Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Keir Starmer reels in HORROR as Labour loses its outright lead in Scotland, according to shock new Norstat poll

Apologies to anyone who thought from the title of this post that it's a completely new poll - it was in fact published on Monday, so you may have already seen it.  I was up to my neck that day due to an Alba committee meeting and a few other things, but I thought I'd better bring the numbers to you belatedly.

Scottish voting intentions for the next UK general election:

SNP 32% (-1)
Labour 32% (-4)
Conservatives 16% (-)
Liberal Democrats 9% (+2)
Reform UK 5% (+1)
Greens 4% (n/a)
Alba 2% (n/a)

Labour going from a three point lead to level-pegging may look like possible margin of error noise, but it's worth pointing out that the Greens and Alba were not offered as options for Westminster in the previous Norstat poll (even though Reform UK were), so assuming a lot of the Alba and Green respondents would have plumped for the SNP in the previous poll, the trend may be even better than it looks.

Should Scotland be an independent country?

Yes 47% (-3)
No 53% (+3)

Scottish Parliament constituency vote:

SNP 35% (-1)
Labour 30% (-1) 
Conservatives 17% (+1)
Liberal Democrats 10% (+3)
Greens 5% (-)

Scottish Parliament regional list ballot:

SNP 28% (-2)
Labour 25% (-4)
Conservatives 19% (-)
Liberal Democrats 10% (+3)
Greens 9% (-)
Reform UK 4% (+2)
Alba 3% (-)

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

More on Craig Murray and dual party loyalties

It's rather timely in view of my previous post that Craig Murray has now written a blogpost setting out more details about his plans to stand for the Workers Party of Britain in Blackburn, even though he is a member of the Alba Party.  Now, as I've done before, I want to make clear that I am not in any way having a go at Craig - I think Alba should absolutely be flexible and tolerant enough to allow one of its members to stand for another party in England.  But I also want to ensure that other Alba members can expect similar levels of flexibility and tolerance in equivalent situations, and that unwritten "special rules" that benefit certain prominent individuals should apply to all, so that they can be of benefit to all.

This is the crucial part of what Craig has said -

"Secondly, I talked it over with Alex Salmond before I accepted to stand in Blackburn. I have not left the Alba Party. Alex and I mutually agreed that at this election it would be better for me not to stand for Alba in Scotland, as that would give the unionist press an opportunity to continue to muck-rake over the lawfare to which we had been subjected.
Thirdly, George Galloway has declared that he no longer will participate in the Independence debate in Scotland.
I have also seen it reported that the Workers’ Party will not stand candidates in Scotland. That will need to be worked through, but at the minimum I expect we can reach an agreement they will not stand anywhere against the Alba Party, which would render my own position impossible. As Alba is only planning to stand in up to 16 constituencies this should not be difficult."

That latter point is not sufficient according to the Alba constitution.  Annex F of the constitution is entitled "Membership Rules" and Section 6 of that annex is entitled "Membership of Other Parties and Organisations".  It reads - 

"6.1 A member who is a member of another party registered as a political party with the Electoral Commission in the Great Britain register and intending to contest elections in Scotland is regarded as being a member of a political party expected to contest elections in opposition to the Party. A member in this situation ceases to be a member."

That leaves no room for doubt - if a party intends to stand anywhere in Scotland, you can't be a member of that party at the same time as being a member of Alba.  It doesn't matter whether Craig cuts a deal with George Galloway so that the Workers Party commits itself to only stand in Scottish seats where there is no Alba candidate - their involvement in those other seats would still render them "a political party expected to contest elections in opposition to the Party" according to the Alba constitution.  It's plain from Craig's words that he does not yet have a high level of confidence that the Workers Party of Britain will defy their own name to in future become an England-and-Wales-only party - he's "seen it reported" that they will not stand candidates in Scotland, but it sounds like he hasn't heard it from the horse's mouth and doesn't fully believe it, which is unsurprising given that the Workers Party's registration on the Electoral Commission website clearly states that it stands candidates in Scotland.

