Friday, February 3, 2023

Then What?

I can't recall which Holyrood election it was - I think by a process of elimination it must have been either 2003 or 2007 - but there was once a Labour Party Election Broadcast that tried to terrify voters about the consequences of the SNP getting into power, and featured doom-laden music and a narrator who a newspaper journalist described as being "on day-release from a crypt".  At the end, a map of the UK appeared, and Scotland was depicted physically breaking away and drifting off into the North Atlantic.  A caption posed the question: "Then What?", before Crypt Guy wrapped things up with the exhortation: "DON'T LET THE NATIONALISTS PUT SCOTLAND'S FUTURE AT RISK!"  For good measure, there were also "Then What?" billboard ads, and across the bottom of one of them a wag scrawled the reply: "Self-Respect?"

As risible as the Labour campaign was, sometimes "Then What?" is a perfectly reasonable question when a person or group is taking action in the heat of anger with a short-term objective in mind and no thought at all about what comes afterwards.  A commenter on this blog has been keeping us updated in recent days with the running tally of the number of consecutive posts Stuart Campbell has written on Wings Over Scotland about the trans issue.  There have been even more posts since the last update, and by my reckoning the number now stands - astoundingly - at eighteen.  There's no secret about the objective of this monomaniacal Rant-Fest, which seems destined for a place in the Guinness Book of Records - the Wings page on Facebook defines the website's current aim in crystal-clear fashion as: "Nicola Sturgeon must go".  (Younger readers may struggle to believe me if I say the former aim of Wings, a very, very long time ago, was to bring about an independent Scotland.)  Thus Campbell is quite intentionally joining forces with the unionist media and unionist parties to relentlessly pummel and demonise Ms Sturgeon with jibes about the trans issue in the hope of 'finishing her off'.  This is far from being the first time that he has vastly overestimated both the First Minister's vulnerability and his own capacity to play a role in "the kill", and my guess is she'll still be around at the Westminster election in 2024, which may or may not be the plebiscite election.

But let's suppose I'm wrong about that, and Ms Sturgeon is more vulnerable than I believe.  There are of course two ways in which she could "go".  She could simply depart as SNP leader, in which event Campbell had better hope Kate Forbes replaces her, because I can't think of any other plausible leadership candidate who might even conceivably change the party's direction on the trans issue.  In fairness, Ms Forbes could very well be the successor, but if Campbell is banking on that he's rather recklessly putting all his eggs in one basket.  She's only 32 at present, and it wouldn't totally surprise me if she does what Jo Swinson did in 2017 and sits out the leadership contest because she doesn't feel quite ready yet.  Campbell is going to have put in a lot of effort for absolutely no reward if he somehow helps brings down Ms Sturgeon and wakes up the next day to First Minister Angus Robertson.

The other way Ms Sturgeon could go is if she remains as SNP leader, but the demonisation from the Express, Wings, the Mail et al pays off in the court of public opinion and the SNP end up being removed from government, taking her with them.  That would inevitably mean the replacement of the SNP with a unionist government, because with the best will in the world, Alba is a very, very long way away from being popular enough to offer any prospect of a pro-indy alternative government.  A unionist government at Holyrood would kill independence stone dead for a large number of years.  If you think that would bother Campbell in any way, you haven't been paying attention, because he recently said he is now "the least Yes he has ever been" and that his "conscience" would prevent him from campaigning for independence - and presumably from voting for it too.  So the death of the independence cause would be no loss to him whatsoever - but it certainly would be a loss to many of his followers who still believe in independence and who he has practically hypnotised into thinking that to-the-death warfare against a pro-independence government is somehow a way (and even the only way!) of bringing about independence.

A couple of days ago, I was informed on Twitter by an ostensible independence supporter that the Tories are using the trans issue to "successfully destroy the SNP".  That of course is a ludicrous notion - although there hasn't been a full-scale Scottish poll since the latest trans controversy broke, my guess is the next poll (I gather there's a Survation one in the field) may show the SNP taking a small hit but remaining firmly in the lead, with the Tories still in a distant third.  Straws in the wind from the most recent GB-wide polls suggest the SNP's vote is holding up extremely well in the 4-5% range.  But what struck me about the person who made the claim was not so much that she was hopelessly wrong about it, but that she was so excited about the thought that she was right - that a Tory surge, sweeping the SNP out of office, would somehow be a positive development.

Yesterday I was on the receiving end of yet another pile-on from Campbell fans, who as per usual were trying to intimidate me into silence about their Great Leader and wanted to dictate to me what subjects I am and am not allowed to cover on this blog.  (Don't worry, it wasn't a spontaneous incident - they were whipped up into a frenzy by a video Campbell posted about me the previous night.  No-one need ever accuse his fans of independent thought or action.)  Again, what struck me most about this is the sheer weirdness of how they're defining the problem.  They're looking, square in the face, at a prominent figure who is making a crazed effort on a daily basis to bring the whole Yes house crashing down.  They regard that as both normal and desirable.  What they regard as abnormal, and what they believe must be stamped out by any means available, is any critique or warning about a campaign of destruction that offers no prospectus for an independence movement that will be left scrabbling around in the rubble.

