Friday, September 22, 2023

Vote for pro-independence parties increases in Girvan & South Carrick by-election

Girvan & South Carrick by-election result on first preferences (21st September 2023)

Conservatives 47.5% (+19.7)
SNP 28.1% (+3.3)
Labour 18.0% (+9.2)
Liberal Democrats 3.9% (n/a)
Alba 2.5% (+1.4)

This is technically a Tory gain from the SNP, but as ever in STV by-elections, that's completely meaningless.  The popular vote in the ward last time was won by an independent candidate with 31.4% of the vote, and there was another independent who took 5.6%.  So to make sense of yesterday's result, you'd need to know which party those voters would have plumped for in the absence of independent candidates.  Assuming the answer is "the Tories", the sudden 20-point jump in the Tory vote may be largely artificial.

That said, the Tories are supposed to be struggling at the moment, so this result could be taken as an indication that, in some regions at least, the Scottish Tories can still successfully use anti-SNP sentiment as a get-out-of-jail-free card.

The crumb of comfort here is that the total vote share for pro-independence parties has increased (albeit helped by the absence of the non-partisan candidates), as has the SNP's vote share.  Alba can claim to have more than doubled their own vote share, but obviously 2.5% is not going to be any sort of game-changer for the party's credibility and looks very much like their past results throughout the country - which again poses the question of whether it would have been better for Alex Salmond to take the bull by the horns by standing in the Rutherglen parliamentary by-election himself and seeking the type of breakthrough result (10%? 20%?) that might have finally shifted the dial on how people view Alba.

Monday, September 18, 2023

An appeal for nominations for Alba's forthcoming internal elections

This is a message for readers who are members of the Alba Party.  As you may know, nominations have opened for various internal elections within the party, and I'd like to put myself forward and seek nominations for two positions - 

Membership Support Convener (this position is mostly referred to as 'Member Support Convener' in the Alba constitution, but is also referred to as 'Membership Support Convener' and elsewhere as 'Membership Convener' - it's all the same thing)


Ordinary member of the NEC (National Executive Committee)

To stand for the Membership Support Convener position I'd require nominations from twenty individual Alba members (or one Alba LACU).  To stand for an ordinary member slot on the NEC, I'd require nominations from ten individual Alba members (or one Alba LACU).  So if you do decide to nominate me, I'd be grateful if you could nominate me for both positions - although, of course, that's at your own discretion, and if you think I'm suitable for one role but not the other, you do also have the option of nominating me for just the one.

If I recall correctly from what happened in 2021, if someone is nominated for both an office bearer role and an ordinary NEC member position, the office bearer election takes place first.  If they are successful in that election, their name is then removed from the list of candidates for the ordinary NEC members.  But if they are not elected to the office bearer role, they then continue as a candidate for the ordinary NEC member election.  So that's why ideally I'm seeking to be nominated for both positions.

I've held off for a few days from putting out this call for nominations, because I had written to Alba asking for clarification on exactly how nominations should be submitted.  There hasn't been a reply yet, so I think the time has now come to get cracking.  I'll just have to give you my best guess on how the nominations process works.  It looks like it's probably the same system that was used in 2021 (but not in 2022), ie. that members should send an email to the Alba conference address with details of the person(s) they wish to nominate and the positions they wish to nominate them for.  The email address to send nominations to is listed on the Alba website as:

[Update: The first person who attempted to nominate me said the above email address was not recognised.  I've just sent a test message to the address myself, and so far I haven't received an error message, so I'm still assuming the address is active, but if you run into any problems let me know as soon as possible and I'll query it as a matter of urgency.]

Once you've emailed Alba with your nominations, I'd be grateful if you'd then also email me letting me know you've nominated me, and also whether you've nominated me for both positions or just one.  Apologies for doubling your trouble in this way, but there are two important reasons for asking you to do this: a) so I can judge how near or far away I am from the thresholds of ten and twenty nominations, and b) just in case I've misinterpreted how nominations are supposed to be submitted (for example if I find out at the last minute I was supposed to send over a list of names myself).  My own email address is:

Nominations are open until 6th October.  Many thanks in advance to any members who do decide to nominate me, and the best of luck to anyone else throwing their hat into the ring for these internal elections.

