Thursday, March 30, 2023

EXCLUSIVE SCOT GOES POP / PANELBASE POLL: The final Panelbase numbers of the Sturgeon era show the Yes vote unchanged at a very solid 48%, with pro-independence parties still on course for a majority at the next Scottish Parliament election

As promised, here are the final few results from the two polls I commissioned earlier this month, and these are all from the Panelbase poll conducted between the 7th and 10th March.  That's around three weeks ago, which normally would mean the numbers are relatively up to date, although of course in this case the pace of history has been rather accelerated recently.  Since 10th March, it's been discovered that the SNP had been fibbing about its membership numbers, leading to the resignations of Murray Foote, Peter Murrell and Liz Lloyd, and of course Humza Yousaf has been narrowly elected leader of the SNP and has to all intents and purposes sacked his nearest rival Kate Forbes.

So there can be no guarantee - far from it - that the state of play in public opinion three weeks ago still represents the state of play now.  However, the value of these results is twofold.  Firstly, they come from - as far as I'm aware - the final Panelbase poll to be conducted during the Nicola Sturgeon era, and therefore offer us a useful baseline from which to measure progress or decline under Humza Yousaf.  And secondly, they very helpfully give the lie to some disgracefully misleading reporting that appeared in the mainstream media at around the time the poll was conducted about the trend on independence support.

Scot Goes Pop / Panelbase poll, 7th-10th March 2023, sample size: 1013

Should Scotland be an independent country?

Yes 48% (-)
No 52% (-)

Note: Before Don't Knows were excluded, the figures were: Yes 45% (+1), No 49% (+1), Don't Know 5% (-3)

In the context of the time, those are strikingly good numbers.  They represent a 'statistical tie', meaning that the standard margin of error makes it impossible to be completely sure whether Yes or No are in the lead.  With Don't Knows excluded, they represent no change at all from the previous Panelbase poll conducted in the first half of February on behalf of Believe in Scotland, a fact that is impossible to reconcile with the hysterical claims from many commentators (yes, Malcolm Clark, I'm looking at you), that independence support was in "freefall" a few weeks ago.  With Don't Knows left in, there's even a one-point increase in Yes support.  And the 48% headline number for Yes is only four points lower than Panelbase reported during the peak of the mini-surge in independence support late last year after the Supreme Court ruling.

Incidentally, the "freefall" claims were self-evidently baseless even before this poll is added into the mix.  The YouGov poll that was so misleadingly reported as showing a drop in Yes support to "39%" actually showed an unchanged position since the previous YouGov poll in February of Yes 46%, No 54% with Don't Knows excluded - so exactly the same static trend reported by Panelbase.  The Survation poll showing a drop in Yes support to 45% was a bit disappointing, but it's strongly rumoured that the result was offset only a few days later by another Survation poll for the Scotch Whisky Association showing Yes back up to a very healthy 49%.  (I'm not sure if anyone ever got to the bottom of those rumours.)  And it was within this calendar month that the Find Out Now poll I commissioned for Scot Goes Pop showed an outright Yes lead: Yes 52%, No 48%.  So I'm struggling to detect even the remotest trace of "freefall" in any of that.

The party political voting intentions in this new Scot Goes Pop / Panelbase poll are somewhat less encouraging, but in a strange way there may be good news baked into that bad news, because it may indicate that SNP support and Yes support are not as tightly linked as we think.  That raises the possibility that independence support may prove fairly resilient even if Humza Yousaf leads the SNP to election defeat next year.

These figures also won't come as a massive surprise to anyone, because they're broadly in line with what other firms were showing at the time the poll was conducted.

Scottish voting intentions for the next UK general election:

SNP 40% (-5)
Labour 33% (+5)
Conservatives 16% (-1)
Liberal Democrats 6% (-)

Note: Other parties are on 5% of the vote.  The percentage changes above are not measured from the February poll for Believe in Scotland, which doesn't seem to have had Westminster numbers, but instead from a Panelbase poll just before Christmas for the Sunday Times.

Seats projection (current boundaries, changes measured from 2019 result): SNP 35 (-13), Labour 17 (+16), Liberal Democrats 4 (-), Conservatives 3 (-3)

So the SNP are projected to just about retain their majority position among Scottish MPs at Westminster.  But when the national vote shares are close, first-past-the-post starts to work firmly in Labour's favour, meaning that even the smallest further slippage for the SNP would put them at severe risk of losing their majority or even being overtaken by Labour in terms of seats - hence my major concerns about the potential impact of Humza Yousaf's personal unpopularity.