People have argued in BTL comments on this blog that all of this is a moot point because Craig has not technically become a member of the Workers Party of Britain yet, although he'll have to at some point between now and the general election.  However, based on specific examples from past experience, I strongly suspect that if an Alba member (who is not Craig Murray or someone similarly prominent or well-connected) had been selected to stand as a candidate for an anti-independence party which is registered with the Electoral Commission as standing candidates in Scotland, that person would have been immediately interpreted to have "publicly resigned from the Alba Party" and would thus effectively have been banned from the party until and unless the NEC lifted that ban.

Again, to be clear, I am not arguing for that to happen to Craig and I don't think it should.  But I do want to see all Alba members benefit from the same type of tolerance, and if that means a blind eye being turned to bad rules, as is undoubtedly happening in Craig's case, so be it.

Monday, April 15, 2024

A prescription for the Alba Party

I'm sure you'll all understand why I have to be cagey about my exact reasons for feeling moved to write this short blogpost, but I am becoming increasingly concerned - bordering on distressed - about the direction of travel of the Alba Party.  Being "no worse than the SNP" just isn't going to cut it.  In fact it would render the party pointless, because people don't defect from a large party to a small one unless they can be assured of a marked improvement.  Alba does have very different policies from the SNP, but the SNP's woke, indy-lite authoritarianism is not necessarily any worse than a more radical indy authoritarianism.

This would be my prescription - 

* Alba must be, as promised at its outset, member-led.  The reality should match the words.

* Alba must be, as promised at its outset, the "best of Yes".  It should not be a curated niche fraction of Yes.

* Alba should be a party in which members are free to speak their minds on social media.

* Alba should be a party in which members are free to blog, to write articles, and to speak to the media.

* Alba should not be a secret society in which the only freedom of speech permitted is behind closed doors.

* Alba should be a party in which members are free to criticise the leadership or even poke gentle fun at it.  

And there endeth the lesson.

Sunday, April 14, 2024

Poll of Polls: Support for independence stands at 49.6% so far this year

We're now over one-quarter of our way through general election year (no, I don't buy the notion that Sunak will cling on until January 2025), and the independence movement obviously finds itself in a very challenging situation because the SNP are in real danger of losing the majority they hold among Scottish seats at Westminster.  However, it's worth drawing breath and taking stock of the other side of the coin - ie. just how extraordinarily strongly the support for independence is holding up as the SNP have slipped back.

As far as I can see, there have been nine independence polls so far in 2024, and no fewer than three have shown a Yes majority.  The other six have shown only modest No leads that have never exceeded 53-47.  Crucially, the three Yes majority polls came from three different firms, so no-one can dismiss it as being a house effect from one "dodgy firm".  And, indeed, the only telephone poll of the year so far has shown Yes ahead.

The average of the nine polls works out as - 

With Don't Knows left in:

Yes 45.1%
No 45.8%

With Don't Knows stripped out:

Yes 49.6%
No 50.4%

Wow.  So by any standard we'll have something to work with if we can just somehow get out of jail at the general election.

*  *  *

If you can, please help Scot Goes Pop continue with a full-fat service throughout this crucial election year.  The 2024 fundraiser has received three very generous donations recently, and a million thanks to everyone who has contributed so far.  But we're still a long way from the target figure.  Donations by card can be made via the fundraiser page HERE, but if you have a Paypal account, the preferable way to donate is by direct Paypal payment, because that way the funds are usually transferred instantly and fees can be eliminated completely depending on which option you select from the menu.  My Paypal email address is:

Friday, April 12, 2024

A red letter day as Neil MacKay may not be completely wrong about absolutely everything

Here's a question I never thought I'd ask myself: is Neil MacKay actually half-right about something?  He's got a typically provocative column in the Herald about how the independence movement is tearing itself apart as the general election approaches.  But it's not, as some people automatically assumed from MacKay's track record, about "evil Cybernats" or "Alba splitters".  It's instead about divisions between the SNP and the Greens, and between different factions of the SNP.