Let me put this thought to you for the second time in a few days.  Although the Tories' use of the Section 35 veto was outrageous and should be unreservedly condemned, it nevertheless carries the side-benefit of giving us a golden opportunity to move on from the toxic trans debate in Scotland.  Nicola Sturgeon's government is now utterly powerless to introduce self-ID.  Progress has also been made on women's safety due to the recent U-turns on housing men who tactically self-ID as female in women's prisons.  The gender critical side of the argument has essentially won for the time being, and for that reason there is simply no need to continue the battle to such an extent that the pro-independence government is brought down or substantially weakened.  Without a pro-independence government, there will be no independence.  Without a strong pro-independence government in good public standing, a plebiscite election will be unwinnable.  These ought to be statements of the bleedin' obvious but apparently we've reached the stage where they now need pointing out.  In a small way, I was part of the campaign against self-ID, but as far as the effect on the Scottish Government was concerned, my aim was always to save them from themselves (and to save the Yes movement from itself) by preventing them from doing something that I knew was completely out of line with public opinion.  The idea of achieving the main objective but then still trying to whip up public anger to destroy the government and the architecture of the Yes campaign as we know it is just totally alien to me - probably because it makes absolutely zero sense from a pro-independence point of view.

So good luck trying to intimidate, mock or pathologise me into silence while all of this is going on.  We have arrived at a moment of considerable danger, and some people simply need to be forced to confront what they are doing and/or supporting, and the immense damage it is causing.  My question is simple: if you destroy this pro-independence government, where are you going to find another one?

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Dennis Noel Kavanagh : "stay angry"

Behold the full wackiness of the details of the plan to delay the de facto independence referendum until 2026

I was very surprised to learn, judging from the feedback to my post yesterday, that some people seem to have completely misconstrued the point I was making.  Even more bizarrely, one person who clearly did understand the point I was making still felt the need to 'explain' it to me!  I actually don't think there was anything remotely opaque in what I said, but I suspect the confusion is being caused because many people haven't actually read the NEC resolution for next month's SNP emergency conference and thus aren't aware of the full wackiness of the details of the proposed alternative option for a de facto referendum, ie. waiting until the scheduled Holyrood election in 2026.

So, for absolute clarity, here are the two options for obtaining a mandate for independence as set out by the NEC resolution:

Option 1: ONE MANDATE REQUIRED, which will be sought at the next Westminster election (probably in 2024). A majority of the popular vote at the election will be needed for this mandate.

Option 2: TWO MANDATES REQUIRED, the first of which will be sought at the next Westminster election, and the second of which will be sought at the next Scottish Parliament election in 2026.  For the first mandate, a majority of the popular vote will NOT be required (only a majority of seats), but for the second mandate a majority of the popular vote WILL be required.  The rationale for this difference appears to be that the first mandate is merely a 'trigger' mandate that effectively 'grants permission' for the second mandate - for independence itself - to be sought, and is therefore less important and a lower threshold is fine.

The point I made yesterday is that it's the complexity and randomness of Option 2 that is going to look like student politics or playground politics, or like a movement that is trying to make up the rules as it goes on, just to suit itself.  It's obviously there because of a fear that the SNP will win a majority of seats at Westminster 2024 but not a majority of votes, and yet it's still trying to paint that potential outcome as a successful part of the mandate process, while maintaining that a majority of votes will be required for independence.  It simply isn't going to wash with the public, or with neutrals, or with the media, or with soft unionists, because the contradictions within it are painfully obvious.  If the SNP win a majority of Westminster seats on, say, 40% of the vote and claim that as the first part of the mandate, people will perfectly logically ask how that can be the case when 40% would have been well short of the self-defined threshold for a mandate in Option 1, and would also be well short of the self-defined threshold for a mandate in the second half of Option 2.  They'll say the SNP have no authority to arbitrarily set different rules for different elections, and that it looks a bit silly to expect everyone else to conveniently play along with that little game on demand.

I really do beg delegates at the special conference not to go down the rabbit hole of Option 2.  The most sensible outcome is to amend the resolution to call for an early Holyrood election and use that as the de facto referendum - it's been clearly explained umpteen times how that is a perfectly practicable proposition.  The second best option would be to use the 2024 Westminster election as the de facto referendum.  But the nutty idea of a two part mandate requiring victory in both 2024 and 2026, and with completely different targets for victory in each election?  Forget it.  It's not a credible option and will turn the Yes movement into a laughing-stock.

