Tuesday, May 11, 2021

The media doesn't want to talk about this - but unionism has got a Douglas Ross problem

I was having a look at the YouGov website to see if I could find the datasets from the Times poll about Devo Max, which naturally Kenny "Devo or Death" Farquharson is beside himself with excitement about.  They're not there yet, but the tables from earlier questions from what was presumably the same poll are up - and what leapt out at me are the personal ratings for party leaders.

It was stated again and again throughout the election campaign that Alba were doomed because of Alex Salmond's poor poll ratings.  That was never true - in a proportional system you can win seats even if only 10% of the public like you, just so long as enough people within that 10% feel strongly enough about it.  The fact that Alba didn't win seats doesn't in any way disprove that point, although of course people will pretend that it does.

Douglas Ross, however, is in a different category from Alex Salmond, because he's not the leader of a small party trying to win seats - he aspires to be a national leader, and he's already the de facto leader of unionism.  Nobody seems to have spotted this yet, but his ratings in the YouGov poll are strikingly similar to Alex Salmond's.  Only 18% of the public think Mr Ross is doing a good job as Tory leader and 52% of the public think he's doing a bad job, compared to 53% who think Mr Salmond is doing a bad job as Alba leader.  If it's supposed to be so unthinkable for Alba to ever have any electoral success with a leader with that type of rating, I'm struggling to understand why the unionist media are not questioning how unionists will ever win a second referendum with Ross as their champion.  

Crucially, even 24% of Tory list voters think Ross is doing a bad job - that compares with just 2% of SNP voters who think the same of Nicola Sturgeon, and 6% of Labour voters who think the same of Anas Sarwar.  The Tories got away with putting up a weak leader in this campaign, probably because their core voters are tribal and will vote for pretty much any Tory if it stops the SNP.  But Better Together II will need a lot more than just tribal Tories to win a referendum.  Unionism has got itself a Douglas Ross problem.


Monday, May 10, 2021

We all know there was a pro-independence majority in the popular vote on that all-important #PeachVote - but how big was it?

As has been widely mentioned (albeit perhaps not on the mainstream media!), the SNP, Greens and Alba took a combined vote share of 50.1% on the regional list ballot, ensuring there is a pro-independence majority in the popular vote on the more important of the two ballots.  (And the Conservatives themselves acknowledged it was the more important by banging on endlessly about how much they wanted people's #PeachVotes.)  But that doesn't in any way mean that 49.9% of the vote went to unionists - there were a large number of fringe parties and independents with a variety of views on independence.  So I've done some quick calculations...

50.1% pro-independence vote if you only include the SNP, the Greens and Alba

50.4% pro-independence vote if you also include the Scottish Libertarian Party, Restore Scotland and Scotia Future

50.5% pro-independence vote if you also include independent candidates who are well known to support independence, such as Andy Wightman and Martin Keatings

And that still doesn't mean 49.5% can be assumed to be the anti-independence figure - for example as far as I can see the Women's Equality Party don't have a policy on independence, so have to be treated as neutral.  The Scottish Libertarian Party directly confirmed to me on Twitter a couple of weeks ago that they still support independence, which ironically means that votes for Mark Meechan, aka Count Dankula (a former UKIP candidate) can be regarded as pro-indy votes.

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I have an article in The National today about the impact of tactical voting on the regional list seat allocations - you can read it HERE.

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Serious questions for the Electoral Commission tonight as inexplicable ruling appears to have robbed the Greens (and thus the pro-independence camp) of two seats they should have won

Pro-independence parties have won 72 of the 129 seats in the new Scottish Parliament, which is a very handsome majority.  However, it was agonisingly close to being even better - the Greens had two extremely near misses in Glasgow and South Scotland which could have brought the total to 74.  It's been brought to my attention that in both regions, a fringe party called "Independent Green Voice" won a strangely respectable vote share - it was 0.7% in Glasgow and 0.5% in the south.  They outpolled several parties that have had considerably more publicity, such as the Women's Equality Party, the Abolish the Scottish Parliament Party and UKIP.  That raises the obvious suspicion that many voters were confused by the name and thought they were voting for the Green party - and that if they had managed to cast their votes as intended, the Greens would have had enough votes to win the two extra seats.