If part of MacKay's point is simply that pro-independence parties should not be standing against each other in a first-past-the-post election, and that every pro-independence party will bear a share of the responsibility if the vote is split, that's music to my ears and is exactly what I've been saying all along.  And it really is particularly odd that the SNP and Greens, who are forever waxing lyrical about how much they get on and about the extreme importance of the Bute House Agreement, seem hellbent on knocking lumps out of each other at the general election like never before.

Yes, of course coalitions can just be businesslike affairs, born out of necessity, that have no particular relevance in elections for other tiers of government.  But this is a coalition of choice, not of necessity.  The SNP could govern perfectly well without the Greens, which means it's reasonable to infer that the two parties must really like each other.  In that case, why not do the sensible thing and form an electoral pact for the general election, even just as a one-off to get the independence movement through the current crisis?  The SNP could throw their weight behind the Greens in, say, two constituencies where the SNP have very little chance (Ian Murray's and Christine Jardine's spring to mind) and the Greens could give the SNP a free run elsewhere.  The only downside would be the challenge of getting the media to report the combined popular vote for the two parties, but winning seats really is the name of the game in this election.

And the flipside of the coin is that if the two parties don't like each other enough for an electoral pact, and don't see enough common cause, why would they persevere with a coalition of choice at Holyrood?

Of course this is Neil MacKay we're talking about here, so emphasis is very much on the half-right.  He's still reassuringly wrong about plenty, not least the usual guff about an independence referendum being very distant if Labour are going to win a thumping majority.  Most of us got the memo quite a while ago that independence will only be won when we stop kidding ourselves that the route to it is a referendum that will never be granted under any circumstances whatsoever.

MacKay also blasts Kate Forbes for supposedly being wrong in claiming that a "ban" is being imposed on wood-burning stoves, but then curiously contradicts himself by saying "only new-build properties applied for after April 2024 are prohibited from installing wood-burning stoves".  Yeah, that sounds a bit ban-like, Neil.  The clue is in the word "prohibited".

He says, probably correctly, that a big general election defeat would lead to the SNP replacing Yousaf, but then nonsensically claims that this will "compound" their "inevitable" defeat at the 2026 Holyrood election.  That's just his prejuduce against Forbes' social conservatism speaking.  No, replacing an unpopular leader with a more popular one will not make the situation worse.  It will make the situation better.  Even under Yousaf, the polling evidence suggests the SNP still have a real chance of emerging as the largest single party in 2026, so under a Forbes leadership, defeat most certainly would not be inevitable.

*  *  *

If, like me, you're a member of the Alba Party, you'll have received the weekly email today, which lauds the party's performance in the Inverness South local by-election, said to have been a "60 per cent" increase on the party's showing in the ward in 2022.  It's also said that a similar increase in the Holyrood election would see Alba win seats in the north.

Now, I'm all for positive thinking, but it's important to remain grounded in some sort of reality.  Alba's share of the vote in the by-election increased from 1.8% to 3.2%.  They're unlikely to win any seats on 3% of the vote.  I presume what they're talking about is some sort of exponential growth path, which assumes they are now on 3% across the north, and that they might come close to doubling that in the next two years, which might win them two list seats in the north (thus justifying the plural).  But exponential growth paths are rare in politics, and to put it mildly, it's a bit of a stretch to suggest that a 3% vote share in a local by-election is proof that you're on one.

As I always say, I think it's absolutely possible that Alba can win list seats in 2026, but the most important part of the battle is recognising just how hard it's going to be and that we haven't made enough progress yet.  Patting ourselves on the back and falsely telling ourselves that we're already well on our way is pretty much the worst thing we can possibly do.

*  *  *

It looks like the Blogger platform has introduced an irritating new feature which means that if a comments thread is exceptionally long, the most recent comments will only appear if you press a "Load More" link at the bottom of the page, which is quite difficult to spot on a first glance. This shouldn't be a major problem, because so far it's only seemed to happen when a thread has well over 200 comments.  But if you do post a comment on a very long thread and it doesn't show up, it'll probably be there if you press "Load More".

