'-ism).

Do you think a person should or should not have to obtain a doctor's approval to change their legal gender on official documentation (e.g. birth certificate, passport)? 

Should have to obtain a doctor's approval: 58% 
Should not have to obtain a doctor's approval: 18% 

That's pretty much the end of the discussion right there - the result drives a coach and horses through Stephen's claim that there is consistent support for self-ID across polls and across polling firms.  Indeed, the result is clear-cut and robust enough to suggest that there is in fact overwhelming opposition to the principle of self-ID.  And contrary to Stephen's implication, gender makes no difference - the majority among female respondents is actually very slightly bigger than among male respondents.

Elsewhere, there are any number of Panelbase polls commissioned by Wings Over Scotland showing similarly huge opposition to self-ID.  Stephen would doubtless query the wording of those questions, and he might even be justified in doing so - but the snag is that the same problem applies to many of the polls purporting to show support for self-ID.  You might remember a ComRes poll from a few months ago that was leaped on by Mark McGeoghegan (not exactly a neutral analyst on this subject, given that he has "he/him" on his own profile) as absolute proof that Scotland has no truck with 'transphobia' - but the wording was just as leading as anything Wings could ever come up with.  It presented self-ID as a minor, tidying-up, administrative exercise, something that no reasonable person could possibly disagree with.

The bottom line is that Stephen is so steeped in this subject that they must be aware of the polling evidence that doesn't paint a picture that they're at all comfortable with - so why are they trying to convince people that those polls don't exist and never existed?  

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Craig Murray should be receiving an award for services to journalism, not going to prison

Craig Murray, the former British ambassador to Uzbekistan and one of Scotland's leading pro-independence bloggers, was today denied leave to appeal over his conviction for...well, for blogging, and his eight month jail sentence.  The ostensible reason he will be sent to prison is the harm allegedly caused by threatening the anonymity of the complainers in the Alex Salmond trial.  I've even seen it being argued on Twitter that it's entirely appropriate to treat Craig as the equivalent of a violent offender and to put his life at risk (he has significant health problems) because the harm caused to the women in question was on a par with a violent offence.

The most obvious response to that point is that it hasn't actually been established that any harm whatsoever has been caused to the women - no-one has credibly demonstrated that identification occurred as a result of anything Craig wrote.  But some would go further and ask why the law is taking such punitive steps to protect the women at all, given that the jury in the Salmond trial didn't - or so the theory goes - believe their claims.  The reality, of course, is that the jury weren't faced with a binary choice between "the defendant committed the crimes" and "the women are perjurers".  They were simply asked to decide whether the charges had been proved beyond reasonable doubt, which means that the acquittal verdicts can cover a spectrum of meanings, of which the possibility that the complainers lied is only one.  It's therefore not a contradiction to say that Alex Salmond is innocent in the eyes of the law and also that his accusers are not perjurers in the eyes of the law - which by extension suggests that it's not necessarily wrong for the latter to continue to enjoy some protection.

But to me the real question here is why that protection is so one-sided.  As Alex Salmond is innocent, why isn't the law extending him some protection, given that it's beyond all reasonable dispute that media reporting of the trial caused infinitely more harm to his own reputation than it did to the reputation of his accusers?  That's precisely the problem that Craig Murray's coverage of the trial was intended to address.  It's been pointed out by a number of people that if it hadn't been for Craig's reporting of the defence evidence, they would have been none the wiser as to why Mr Salmond was actually acquitted.  The coverage would have consisted of blanket reporting of the prosecution evidence, followed by a seemingly inexplicable not guilty verdict, thus creating the bogus impression that "he got off on a technicality" or whatever.  Indeed, that's exactly the impression that anyone who didn't read Craig's blog was left with.

As we have a post-trial legal process that is (theoretically) giving redress to the complainers, why isn't similar redress available to Mr Salmond?  Why shouldn't the media be held accountable for one-sided reporting that caused immense reputational harm?  And shouldn't we look at whether it's appropriate for the complainers to have been able to continue to use the cover of anonymity to try to get Mr Salmond found guilty in the court of public opinion after he had already been found not guilty in the real court?  Legal protection must surely carry responsibilities as well as rights, and shouldn't be abused with impunity.  

As Craig Murray's blog was the corner of the media that came closest to redressing the disgraceful imbalance in this episode, he should really be receiving an award for outstanding journalism, rather than facing jail time.  

Parfum d'obsession, a Twitter bubble fragrance

After the election, the Alba support base was derided as a "Twitter bubble" - meaning something that seemed hugely strong on social media but barely existed elsewhere.  That's actually not true - you don't get to 2% of the vote (enough to fill a large stadium) from social media diehards alone.  A better example of a bubble phenomenon was the Bella Caledonia campaign in 2011 to persuade people to spoil their ballots in the AV referendum by writing the word "INDEPENDENCE". A 'masterstroke' was how they described the wheeze, but the number of people who actually did it was vanishingly small.