Scottish Parliament constituency ballot:

SNP 39% (-8)
Labour 31% (+7)
Conservatives 14% (-1)
Liberal Democrats 8% (+1)
Greens 6% (+2)

Scottish Parliament regional list ballot:

SNP 32% (-7)
Labour 27% (+3)
Conservatives 17% (-)
Greens 12% (+3)
Liberal Democrats 8% (+1)

Note: Other parties are on 2% of the vote on the constituency ballot, and 3% of the vote on the regional list ballot.  The percentage changes are measured from the poll for the Sunday Times before Christmas.

Seats projection (changes measured from 2021 result): SNP 53 (-11), Labour 35 (+13), Conservatives 21 (-10), Greens 12 (+4), Liberal Democrats 8 (+4) 

Amidst a fair bit of carnage for the SNP, the remarkable fact is that this poll is still pointing to a pro-independence majority in the Scottish Parliament, albeit only just.  The SNP and Greens combined reach the magic figure of 65 seats, while the unionist parties in combination have only 64.  In practice, I suspect it might be a touch better than that for the pro-indy side, because the 6% for the Greens on the constituency ballot looks oddly high, and in the real world a chunk of those voters would probably go to the SNP.

*  *  *

Recently I've published results from TWO new Scot Goes Pop opinion polls - an opportunity to commission a second poll suddenly arose, so I made a snap decision to go ahead.  However, as you'll appreciate, polls are very expensive, so if anyone feels able to make a contribution, here are the options...

The simplest donation method is a direct Paypal payment. My Paypal email address is:

If you wish, you can add a note saying "for the fundraiser", although even if you don't do that, it'll be fairly obvious what the payment is for.

If you don't have a Paypal account, last year's fundraiser is still very much open for donations HERE.

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Near-suicidal political hubris in plain sight: Team Humza say "the 48% get no representation because the 52% wanted them to have none"

Update about Alba, and VIDEO PREVIEW of the remaining results from this month's Scot Goes Pop polling

First of all, a quick update about one of the points I made in my post yesterday.  I mentioned that my faith in the Alba Party's internal democratic processes took a big knock last month when I put myself forward for a set of internal elections and was not informed of the results, even though I sent a follow-up email to try to find out.  Last night and this morning, I spoke to a couple of senior people in the party, and it turns out that I was in fact on the ballot in February, and I was elected to one of the four committees I stood for (the Appeals Committee).  It's not really clear why I wasn't informed afterwards - it may have been a technical fault, or my email address may have been left off the message by accident, but the important thing is that I now have far more confidence than I did 24 hours ago that Alba members of all shades of opinion still have fair access to the party's internal democracy.  I'm very grateful to the people who helped me resolve the issue.

So I'll be on the Appeals Committee for the next year, and having put myself forward for that position and been elected, I take the responsibility seriously, and I'm therefore fully committed to Alba.  But I would just say this to my own party.  Kate Forbes' mantra was "continuity won't cut it" and in the current circumstances that applies just as much to Alba as it does to the SNP.  I'm not talking about leadership - we're incredibly fortunate to have someone with the immense experience and abilities of Alex Salmond at the helm and he remains the correct person to take us forward.  But in the wake of Humza Yousaf's narrow victory, which sealed the SNP's transition to being a de facto devolutionist party, there are swathes of the independence movement crying out for a credible, mainstream, full-bloodedly pro-independence alternative, and we need to be ruthlessly honest with ourselves about the changes we would have to make to be the party that genuinely offers that alternative - because, after all, if we don't do it, it's likely that nobody at all will.

Jo Grimond famously said to the Liberal Party in the 1950s that they needed to "get on, or get out".  That exhortation could also be fairly applied to the Alba Party at present, because I know many people are painfully aware that if Alba didn't exist, the party's members could have been in the SNP voting for Kate Forbes as leader over the last two weeks.  The more I've thought about it, the more convinced I've become that Alba's existence didn't actually swing the balance yesterday - Yousaf's margin of victory was just over 2000 votes, and apparently Alba has a membership of just under 4000, but we have to bear in mind that by no means all of those people would be SNP members in the absence of Alba, and there would also have been many abstentions and people who didn't use their second preferences, or people who used their second preferences for Yousaf. (Perverse though it may seem, I know anecdotally of Alba members who would have voted Regan 1, Yousaf 2.) So when you put all of those factors together, the strong likelihood is that Yousaf would still have won narrowly - but the fact that we're even posing the question points to a key problem.  Alba members are a precious resource who can only be doing good in one party at any one time, and if we're going to justify to ourselves keeping those people away from the good they could be doing inside the SNP, we need to start proving that Alba as a separate party is capable of moving the dial on independence in a way that we have not yet managed.