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Tuesday, January 31, 2023

The best reason of all for holding a plebiscite election by the end of 2024 at the latest

Long term readers (and my handful of ever-beloved stalkers) may recall that I got involved in some pretty unpleasant exchanges last July with a number of people on social media who were being willfully obtuse about how a de facto referendum would work.  Whenever I made the point that smaller pro-independence parties had to be very careful not to split the vote in a plebiscite election conducted by first past the post, these people would instantly pop up and say "but Nicola Sturgeon has already said it's a majority of votes that counts, not a majority of seats, so she can't have it both ways, can she?"  The reality is that it's got nothing to do with Nicola Sturgeon having it both ways, because Nicola Sturgeon is not the Electoral Commission, or the UK Government, or God, or the international community, or any of the other authorities that a de facto referendum is trying to impress.  She can't just set whatever "rules" she likes and expect everyone else to defer to her decree.  A vote in favour of independence will only give us leverage if it looks watertight to neutrals, and to the media, and to reasonable unionists.  That's why setting a majority of the popular vote as the target for victory was not so much a choice as a statement of the inevitable - if we demanded independence negotiations on the basis of a majority of seats won on 35% of the vote, we'd just be laughed at.  It's also why seats matter as well as votes, because in the real world losing seats would be regarded as complicating any mandate won on the popular vote.

However, I'm beginning to feel like it's the SNP rather than the smaller parties that need to be reminded that Nicola Sturgeon can't just make up "rules" as she goes on.  If you look at the details of the second option put forward in the NEC proposal from earlier this month, the one about delaying the de facto referendum until Holyrood 2026, they're just absolutely laughable.  A majority of the popular vote will still be required at the plebiscite in 2026, but paving the way for that will be an earlier mandate at Westminster 2024 - for which, randomly, only a majority of seats will be required, not a majority of votes.  Why should anyone in London take that remotely seriously?  They'll just say "you can't unilaterally pick and choose which elections you need a majority of votes and which you don't".  It'll look like student politics or playground politics.  If the SNP get 40% of the vote in 2024, people will wryly say "but that's OK, because they've self-identified a lower victory threshold for this particular election".

There are many excellent reasons why a plebiscite election must be held by 2024 at the latest, and should ideally be an early Holyrood election brought about by the entirely practical means that have been clearly identified.  Avoiding turning the Yes movement into a laughing-stock may be the very best reason of the lot.

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Monday, January 30, 2023

The GRR War is Over - if you want it

I'm going to return briefly to a point I made in my previous post, namely that however outrageous and indefensible Alister Jack's use of the Section 35 veto was, it nevertheless carries with it a potential side-benefit for the pro-independence movement.  Because the UK government has used its imperial powers to effectively repatriate (or should that be 'depatriate'?) the GRR issue to Westminster, and because Keir Starmer is giving clear indications that he will not reverse that process, it's now possible for both the SNP and Alba leaderships to draw a line under what has been an appallingly toxic debate, without compromising on principle in any way.  The SNP leadership has fulfilled its obligations to the Greens and to its other zealot lobbyist allies - it was foolish to ever enter into such obligations, but nevertheless nobody can dispute that Nicola Sturgeon has done her absolute utmost to introduce a full-fat version of self-ID and was only thwarted by forces totally outwith her control.  There's therefore no longer any conceivable harm in reunifying the SNP by holding out an olive branch to the gender critical wing of the party.  It's highly unlikely that there'll be any further Scotland-specific decisions on self-ID for the likes of Ash Regan to rebel on, at least not this side of independence, so why even regard her as a rebel?  (At most, there might eventually be a vote on a Legislative Consent Motion to 'allow' a Starmer government to pass UK-wide self-ID legislation, but that would just be a symbolic exercise, because the Sewel Convention is completely dead and the UK Government will just ignore any withholding of consent.)  Meanwhile Alba rightly campaigned against the GRR Bill up until the moment it was taken out of Holyrood's hands - but now that moment has passed, there's no need to keep the campaign going, or at least not at anything like the same level of intensity.  There's also no value in doing so even from the point of view of partisan self-interest, because in the long run Alba will find that the GRR can no longer be used as a wedge issue against the SNP when it's Starmer that will be making the decisions and facing any political consequences.

However, the opportunity to draw a line under the toxicity of the GRR issue is only that - an opportunity.  The SNP and Alba can, if they wish, go in the opposite direction and pointlessly keep this destructive culture war going indefinitely. But if they do, the only loser will be the cause of independence.  I'm hearing whispers that Alba doorstep campaigners are finding there's been a sea-change in public attitudes towards the gender identity issue - whereas previously voters were looking at them as if they were aliens when they raised the subject, there's now genuine and widespread anger out there.  That's not at all surprising given the heavy media coverage of recent decisions relating to "trans prisoners" - nobody has to be a diehard feminist to care about a threat to vulnerable women from sexual predators (which has been a social concern since time immemorial).  So I can totally understand the excitement of my fellow Alba members now that they feel they're finally gaining traction on a campaigning issue they've been running with for two years - but I really would urge some caution, because this is actually the moment of danger.  If Alba pile in and assist anti-independence media outlets such as the Daily Express, Wings Over Scotland and the Daily Mail in building public anger against Nicola Sturgeon on the prisoner issue to a fever-pitch, it probably will damage the SNP, but it's far more likely to be unionist parties (especially the Tories) that reap the main benefit, rather than Alba itself.  To my mind, Alba is, or should be, a special sort of party, because its aim is not power for itself, but instead to bring about independence as swiftly as possible.  It makes no sense for any part of the strategy of such a party to be to replace a pro-independence government with a unionist government.  (I know the Wings ultras will argue there's "creativity in destruction" and that the architecture of Yes politics as we know it must be destroyed so that we can start again from scratch - in other words the destruction of the Yes campaign is somehow a pro-independence act.  That whole worldview is idiocy on stilts, its initiator is a dishonest chancer and a snake oil salesman, and frankly I have no intention of showing any further patience towards it.)