There's a more subtle variant of the bubble, too, and that's when the nature of support for a very popular party is mischaracterised.  How many times over the last few weeks have we heard the SNP's win being appropriated as a vindication for GRA reform? Kirsty Blackman used words to the effect that "Scotland wants GRA reform and we must deliver".  Jack Deeth, one of the young identity politics extremists that I was finally forced to block on Twitter a few days ago, currently has a pinned tweet claiming that for every one person that defected from the SNP to Alba, two would rejoin (just like him!) because of self-ID.  The impression we're supposed to get is that "middle Scotland", the quiet majority of decent people, are just gagging for GRA reform and decide how to vote largely on that basis. With all due respect, that's every bit as fantastical as some of the more outlandish predictions we heard during April about how Alba might fare.  The vast majority of people, regardless of whether they actively oppose GRA reform or don't care about it, do not give the SNP any brownie points for prioritising it.  As Alex Massie noted the other day, if the SNP haven't taken an electoral hit from the GRA yet, that's partly because people intuitively don't believe that Nicola Sturgeon means her "trans women are women" statement quite as literally and inflexibly as she actually does.  Just because this stuff seems totally mainstream to a small number of entryists who now wield vastly disproportionate influence within the SNP, that doesn't mean people out in the real world see things in the same way.

One of those entryists is Mark McGeoghegan, who has spent the last few months marketing himself as a polling expert, and has used that platform to give the veneer of analytical objectivity to some of the downright bizarre claims he's made in support of his anti-Alba hate campaign.  For example, he said in the run-up to the election that, while he couldn't prove that Yes support had dipped because moderate people (the army of self-ID supporters, presumably!) were being put off by Alba, that was obviously the reason and anyone who didn't agree with him about that was a zoomer.  A serious analyst would have just stopped at the "couldn't prove" bit, because the idea that Yes support was being significantly affected by a small party receiving negligible coverage is self-evidently in the realms of fantasy.

What Mark really means is that he personally finds Alba ghastly and thinks the rest of Scotland looks like him (and that if it doesn't, it should).  This tweet, offered as a parting shot after I blocked him, Deeth and a number of the others, made me laugh - 

At what point do we worry about failures of self-awareness? This is, after all, a chap who is so obsessed with Alba that he's been 'hilariously' substituting the party's correct name with 'Abla' each and every time he's mentioned them over the last two months - which is quite a lot.  Real people, of course, not only don't find that remotely amusing, they don't even know why they're supposed to be laughing.  

When your relentless attack lines are only understood by an in-group who are in on an in-joke, that's a pretty strong indication that you're on the inside of the bubble looking out, not the other way around.

Sunday, June 6, 2021

Now Johnny he's a nationalist, but Johnny he's no fool, says all our problems will be solved when England gets Home Rule

A Scot Goes Pop reader emailed me last night asking for my view on Kenny MacAskill's comments on Home Rule, because he feared they had damaged the credibility of Alba.  I disagree - I think this episode tells us far more about the SNP, or at least about the people within the party who have jumped on Mr MacAskill's words.  We've been told for weeks that Alba are crazed extremists who are pushing too hard and too fast for independence, and now we're suddenly expected to believe that they're just pretending to support independence and that the SNP are the true radicals? Come on now - a touch of congruity and consistency is needed if these attack lines are going to stick.  Certainly if the SNP want to outflank Alba on the indy fundamentalist end of the spectrum (which would be a thoroughly welcome development) some action is going to be needed, rather than forever saying "in due course, in the fullness of time, at the appropriate juncture..."

My reading of what Mr MacAskill said is that he was, at least in part, calling out the fiction of the Scottish Government's position - ie. they demand a referendum, the answer is no, and then they demand it some more.  Somehow we have to break out of that endless cycle of futility - one way is via a Plan B on securing an independence mandate, and another is via a 'grand compromise' between the pro-independence and anti-independence camps, which is what Mr MasAskill was getting at.  But that would require willingness on the part of the Westminster government, which is totally lacking.

There's a challenge for both sides here.  If the SNP want to sneer at Mr MacAskill's mention of Home Rule and say that full independence is superior, that's fine, but they have to demonstrate that their support for full independence isn't just nominal.  One thing's for sure - Home Rule would be preferable to pretending to push for independence while tacitly accepting the status quo (or something worse than the status quo).

