Wednesday, September 28, 2022

One of the many casualties of the current economic crisis could be the system for electing the Tory leader

The Conservatives love nothing more than tinkering with their system for electing a leader, especially after a leadership election that is perceived to have 'gone wrong' in some way - which, happily, is almost every leadership election.  Mrs Thatcher actually won 55% of the votes in the first round of the 1990 contest, and the only reason it was possible for her to be ejected was because of a slightly unusual rule that stated a candidate could only win outright on the first ballot if they had a clear lead of fifteen percentage points over their nearest rival.  She narrowly fell short of that threshold, opening the way for a second ballot in which MPs who had reluctantly backed her (including Cabinet ministers) could rethink their position.  Her support drained away, and she withdrew before the ballot even took place, in the near-certain knowledge that she would have lost to Michael Heseltine.  The 15% rule had, in fact, worked in exactly the way it had always been intended to work, by rooting out a leader who didn't have sufficient underlying support. But Mrs Thatcher's heartbroken fans declared it a 'crazy system' and from that moment it was doomed.  If they couldn't have Maggie herself back, they could at least destroy the system that brought her down, as a symbolic but meaningless acknowledgement that she should be still in harness.

I think it's fair to say that the unprecedented nature of the current crisis, with Liz Truss presumably set for a humiliating U-turn under pressure from the IMF within weeks of taking office, means that the outcome of the 2022 leadership election will not be perceived in hindsight as a rip-roaring success.  And the Tories being what they are, the conclusion they're most likely to draw is that they only got into this mess because they didn't have a rule to ensure that a leader cannot be elected without the clear majority support of the parliamentary party.  (In reality, Tory MPs have proved perfectly capable in the past of electing ideologues or duds.)  So I suspect yet another revision of the rules is in the offing, and it's likely to be quite a fundamental one this time.

Just like the system that ousted Thatcher, the current rules do actually have a kind of logic to them.  The idea is to square the circle by giving rank-and-file members the final choice of leader, while still ensuring the leader must have substantial backing from the parliamentary party.  So the members only get to choose between a shortlist of two, picked for them by MPs, which means that any leader that emerges will have a substantial body of support among the parliamentary party, even if it's not necessarily majority support.  (That avoids any Corbyn-type scenario.)  And as a final safeguard, there is a vote of confidence procedure that enables MPs to eject a leader they really can't stomach, even within days, weeks or months of that person being elected.  That scenario could well play out in the coming period, and if it does, the rules will have worked precisely as intended, just as in 1990.  But they will have also made the Tories a laughing stock along the way, as they install a shiny new leader and eject her ten seconds later.

The trouble is that it's hard to actually see an obvious replacement system, unless they simply go back to election-by-MPs, which may well be unsustainable in the modern age.  Perhaps they might be tempted by some sort of American-style "primary" system, on the logic that millions of Tory voters are less likely to select an extremist than a couple of hundred thousand party members.  Although God knows how you'd even begin to go about organising a mass ballot of that sort.

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Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Behold the most exquisitely self-defeating tweet in the history of Unionist Twitter (yes, it's "The Majority")

He obviously thought (rather optimistically) that he'd rescued the situation with that follow-up, although I'm still imagining him sitting with his laptop in a Winchester wine bar carping about the politics of a country that he can only dimly remember from forty years ago.  But even assuming he's telling the truth about having returned to Scotland, let's just think through the implications of his original tweet.  

First of all, he suggests (or at least strongly implies) that Scots have left their country for centuries because of higher taxes.  That might make sense if Scotland had been a self-governing country for the last few centuries with the ability to set its own taxes.  But in fact Scotland has been part of the United Kingdom for the last 315 years.  Between 1707 and 1999, there were no autonomous tax-raising powers in Scotland at all, and even when the very limited tax-varying power on the basic rate was introduced in 1999 (Michael Forsyth's beloved "Tartan Tax"), it went wholly unused by successive Labour-Lib Dem and SNP governments.  It's only been very recently, with the introduction of the post-indyref powers, that the Scottish Government has had a meaningful ability to raise taxes and has actually used it.  So if Scots have been leaving for "centuries" because of tax, the responsibility lies squarely at the door of the UK Government which actually set the tax rates in Scotland for the vast majority of that period.  The obvious conclusion to draw is that it was a huge mistake for Scotland to ever become part of the UK.

Of course, if you were to challenge him on that point, he would claim that he wasn't talking about taxes at all, but just about the lack of opportunities in Scotland in general.  But again, who can possibly be responsible for that lack of opportunities over centuries if not the UK Government, which was in sole charge of Scotland for centuries until 1999, and has continued to be in partial control even since then?

I can only guess as to what the hell he thinks he's wittering about, but my suspicion is that he reckons that Scottish culture is so ghastly that we're essentially not savable by our benefactors in London.  They try our very best for us, God love them, but there's just a general malaise in these parts that stifles enterprise and ambition.  So by insisting that Scotland must remain in the UK, "The Majority" is not actually offering greater opportunities to Scots, but rather more of the same.  He's not really an advocate of the benefits of Union at all - his basic proposition is "Scotland is a disaster area and I hate it but please continue to colonise it so it doesn't get even worse."

And I must note once again the glorious irony of him doggedly sticking to calling himself "The Majority" during a period in which a sizeable number of polls have shown his views to be in the minority.  It's a bit like Lenin's mob calling themselves "Bolsheviks" (the majority) when in fact the "Mensheviks" (the minority) were in the clear majority in the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party.  Lost in the mists of time, the reason for the names was the outcome of a single vote in 1903 on an obscure matter of internal party organisation.