What could make a difference?  There is a 'silver bullet' scenario which could transform Alba's fortunes overnight, and that would be defections of MSPs who cannot see a future in a Yousaf-led SNP, and the subsequent creation of an Alba parliamentary group at Holyrood.  The party would then have instant credibility and a good chance of retaining a presence in the Scottish Parliament beyond the 2026 election.  But if that doesn't happen, we're going to have to do it the hard way by gradually tripling our support from 2% to 6% over the next three years (enough to win multiple list seats), and the path to that begins with cultivating a greater appeal to committed independence supporters.  I've lost count of the people who have told me over recent months that they'd love to join an alternative to the SNP, but they look at the Alba culture as exhibited on social media and think "that's just not for me".  I speak as someone who was on Alba's National Executive as recently as six months ago, but I sometimes look at the Alba culture and see a very closed world that I do not fully understand or identify with, and that only really speaks to itself.  Through A Scottish Prism is "the Alba BBC" - everybody watches it, and if you don't, you're somehow not "real Alba".  Wings Over Scotland is "the Alba tabloid" - everybody reads it and likes it, and if you don't, you're somehow not "real Alba".  Salvo is "the Alba faith", and if you don't attend church, you're somehow not "real Alba".  All of those things may be fine, but they're not everyone's cup of tea, and they certainly don't represent the centre of gravity in the independence movement, let alone in wider indy-supporting Scotland.  We need a much more pluralistic landscape if Alba is going to be a party that the average independence supporter would feel comfortable joining tomorrow, or voting for tomorrow.

(Incidentally, I've got nothing at all against Salvo, who have plenty of good ideas to offer, but meditating upon the text of the Claim of Right Act 1689 isn't really my thing, just personally.  I tried to read it a few weeks ago and only got as far as the word "papist" in the second sentence.  I somehow don't think it was written with an Irish-ancestry Roman Catholic audience in mind.)

I think we could also entice people away from the SNP by offering them a much more vibrant, participatory internal democracy than exists in their current party.  At the moment Alba is very slightly more democratic than the SNP, but that's an exceedingly low bar and I think we should be aiming a lot higher.  None of the current members of the Alba NEC were elected by a vote of the whole membership - the national office bearers were declared elected without a vote because there was only one candidate for each position, and the ordinary NEC members were elected by only the relatively small minority of members who paid for a conference pass.  My view is that the case for having the entire ruling body of a party elected by that party's whole membership is close to unarguable, and I also think in an era of easy and quick online voting there's a very strong case that every single elected national position should be elected by the whole membership, rather than by a selectorate at National Council.

To put this as delicately as I can, I think we need to find a way to spend a much greater percentage of our time talking about subjects other than the trans issue.  I'm as opposed to self-ID legislation as anyone (long-term readers will remember I commissioned a poll in 2021 that showed overwhelming public opposition to the proposed law), but we've won that argument comprehensively - so comprehensively, in fact, that even Labour has effectively reversed course, which would have seemed impossible even a few months ago.  It now looks almost certain that there will be no self-ID even under a Starmer government.  There comes a point where you just have to take yes for an answer and turn your focus to other things.

Above all else, we need to stop being driven by naked revenge against the SNP and certain people within it.  If we find ourselves pondering a political intervention on the basis that "it won't help Alba, it won't help independence, but it might TURF OUT THOSE SNP TROUGHERS AT WESTMINSTER SO LET'S BLOODY DO IT", our reasoning is going very badly wrong somewhere.  We need to have a laser-like focus on what will actually help bring independence forward - and number one on that list is winning Alba list seats in 2026.  Why?  Because if there's a narrow pro-indy majority in Holyrood after 2026, and if Alba are a non-trivial part of that majority (big ifs, I admit), we will have an insane amount of leverage to coax the Scottish Government into a much more radical independence strategy.  The option of a unilateral Referendum Bill has been removed by the Supreme Court, but there are plenty of other options that an elected government could pursue.