My advice to Alba, for what it's worth, would instead be to accentuate the positive by warmly welcoming the correct decisions of the SNP government to take steps, however belatedly, to ensure that self-identified trans prisoners are not placed in women's prisons - and by all means Alba should take part of the credit for coaxing and pressurising the SNP into a better place.  But the emphasis should be on a problem solved by pro-independence politicians, rather than on needlessly painting the SNP leadership on an ongoing basis as friends of sexual predators - something which would only benefit the Tories and unionism.  I don't particularly expect my advice to be heeded - but I do think people may look back in a few years and wish they'd heeded it.  I think we've heard quite enough about the "Scottish Nonce Party" and about a vote for the SNP being a vote for Jimmy Savile - although doubtless Alister Jack and Douglas Ross would be only too delighted to hear lots more about it.

Incidentally, I completely accept that the SNP leadership's language in the wake of their U-turns is insufferably hypocritical.  Over the last few days, they've explicitly done three things that they previously defined as 'bigoted' and 'transphobic' when done by other people - ie. they've acknowledged that you can't automatically always believe individuals when they tell you what gender they are, they've acknowledged that self-identified trans women may not in absolutely every case be women, and they've acknowledged that in some cases accepting an individual's self-identification as female may pose a danger to women.  And yet they've carried on throwing around the charges of bigotry and transphobia without interruption.  They've simply narrowed the goalposts of what constitutes transphobia to exclude themselves from it and are hoping no-one will notice that Orwellian manoeuvre.  It's breathtakingly cynical, but let's face it, this is what governments usually do when they back down on something.  They try to find a form of words that makes it sound as if nothing has really changed at all.  (Jeremy Hunt's reversal of decisions made by Truss and Kwarteng was a rare exception, probably because the U-turn was so total that it would have been impossible to cover up.)  What matters most in this case are the deeds, not the stupidity of the words.

I'd also like to make clear that although the ends of thwarting self-ID will never justify the means of a Westminster veto, I nevertheless haven't remotely changed my mind on how desirable the ends are.  Quite apart from the potential impact of self-ID on women's rights and safety, there's also the factor of the sinister McCarthyite atmosphere that critics of self-ID (including myself) have had to endure over the last couple of years.  It's almost frightening to think how much worse things would have got on that score if those trying to crack down on free speech had found the law on their side.

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Saturday, January 28, 2023

The pain of living in the scunnered middle of the independence movement, part 3

I said to a family member the other day that just about every faction of the independence movement seems to have completely taken leave of its senses, and that it's so mentally exhausting being caught in the middle of it all that perhaps the only answer is to be cryogenically frozen for about four years and hope by the time you wake up that people have finally got a grip of themselves.  The snag is, though, that the position for Yes in the opinion polls is considerably healthier than the state of the Yes movement gives us any real right to expect, and for that reason none of us can responsibly opt out at this point - if we do, we could be sleeping through the moment of maximum opportunity.  For the last couple of years, public opinion on independence has averaged out at roughly 50/50, meaning that we may never have a more favourable context in which to seek an outright indy mandate than we do right now.  So we'll just have to navigate our way through the current mess somehow.

It's not going to be easy.  The SNP is now led by people who care less about independence than they do about an ideology that seems to have been beamed down from Mars.  They dehumanise, ostracise and in many cases try to destroy some of their best colleagues simply for not signing up to a belief system that has never been mainstream at any point in human history, and that is not shared by the vast majority of the population even now.  What was previously the largest pro-independence website has essentially abandoned the cause by saying that its support for indy will only be reactivated if the architecture of Yes politics as we know it is razed to the ground and rebuilt completely from scratch, and gets people to credulously treat that impossible proviso as minor and achievable.  The only daily pro-independence newspaper appears to have very recently decided to openly pick sides on the toxic gender identity debate, which arguably points to a desire to ideologically 'purify' the movement rather than to serve it and encourage it in the diverse form that it actually exists.  And large swathes of the Alba Party seem to be becoming more militant, and are using language on social media that really cannot be defended, such as referring to the SNP as "the Scottish Nonce Party" or suggesting that a vote for the SNP is akin to a vote for Jimmy Savile. Some Alba voices also seem to have convinced themselves that there is a perverse 'unionist path to independence' which involves backing Westminster vetoes of Scottish Parliament decisions and allying with the Tories or other right-wingers in England to destroy a pro-indy government.