What would happen in the Rutherglen by-election if the YouGov poll is exactly right?

Last week's YouGov poll was the first relatively good poll for the SNP for several months, although the reporting of it was accompanied by a flat statement from John Curtice that the swing back to the SNP wouldn't be enough for them to hold the Rutherglen & Hamilton West constituency in the forthcoming by-election.  Although that's true, it doesn't tell the full story. 

The 11-point national lead for the SNP in the YouGov poll suggests there has been approximately a 7.5 point swing from SNP to Labour since the 2019 general election.  If that swing is applied to the Rutherglen seat, it's enough to put Labour ahead, but only by around five points.  In other words, if the YouGov poll is exactly right, Labour should be regarded as favourites in Rutherglen, but the contest should also be regarded as competitive.

Now in practice I would expect Labour to win the by-election by more than five points.  The YouGov poll may well flatter the SNP a bit, because it's out of line with what other polls have shown recently.  And there are difficult local circumstances for the SNP - they stupidly participated in the prolonged demonisation of their former MP Margaret Ferrier, thus grotesquely allowing sleaze-ridden Labour to present themselves as a new broom.  Labour's status as an opposition party in both Holyrood and Westminster makes it a lot simpler for them to attract protest votes.  And there have been other miscellaneous problems for the SNP such as the paid leafleters story.

But nevertheless, the YouGov poll is the closest thing the SNP have had to a genuine glimmer of hope since the sorry saga of this by-election started.

Friday, September 15, 2023

Why are Alba not embarrassing Yousaf by claiming credit for his U-turn, rather than attacking him for doing exactly what they asked him to do?

I've written about this before, but it's something that genuinely bewilders me about the Alba Party's current positioning.  When Nicola Sturgeon first announced the de facto referendum plan (unfortunately since semi-abandoned by Yousaf and replaced with a "Schrodinger's de facto"), I felt strongly that it was a step forward.  The Alba leadership were, however, heavily critical, and one of the key points they made was that it was unforgiveable that Ms Sturgeon had unnecessarily specified that only an absolute majority of the popular vote would count as a mandate for independence.  They felt that this represented a kind of pre-surrender on behalf of the independence movement, one that would take effect in the more likely circumstances that a majority of seats was won and not a majority of votes.

I had a lot of sympathy with what the Scottish Government were saying at that point, because in the real world the general public will not accept a mandate won on, say, 35% or 42% of the vote as sufficient for Scotland to become an independent country.  I thought it possibly made sense to make a virtue out of necessity by accepting that reality in advance, so that voters could see that no-one was trying to win independence in a tricksy or underhand manner.  I did add, however, that there was no great harm in Alba continuing to argue the case that a majority of seats should be sufficient for an independence mandate.  I know from having talked to senior Alba people at the time that for many of them it wasn't just a matter of tactical positioning, and that they sincerely and vehemently felt that if it was fine for successive UK governments to do what they liked to Scotland, despite having been elected on well under 50% of the UK-wide popular vote, then the principle should cut both ways.

Since becoming leader, Yousaf has made a number of fundamental modifications to the Sturgeon plan, most of them negative ones which water it down.  But he has undoubtedly done exactly what Alba asked him to do on the question of the mandate threshold - he is now saying that a majority of seats (perhaps even just a plurality of seats) will be a mandate for independence and that a majority of votes is not required.  And yet, bizarrely, Alba are attacking him for doing exactly what they requested, and strongly implying he should go back to the Sturgeon position which they castigated her for.  Here is what Alex Salmond was quoted as saying yesterday in a BBC article: "No-one seriously believes that proposing a majority of seats as an independence mandate is at all credible."  

I haven't been on the Alba NEC since last October, so I'm no longer as plugged-in to the evolution of the leadership's thinking as I used to be, but with the best will in the world, it's impossible to see that statement as anything other than a total contradiction of what Alba were saying last year, when they were not only arguing that a mandate based on a majority of seats was credible, but was in fact the only credible position that any pro-independence party could possibly hold.