Last but not least, we need to start talking independence support up rather than down.  I've pointed this out a number of times recently, but Alba seem to be picking up the awful Wings habit of "celebrating" poor polls for Yes and even exaggerating how bad they are.  To me, that speaks to a lack of confidence - it's as if we see independence as a project currently owned by the SNP and not part-owned by ourselves.  We are one of the largest pro-independence parties, like the Greens, and we need to start claiming our stake in good or decent poll showings for Yes.  And on that note, here is a video preview of the remaining results from the Scot Goes Pop polling conducted this month...

I've got an idea (and it's only a vague idea at this stage) that when the autumn comes around, I might try to stand for one of the Alba national office bearer positions, because those are the only positions elected by the whole membership.  It would not be in any great expectation of actually being elected - the purpose would be simply to try to start a debate among the membership about the ideas I've raised above.  Or if someone more telegenic decides to take the task on, I'd get behind them instead, but I do think it's a debate that needs to happen, and sooner rather than later.  Maybe that can be my pet project for this year, to try to stop myself spending too much time repetitively blogging about the opinion poll evidence that Yousaf appears to be leading us all to calamity.  I think ultimately we're all going to have to get on with campaigning for independence in our own way, and give the SNP the space to find out for themselves that they've selected the wrong leader.  And make no mistake, that painful but necessary moment will arrive, even if I can't predict exactly how or when.

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

"Give Humza a chance!" they said. "It's only the guy's first day!" they said. Day 2: Humza tries to demote Kate Forbes after she's just won 48% of the vote. Seen enough yet?

There are two iron laws of elections that the SNP are in severe danger of becoming all too familiar with.  The first is that parties with highly unpopular leaders don't win elections.  The second is that seriously divided parties don't win elections.  It takes quite some talent to lumber yourself with the first problem on the Monday and then the second problem on the Tuesday.  The Bible tells us that the Lord rested after six days, but the way things are going we'd better all hope the SNP stop doing things after only two.

The constructive dismissal of Kate Forbes after she's just won 48% of the vote is the sort of thing you can only get away with if you're in an exceptionally strong position as a leader - for example if you're immensely popular with the public, and if therefore it doesn't matter if people on your own side start squealing because you know the voters will always back you.  Humza is not in that sort of enviable position - he's on unusually weak ground with both his own party and the public, and in fact he needed Kate Forbes far more than she needed him, because co-opting her as a deputy or close ally would have offset some of his own unpopularity.  She was almost inspiringly gracious in defeat yesterday - people both inside and outside the SNP will have looked at the way she conducted herself, and thought "gosh, what a genuinely lovely and kind person she is".  Throwing that back in her face within 24 hours is going to have consequences, the most immediate of which is that people can now see with absolute clarity what the Humza campaign has been about from the start - not about the best interests of the SNP or of the independence cause, but about safeguarding the power and privileges of a faction within the SNP, and at absolutely any price.  

It's the rough equivalent of Tony Blair doing on Day 1 what he didn't dare to do even after ten years - sacking Gordon Brown as Chancellor. It will create fault-lines, and fault-lines create earthquakes.  Exactly how it will play out is impossible to tell, but there is one consolation - the more Humza overplays his hand, the quicker the crisis will come and the quicker he may be deposed, thus getting the SNP out of the hole they've just dug for themselves.  So perhaps this kind of hubris from him should be positively encouraged.

Monday, March 27, 2023

Huztae be the absolute worst case scenario for the SNP and the cause of independence

Let's not mince words - this is an unmitigated disaster.  The SNP have replaced a popular leader with a deeply unpopular leader.  They have done so needlessly, because there was a popular alternative on offer.  And given that Yousaf has won so narrowly, there's going to be little doubt that the only reason he prevailed is because the process was so tightly 'managed' by the Sturgeon faction, with favours being called in left, right and centre.  Rightly or wrongly, there will probably even be allegations of outright ballot rigging.  He will command very little authority.  The Sturgeon team have let their party and their country down appallingly badly by not allowing this process to run its course naturally, which would clearly have resulted in a win for Forbes and a brighter future for our cause.

I suppose questions also have to be asked of those of us who defected to Alba in 2021, because the current Alba membership is (I think) just about big enough that it could have swung the balance for Forbes if we were all still SNP members - although I suspect if Alba didn't exist a lot of those people would now belong to no party at all, so perhaps it wouldn't have made any difference.  