So what's the solution?  It's easier to describe than to put into practice.  As far as Wings is concerned, it's got to the point where I think the rational thing to do would be to write the site off as the de facto unionist / Tory site it's now become, and to try to fill whatever void is left behind with something new and genuinely pro-independence.  I know that won't happen, because so many people seem irrationally besotted with Campbell and would follow him to the bottom of the sea or into the core of a nuclear reactor if that's where he led them.  But nevertheless Wings is now a massive part of the problem and is highly likely to remain so, and there's no point sticking our heads in the sand about that.  My guess is Campbell may well urge his readers to either vote Tory or abstain in any election used as a de facto independence referendum.

I'd suggest The National should work its way back to what it used to do very well, which was to function as a welcoming home to all Yessers, regardless of their place on the political spectrum, their party affiliation, or their views on identity politics.  For a pro-indy newspaper to be so openly partisan on the GRR issue isn't just to choose sides between the SNP and Alba - if it was, there might be less of a downside given the respective sizes of those two parties.  No, the much bigger consideration is that the SNP itself is split on the GRR - there's a reason why the rebellion on the GRR Bill was the biggest in SNP history, and yet it was probably just the tip of the iceberg.  A very significant chunk of the independence movement will now feel The National is somewhat hostile towards them - and no, that's not just a problem for The National, it's a problem for all of us and for the independence cause itself.

Both the SNP and Alba should, in my view, make a virtue out of necessity now that it looks as if gender self-ID will be decided on a UK-wide basis at Westminster.  It's a golden opportunity to take the heat out of the debate here in Scotland.  There's no longer very much to be gained for Alba in constantly using the GRR as a wedge issue against the SNP when Starmer will be making the decisions and taking any flak.  Meanwhile the SNP can feel much safer in extending far greater tolerance towards its gender critical wing.

As I'm a member of Alba and not of the SNP, I'll just finish by saying this.  To be electorally successful, to win list seats in 2026, Alba need to become less angry and less militant.  But we're currently doing the complete opposite of that.  We appear to hate the SNP a hundred times more than we love the idea of independence.  That is not the way of giving SNP supporters confidence that an Alba list vote is a natural complement to an SNP constituency vote - which frankly is the only realistic chance Alba have of a breakthrough.  We really need to take a step back and think about what we're doing, and the long-term consequences of it, before it's too late.

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Thursday, January 26, 2023

Has the Philosopher-Tory successfully philosophised his way out of his most cynical lie? (Spoiler: no, he hasn't.)

He's Ready for Rishi.  Potty for Penny.  Batty for Badenoch.  Rabid for Raab.  Yup, the Scottish political world is still reeling from the former pro-independence blogger Stuart Campbell's shock announcement that he is backing the Tories at the next general election, although the man himself and one or two of his fans seem to be mostly furious with me for bringing the news to slightly wider public attention.  Which is odd, in a way - if he's concluded that voting Tory is morally justifiable and strategically wise from the point of view of whatever the hell his current objectives are, you'd think he'd be keen for as many people to know as possible.  

As per usual, the main outlet for the anger against me is an attempt at amateur psychoanalysis, with the burning question of the day being *why* I started my much-requested Wings-Watch fact-checking service.  They haven't as of yet considered the most obvious and straightforward possibility, namely that Campbell writes a very prominent blog which has a notoriously strained relationship with the truth, and that a fact-checking service will thus remain necessary until he stops regularly lying to his readers.  (Of course all bloggers and journalists make the occasional inadvertent factual blunder, but that's not the sort of thing we're talking about here.)

Instead, they ascribe Wings-Watch to two main factors.  Firstly, the old favourite that I or anyone else who disagrees with the great man must somehow be "deranged".  (If Campbell still owns a paperback thesaurus, you can be sure that the one page that has long since fallen out due to extreme overuse is the one containing synonyms for "mentally ill".)  But their second explanation is much more interesting, because although it's hopelessly misconceived, it's unwittingly quite revealing.

Since I started Wings-Watch, the lie I've had to correct by far the most often is Campbell's dodgy graph purporting to show that support for independence has remained absolutely static at 47% every year since either 2015 or 2016 (depending on which version of the graph is being used on any given day).  By this stage, Campbell knows the graph is a lie, I know it's a lie, you know it's a lie, even the dogs on the street know it's a lie, and the only people who don't know it's a lie are the unfortunate souls who never step outside the Wings bubble and are naive enough to believe that everything Campbell tells them is honest.  However, I think we may now have stumbled on how he philosophically justifies that lie to himself.  Although he knows the graph itself is fraudulent, it may be that he genuinely thinks it's a lie that contains a 'poetic truth' because he's labouring under the misapprehension that the standard 3% margin of error in polling renders the increase in independence support we've seen over the last few years statistically meaningless.

To be clear, though, he has no excuse for that erroneous belief.  As long ago as 2016, when I was still on good terms with him, I and a number of others (including Dr Morag Kerr, who is normally one of his stoutest defenders) pointed out to him where he was going wrong about the margin of error in polls.  He had been repeatedly insisting that there was no systemic error in the polling for the Trump v Clinton presidential election, which on average showed a 4-point lead for Clinton.  If that had been the actual result on the popular vote, it almost certainly would have translated into a Clinton win in the electoral college, and Trump would never have become president.  Instead, Clinton's real lead was only two points, and we all know what the consequences of that proved to be.  But Campbell was adamant that the polls had not been wrong, because a 4-point Clinton lead was "within the margin of error" of a 2-point Clinton lead.