Now, I totally understand that small parties need to find wedge issues and differentiate themselves from larger parties they're trying to take votes from.  But in doing so, you surely have to take care to maintain congruity between your 2023 position and your 2022 position.  Rather than attacking and mocking Yousaf for doing exactly what you demanded he should do, it would make far more sense to embarrass him by claiming his U-turn as a massive triumph for Alba's campaigning.  

My own view of this aspect of Yousaf's Schrodinger's de facto plan is that it is indeed nonsensical, but as I said about Alba's similar position last year, there may be no great harm in him publicly putting it forward.  A majority of seats won on a minority of votes will obviously not result in Scottish independence, but by arguing in advance that it ought to, it may be more likely that the media will treat any such election outcome as a score draw, and that the independence movement will live to fight another day.  You can argue the case either way, but for Alba to suddenly turn their attack lines upside down and insist that the target for an independence mandate should be substantially increased (and thus made much harder to reach) seems distinctly odd.

*  *  *

My recent blogpost, about the difficulty of keeping Scot Goes Pop going for much longer due to lack of funds, produced a significant response.  Not all of it is visible on the fundraiser page itself because some of the donations were made directly via Paypal, but a substantial amount has been raised since I posted.  The fundraiser remains well short of its target, but I'll certainly keep going for as long as I possibly can, and there's still some sort of chance I may be able to keep going indefinitely, depending on what happens over the next few weeks.  Many thanks to everyone who has donated, and if anyone else would like to contribute, the fundraiser page can be found HERE.  Alternatively, direct payments can be made via Paypal - my Paypal email address is:

Thursday, September 14, 2023

One swallow does not make a summer, but give the SNP leadership their due: YouGov have just served up a rare sighting of a relatively good poll for the party

Scottish voting intentions for the next UK general election (YouGov, 8th-13th September 2023):

SNP 38% (+2)
Labour 27% (-5)
Conservatives 16% (+1)
Liberal Democrats 7% (+1)

Seats projection (with changes from 2019 general election): SNP 39 (-9), Labour 11 (+10), Liberal Democrats 5 (+1), Conservatives 4 (-2)

This appears to be the second largest Westminster lead for the SNP in any poll from any firm since Humza Yousaf became First Minister, and it's substantially bigger than any lead they've had since June.

If the above was actually the outcome of the election, the SNP would feel they'd had a major result.  Although they would have lost a significant number of seats, they'd have dodged the main bullet of losing their majority and their leading party status.  Every instinct in my body suggests it's not going to be quite that simple, though.  It's only the blink of an eye since a Redfield & Wilton poll showed them losing their lead altogether.  It may be that normal sampling variation led YouGov to flatter the SNP's position and Redfield & Wilton to understate it.  But even by raising that possibility, the YouGov poll is moderately good news for the SNP because it's a strong signal that things may not be quite as bad as Redfield & Wilton made them look.

As ever, the biggest caveat is that Westminster elections are 'away fixtures' for the SNP, because coverage of the campaign seen by Scottish voters will in the closing weeks be flooded by the London-based media, who for the most part will only be interested in reporting Labour and the Tories.  To overcome that disadvantage, the SNP will need to start the campaign with a 'BBC-proof' lead, and I'm not convinced that even an 11-point lead would quite cut it.

The other important note of caution here is that the SNP's lead has grown largely due to Labour going backwards rather than the SNP themselves going forwards.  The 38% vote share for the SNP is actually pretty similar to their 36% in the previous YouGov poll and their 37% in the one before that.  It's true that in a first-past-the-post election, by far the most important factor is the gap between the most popular party and the second placed party, so in one sense the SNP's own lack of progress doesn't necessarily matter.  But nevertheless it's a reminder that 38% doesn't make them remotely safe if Labour bounce back at the expense of other parties.

On the independence question, the No lead has increased from two points to five since the last YouGov poll, before the exclusion of Don't Knows.  That doesn't worry me in the slightest, because the previous two-point lead was miraculously low by the normal standards of YouGov, who are generally on the No-friendly end of the spectrum.  We're just seeing a modest reversion to the mean, and a five-point deficit for Yes is still pretty healthy in YouGov terms.