Now, you might think "tough, the Green party don't have a monopoly on the word green".  But the problem is that Independent Green Voice are not a green party - they're a right-wing British nationalist party (including members with a far right background) using an environmentalist name to hoodwink voters.  In other words, this is exactly the sort of scenario that the Electoral Commission exists to prevent.

The Commission have become notorious in recent years for an overly fussy and officious approach, turning down perfectly reasonable choices of name, logo and slogan.  (The Alba Party, All For Unity and the Scottish Labour Party were all victims of that, as were Change UK a year ago.)  So their relaxed attitude to this subversion of democracy seems inexplicable and indefensible.  There's already plenty of anecdotal evidence that people did vote for Independent Green Voice by mistake, as can be seen from several replies to my tweet on the subject -
On a different subject, it strikes me that the SNP's controversial 'reserved places' system has had two very unfortunate effects. Most obviously, it's cost Joan McAlpine her seat in the south, but it also means Tom Wills will not be an MSP in the Highlands & Islands. Having come so close to winning the Shetland constituency seat, there would have been a golden opportunity to function as a sort of shadow MSP for Shetland over the next five years, and by the time the next election came around he might have seemed like as much of an incumbent as the Lib Dems' Beatrice Wishart. Perhaps the Lib Dems' decades-long stranglehold on the Northern Isles would have finally been broken. The SNP have really missed a trick there.

Saturday, May 8, 2021

FINAL RESULTS: The SNP gain one seat overall, will *not* be a minority govt as long as there's an opposition Presiding Officer - and pro-independence parties win majority of the popular vote on the list

I haven't calculated the national popular vote on the list yet, but John Curtice stated that the SNP, Greens and Alba have 51% between them, so I'm sure that's true.  Given the importance the Tories have placed on the #PeachVote, I don't see how they can dismiss that outcome.

In terms of seats, the BBC projection was almost but not quite right - the SNP won one seat more and the Greens took one seat fewer.  That makes no difference to the outcome for the pro-indy parties combined, but crucially it means the SNP will be neither a majority nor minority government as long as an opposition MSP is selected as Presiding Officer.  It'll be a 64-64 split between government and opposition.

Final results:

SNP 64 (+1)
Conservatives 31 (-)
Labour 22 (-2)
Greens 8 (+2)
Liberal Democrats 4 (-1)

Pro-independence parties: 72 seats (56%)
Anti-independence parties: 57 seats (44%)

PRO-INDEPENDENCE MAJORITY OF 15 SEATS

BBC projects pro-independence parties will have 56% of the seats in the new Scottish Parliament - up from 53% last time

BBC forecast:

SNP 63 (-)
Conservatives 31 (-)
Labour 22 (-2)
Greens 9 (+3)
Liberal Democrats 4 (-1)

Pro-independence parties: 72 seats (56%)
Anti-independence parties: 57 seats (44%)

Not only is the mandate stronger than the last time, it's also more watertight because the language in the Green manifesto is much more explicit.  The SNP have also of course surged to a record high for any party in the constituency ballot popular vote.

Scot Goes Popcast: Reflections on the first day of election results

For a very short Episode 8 of the Popcast, I recorded some thoughts on the election results so far and looked ahead to what may be happening on the regional list.  You can either listen via the embedded player below, or via the direct link HERE.


You can also catch up with previous episodes of the Popcast -

A weary response to yet another personal attack from Wings Over Scotland

I was going to wait until the election was done and dusted before replying to my Somerset stalker's five hundred and sixty-eighth unhinged blogpost about me (which, amusingly, he describes as his "second" - it would be fascinating to know what his technical excuses are for thinking all the others "didn't count").  However, on closer inspection the post contains a number of inaccurate statements - lies, for want of a better word - so just as a matter of principle I'm not going to let those go uncorrected.