The problem is that the margin of error only applies to each individual poll.  If individual polls are only slightly inaccurate due to normal sampling variation and not because of methodological failings, you'd expect the errors to be randomly distributed - in other words you'd expect roughly as many polls to underestimate the Clinton lead as to overestimate it, and for the average error in all of the polls to be far less than 3%.  That simply didn't happen - the vast majority of polls in fact overestimated the Clinton lead.

Similarly, if Campbell is correct in his belief that Scottish independence support has remained static at around 48% for several years and only the margin of error has been masking that, we should see in any calendar year with a large number of polls that roughly as many polls have Yes above 48% as have Yes below that figure, and that the annual average should always work out at pretty close to bang on 48%.  Is that what's happened?  Let's remind ourselves yet again of the real numbers.

Yearly support for Scottish independence in the Scottish Social Attitudes Survey:

2014:  33%

2016 (a):  39%

2016 (b):  46%

2018:  45%

2020:  51%

2021:  52%

Average yearly support for independence in conventional opinion polling:

2016:  47.7%

2017:  45.3%

2018:  45.5%
 
2019:  47.6%

2020:  53.0%

2021:  49.6%

2022:  49.8%

Presumably even Campbell would have to acknowledge that if the Scottish Social Attitudes Survey is right, there has been a massive increase in support for independence since 2014 - so presumably we must infer that he thinks those figures are not valid for some unspecified reason.  (Which again is distinctly odd, because another of his dodgy graphs blatantly depends on the use of a cherrypicked figure for independence support from the 2007 Social Attitudes Survey.)

Let's turn instead, then, to the averages from conventional polling.  Even leaving aside what Campbell dismisses as merely a "Covid blip" in 2020 (something that lasted for almost a year is quite some "blip" by any standards), you can see for yourself that the Yes average was as low as 45% (after rounding) in 2017, which is three points lower than what Campbell claims to have been the constant underlying Yes figure.  It was as high as 50% after rounding in both 2021 and 2022, which is two points higher than Campbell's claimed steady figure.  Given the sheer number of polls that were conducted in all of those years, the changes simply can't be explained by random sampling variation.  Unless there is some reason to believe that there was some systemic error in the polls in 2017 that does not apply now, or vice versa, the only conclusion it is possible to draw is that Yes support was substantially higher in 2021 and 2022 than it was in 2017.  And no, a four or five point increase cannot be dismissed as trivial or underwhelming, given that the Yes vote recorded in the 2014 referendum was only five-and-a-bit points shy of victory.

Incidentally, it might amuse you to discover that Campbell did not exactly make an effort to listen and learn when we tried to politely explain where he was going wrong about Clinton v Trump in 2016.  His reaction instead was to angrily insta-block me, thus automatically placing me on the block-list he exported to hundreds of his fans.  Some things never change....


Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Stuart Campbell blows his top as he confirms he is now a Tory voter: "I don't give a s**** and you are all unf***able nutjobs"

At least one Wings Over Scotland reader was deeply concerned about the screenshot published on this blog last night showing that Stuart Campbell plans to vote Tory at the next general election.  Several comments have appeared on Wings today suggesting that Campbell has just ensured he will never, ever get a hearing again from independence supporters because his blog will forevermore be dismissed as "Wings Over Toryland", "Tory Over Scotland", "Stu The Tory", etc, etc.

Now, in fairness, Campbell posted about his plan to vote Tory in the heat of anger just after the GRR Bill cleared the Scottish Parliament in the run-up to Christmas, so it was theoretically possible he had calmed down since then and thought better of it.  However, at 12.50pm today, Campbell posted a characteristically angry and abusive reply to the critical comments, and made abundantly clear that he still fully intends to vote Tory.  If a full month of reflection hasn't led him to change his mind, it's reasonable to conclude that the plan is now set in stone and we can henceforth regard him as a Tory voter.

(Swear words have been partly blanked out in the above screenshot.)

So a couple of points to pick up on here.  Firstly, even Campbell's beloved SimilarWeb claimed that Scot Goes Pop received 17,700 visits in December - the last month for what might very loosely be described as their "estimates" are available. So Campbell may possibly be getting carried away with his own propaganda just a tad.  Secondly, the excuse that he somehow has no option but to vote Tory because he lives in a constituency which is a two-horse Tory-Lib Dem race isn't going to wash.  I think most reasonable people on the Left of politics would conclude that if you're forced to make a straight choice between the Tories and the Lib Dems, you choose the Lib Dems to stop the Tories, not the other way around.  There are any number of things wrong with the Lib Dems, but they are unmistakeably less bad than the Tories on social justice, which is what ought to matter most.  In any case, that supposed forced choice is a false choice, and it's easily one that can be opted out of.  As Campbell admitted himself, he spoiled his ballot in the last two elections and there's nothing to stop him doing so again.  That way he would avoid voting for the Tories while not endorsing the Lib Dems either.  The fact is that he's freely making a positive choice to vote Tory.