Scottish Parliament constituency ballot:

SNP 41% (-)
Labour 28% (-3)
Conservatives 16% (+2)
Liberal Democrats 8% (+1)
Greens 3% (-)

Scottish Parliament regional list ballot:

SNP 33% (+1)
Labour 25% (-3)
Conservatives 16% (+2)
Greens 11% (-)
Liberal Democrats 8% (-)

Seats projection (with changes from 2021 election): SNP 59 (-5), Labour 32 (+10), Conservatives 20 (-11), Greens 10 (+2), Liberal Democrats 8 (+4)

The Holyrood trend mirrors that of Westminster, with the SNP lead growing by default due to Labour seemingly losing votes to other unionist parties.  I dare say it will be pointed out in some quarters that YouGov are in agreement with Redfield & Wilton in suggesting the pro-independence majority at Holyrood is on course to be maintained, but in fact the two polls could hardly be more different.  The projection of a pro-indy majority from the Redfield & Wilton numbers was really just a statistical quirk that would never have played out in the real world, whereas in YouGov's case it's built on much more solid foundations, with a substantial SNP advantage on both ballots.

*  *  *

My recent blogpost, about the difficulty of keeping Scot Goes Pop going for much longer due to lack of funds, produced a significant response.  Not all of it is visible on the fundraiser page itself because some of the donations were made directly via Paypal, but a substantial amount has been raised since I posted.  The fundraiser remains well short of its target, but I'll certainly keep going for as long as I possibly can, and there's still some sort of chance I may be able to keep going indefinitely, depending on what happens over the next few weeks.  Many thanks to everyone who has donated, and if anyone else would like to contribute, the fundraiser page can be found HERE.  Alternatively, direct payments can be made via Paypal - my Paypal email address is:

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Sorry, did you just sing about the King being sappy and laborious? I couldn't really hear over all that BOOING.

Remember at this time last year, unionist commentators couldn't contain their rather inappropriate jubilation at the TV pictures of people in Scotland lining the streets to see the Queen's final journey, or queueing up at St Giles' Cathedral to pay their respects? This was, we were excitedly assured, absolute proof that there exists in Scotland a "silent majority" who love Our Precious Union and who quietly seethe away on a daily basis at an SNP government and a wider independence movement that Don't Represent The Real Scotland. It was wishful thinking on steroids, of course - if any such silent majority existed, it would show up in election results and there wouldn't have been a pro-indy government since 2007.  Even silent people are perfectly capable of going to a polling station and using a pen or pencil to mark a cross on a ballot paper.  (Incidentally, I was one of the people who lined the streets last September, but that didn't make me a silent Brit Nat.)

But this unionist infatuation with the idea that anecdotes or things you see happen on the TV somehow trump election results is, I think, the explanation for their weird meltdown over the booing at Hampden last night.  Spontaneous episodes of that sort are supposed to affirm their belief thaf 'The Real Scotland Is Decent And British', but instead it went completely the other way.  That bothers them on a visceral level, and they need to find An Explanation For It.  Naturally they're going for the lazy option of "it's just a tiny minority of idiots whipped up into hatred of the English by the SNP", but not even they really believe that.  It didn't sound much like a tiny minority, did it?  I could barely even hear the tune over the booing (I'm using the word "tune" in the loosest sense).

To be clear, I do not approve of the Hampden crowd booing other countries' anthems.  I was there in person in 2021 when the Czech anthem was booed, and I said at the time how much I didn't like it.  Exactly the same principle applies to the English anthem.  But by the same token, I'm realistic enough to know that Scottish football supporters booing the English anthem is an unstoppable force of nature, and getting overly worried about the fact you can't stop it is about as daft as worrying about the fact that you can't stop pantomime audiences from booing the Evil Stepmother.  Unionists are incapable of putting it in that proper perspective because they didn't hear the English football anthem being booed, they instead heard the British political anthem about the British King being booed, and according to unionist ideology Scots are supposed to secretly adore Britain and His Majesty.