*  *  *

If you can, please help Scot Goes Pop continue with a full-fat service throughout this crucial election year.  The 2024 fundraiser has received three very generous donations recently, and a million thanks to everyone who has contributed so far.  But we're still a long way from the target figure.  Donations by card can be made via the fundraiser page HERE, but if you have a Paypal account, the preferable way to donate is by direct Paypal payment, because that way the funds are usually transferred instantly and fees can be eliminated completely depending on which option you select from the menu.  My Paypal email address is:

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Bombshell Redfield & Wilton poll shows a clear majority for independence, but the SNP slip to second place in YouGov poll, posing the question for SNP members: is factional Humza rule REALLY worth losing the general election for?

It's been an ongoing frustration that although the monthly Redfield & Wilton polls tend to show a high Yes vote in the upper 40s, it's been a long time since they've shown an outright lead for Yes.  I had to check back to see when it last happened, and it was the autumn of 2022, so a year and a half ago.  It's finally happened again.

Should Scotland be an independent country? (Redfield & Wilton)

Yes 51% (+3)
No 49% (-3)

It may be, of course, that in a monthly poll that typically shows Yes in the high 40s, you're bound to eventually get one putting Yes in the low 50s sooner or later due to normal sampling variation.  So the breakthrough may not be real - we'll have to wait and see what next month's poll brings.  But even taking into account the standard margin of error, support for independence must at the very least be in the upper 40s, which means it's held up extraordinarily well as the SNP's own vote has slipped back.

And by goodness have the SNP slipped back.  Full-scale Scottish polls from YouGov are rarer than the monthly Redfield & Wilton polls, and so attract more interest when they pop up - and the new one is a landmark because it shows the SNP in second place in Westminster voting intentions for the first time since the independence referendum a decade ago.

Scottish voting intentions for the next UK general election (YouGov):

Labour 33% (+1)
SNP 31% (-2)
Conservatives 14% (-6)
Reform UK 7% (+5)
Liberal Democrats 7% (+2)
Greens 5% (-)

Seats projection (with changes from 2019 general election): Labour 28 (+27), SNP 18 (-30), Conservatives 6 (-), Liberal Democrats 5 (+1)

I've heard it suggested recently that at least Humza Yousaf has steadied the ship for the SNP and things haven't been getting any worse.  These numbers would perhaps suggest that isn't true.  The percentage comparisons are with the previous YouGov poll, which was conducted last October when Yousaf had already been in harness for six or seven months.  So it looks as if things have got signficantly worse since then.  The painful truth for SNP members is that it just doesn't seem to be working with Yousaf as leader, and it may well be that if defeat is to be averted, the leadership problem will have to be addressed before the general election.  Ideally that means a change of leader (bearing in mind that unlike the Tories, the SNP are blessed with a popular alternative leader), but at the very least it means putting an end to the factional rule that has been going on since the leadership election, by bringing Kate Forbes and her key allies back into the heart of government.

As I've noted before, if you're more loyal to your faction than you are to your party or your movement, that tends to imply you think you have the luxury of guaranteed power.  Those days are over, but the psychology of Humza's followers may not have caught up with that reality yet - which could prove deadly.

Although YouGov are showing a modest No lead on the independence question, they nevertheless are in agreement with Redfield & Wilton that the trend on independence support seems to be completely unaffected by the slump in the SNP vote.

Should Scotland be an independent country? (YouGov)

Yes 47% (-)
No 53% (-)

So there are still more than enough independence supporters out there to theoretically win a first-past-the-post election for the SNP, but it ought to be a statement of the obvious that this will depend on the SNP making the election about independence and actually giving Yes supporters something to vote for.  At the moment, perversely, they seem to think doing the complete opposite of that is the key to victory, and it's therefore perhaps unsurprising that YouGov are showing the SNP currently have the backing of just 56% of people who voted Yes in 2014, compared with 21% for Labour.

Now, here's a question which I'm not claiming to know the answer to.  Why do Redfield & Wilton self-fund a full-scale Scottish poll every single month even though they have no obvious Scottish connections and it must cost them a small fortune each year?  Is there a story behind the funding of these polls that we're not aware of, and could there be a partisan agenda at play?  One possible clue is in the nature of the write-ups that Redfield & Wilton provide on their website, and which as I've pointed out before seem to have a distinct unionist slant.  Month after month, they make a song and dance about the fact that independence trails behind one or two bread-and-butter issues such as health when Scottish voters are asked what is most important to them, even though that is completely normal and has been the case in pretty much every poll since time immemorial.