The most blatant lie is also the most bizarre.  Stuart claims that I "swiftly banned" him yesterday after he made a series of angry posts in the comments section of this blog.  As I have explained umpteen times, it is quite literally impossible to "ban" anyone on the Blogger platform.  When people troll or are abusive, the only options open to me are to delete comments individually (which itself has become much, much harder on the new interface that was introduced a few months ago) or to turn on pre-moderation.  The fact that I'm currently following the latter course of action tells you all you need to know - if it were possible to "ban" people, that would solve the problem instantly and pre-moderation would be needless.

Incidentally, although I've deleted some of Stuart's individual comments in the distant past, I didn't do so yesterday (except for a couple of accidental duplicates which I removed as a tidying-up exercise).  So this "banning" claim isn't based on some sort of innocent misunderstanding - it does appear to be a very intentional lie.

What he wants his readers to believe I was trying to prevent him from posting was a protestation that he did not in fact do what everyone saw him do yesterday - ie. tell his readers to vote for unionist parties in twelve specific constituency seats.  He seems to think that his get-out-of-jail-free card on this is a comment he added at the end of his piece stating that the only seat in which he'd advocate a vote for a unionist party was Glasgow Southside.  That would be just peachy if it wasn't for the inconvenient fact that this comment flatly contradicted the explicit and repeated advice earlier in the blogpost to vote against the SNP in the other eleven seats.  The exact words used, again and again and again, were "Alba supporters cannot afford to vote SNP in those seats".

Here's my top tip, Stu: not everyone who reads your blogposts will be a complete idiot.  Some of your readers, perhaps only a select few, but undoubtedly some, will be able to spot that your words mean what they say and that a nonsensical throwaway disclaimer doesn't negate them. 

The second disgraceful lie is that I have not been supportive of Craig Murray, who faces a potential jail sentence due to his courageous reporting of the Alex Salmond trial.  Stuart alleges that my supposed lack of support for Craig is because I think there is more "traffic" to be had from attacking Wings.  The narcissism behind that statement is truly mind-boggling. The reality, of course, is that I've been vocal in my support for Craig, as the below tweet from late March amply demonstrates.  At time of writing, it's been retweeted 196 times and 'liked' 593 times.  Just because Stuart hasn't been paying attention doesn't mean that nobody else has.

Furthermore, one year ago I put my name to an open letter deploring the arrest and charging of both Craig and Mark Hirst. I've also spoken to Craig privately twice within the last few weeks - we mostly discussed politics, but I don't think he's in any doubt as to where my sympathies lie.

To return to the subject of Stuart's narcissism, you may have noticed that he seems to be incapable of writing an attack post about a fellow blogger without including a graph purporting to show that he has a much bigger readership.  The obvious joke is that he's using the alleged size of his readership as a substitute for the size of his manhood.  A few weeks ago he included Scot Goes Pop in a graph that showed how his stats towered above the other leading four pro-independence blogs.  To which my reaction was the obvious: "so you're saying I'm in the top five, then?"  In his new post he says that "hardly anyone" is reading Scot Goes Pop, and to illustrate his point reveals that SimilarWeb estimates that this blog has "only" had 464,872 page views so far this year.  That's a rather interesting definition of "hardly anyone".

Of course it's unique readers that really matter, and on that measure the disparity in traffic between Wings and other websites shrinks.  Stuart actually helpfully revealed his monthly unique readership the other day, and it looks as if it's roughly seven or eight times bigger than Scot Goes Pop's.  That obviously still makes Wings the far more popular site, but a) that's something I've never disputed, and b) he would dearly love people to believe the gap is far, far bigger than it actually is.  The reason why the number of page views can be so wildly misleading is that every time someone refreshes a page to read new comments, that's counted as another page view - and presumably people are doing that far more often on Wings.