BBC unionist propagandist Nick "he didn't answer" Robinson got so frantic about the whole problem that he suggested England should stop using God Save The King as their football anthem because it's an "invitation for the Tartan Army to boo in order to demonstrate that they are loyal to Scotland".  That was a somewhat puzzling comment, but I think what it's supposed to mean is that the Tartan Army would boo any anthem England come up with, but that wouldn't actually bother Robinson one jot as long as it's not God Save The King - the booing of which is apparently intolerable to his dignity as a Brit and thus must be stopped by any means.  Why is it intolerable? Robinson's official version is that it needlessly creates a false impression that Scottish football fans dislike the UK, whereas in fact they adore the UK and would never boo anything British unless they were forced into it.  The unofficial version is that he's worried the fans were booing God Save The King precisely because it's the UK anthem and he would rather not be confronted ever again with that disquieting possibility.

It reminds me of one of the lowest points in the history of BBC Sport, when political impartiality was completely tossed aside to allow the Belfast-born (ahem) football commentator Alan Green to launch into a lengthy ranting monologue about Scottish supporters booing God Save The Queen at the Scotland v England Euro 2000 qualification play-off in late 1999.  He made clear that he was only angry about the incident because "the last time I checked, that's still the anthem of the United Kingdom, of which Scotland is a part".  So in other words, he wasn't bothered about Scots booing the anthem of another country, but expected the English anthem to be an exception to the general rule because it doubles up as the political anthem of the sovereign state Scotland is part of, even though it wasn't being used in that context.  As it happens, Alan and Nick, Scots are quite capable of booing the United Kingdom anthem when it's actually being used as the United Kingdom anthem, because at least half of us don't want Scotland to be part of the United Kingdom.  But I must say that as special pleading goes, saying that Scots still have to treat GSTK with reverence even in the context of England nicking it and using it as their anthem alone, really takes the biscuit.  That arrogance would in itself probably warrant at least a few jeers.

The supreme example of this double standard is Ally McCoist blasting Scotland supporters as "SNP fans" for booing the English anthem (a nakedly political comment that undoubtedly oversteps the mark for any sports broadcaster) and then openly admitting that he lustily sang along with the English anthem "because I'm British".  I mean, it's one thing treating the opposing side's anthem with the appropriate respect, but singing it yourself and believing you're somehow singing for your own country in doing so? It's just bizarre.  Let's hope people don't react by calling him a "Tory fan", but he wouldn't have much credibility in complaining if they do, because they'd just be following his own logic to its inexorable conclusion.

*  *  *

I have an article on The National's website about the new Find Out Now poll which shows a pro-independence majority - you can read the article HERE.

It's the settled will: yet another new poll confirms Scotland wants to become an independent country

Many thanks to Paul Kirkwood, who has just pointed out to me that a new Find Out Now poll on Scottish independence was released last night on Twitter.  Two versions of the result are given, both with a Yes lead - one is weighted by recalled 2014 indyref vote, and the other is not.  Judging by what happened last time, Find Out Now will probably specify the former as the headline numbers, in which case it's...

Should Scotland be an independent country? (Find Out Now / Independent Voices, 5th-12th September 2023)

Yes 49.4%
No 46.2%

A rough recalculation suggests that if Don't Knows are stripped out, and if rounding to the nearest whole number is done, the result is - 

Yes 52%
No 48%

This continues the long-running pattern that every single Find Out Now poll that has ever been conducted on the subject shows a pro-independence majority.  In other words, if Find Out Now's methodology is accurate, independence is undeniably the settled will of the people of Scotland.

This poll hasn't been widely reported yet - if it's even on The National's website I can't spot it.  [UPDATE: The National posted a report on the poll literally ten minutes after I published this blogpost!]  But there's no real doubt that the poll is genuine, because the Twitter account that revealed the numbers is run by a person who commissioned a previous Find Out Now poll a few months ago.