By the same token, if the Tories mean what they say about having had enough of constitutional division, they have to explain in a plausible way how that division is going to be brought to an end.  There are only really three possible outcomes from here - a) Scotland will become independent and the division will end due to former unionists accepting that the process is irreversible, b) there will be a 'grand compromise' involving the devolution of sweeping powers, or c) we'll just go on as we are with the division entrenched.  The Tories say that c) is what they don't want, but that's what they're perpetuating with their intransigence.  In practice, it suits them down to the ground, because the constant threat (but non-delivery) of a referendum keeps their core vote motivated.

I seem to recall Derek Bateman saying before the 2014 indyref that he'd have welcomed a compromise between Alex Salmond and David Cameron that delivered Devo Max in return for an agreement not to hold an indyref for ten or fifteen years.  There's something to be said for that on a "bird in the hand" basis...but it's an academic point at the moment given that Scotland simply doesn't have a willing negotiating partner.  Plan B on an independence mandate is the only game in town, and to a large extent that's what Alba is all about.

Friday, June 4, 2021

Drama as it emerges that Gordon Brown's post-election propaganda poll showed a majority for independence - and found that voters don't think they should have to wait "a generation" to get a choice on their own future

I noticed earlier that the Stack Data poll from shortly after the Holyrood election, which showed the independence question tied at 50-50, still hadn't been added to the Wikipedia list of polls.  So I've just put that right.  The poll was a wide-ranging propaganda survey commissioned by Gordon Brown's anti-independence organisation Our Scottish Future, and the detailed datasets make for fascinating reading.  As you'd expect, the questions were framed in a way that maximised the chances of getting the desired results, but there were a number that backfired.  Most importantly, there was a question that asked respondents to rate their support or opposition to independence on a scale of 0 to 10, and the results were startlingly different to the standard question...

In favour of independence (6-10): 55%
Opposed to independence (0-4): 38%
Neutral (5): 8%

With neutrals stripped out, that implies a split of roughly Yes 59%, No 41%.  In all honesty that surprises me, because similar polls in the past from Survation have often shown lower support for Yes in this format.

Elsewhere, there's exactly 50% support for holding an independence referendum between now and 2026, with an additional 12% who want one held between 2026 and 2031.  Only 18% think there should never be another indyref.  

Short shrift is given to the notion that London should call the shots on the terms of a referendum.  For example, just 12% think the composition of the electorate should be decided by the UK Government.  If combined with a further 27% who think the Scottish and UK Governments should decide the matter jointly, that takes the figure to 39%, but that's still smaller than the 43% who think either the Scottish Parliament or the Scottish Government should decide on its own.  There are similar results on the questions of who should choose the date and the legal terms of the referendum. 

Perhaps most tellingly of all, the idea that the fabled "generation" should pass before there can be another referendum is rejected by respondents.  Only 37% agree with that notion, and 41% disagree.  

Take 3: The parliamentary petition on transferring all powers over broadcasting to the Scottish Parliament! (Updated)

UPDATE: Thanks to your help, the petition has received enough signatures to be checked for publication, and no more signatures can be accepted while that is happening, so I've removed the links below.  I'll let you know what happens.

So, as you'll probably remember, I made a second attempt a few days ago at starting a petition on the UK Parliament website calling for all necessary steps to be taken to bring about a Scottish entry at the Eurovision Song Contest.  I completely changed the wording to address the stated reasons for the rejection of the first one, and I identified specific steps that could be taken that are fully within the Westminster parliament's powers.  I suggested on this blog that a second rejection would leave little room for doubt that the people in charge of the petitions process weren't acting in good faith - and that's exactly what has happened.  Ludicrously, the wording of the rejection email this time was identical to the first one, even though the reasons in it quite plainly didn't apply to the new petition.  

What seems to be going on is that they have a stock rejection wording for any petition with "Eurovision" in the title, and are just sending that out regardless of what the petition actually calls for.  That being the case, there's clearly no point in trying to adjust the petition any further, and it's time for a completely new tack.  I'm now attempting to start a petition calling for the wholesale transfer of broadcasting powers to the Scottish Parliament, and I've merely mentioned a Scottish Eurovision entry in passing as one of several possible benefits.

On paper, this petition meets all the conditions for publication, so it should be accepted, but in practice there are no guarantees - I had a look through a number of rejected petitions relating to devolution, and the reasons for rejection were often entirely bogus (ie. "this is a matter for the people of Scotland and Wales", when in reality Westminster retains the absolute power to unilaterally change the devolution settlements without consent, and indeed has repeatedly used that power).  But all we can do is try.  Once again, five signatures will be needed for the petition to be checked (and thank you for your patience in this matter!).

By the way, I know some people will object to this petition on the basis that we shouldn't be trying to 'make devolution work', we should instead be trying to get independence and that way we'll automatically get broadcasting powers.  But the whole point of the exercise is to demonstrate that devolution isn't working and can't work, because no UK government will ever respect the wishes of the people on what powers should be devolved.  If by any chance the petition is published and reaches 10,000 signatures, the government would be required to respond to it.