The other way he could opt out of the bogus forced choice is by giving a principled vote to one of the also-ran parties.  As I pointed out last night, the Green Party of England and Wales (and their predecessor parties) have stood in the Bath constituency in no fewer than ten of the last eleven general elections, going all the way back to 1979.  They are sympathetic to Scottish independence due to their traditional relationship with the pro-indy Scottish Greens - and, no, the little tiff in that relationship doesn't change the basic point.  So by voting for the anti-indy Tories, Campbell will in all likelihood be rejecting an essentially pro-indy party - which in fairness is perfectly logical in view of his recent public announcement that he no longer supports independence.

It also shouldn't pass without comment that Campbell made the barking mad and deeply offensive suggestion in December that he wants Nicola Sturgeon to "b**n in H**l" for somehow 'making him vote Tory'.  As someone pointed out on the previous thread, it's a bit hard to work out how the leader of the Scottish National Party in any way has the power to make a voter in southern England hate the English Lib Dems so much that he's ended up voting for the English Tories to stop the English Lib Dems.

But would Campbell be a Tory voter even if he lived in Scotland?  Based on his statement today, it seems overwhelmingly likely that he would.  His rationale for rejecting the Lib Dems by voting Tory in England would apply equally strongly to rejecting the SNP by voting Tory in Scotland - because the SNP's position on the trans issue is basically identical to that of the Lib Dems.  The only way Campbell might not vote Tory in Scotland would be if there's an Alba candidate, but a) whatever the outcome of the internal debate within Alba about the wisdom of directly challenging the SNP in a first-past-the-post election, it's highly likely that many constituencies will not have an Alba candidate, and b) even if Campbell lived in a Scottish constituency where Alba is standing, he might conclude - just as he has in Bath - that he needs to vote for a candidate that can win, which might lead him to reject Alba and vote Tory depending on the constituency.  Conclusion: it's probable that Campbell would vote unionist in a de facto independence referendum, which leads me to suspect that he may urge his readers to do the same, very much in the way that he used Holyrood polling day in 2021 to tell his readers not to vote for pro-independence candidates on the constituency ballot.

There may be a silver lining to all this, though.  In many ways Campbell's political defection is a remarkable breakthrough for the Scottish New Media, which until now has lacked a reasonably popular pro-Tory site.  That deficiency has now been well and truly rectified.

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

WINGS-WATCH: Having already publicly abandoned his support for Scottish independence, Stuart "UKOK" Campbell has announced he will vote Tory at the next general election


I did wonder if the screenshot doing the rounds today on Twitter of Stuart Campbell announcing he will vote Tory at the next general election was a fake or doctored, because it's a month old and I hadn't previously heard anything about it.  But a couple of minutes on Facebook was all it took to verify that it's genuine, and you can see it above with some of the offensive language blanked out (and by God it's offensive).  So hot on the heels of his announcement that he no longer supports Scottish independence (or, to use his euphemism, that he is "the least Yes he has ever been" and that his "conscience" would now prevent him from campaigning for independence and presumably from voting for it too), we now discover he will actively be voting in favour of continued colonial Tory rule in Scotland next year.

Let's just briefly work through the logic of this, such as it is.  Campbell is explicitly tying his Tory vote to Alister Jack's veto of the GRR Bill - but the snag is that the veto has already happened, so even if you support it, there's no need to vote Tory to bring it about.  (And he knew when he wrote his Facebook post a month ago that the decision about the veto would be made one way or the other long before the general election.)  Effectively, then, what he's saying is that he plans to retrospectively reward the Tories for overruling a decision made by Scotland's elected parliament.  Not only that, but because he claims to find pretty much everything else the Tories do utterly abhorrent, he's by definition suggesting that giving them a little reward for a veto that has already happened is far more important than all of those utterly abhorrent things put together.  That suggests a really quite considerable enthusiasm on Campbell's part for London Tories trampling all over Scottish parliamentary democracy.  What a truly perverse and grotesque position for someone who was still a pro-independence blogger as recently as a few years ago to find themselves taking.

I know some of Campbell's apologists will, as always, point out at this juncture that he lives in Bath.  ("£100,000 a year?  In Bath?!  That disnae go far in Bath, pal.")  Even if someone still supports independence, they'd point out that voting in an English constituency is always a choice of the lesser evil.  Well, that may or may not be true - the Green Party of England and Wales are supportive of their Scottish sister party's pro-indy stance, and have stood in the Bath constituency in ten of the last eleven general elections.  If they do so again in 2024, Campbell will be choosing the anti-indy Tories over a basically pro-indy party, which is natural enough given he has publicly abandoned his previous support for independence.  But in any case, the broader issue is Campbell's stated reason for the fact that he still lives in England and thus votes there - namely that Scotland is the most "gutless" country in the world, because it voted against independence, which awkwardly he would now "gutlessly" do himself.