What makes the result particularly significant is that Find Out Now is of course the pollster of choice for a number of unionists - the Daily Express once commissioned a Find Out Now poll on independence, and Blair McDougall of Better Together fame recently commissioned a Find Out Now poll which was intended (ironically) to shore up Humza Yousaf's position, due to Labour's fear that the far more popular Kate Forbes could soon take over as SNP leader.  So unionists are certainly in no position to try to question the credibility of the Yes lead.

I'll update this post with more details if I can find any.

Saturday, September 9, 2023

Addressing the bizarre claims that the Redfield & Wilton poll was "good for Humza"

There's a small section of the media, both mainstream and alternative, which wants to prop Humza Yousaf up at all costs - an entirely self-defeating objective from a pro-independence perspective, because Yousaf's departure would open up a genuine opportunity for the SNP to recover electorally, perhaps at some speed.  A couple of days ago, that section of the media attempted to turn the new Redfield & Wilton poll on its head and claim it as a good news story for Yousaf - a rather unpromising tactic, you would think, given that the poll was only the second poll from any firm for many, many years to show that the SNP have lost their outright lead in Westminster voting intentions.  However, there were two main aspects of the poll that were claimed as good for Yousaf, so let's take a look at each of them in turn.

Firstly, the fact that the Holyrood seats projection from the poll points to a pro-independence majority.  Now, I suppose from a propagandist's point of view, it must have been difficult to resist praying this in aid, because most polls in recent times have suggested a unionist majority, so the obvious temptation would be to try to make it look as if a pro-indy majority projection means Yousaf is achieving solid progress.  But to put it mildly, that is somewhat misleading.  Look at the list vote percentages in the new poll - 

Labour 30% (+1)
SNP 25% (-4)
Conservatives 15% (-3)
Greens 14% (+5)
Liberal Democrats 9% (-)
Alba 4% (+2)
Reform UK 3% (-)

In terms of who is in the lead and by how much, that is by far the worst result for the SNP on the list, in any poll from any firm, for many years.  They hadn't previously slipped more than two points behind, but now the deficit is five points.  In the real world, it's almost inconceivable they could get away with a result like that.  The reason the poll technically translates into a pro-indy majority in terms of seats is partly because the Greens are offsetting the SNP's disastrous showing on the list, but crucially it's also because the SNP's constituency lead over Labour is just high enough to crowd out the unionist parties in the constituencies and ensure that there aren't enough list seats available to correct for the SNP's constituency over-representation.  But that leaves the SNP in an incredibly vulnerable position, because it means that if their constituency vote falls even modestly, they'd suddenly be staring down the barrel of not only losing the pro-indy majority but also losing their status as the largest single party at Holyrood.  Without an in-built constituency bonus for any party, the list vote automatically becomes the more important vote and Labour's lead on the list would be very real indeed.

Secondly, the pro-Humza lobby are inviting us to ignore the fact that Yousaf is way behind Anas Sarwar and Keir Starmer on net approval ratings, and to focus instead on the fact that Yousaf is ahead of Sarwar on an alternative leadership question posed by Redfield & Wilton.  That's actually been a consistent pattern in the monthly Redfield & Wilton polls - Yousaf always trails Sarwar on net approval ratings but always leads Sarwar on the alternative question.  Other firms haven't generally been asking the alternative question, so there's no way of knowing whether they would replicate the same pattern.  

But even if we accept the dubious belief that only the results on the alternative question matter, the problem is that the UK general election will take place much earlier than the Scottish Parliament election, so the electorate thinking Yousaf would make a better First Minister than Sarwar is not of any great relevance for now.  No poll is likely to ask whether Yousaf or Starmer would make a better UK Prime Minister, because it's an obviously nonsensical question, but actually the answer to that question would probably tell us quite a lot about why the SNP are currently struggling in Westminster voting intentions.  A big part of the reason for the SNP winning majorities in the last three general elections is that Nicola Sturgeon was far more highly regarded than Ed Miliband or Jeremy Corbyn, and also that she was regarded as a political figure of enough significance to be worthy of being part of the Westminster 'conversation', which is not usually the case for SNP leaders and is unlikely to be the case for Yousaf.

