Monday, November 23, 2020

The SNP's defence submission is a 'modernisation' too far: it's time to reaffirm the long-standing commitment to *unilateral* nuclear disarmament

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Pro-indy parties make progress in Clackmannanshire East by-election

A rare advantage of being forced to have pre-moderation switched on is that I was able to intercept a comment the other night by a well-known unionist propagandist who was attempting to portray the Conservative hold in the Clackmannanshire East by-election as some kind of glorious, game-changing victory for unionism. In reality, the vote share for both pro-independence parties actually went up slightly, and it looks like the unexpectedly sharp increase in the Tory vote can be explained mainly by an intra-unionist swing caused by yet another Labour collapse. 

Clackmannanshire East by-election result: 
 
Conservatives 51.2% (+9.7) 
SNP 32.0% (+1.8) 
Labour 8.1% (-12.1) 
Greens 5.8% (+2.0) 
Liberal Democrats 2.9% (-1.4) 

If we'd seen this result in late 2017 or 2018, I might have interpreted the Tories' relatively strong performance as being of wider national significance. But at the moment we have tonnes of polling evidence, and indeed evidence from other recent local by-elections, that the Tories are struggling across Scotland and that the Douglas Ross experiment is failing. So the Clackmannanshire East outcome has got 'local factors' written all over it. It was a reasonably solid Tory ward in 2017 anyway - it contains Dollar, so it's very much the posh end of the county.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

To only focus on "disaster" would be our "biggest mistake"

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Scot Goes Pop / Panelbase poll: Scottish public think Nicola Sturgeon has outperformed her fellow world leaders in her handling of the pandemic

Last but not least in the Scot Goes Pop / Panelbase poll, we have an opportunity to see how Nicola Sturgeon shapes up in a league table of selected world leaders - and we all know how thrilled our unionist friends always are to see Ms Sturgeon receiving her due recognition alongside her fellow world leaders.  Bear in mind that this is a poll of voting-age respondents in Scotland.  

How good or bad a job do you think the following leaders are doing in their response to the coronavirus/COVID-19 outbreak?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE USA:

Very Good: 2%
Good: 5%
Bad: 13%
Very Bad: 68%

Neither Good Nor Bad: 9%

Total Good: 8%
Total Bad: 82%

Net Rating: -74

I know there appears to be a small discrepancy in the numbers, but that'll be due to the effect of rounding.  As you'd expect, Trump has an abysmal reputation across all demographics and partisan loyalties, and interestingly there's no difference between Yes and No voters on this one - he has a net rating of -75 among people who voted Yes in 2014, and -74 among people who voted No.  There is, however, a slightly bigger difference between people who would currently vote Yes and No, which is logical enough, because the No coalition has shrunk in recent months and has presumably been left with a bigger percentage of right-wingers.  Trump's least-worst rating is among Conservative voters, but that's not saying much - exactly half of Tories say he's done "very badly".

NICOLA STURGEON, FIRST MINISTER OF SCOTLAND:

Very Good: 29%
Good: 37%
Bad: 9%
Very Bad: 12%

Neither Good Nor Bad: 12%

Total Good: 66%
Total Bad: 21%

Net Rating: +45

What leaps out at me here are the differences between voters for the various unionist parties.  Ms Sturgeon has won over both Labour and Liberal Democrat voters, who give her net ratings of +28 and +51 respectively.  The die-hards who will presumably always say she's performing badly no matter what she does are mostly to be found among Tory voters, who give her a net negative rating of -21.

BORIS JOHNSON, PRIME MINISTER OF THE UK:

Very Good: 5%
Good: 14%
Bad: 21%
Very Bad: 43%

Neither Good Nor Bad: 15%

Total Good: 19%
Total Bad: 65%

Net Rating: -46

Ouch.  Would it be tactless of me to say these figures are a "disaster" for the unionist cause?  In a reverse mirror image of the results for Ms Sturgeon, only Tory voters give Mr Johnson a positive rating - although there are plenty enough Tories who hold him in disdain.  28% of them think he's handled the crisis badly or very badly.  The only other group where he gets even close to respectability is current No supporters, who give him a net negative rating of 'only' -13, but of course that'll be largely because such a significant percentage of current No supporters are Tories.