But this month Redfield & Wilton have dropped all subtlety.  They've mentioned the outright lead for Yes as an afterthought at the end of their long write-up, as if it's only a little curiosity of marginal interest, whereas in fact it's self-evidently and by some distance the most newsworthy part of the whole poll.  What's going on, guys?  What's the game?

Friday, April 5, 2024

Two queries

Someone claimed on the previous thread that there was a new poll out today showing the SNP on 49 seats.  That seemed highly unlikely, and having checked I couldn't see anything.  I then made five or six attempts to respond to the comment by asking if people were just inventing numbers at this point in the hope that no-one would bother checking.  But I couldn't get my comment published.  I don't know if the bug is at my end or if it's affecting everyone.  I was going to ask people to let me know if they were having the same problem, but of course if they are, it would be difficult to tell me!  You could always email me.  And if anyone has seen this mysterious poll, please let me know about that too.

Wednesday, April 3, 2024

YouGov MRP poll shows SNP on course to lose almost thirty seats, piling pressure on Yousaf to go, or to end factional rule, or to change strategy on independence

I'll try to update this after I've had a chance to look at the details more, but I gather that the SNP's share of the vote in the YouGov MRP poll is very similar to their share of the vote in the Survation MRP poll, which had them on course for over 40 seats.  This underscores the point I made the other day about how there's a very narrow band of results in popular vote terms that could see the SNP winning anything between 12 and 45 seats.

YouGov MRP seats projection:

Labour 403
Conservatives 155
Liberal Democrats 49
SNP 19
Plaid Cymru 4
Greens 1

Ross Colquhoun, who as far as I know is still an SNP strategist, reacted to the much more favourable Survation numbers by trotting out the new mantra: "This shows that Labour don't need seats in Scotland to win."  As inspiring pitches go, that's right up there with "OK I know you don't fancy me anymore but at least I don't beat you up" or "I know you're sending me to the clink, your honour, but let's keep it down to a few years".  It's ultra-defensive and tacitly concedes that Scottish voters want a Labour government, which is a mindset that is going to make it very difficult to persuade people not to vote Labour.  What the SNP need to do is give people the choice of independence and convince them that independence is the change we all need, rather than a Labour government that will barely change anything at all.

The SNP could also do with a new leader who doesn't have heavily negative net approval ratings, or failing that they need Humza Yousaf to end factional rule by bringing Kate Forbes and one or two of her key supporters into senior ministerial positions.

Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Fresh despair for Labour as Anas Sarwar finishes third behind Humza Yousaf *and Douglas Ross* in a "who would be the best First Minister" poll

It's more than a touch ironic that the closest thing Humza Yousaf has had to a good personal showing in an opinion poll has just arrived courtesy of a poll commissioned by the Alba Party.  The reason that Alba have decided to release the numbers is presumably that they're also reasonably good for Alex Salmond.

Who would make the best First Minister? (Find Out Now / Alba Party, 18th-24th March 2024):

Humza Yousaf (SNP) 25.8%
Douglas Ross (Conservatives) 18.2%
Anas Sarwar (Labour) 17.1%
Alex Salmond (Alba) 15.4%
Lorna Slater (Greens) 8.5%
Patrick Harvie (Greens) 8.0%
Alex Cole-Hamilton (Liberal Democrats) 7.0%

These numbers aren't directly comparable to other polls we've seen over the last year.  The reason both Humza Yousaf and Alex Salmond usually have poor personal ratings is that the respondents who dislike them are subtracted from those who like them to produce a net approval rating.  But this poll has a different format that doesn't take account of negative views, it just ranks the leaders in the order of the percentage of people who view them most positively.  So it doesn't indicate that anything has changed, it's just a different way of looking at the situation.