*  *  *

War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia, and Stuart Campbell is somehow still in favour of Scottish independence even though he's announced he won't vote in favour of it.  Or so you'd believe if you listened to the angry participants of the social media pile-on that Mr Campbell instigated within literally minutes of my blogpost last weekend.  It's probably fair to say that he was deeply concerned that his new stance was going to be correctly characterised as him abandoning his support for independence, because he seemed to be checking this blog every five minutes, with a rather half-hearted personal attack on me ready to go as soon as any post appeared.  But if he wants to maintain the ludicrous position that he can support independence by opposing it, I must say it's rather odd that he's just doubled down with another lengthy "now is not the time for independence" post, in which he advances the bogus case that there is widespread support for an indefinite delay of independence until the SNP and Scottish Government change out of all recognition and drop all the policies he dislikes.

Let me just gently point out what should be obvious: Scottish independence is for life, not just for Christmas.  Although it's theoretically possible that an independent Scotland would change its mind and rejoin the UK, we all know from the history of other former London-ruled countries that it wouldn't happen.  So if Scotland becomes independent, you have to face the fact that at some point over the next few decades, there will inevitably be an independent Scottish government that you will despise and that will do all sorts of things that you loathe.  There is no country in the world in which all citizens get what they want 100% of the time.  Democratic elections will sometimes go against you.  If you want to "delay" independence until that inescapable fact of life somehow changes, you will "delay" it forever.  If your default is to prefer London rule to an elected Scottish government that you personally wouldn't have chosen, then independence was never anything more than a passing fad for you, and you never believed in it in any real sense.

And I must just reiterate how astoundingly hypocritical it is for Mr Campbell to have spent the last few years castigating the SNP for not holding an immediate independence referendum ("The Betrayers!, The Backstabbers!"), when he now openly admits he would not vote for independence in any such referendum and thinks Scotland should remain in the United Kingdom for the foreseeable future.  I defy anyone to try to get that risible position to make sense with any sort of rational argument.

Wednesday, September 6, 2023

SNP on course for general election defeat, says new Redfield & Wilton poll - intensifying the pressure on Yousaf to either resign, or end rule-by-faction

For only the second time in many years, a polling firm has reported that the SNP have lost their outright lead on Westminster voting intentions.  They haven't been overtaken - Labour have merely drawn level.  However, due to the inbuilt advantage Labour enjoy courtesy of the grotesque first-past-the-post voting system, a dead heat in the popular vote equates to clear defeat for the SNP in terms of seats.

Scottish voting intentions for the next UK general election (Redfield & Wilton Strategies, 2nd-4th September 2023):

SNP 35% (-2)
Labour 35% (+1)
Conservatives 15% (-2)
Liberal Democrats 8% (+1)
Greens 4% (+2)
Reform UK 2% (-)

Seats projection (with changes from 2019 general election): Labour 27 (+26), SNP 22 (-26), Conservatives 5 (-1), Liberal Democrats 5 (+1)

Stewart McDonald, Alison Thewliss, Anne McLaughlin, David Linden, Deidre Brock and Tommy Sheppard would all be losing their seats on these numbers, along with many other SNP colleagues.  And this, of course, is well before a UK general election campaign in which Labour will be lavished with TV coverage and the SNP will be treated as an afterthought.  It's entirely possible that a further swing to Labour in the closing weeks before polling day could leave the SNP with only a tiny handful of seats.

In fairness, most polls in recent times have given the SNP a very small lead in Westminster voting intentions, which means that you'd expect the occasional poll with Labour either level or slightly ahead, due to the standard margin of error.  So it's possible that nothing has really changed and that we're just seeing 'margin of error noise' in the new poll.  However, these numbers certainly make it less likely that the situation is improving for the SNP, which underscores the point I made last night about how utterly baseless it was for Professor John Robertson to claim that "the polls" were showing that Labour's lead in Rutherglen & Hamilton West had been "slashed".  As of yet, there are no polls specifically for that constituency, and a uniform swing projection from the new national poll numbers suggests that Labour should be expected to win the by-election by something in the region of sixteen percentage points.  The odds on betting exchanges imply that Labour have close to a 90% chance of winning in Rutherglen - I personally think that's an underestimate.