ANGELA MERKEL, CHANCELLOR OF GERMANY:

Very Good: 18%
Good: 34%
Bad: 5%
Very Bad: 4%

Neither Good Nor Bad: 23%

Total Good: 52%
Total Bad: 9%

Net Rating: +43

You wouldn't think there'd be such an ideological and/or partisan element to people's appreciation of Ms Merkel's assured response to the crisis, but in fact it appears that anti-European prejudices are rearing their ugly head here.  No supporters are more grudging than Yes supporters, and her least good numbers are to be found among Tory voters - although even they give her a positive rating of +18.  

WORLD LEADER LEAGUE TABLE:

Nicola Sturgeon: +45
Angela Merkel: +43
Boris Johnson: -46
Donald Trump: -74

I'm sure Douglas Ross and George Foulkes will gladly confirm that this outcome makes us all feel incredibly proud to be Scottish.  

* * *

You can read my comment piece in The National on the BBC results from the poll HERE.

Remember that the Scottish people were fearful about the future of devolution even *before* Boris Johnson called it a "disaster"

Alex Massie in the Spectator: "Speaking to his northern English MPs last night, Johnson declared that devolution has been 'a disaster north of the border' and was the biggest mistake Tony Blair ever made. The implication, quite obviously, is that in a better ordered world the Scottish parliament should be abolished." 

Just a reminder of how fearful voters were about the future of the Scottish Parliament before our beloved Prime Minister called devolution a "disaster"... 

If Scotland does not become an independent country over the next ten years, and if the Conservatives remain in power at Westminster, which of the following three outcomes do you think is most likely? (Scot Goes Pop / Panelbase poll, 5th-11th November 2020) 

The UK Conservative government will substantially increase the Scottish Parliament's powers: 23% 

The UK Conservative government will substantially reduce the Scottish Parliament's powers: 55% 

The UK Conservative government will abolish the Scottish Parliament altogether: 22% 

TOTAL REDUCE/ABOLISH: 77% 

And of the potential electoral consequences of those fears... 

If the UK Conservative government substantially reduces the powers of the Scottish Parliament or abolishes the Scottish Parliament altogether, would you be more likely or less likely to support Scotland becoming an independent country?

More likely: 69% 
Less likely: 31% 

Incidentally, Alex Massie went on to say this: "Arguing that devolution has failed because Nicola Sturgeon is first minister is the same as arguing that Britain has failed because Boris Johnson is Prime Minister...A rotten government in Edinburgh no more makes devolution a disaster than Johnson proves the Union’s bankruptcy. (The answer, in each case, is to elect a better government.)" 

Which is fine, if you actually have the capacity to do that in each case. The Scottish people can certainly elect the Scottish government that they most want, but I'm at something of a loss to explain how Alex thinks they can elect the UK government they most want, given that Scotland only has 59 of 650 seats at Westminster.

*  *  *

Later today I'll publish the final batch of results in the Scot Goes Pop / Panelbase poll - watch a preview below.

 

Monday, November 16, 2020

Scot Goes Pop / Panelbase poll: Staggering three-quarters of voters think the BBC have failed to make the public aware of how the Internal Market Bill will reduce the Scottish Parliament's powers

As I mentioned the other day, one of the difficulties of polling about public attitudes to the Westminster power-grab contained in the Internal Market Bill is that most people aren't even aware of it, due to the mainstream media's abject failure to report it.  No-one would expect anti-independence newspapers to go out of their way to draw attention to something that would be unhelpful for their side of the debate, but what of the public service broadcaster that so many people look to and trust to give them impartial information?  I thought it might be worth asking respondents what they think about the BBC's non-reporting of the power-grab.   

Do you think the BBC have done enough to make the public aware of the changes to the Scottish Parliament's powers proposed by the Internal Market Bill?  

Yes 23%
No 77% 

I was actually quite staggered by that result - I thought we might see an even split, with independence supporters being critical of the BBC and unionists more content.  But in fact this is a rare example of literally every demographic or political group mentioned in the datasets reaching the same conclusion.  89% of SNP voters, 68% of Labour voters, 74% of Liberal Democrat voters, 62% of Conservative voters, 86% of Yes supporters, 63% of No supporters, 77% of people born in Scotland and 76% of people born in England all agree that the BBC have failed to properly inform the public. 