Petition title: Devolve legislative powers over broadcasting to the Scottish Parliament 

What is being called for: Scotland's devolution settlement should be strengthened by removing broadcasting from the long list of policy areas that are reserved to Westminster. The elected Scottish Parliament should be given the power to restructure the TV and radio landscape in line with the wishes of the people of Scotland. 

More details: Westminster's retention of essentially all powers over Scottish broadcasting is inconsistent with the claim that the Scottish Parliament is "the most powerful devolved parliament in the world". The long-overdue transfer of these powers to the Scottish Parliament would enable BBC Scotland and the Scottish ITV franchises to be reformed to meet the needs of Scottish audiences in terms of drama, news, comedy, a Scottish entry at the Eurovision Song Contest, and coverage of Scottish sporting teams. 

Thursday, June 3, 2021

One law for the children of Daddy, and another law for everyone else?

So this is, as far as I can see, a legitimate observation - Jack publicly resigned from the SNP in precisely the same way that the defectors to Alba did, and yet he's been readmitted well within the two year period that he should have been automatically banned for.  It seems that different rules apply (or different interpretations of the rules) if your stated reason for resigning was that the SNP weren't taking a sufficiently extreme stance on identity politics.

I must confess I had no idea before this exchange that Jack harboured such bitter hatred towards me on a personal level.  I've met him twice in real life at 'separatist dinners' and he seemed very pleasant and friendly.  As a result we followed each other on Twitter for a number of years, although he quietly unfollowed me (in fairness he didn't block me) after the 2019 general election.  I'm 70-80% sure the reason he did that was a single tweet I posted listing my personal five favourite results from the election, which amounted to aggravated thoughtcrime because Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath was one of them.  It wasn't top of the list, I hasten to add - East Dunbartonshire was, but it seems that simply celebrating a pro-independence win is deemed a form of "bigotry" these days.  If memory serves me right, Jack had said he would like to campaign for Labour in Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath, and he also gave a pretty strong indication that he wanted Joanna Cherry to lose her seat - which was even more outrageous, given that Ms Cherry, unlike Neale Hanvey, wasn't suspended from the party, and her only credible challenger was the Tory candidate.  

I've belatedly put Jack out of his misery and blocked him, along with a few of his ultra-zealot tag-team chums.

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

The UK Government was elected on 44% of the vote, and the Scottish Government was elected on 48% of the vote. Murdo Fraser, naturally, only thinks the latter is a problem.

The Tory MSP Murdo Fraser finishes his latest Scotsman column with some perfectly reasonable suggestions for reforming the Holyrood voting system.  He advocates replacing the two-ballot set-up with a single ballot to eliminate the possibility of gaming the system, scrapping closed lists in favour of open lists that would give the opportunity for voters to choose between individual candidates (that ought to be a no-brainer), and possibly switching wholesale to the Single Transferable Vote system.  But unfortunately his journey to these sensible conclusions, ie. his stated reasons for thinking the system needs to change, involves some of the most mind-bending 'logic' you'll ever see.

Murdo seems to think the fact that the SNP are considering a deal with the Greens will somehow lead to a greater 'distortion' of the way people voted.  But self-evidently the opposite is true - the SNP on their own took 48% of the constituency vote and 40% of the regional list vote, but the SNP and Greens in combination took 49% of the constituency vote and 48% of the regional list vote.  A two-party government would therefore be closer to representing the majority, not further away.  Contrast that with the single-party Tory government at Westminster that just 44% of the electorate voted for.  Crucially, that government claimed a mandate for a hard Brexit even though a significantly bigger share of the popular vote went to parties opposed to leaving the EU on the basis Boris Johnson wanted.  If Murdo wishes to talk about 'distortion' and open-and-shut cases for reform of the voting system, Westminster is the place to start.

Another bogus point Murdo makes is that the pro-indy majority at Holyrood was artificially created by SNP voters gaming the system and switching to the Greens on the list.  That really is absolute rubbish.  There was a pro-indy majority on the popular vote in the regional list ballot - a point that Murdo conveniently glosses over.  It may be theoretically possible that voting for different parties on the two ballots can make pro-indy votes work more efficiently, but what it can't do is increase the overall number of pro-indy votes.  And yet the combined vote share for pro-indy parties was significantly higher on the list ballot than on the constituency ballot.  Murdo needs to reflect on where those extra votes came from. It can't have anything to do with gaming the system.  The most likely explanation is that some people voted for a unionist party on the constituency ballot because their favourite pro-indy party didn't have a candidate in their area.