For the second time in six months, I have to say I find myself at a political crossroads, and I'm sure others feel the same.  There is no way forward while Humza is SNP leader.  Anyone who thinks otherwise is deluded - independence has no chance of happening until he is deposed, whether that be in six months or ten years.  However, I don't want to fall into the Stuart Campbell trap of talking down the SNP and talking down independence on this blog on a daily basis in the hope of hastening Yousaf's removal, because that could make matters worse.  There has to be something left of the SNP for Yousaf's successor to inherit. The least worst outcome would be for Yousaf to see the writing on the wall from opinion poll results and then resign to prevent an election defeat, rather than in reaction to an election defeat, but knowing what we know about the stubbornness of the man and those who have put him where he is, that seems unlikely.  He could very easily take us all down with him.

From a personal point of view, how do I contribute in this impossible situation?  I can't in all good conscience cheerlead for an SNP that I now realise needs to fail to at least some extent before it can succeed by being shocked into ditching Yousaf.  But neither can I in good conscience do a Campbell by spending every waking moment trying to turn a heavy SNP defeat in 2024 into a self-fulfilling prophecy, because that could kill off independence forever.  So perhaps I need to step away from the blog, or turn the blog's focus completely away from polling and election analysis.

I know some will redouble their efforts to build up the Alba Party as a genuinely pro-independence alternative to the devolutionist SNP, but as you know, I feel really strongly that Alba needs to become more mainstream and ditch some of the anger and the wilder impulses if it's ever to become electorally successful.  I would be quite happy to fight for change within Alba for however long that takes - but, to be perfectly candid, I recently put myself forward for Alba internal elections and was never even informed of the results, even though I sent a follow-up email to try to find out.  That genuinely astonished me given how we've been rightly castigating the SNP for a lack of transparency and due process in their own internal elections.  I don't mind banging my head against a brick wall in Alba for years to come as long as the process is open and fair, but if that's not the case...? Are we a democratic party or are we, like the SNP under Sturgeon and Yousaf, a 'managed' party?  Where is the home for the scunnered middle now?  Is there one?

I have a great deal to mull over, as I'm sure every true independence supporter in the land does.  I'll get back to you if and when I reach any conclusions, although in the meantime there'll be the loose ends of some remaining opinion poll results.

EXCLUSIVE SCOT GOES POP / FIND OUT NOW POLL: The Greens leaving government in protest would have very little net effect on public support for the SNP

The SNP leadership ballot is closing right now, so it's high time for me to rush out one particular finding from the Scot Goes Pop / Find Out Now poll, because a Humza win will render it totally academic in the blink of an eye.

Scot Goes Pop / Find Out Now poll (1st-9th March 2023, sample size 1266):

Imagine that either Ash Regan or Kate Forbes win the SNP leadership election, and as a result the SNP stop trying to change the law to allow people to change their legal gender by self-declaration. Imagine also that the Scottish Green Party's ministers then resign from the Scottish Government in protest. In those circumstances, do you think you would be more likely or less likely to vote SNP in future elections?

More likely: 13%
Less likely: 17%
No difference: 54%

The remaining 16% of the sample didn't offer an answer.  So if by any chance Kate Forbes wins, these numbers would offer considerable reassurance that any subsequent Green flounce out of government would not bring the roof down on SNP support - it would make no difference at all to the voting choices of a substantial majority of the public, and among the minority of voters whose thinking might be influenced, the 17% who would be less likely to vote SNP would be largely offset by the 13% who would be more likely to vote SNP.  And, in any case, the four-point gap between 17% and 13% does not quite reach the level of statistical significance, given the standard margin of error in any poll.

Asking voters whether they prefer Kate Forbes to Humza Yousaf, or simply whether they'd be more likely to vote SNP if the gender reforms were ditched, would have been 'motherhood and apple pie' questions - it's fairly obvious what the results would have been.  But Yousaf  backers could have pointed out that such questions don't take account of the real world consequences of a Forbes win - and, after all, the SNP-Green coalition was extremely popular among independence supporters when it was first sealed.  So the question asked in this poll was an attempt at being fairer by getting respondents to consider all the relevant points in the round. Even when they do that, it appears that support for the SNP is almost unaffected (on a net basis).

As I've pointed out myself in the past, there is a health warning that has to be placed on 'more likely'/'less likely' results, because there are respondents out there who hate the SNP enough that they'll always want to give the most negative answer, and so will say X or Y hypothesis would make them "less likely to vote SNP" even though there would have been a 100% chance of them voting against the SNP anyway.  In this poll, we also have to take account of the fact that Green supporters will have had a good reason to be rather animated about the scenario painted in the question, and they'll therefore account for a non-trivial part of the small gap between "more likely" and "less likely".  But among people who actually voted SNP in the 2019 general election, the results are broadly in line with the wider public - 14% say "more likely", 20% say "less likely" and 55% say "no difference".  The 15% of Tory voters who say they would be more likely to vote SNP after a Green flounce slightly outcount the 13% who say they would be less likely, and interestingly there's a 15%-15% split among Liberal Democrat voters, which arguably adds to the weight of evidence from other polls that Lib Dem voters are not as keen on gender self-ID as the Lib Dem leadership are.