My guess is this will have happened because of a straightforward logical process.  Having been just asked a question that summarised the changes to the devolution settlement that the Internal Market Bill entails, respondents will have come to the inescapable conclusion that what is happening is important enough that the public should know about it, and will also have realised that they've heard very little about it on the BBC.  Even for many Tory voters, that will have left only one possible answer to the question. 

So to summarise what we've learned from this poll: when the public know about the power-grab, they think it breaches The Vow and shouldn't happen without a referendum, but many of them don't know about it because the BBC haven't told them, and they think that's wrong.  I'm not sure that's a great look for the state broadcaster.

*  *  *

There's still a little bit more to come from the poll - if you'd like to be the first to know, you can follow me on Twitter HERE.

*  *  *

You can read my piece in The National about last night's results HERE.

VIDEO: Preview of tonight's question in the Scot Goes Pop / Panelbase poll

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Scot Goes Pop / Panelbase poll suggests strong backing for a Plan B: Almost two-thirds of voters want the Scottish Government to take decisive action to circumvent Westminster's attempts to 'veto' an independence referendum

Quite a number of you specifically asked me to use the new Panelbase poll to ask about support for a Plan B option for securing an outright independence mandate if the UK Government continues to refuse a Section 30 order. I was initially sceptical, because I had posed questions about the two main Plan B ideas in the earlier polls this year. The January poll found backing for the Scottish Parliament going ahead with legislation for a referendum, and allowing the courts to decide whether the vote can take place. And then the June poll found even stronger support for the option of using a scheduled election to obtain an indy mandate. I wasn't sure there was much to be gained from repeating those questions. However, it was pointed out to me that with big votes coming up very soon at the SNP conference, it was important to have up-to-date information about the public's wishes. So on this occasion I decided to simply ask about the general principle of pressing ahead with a Plan B. 

Imagine that the pro-independence parties win a majority of seats in next year's Scottish Parliament election, but the UK Government still refuses to agree to an independence referendum. In that scenario, do you think the Scottish Government should ensure the Scottish people are given a choice on independence over the course of the next parliamentary term, or should it accept that the UK Government has a veto on an independence referendum? 

The Scottish Government should ensure the Scottish people are given a choice on independence: 63% 

The Scottish Government should accept that the UK Government has a veto on an independence referendum: 37% 

If I had been writing the question a week later than I did, I might have worded it slightly differently, because 'accepting a veto' closely echoes language used in the SNP leadership's draft motion for conference, which is based on the questionable assumption that simply saying "we don't accept the veto" will by some metaphysical means force the UK Government to grant a Section 30 order. It's important to stress that the result of this question indicates that the overwhelming majority of the public want the Scottish Government to actually take action to circumvent the veto, rather than continuing to talk impotently about how "unsustainable" the situation supposedly is. 

60% of Labour voters think that there should be a democratic choice on independence, regardless of Downing Street's wishes, as do a very healthy 46% of Liberal Democrat voters. However, I couldn't help but think it's richly ironic that a slender majority of people who vote for a party with the words "liberal" and "democrat" in its name think there should be a Westminster veto on the democratic process in Scotland! (Admittedly the subsample of Lib Dem voters is pretty small.)  As you'd expect, the strongest support for the veto comes from Tory voters (86%), people who voted No in 2014 (61%), and people who would still vote No in a second indyref (82%). 

Tonight's second question is a little different from the others. When I ran the poll in June, Dr Tim Rideout of the Scottish Currency Group asked me to add on a question about currency, and offered to provide funding to cover the additional cost. It was already too late in the day by that point, but he made the same request this time, and I agreed. So this question was written by Tim (or at least he was the one that sent it to me), although I did tweak the wording just slightly before submitting it to Panelbase. 

The SNP's policy is that if Scotland becomes independent, a new Scottish currency would be introduced as soon as practicable after Independence Day, to ensure that Scotland has control over its own monetary and fiscal policy, and interest rates. To what extent do you agree or disagree with this policy? 

Completely agree: 30% 
Somewhat agree: 29% 
Somewhat disagree: 12% 
Completely disagree: 29% 

TOTAL AGREE: 59% 
TOTAL DISAGREE: 41% 

Bear in mind that what is described in the question as the SNP's policy is what was passed at conference last year, and is somewhat more radical than the leadership's own wishes in calling for a new currency "as soon as practicable". Naturally the strongest backing for the policy comes from current Yes supporters (89%), people who voted Yes in 2014 (86%), and SNP voters (87%). But intriguingly half of Labour voters want a Scottish currency in the event of independence, as do a significant minority of 2014 No voters (37%). 