My guess is that Stuart is lashing out because he realises he blew it yesterday.  Until then, a decent number of people were giving him the benefit of the doubt and assuming that his ultimate objective was still independence, even if his means of achieving it were dubious and convoluted.  But the mask has now slipped.  You don't achieve independence by electing Willie Rennie as the MSP for North-East Fife.  

No, Stuart's agenda is something different.  His single-minded objectives are to stop self-identification for trans people, and to gain revenge against Nicola Sturgeon.  That doesn't mean he's actively opposed to independence, but it comes a very poor second to his real priorities.

Friday, May 7, 2021

The future of the Alba Party

Now, to be clear, there can be no guarantee that any new political party will survive the type of setback that Alba has just suffered.  There are various potential scenarios in which Alba might fold over the coming months.  However, at this moment there does seem to be a genuine determination to continue, and that's perfectly realistic - there aren't many small parties that can boast two MPs and a good number of local councillors.  There would be two main purposes of persevering: a) to provide a much-needed political home for independence supporters who are clearly unwelcome in the new SNP for mostly irrational reasons, and b) to pressurise the SNP into keeping their word and holding an independence referendum in the next parliamentary term.  The latter is obviously the more important reason.

One way in which Alba could have helped bring a referendum about if they had succeeded in this election was by providing an alternative for SNP MSPs who finally lose patience with the feet-dragging of the SNP leadership.  The knowledge that MSPs could defect to the Alba group at any time would have kept the First Minister on her toes and given her an incentive to avoid any further undue delays.  It's obviously harder to achieve that effect without a ready-made Alba group in Holyrood, but it can still be done as long as Alba continues to exist.  SNP MSPs would have the option of setting up a new Alba group in the Scottish Parliament whenever they want, and they'd be stepping into an existing party infrastructure.

So I firmly believe that Alba should press on, with one very important caveat: it would be a terrible mistake to put up candidates at the 2024 UK general election, unless there's an electoral pact with the SNP.  I presume that wouldn't be done anyway, but it's worth just putting that on the record.  Whether we like it or not, UK general elections do still matter, and splitting the pro-independence vote in first-past-the-post contests would be catastrophic.

Incidentally, although there'll obviously be a fair amount of nasty triumphalism tomorrow among Alba-haters, one of their constant refrains appears set to be proved wrong.  They kept insisting that by drawing attention to the tactical possibilities on the list, Alex Salmond had unwittingly boosted the Green vote instead.  But it appears that the Greens themselves are slightly underperforming their opinion poll showing - and, frankly, that's bad news for all of us, although the pro-independence majority does look more or less secure now.  

Patience, Stuart, I fully intend to do what I said I'd do. But for now I've got an election to concentrate on, even if your own mind appears to be elsewhere.

The early results are in...

Thoughts and rumours as the counting starts

We're now in the fog of war stage where rumours are starting to circulate, but it's difficult to know what to take seriously.  I've heard enough to make me slightly jittery, though, so I went back and refreshed my memory about the opinion polls in the run up to the 2017 general election.  Although the polls that year did overestimate both the SNP's vote share and their lead over the Tories, the degree of error was not all that huge.  That's good news because it means there'd have to be a far bigger polling error for us to end up with a 2017-type result this time.  So whatever happens I don't think it'll be quite as bad as that.  The other thing about 2017 is that it was a pincer movement in which both the Tories and Labour made progress simultaneously - it's hard to imagine that happening after the results in England overnight.

I've also heard that there may be a high turnout.  My theory has been that a low turnout would favour Alba as an individual party, but that a high turnout would be better for the pro-independence parties in combination.

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You can catch up with Episode 7 of the Scot Goes Popcast, in which I speak with the Alba Party's Chris McEleny, HERE.