Although Alex Salmond would have been horrified to be in fourth place if this was ten years ago, the reason this result can be regarded as encouraging for him is that his 15.4% support is more than double the percentage of list votes that would be required for Alba to win a decent number of Holyrood seats in 2026.  Conversely, although Yousaf's 25.8% puts him top of the pile, it's a lower percentage than would be needed for the SNP to have a good election result.  As many as 22% of SNP voters from 2019 think Alex Salmond would be the best First Minister, while Yousaf doesn't even quite manage double that (43.4%).

So the real comfort for the SNP in these numbers does not lie in Yousaf's showing but in Anas Sarwar's.  Labour will surely be dismayed to see their man languish behind not only Yousaf but also the hapless Douglas Ross.  And he's only just barely ahead of Alex Salmond.

*  *  *

I'm obviously not a fan of JK Rowling after her harmful intervention in the indyref. But yesterday she posted a thread about some of the most controversial trans women, and dared the police to arrest her for it when she arrives back in Scotland.  The columnist Kelly Given reacted by calling Rowling the "most boring human being in the country surely".  Well, it does seem unlikely that the most boring person in the country would have been able to dream up the Harry Potter universe, but what Rowling was actually doing was very usefully setting some boundaries for the interpretation of the Hate Crime Act.  If she dares the police to arrest her and they don't (and they're very unlikely to because of her fame), it becomes much harder for them to later arrest an ordinary member of the public in similar circumstances.  If, as the Scottish Government and its supporters claim, the Hate Crime Act is not intended as an assault on free speech, they should be grateful to Rowling for such a vivid and immediate demonstration that legitimate debate on the trans issue will be able to carry on unimpeded.

Monday, April 1, 2024

Let's get the awkwardness out of the way - I have a new title

Not everything in life makes sense, and one example is that Scottish political bloggers seem to be judged by their clerical titles, or lack thereof.  Stuart Campbell has styled himself a "Reverend" since entering the fray a decade ago, and although he's always insisted that's a genuine title, he's nevertheless been coy about how he acquired it.  A Google search suggests the answer may be the "Universal Life Church", which bills itself as "the world's leading online church" (whatever that means), and which allows anyone to be ordained as a priest within minutes simply by filling in a form.  No fee is even required.

The suggestion that Campbell's title comes from this rather dubious source was made several years ago by a well-known Brit Nat troublemaker.  But I can't find anything that contradicts it, and it has the ring of truth to it, because it's hard to think of any other religious denomination that wouldn't have cast Campbell out of the priesthood long before now due to his repeated foul-mouthed tirades.  The Universal Life Church has no standing whatever in the UK, but it does have limited recognition in the US, and there are a few US states that for some reason even recognise marriages conducted by its "Reverends".  So if you want to live in wedded bliss but only in Texas or South Carolina, Stu is your man.

Naturally I couldn't allow myself to be outdone by this, so I had a look to see if the Universal Life Church also offer titles that outrank a Reverend, such as Bishop, Cardinal or Pope.  I couldn't see any sign that they do, so I looked elsewhere.  There actually are plenty of "online churches" out there that offer an array of ranks, but most of them have no legal standing anywhere in the world.  What I was looking for was a church that allows its clergy to officiate at legally recognised weddings, even if only within a very limited jurisdiction.

As is often the case in situations like this, the answer was to be found in the South Pacific.  There is a small church, consisting of little more than a webpage, called the Pirate Mercator Communion.  It nominally worships the sea, and it seems to have a cosy financial arrangement with the government of the Cook Islands.  Anyone it ordains can indeed conduct weddings, but only in the Cook Islands.  Crucially it also allows anyone to become a Bishop for a nominal fee of 17 New Zealand dollars.

Reader, the deed is already done.  On Wednesday, I was ordained as a priest (by email) and on Thursday I was consecrated as a Bishop (by Zoom call, but it only took three minutes).  The fantastic thing is that I was able to select my own Bishopric, and although most of Scotland had already been nabbed, I was able to put together a distinctly squiggly looking and non-contiguous Bishopric consisting of Speyside, Tranent, Yetts o' Muckhart, Milngavie and approximately five-eighths of Benbecula.

I am advised that the correct form of address for a Bishop is "Your Excellency" or "Your Grace".  Suck it up, Stu.