You'll doubtless have spotted that this result appears to directly contradict the recent Survation poll for Progress Scotland, which showed support for retaining Sterling in the long-term. The reason for the difference is probably that the new question briefly explained the rationale for a change of currency. It looks like respondents were convinced by the need for Scotland to be able to control its own monetary policy and interest rates.

Speaking personally, I'm a tad ambivalent on this subject, because polls that specifically mention the pound (as the Progress Scotland poll did) tend to find there's an emotional pull for voters towards retaining a currency they're familiar with.  But the experience of 2014 suggests that having a credible policy that doesn't depend on Westminster acting reasonably may ultimately be more important than having a policy that is superficially popular.  So on balance I'm inclined to think that moving towards a new currency with a degree of urgency is the correct approach.

*  *  *

There's still more to come from the poll over the coming days - if you'd like to be the first to know, you can follow me on Twitter HERE.

*  *  *

You can read my piece in the Sunday National on last night's results HERE.

VIDEO: Preview of Sunday night's questions in the Scot Goes Pop / Panelbase poll

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Scot Goes Pop / Panelbase poll: More than three-quarters of voters expect the Tories to take more powers away from the Scottish Parliament or abolish it completely - and if that happens, almost 70% will be "more likely" to support independence

Last night's results from the Scot Goes Pop / Panelbase poll suggested that voters think the removal of powers from the Scottish Parliament that is currently underway is in breach of "The Vow" that was so pivotal to the No side in winning the 2014 indyref.  But what of the future?  Do voters have confidence that the UK Government will nobly draw a line after the current power-grab and leave Holyrood in peace after that?  Unsurprisingly, the answer is no.

If Scotland does not become an independent country over the next ten years, and if the Conservatives remain in power at Westminster, which of the following three outcomes do you think is most likely?

The UK Conservative government will substantially increase the Scottish Parliament's powers: 23%

The UK Conservative government will substantially reduce the Scottish Parliament's powers: 55%

The UK Government will abolish the Scottish Parliament altogether: 22%

TOTAL REDUCE/ABOLISH: 77%

What ought to be of greatest concern to unionist strategists is that the fears over the future of devolution very much extend to the coalition of support that delivered the No vote in 2014, presumably including many voters who were swayed by the bogus assurances that the Scottish Parliament was permanent and would become much more powerful.  74% of Labour voters, 77% of Liberal Democrat voters, 67% of No voters from 2014, and 59% of people who are currently minded to vote No again, expect that Holyrood will be diminished or abolished over the coming decade. 

To me, this speaks to the strategic blunder that the Conservatives made in abandoning the so-called "respect agenda" under Ruth Davidson's leadership.  Having spent years trying to convince voters that Tory rule was not a threat to the Scottish Parliament, they suddenly noticed that devolution - or at least devolution under SNP control - was unpopular with a militant core of unionist support, and that it was therefore possible to win a few extra Tory seats by reverting to the old anti-devo or devo-sceptic posture.  But they've lost sight of the fact that the militant core of unionism is only a minority of the Scottish population, and that the pro-devolution majority are listening to the rhetoric as well.  

If the UK Conservative government substantially reduces the powers of the Scottish Parliament or abolishes the Scottish Parliament altogether, would you be more likely or less likely to support Scotland becoming an independent country?

More likely: 69%
Less likely: 31%

Once again, it's not just the Yes die-hards who are saying they would be more likely to back independence in that scenario - so are 71% of Labour voters, 59% of Liberal Democrat voters, 50% of people who voted No six years ago, 32% of those who would currently vote No, and even 27% of Conservative voters.  

Put these results together, and what have you got?  Voters believe the UK Government is likely to follow a course of action - either abolition of Holyrood or a further significant power-grab - that would clearly make a bigger Yes majority much more attainable.  That expectation may be all that is really needed, if Yes campaigners can constantly remind voters of the ongoing threat to devolution and point to the power-grab in the Internal Market Bill as an example of what may be yet to come.

*  *  *

There's still more to come from the poll over the coming days - if you'd like to be the first to know, you can follow me on Twitter HERE.

*  *  *

You can read my piece in The National on last night's results HERE.