There's a significant divide between the age groups, as you'd probably expect on a question like this, with every age group from 45 upwards showing slightly more people choosing the "more likely" option than the "less likely" option.

*  *  * 

Thoughts on Yousaf's status as heavy favourite on the betting markets

I've forbidden discussion in the comments section of this blog about movements in betting prices while the ballot was underway, just in case the Yousaf campaign were trying to manipulate our perception of the race by getting large bets placed, but I'll now give my thoughts on the subject.  I always wince when I hear people trot out the cliché that "the bookies rarely get it wrong, they know exactly what's going on", because at least as far as politics is concerned, I've lost count of the number of times that both conventional betting odds and the betting markets have got it hopelessly wrong.  The classic example was the 2007 Holyrood election, when the markets over-reacted to Labour's better-than-expected showing in the early results.  During the closing hours of the count, Labour were overwhelming favourites on the markets to win most seats, even though you'd only have had to turn on a TV set in Scotland to hear Brian Taylor explain that informal tallies at the count showed the SNP were likely to end up with a one seat advantage, which is exactly what transpired.  So that gives the lie to the idea - as someone tried to post here the other day - that if there was free money available to people who knew Humza was likely to lose, they'd have been bound to take it and thus shift the odds in Forbes' favour.  Not everyone is this world thinks like a gambler or a 'sports trader' - there are situations where the truth is hidden in plain sight and yet the markets are oblivious to it.

Nevertheless, the timing of some of the moves towards Humza on the markets did worry me to some extent.  There was a really sharp move towards him on the day the ballot opened, which had the feel of people who had live access to the early data cashing in.  I did see a betting expert claim that the movement was probably due to Humza being endorsed by Stephen Flynn and John Swinney, but that didn't ring true to me, because those events occurred 24-48 hours before the price started to shift.  Additionally, just after we heard there was a YouGov poll of SNP members in the field, there was another sudden tightening in Humza's odds, and that trend was never reversed.  That pattern could have been consistent with the employees of a polling company taking advantage of special knowledge, although of course it could also have been caused by something entirely different with the timing being just a coincidence.  There's also a phenomenon that I've observed before, whereby clueless punters see large bets being placed and assume wrongly that the people placing them 'must' have inside knowledge, so follow their example and a snowball effect is created out of thin air.  Cynical actors can also engineer that snowball effect to create the impression that their candidate is winning - backers of Chris Huhne famously managed to install him as betting favourite when he was standing against Menzies Campbell for the Lib Dem leadership, even though in retrospect it's obvious that the much better known Campbell should have been favourite all along.

There's been another big move towards Humza on the markets this morning and he's now the heaviest favourite he's ever been, which is hard to square with the publicly available information.  Is that genuine inside knowledge, or one of the other possibilities I've just described?  We'll soon find out.

UPDATE, 12.55pm: Since I wrote the above, Yousaf's odds have lengthened somewhat and Forbes' odds have come in a bit, and I can't see any obvious explanation for that either.  Is everybody just guessing?

*  *  *

Recently I've published results from TWO new Scot Goes Pop opinion polls - an opportunity to commission a second poll suddenly arose, so I made a snap decision to go ahead.  However, as you'll appreciate, polls are very expensive, so if anyone feels able to make a contribution, here are the options...

The simplest donation method is a direct Paypal payment. My Paypal email address is:

If you wish, you can add a note saying "for the fundraiser", although even if you don't do that, it'll be fairly obvious what the payment is for.

If you don't have a Paypal account, last year's fundraiser is still very much open for donations HERE.

Saturday, March 25, 2023

Whoever is elected SNP leader on Monday will definitely become the new First Minister - that's a simple fact that people need to start accepting

Late last night, I was accosted on Twitter by a couple of diehard Humza Yousaf supporters - one of them was being abusive, although in fairness the other was not.  Both of them were still trying to push the fantastical line of argument that it "huztae be Humza" because supposedly neither of the other candidates for leader has the numbers to be installed as First Minister by the Scottish Parliament.  This is a very, very silly myth that just refuses to die.  So let's work through step-by-step why the next leader of the SNP will undoubtedly become First Minister, no matter who that person is.