So let's just recap. Campbell no longer supports independence for Scotland, he supports London overruling the elected Scottish Parliament, he intends to vote in favour of continued colonial Tory rule in Scotland, and he dislikes Scotland so much that he can't bear to live here.  I'd say we've pretty much reached the full house now.

There's still a deafening silence from Dennis Noel Kavanagh in response to the above question.  I remember when devolution started in 1999, there was a degree of incredulity from certain sections of the English public, with letters to newspapers asking in all seriousness whether English taxpayers would have to "foot the bill" when it all went wrong - the implication being that Scots, uniquely among the peoples of this planet, were incapable of governing themselves and were bound to make a catastrophic mess of it.  You'd think twenty-four successful years of Scottish Governments of different political persuasions governing responsibly (far more responsibly than Westminster, incidentally) would have put paid to that fatuous and deeply insulting narrative, but Tory voters / sympathisers like Kavanagh and Campbell are now using the GRR issue as a wedge to resurrect it.  If you follow their lead by endorsing Jack's imperial veto, you are - whether you realise it or not - lending support to a narrative which leads inexorably to the conclusion that it is irresponsible to let the hapless Jocks continue to run their own affairs, especially as the long-suffering English always have to "sort out their mess" by overruling them, and that therefore something approximating to direct rule from London must be reimposed.

And no matter how strongly you feel about the GRR, remember that there is nothing inherently 'gender critical' about London rule.  In all likelihood we are just over a year away from a Starmer-led government at Westminster that will introduce gender self-ID across the UK.  The only major differences from getting the homegrown Scottish version is that it will be imposed from London, any specifically Scottish concerns will barely be heard, and Nicola Sturgeon will be waxing lyrical about how infinitely preferable it is to do these things on a "Four Nations" basis.  Backing the imperial veto is fool's gold - you're not defeating self-ID, you're just abdicating Scotland's right to make choices on the big issues for ourselves, and you can rest assured the Brit Nats will be duly grateful.

UKOK if you want to, Stu.  The Popper's not for Kokking.

Sunday, January 22, 2023

It's good that the SNP leadership have stated that they don't think "TERFs" should be put to death - but now we need to hear that they shouldn't be subjected to a civil death either

I said yesterday that it was puzzling that no matter how outrageous the actions of pro-GRR campaigners at rallies that SNP politicians attend, the SNP leadership never seem to feel shamed into explicitly condemning it or properly distancing themselves from it - because, after all, if there were anti-English placards at a pro-indy rally, seventeen days of collective national shame would probably be automatically announced.  In fairness I was proved wrong on this occasion - the SNP leadership did condemn yesterday's incident in Glasgow, although the suspicion must be that the change in tack only happened because of how politically damaging it all was.  The ultra-close proximity of SNP politicians to placards calling for women to be murdered, mutilated and cannibalised was what made the episode so unusual and dangerous.  If you crop the photos in a certain way, the hate-speech placards almost look like a "twibbon" that Kaukab Stewart or Kirsten Oswald have deliberately added to a beaming profile pic, ie. "I'm Kaukab Stewart and I think TERFs should be..."

And the fact that condemnation has occurred this time means that it's reasonable to pose a question of the SNP and Green leaderships: if you don't think "TERFs" should be put to death, why not?  That may seem a strange thing to ask, but we know that you think "TERFs" are bigots who are not fit for human company, and who should be ostracised and who nobody should ever share a political platform with.  We know that you think they shouldn't, in many cases, be allowed to have a career, because pressure is often put on employers to take draconian action against them.  We know from the sacking of Joanna Cherry two years ago that you don't think they're fit to serve on the SNP front bench.  We know from the incendiary words of Maggie Chapman and John Nicolson that you don't think they have any place in our parliament and should leave politics altogether - even though they represent the views of the vast majority of the general public.  You believe, in short, that they should suffer a 'civil death', and it's therefore perhaps unsurprising that some of your fellow travellers would expect you to have no problem with the idea that they should suffer an actual death.  If you genuinely do have a problem with calls for them to be murdered, it's high time you explained to some of the people who attended that rally yesterday why "TERFs" are in fact worthy of life and of personal safety.  And if you find those words don't come out easily, perhaps you should ask yourself why, because for anyone who truly believes in liberal democracy it should be the easiest thing in the world.  It needs to happen, because when the language of violence is normalised against a certain group, actual violence tends to follow sooner or later.

The reality is that there is an obvious tension in thinking a class of people are worthy of a civil death but not of an actual death.  Either you dehumanise people and regard them as vermin, or you don't - and if you don't, there's no good reason for subjecting them to a civil death either.  We can but hope that yesterday was a psychological watershed that will lead the SNP leadership to start acknowledging that "TERFs" hold views that can be strongly disagreed with but that are nevertheless legitimate to express in a democracy, and that they therefore have a place in parliament, on the SNP front bench, on political platforms, in the workplace, and indeed in absolutely every other walk of life.  Only then will some of the heat be taken out of this toxic debate, and the risk of violence will dissipate.

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