I'd hope that the SNP would regard this poll as a wake-up call, rather than as a predictable milestone in a process of 'managed decline'. When you have a leader as unpopular as Yousaf, there's a very obvious step you can take that has a good chance of dramatically improving the situation.  But even if they can't bring themselves to jettison Yousaf, the minimum they've got to do is put an end to factional rule and bring Kate Forbes, Ash Regan, and at least a couple of Forbes' key supporters back into senior positions in the government.  That might at least help to offset Yousaf's unpopularity somewhat.  Falling short of that is frankly no longer an option if the SNP are remotely serious about winning elections, or even about damage limitation in elections.

Elsewhere in the poll, Redfield & Wilton ask their usual complement of independence-related questions.  The trend is marginally negative for the Yes side in most questions, but the changes are so minor that they do look like they could just be "noise", and it wouldn't be at all surprising if the status quo ante is restored in next month's poll.  An intriguing exception to the general trend is on the 'Jack Principle', ie. Alister Jack's statement that there should only be an independence referendum if opinion polls consistently show 60%+ support for one.  Backing for the Jack Principle has, for whatever reason, plummetted by six percentage points over the last month from 52% to 46%, leaving it a mammoth fourteen points short of the Jack Threshold itself.

Even with the negative changes elsewhere, there is still majority support (after Don't Knows are excluded) for an independence referendum to be held within the next five years, while voters are exactly split down the middle over whether there should be an independence referendum within the next year.

There's a weird contradiction in the poll's Holyrood numbers, which show a sharp increase in SNP support on the constituency ballot, but a sharp decrease in SNP support on the list.  A partial explanation for this phenomenon is Alba rising to an unusually high 4% of the list vote.

Scottish Parliament constituency ballot:

SNP 39% (+3)
Labour 30% (-2)
Conservatives 16% (-3)
Liberal Democrats 8% (-)
Greens 3% (+1)
Reform UK 3% (+2)
Alba 1% (-)

Scottish Parliament regional list ballot:

Labour 30% (+1)
SNP 25% (-4)
Conservatives 15% (-3)
Greens 14% (+5)
Liberal Democrats 9% (-)
Alba 4% (+2)
Reform UK 3% (-)

Seats projection (with changes from 2021 election): SNP 53 (-11), Labour 36 (+14), Greens 16 (+8), Conservatives 15 (-16), Liberal Democrats 9 (+5)

Tuesday, September 5, 2023

No, "the polls" are not showing Labour's lead in Rutherglen has been "slashed" over the last week - not least because there haven't been any polls

There's a deceitful post - there's no other word for it, really - on Professor John Robertson's blog tonight, and it's resulted in a number of copycat tweets from people who really ought to know better by now.  Professor Robertson is claiming that "the polls" are showing Labour's lead has been slashed in the Rutherglen & Hamilton West by-election over the last week, but in fact so far there haven't been any polls in Rutherglen & Hamilton West - not only in the last week, but not at all.  Nor have there been any Scotland-wide polls over the last week from which an extrapolation can be made.  It's plainly ludicrous to suggest the polls are showing a certain trend when no polls from the relevant period actually exist.

What Robertson is referring to as "two polls" are in fact not polls, but predictions made by websites.  One comes from the newly resurrected UK Polling Report and the other from Electoral Calculus.  Robertson does not present any evidence that either website's prediction has suggested a drop in the Labour lead in the constituency over the last week, and indeed he does not even claim that they have.  Instead, he makes an apples-and-oranges comparison between what the Electoral Calculus prediction was showing a week ago and what the UK Polling Report prediction is showing now, and pretends that it can be taken of indicative of the SNP closing the gap, even though each prediction is based on a completely different methodology, and even though the data being inputed into each prediction can't have changed over the last week for the obvious reason that there's been no new polling data from the last week to input.  (In fact there's a graph on UK Polling Report suggesting their prediction has been stable for many weeks.)

Oh, and the predictions aren't even for the by-election, but instead for the Rutherglen constituency in the general election.  Apart from all that, though, a characteristically bang-on accurate contribution from the Prof.

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