1) The SNP have 64 of the 128 voting members of the Scottish Parliament - exactly half.  That excludes the non-voting Presiding Officer, and compares to just 47 seats for the SNP when Alex Salmond was first elected as First Minister fifteen years ago.

2) The new SNP leader, no matter whether that person is Humza Yousaf, Ash Regan or Kate Forbes, will be able to count on the support of all, or almost all, of those 64 SNP MSPs in the election for First Minister.  The reason is that elections for First Minister in mid-term are tantamount to votes of confidence in the government, and thus any SNP MSP who votes against their leader, or who fails to vote without a valid excuse, will undoubtedly lose the party whip and will not be eligible to stand for the party in future elections.  They would effectively be throwing their careers away, and if there's one thing we know about parliamentarians who have endorsed Humza Yousaf, it's that they really, really value their careers.

3) At the margins it's not impossible that one or two particularly zealous MSPs might make a career-ending stand by opposing their new leader in the vote.  (Emma Roddick was speculated about as a possibility, although she has since given an "SNP till I die" oath of loyalty.)  But that wouldn't make any difference, because under the rules an absolute majority of MSPs is not required to be elected First Minister.  In 2007, Alex Salmond was elected with just 49 votes (47 SNP, 2 Green) - which was only 38% of the voting MSPs.  On the final ballot, by which point Jack McConnell was the only remaining opponent for Salmond who hadn't yet been eliminated, 46 votes (36%) went to McConnell and the remainder abstained.   The abstentions were disregarded, and Salmond was declared the winner because his 49 votes slightly outcounted the 46 for the only other remaining candidate.  It will therefore be extremely easy for the new SNP leader to get elected with 62 or 63 votes.  The only way that would not be the case is if every single other party, plus any SNP rebel, actively votes for Douglas Ross to become First Minister.  Anyone who thinks Labour, let alone the Scottish Green Party, is about to install a Tory-led government is living in Narnia.

There endeth the lesson, there explodeth the myth.

Thursday, March 23, 2023

New Ipsos poll shows Humza Yousaf's net approval rating has now slumped to -20, well behind both Anas Sarwar and Keir Starmer - pointing to potential disaster for the SNP if Yousaf leads them into the next Westminster and Holyrood elections

We've been in a weird 'polling desert' since the Murrell scandal broke a few days ago, but at last we do have some up to date numbers.  Again, they come from polling of the general public rather than SNP members.  However, there appears to have been a YouGov poll of SNP members in the field for around a week, so we'll have to see if that eventually shows up, perhaps at the weekend.

The new Ipsos numbers come in the form of net approval ratings for each candidate and for other senior politicians.  They show Nicola Sturgeon's rating improving (just in time for that to no longer matter) while almost everyone else's falls.  Both Anas Sarwar and Kate Forbes have slipped into negative territory since the last poll, but the bad news for Humza Yousaf - who was already in negative territory in the last poll - is that he has slumped even deeper into the red and thus remains way behind both Sarwar and Forbes.

Ipsos net approval ratings (17th-21st March 2023):

Nicola Sturgeon (SNP): +8
Anas Sarwar (Labour): -4
Kate Forbes (SNP): -8
Keir Starmer (Labour): -9
Humza Yousaf (SNP): -20
Ash Regan (SNP): -24
Rishi Sunak (Conservatives): -37
Douglas Ross (Conservatives): -39

So the concern remains the same.  Kate Forbes looks capable of competing with Labour's leaders on a roughly equal footing, but Humza Yousaf does not - which gives us fair warning that a Yousaf-led SNP would be likely to suffer seat losses in the next Westminster and Holyrood elections, and possibly to surrender power to Labour.

Incidentally, some random troll quoted these exact numbers at me last night on Twitter, several hours before they were published, although he had the fieldwork dates wrong.  I'd be interested to know how that was possible, although I have my suspicions.  He seemed to think the numbers were somehow good for Yousaf, possibly because he didn't spot the minus symbol before the 20!

*  *  *

Recently I've published results from TWO new Scot Goes Pop opinion polls - an opportunity to commission a second poll suddenly arose, so I made a snap decision to go ahead.  However, as you'll appreciate, polls are very expensive, so if anyone feels able to make a contribution, here are the options...

The simplest donation method is a direct Paypal payment. My Paypal email address is:

If you wish, you can add a note saying "for the fundraiser", although even if you don't do that, it'll be fairly obvious what the payment is for.

If you don't have a Paypal account, last year's fundraiser is still very much open for donations HERE.

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Is there ANY way the SNP could win the 2026 Holyrood election with a leader as unpopular as Humza Yousaf?

That's a headline deliberately "in the style of the Daily Mail", but there's a perfectly serious point behind it, and it's one I've made a number of times before.  I thought it might be worth revisiting on the day that we're told Humza Yousaf thinks - with a certain lack of self-awareness, it has to be said - that his opponents in the leadership election might cost the SNP some of its supporters. In reality, that concern relates mainly to himself.

We know that the approval ratings of leaders are often highly predictive of general election and Scottish Parliament election results, and every poll that has measured approval ratings over the course of this campaign has had Kate Forbes well ahead of Humza Yousaf.  But the most telling results have been from Ipsos, who also asked the same approval question of non-SNP politicians, and most importantly of the Labour leader Anas Sarwar, to allow a direct comparison to be made.  Here is what the most recent Ipsos poll showed...

Ipsos net approval ratings (6th-7th March 2023):

Kate Forbes (SNP): +8
Anas Sarwar (Labour): +5
Humza Yousaf (SNP): -7

So the SNP really are at a crossroads.  They can opt to give themselves a slight inbuilt advantage over Labour at the 2026 Holyrood election by choosing in Kate Forbes a leader who is a touch more popular than the de facto main opposition leader - and even having that option after so many years in government is pretty extraordinary, let's face it.  Or they can self-harm by spurning that opportunity and installing a leader who is significantly less popular than his Labour opposite number.

Would it be possible for the SNP to overcome the hindrance of an unpopular leader like Yousaf to hold onto power?  That would be a very tall order.  For as long as anyone can remember, UK general elections have generally been won by the party with the most popular leader.  The two exceptions that are generally cited are 1970, which was won by the Conservatives in spite of Harold Wilson being more popular than Edward Heath, and 1979, which was also won by the Tories in spite of James Callaghan being more popular than Margaret Thatcher.  But UK elections were a lot less presidential in the 1970s than they are now.

In a Scottish context, some may point out that Ruth Davidson often had slightly superior approval ratings to Nicola Sturgeon, and yet Sturgeon always got the better of Davidson in elections.  But that's not really a meaningful comparison because the Tories can't compete on a level playing field with the SNP in Scotland.  Their brand is too loathed outside their own core vote.  Scottish Labour have no such disadvantage, and in any case it's hard to dispute that Davidson achieved something very close to the best results that were realistically possible for her.

The only glimmer of hope for a Yousaf-led SNP might be the question of "which came first - the chicken or the egg?"  We might assume that it's leaders that make parties popular or unpopular, but just occasionally it can be the other way around.  Just by chance, I happened to be in the Republic of Ireland (Donegal, to be exact) in the week of the 2007 general election, which was widely expected to be won by Fine Gael, led by Enda Kenny.  But the snag was that Kenny was significantly less popular on a personal level than Fianna Fáil's incumbent Prime Minister Bertie Ahern.  I watched Kenny deliver his final party election broadcast, in which his strategists had forced him to parrot some North American-imported artificial nonsense about a "Contract with Ireland", and he came across as stilted and uncomfortable.  In the end, Fianna Fáil surprisingly retained power, and to a large extent that was attributed to the charm of Ahern, who was thought to be the sort of guy people would like to spend time with in a pub.

But four years later, it couldn't have been more different.  Kenny had somehow survived as Fine Gael leader, and in spite of the fact that his personality hadn't changed one iota, he weirdly had much higher approval ratings than before, and indeed was more popular than his opponent.  Voters had grown thoroughly sick of Fianna Fáil, and simply by embodying something different, Kenny became much more liked.  However, I think it would be wildly over-optimistic and naive to imagine Humza Yousaf could benefit from a similar effect - if you're unpopular just before you assume the highest office in the land, the likelihood is that the only way is down.

*  *  *

Over the last few days I've published results from TWO new Scot Goes Pop opinion polls - an opportunity to commission a second poll suddenly arose, so I made a snap decision to go ahead.  However, as you'll appreciate, polls are very expensive, so if anyone feels able to make a contribution, here are the options...

The simplest donation method is a direct Paypal payment. My Paypal email address is:

If you wish, you can add a note saying "for the fundraiser", although even if you don't do that, it'll be fairly obvious what the payment is for.

If you don't have a Paypal account, last year's fundraiser is still very much open for donations HERE.