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Monday, September 26, 2022

Early polling evidence suggests Truss has dug herself deeper into the hole with her mini-budget - this could be a Black Wednesday / 'winter of discontent' type event that guarantees Tory defeat at the general election

It now seems like a statement of the bleedin' obvious that the gamble from Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng in the mini-budget has not paid off, given the firm thumbs-down from the markets and the slippage of the pound to bargain basement levels not seen since the 1980s.  However it's still a landmark moment to have opinion poll confirmation of the Tories falling further behind after the mini-budget, because many right-wing commentators and a large chunk of the mainstream media clearly felt that voters would be delighted to have more money in their pockets as a result of tax cuts, and would happily vote Tory in gratitude.  Indeed, Scottish journalists were queueing up to claim that the real story here was "intense pressure on Nicola Sturgeon" to replicate the tax cuts in Scotland, which now looks like a hapless misreading of the room from well-off individuals with very narrow horizons.  What it seemed to boil down to was that they just couldn't bear the thought that their counterparts down south might soon be slightly better off than them.  The true 'politics of envy'.

GB-wide voting intentions for the next general election (Redfield & Wilton Strategies, 25th September 2022):

Labour 44% (+2) 
Conservatives 31% (-1) 
Liberal Democrats 11% (-1) 
Greens 6% (+1) 
SNP 4% (-) 
Reform UK 2% (-1)

Scottish subsample: SNP 38%, Conservatives 28%, Liberal Democrats 15%, Labour 14%, Greens 2%, Reform UK 2%

Crucially, the percentage changes are measured from a poll on 22nd September, before the mini-budget but well after Liz Truss becoming Prime Minister and the death of the Queen.  So, assuming the change is real and not an illusion caused by margin of error, the extension of the Labour lead can only really have been caused by the mini-budget itself.  

It's sometimes argued that there's an iron law in British politics that the initial reaction to a Budget will eventually prove to be the opposite of the longer term verdict, but it's very hard to see why the public would change their minds this time given that Kwarteng's misjudgement seems to be spiralling into one of those rare events of economic calamity that pass into folklore and thus fundamentally change the political weather - with other examples being devaluation in 1967, the various crises of the late 1970s, and Black Wednesday in 1992.  And all of those examples have one thing in common - they all consigned the government of the day to a whopping defeat at the following general election by destroying its reputation for economic competence.

If we're moving into a period where a post-2024 Labour government looks like a near-certainty, it's fair to say that will probably be sub-optimal from the point of view of the Scottish independence movement, especially if the Supreme Court verdict goes the wrong way and we start to look towards a plebiscite election.  Our best chance of success would be a general election in which there is no hope of change at Westminster, allowing the SNP and others to argue that we must take our destiny in our own hands.  Instead, there's now a danger of voters having their heads turned by the false prospect of change from Labour, who in fact have reinvented themselves as old-school One Nation Tories. 

But there are a couple of caveats to add.  Quite a few commentators have pointed out that Liz Truss is as far to the right as Jeremy Corbyn is to the left, and it would never have been possible for her to become Prime Minister if it hadn't been for the weird political leanings of the London media.  I remember when Corbyn first became Labour leader, Matthew Parris predicted that it "could be all over far quicker than anyone expects, possibly by Christmas".  That didn't happen, but it's not hard to see how it could have done if Corbyn hadn't proved as tenacious as he did.  So I wouldn't totally rule out the radicalism / extremism (take your pick) of Truss proving to be her downfall within a few months, in which case the Tories could get themselves back into the game under a more moderate leader.

And secondly, what is happening now could be a game-changer in terms of the debate over the currency that an independent Scotland would use.  Arguably the biggest weakness of the Yes campaign in 2014 was the perception that Scotland might not be "allowed" to use the pound - but it could be getting to the point now where nobody will be that bothered about losing such a discredited currency.  The euro or an independent Scottish currency could start to look like a much safer bet.

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Saturday, September 24, 2022

Sensational Social Attitudes Survey suggests that independence support has soared by almost TWENTY percentage points since the 2014 indyref - does this suggest that conventional polling has been underestimating Yes support for years?

I've finally had a chance to catch up with the independence numbers from the Social Attitudes Survey that caused so much excitement a couple of days ago.  What strikes me most is that the survey seems to exist in a slightly different universe from the more conventional polling we're used to seeing.  We thought we knew that 2020 was (by far) the high watermark for independence support to date, and that 2021 was a step backwards, but this new survey suggests that support actually reached a fresh peak in 2021 - albeit there was no Social Attitudes Survey in 2020 itself for obvious reasons, so it's possible an even bigger number was missed during the gap.  Nevertheless, an outright majority for independence on a multi-option question is a startling finding given the pattern of polls in 2021.  It could perhaps be more easily explained if the fieldwork had been conducted at the start of the year, because the unbroken sequence of Yes majority polls carried on into January 2021 (as I remember extremely well, because I commissioned a Survation poll myself that month which showed Yes on 51%).  But in fact the Social Attitudes Survey was conducted in the autumn, and was thus contemporaneous with a series of eight polls in a row which showed a No lead, albeit mostly a fairly modest No lead.

2021 Scottish Social Attitudes Survey constitutional preferences (with changes from 2019):

Independence: 52% (+1)
Devolution: 38% (+2)
No Scottish Parliament: 8% (+1)
Don't Know: 1% (-4)

The main difference of format between this survey and conventional polls is that respondents weren't asked to give a binary Yes/No answer to independence, but instead to choose between multiple options, including more than one option for expressing support for the union.  You would normally expect such a format to produce less support for independence than the conventional polls, and yet for some reason it's produced more.  

But, actually, I would tend to suspect that if a binary question had been asked in the survey, it might have resulted in an even bigger Yes vote.  I think there's something going on here that isn't about the question format - I think it might be about the data collection method.  The Social Attitudes Survey has traditionally been conducted face-to-face, which makes it very different from the online polls we're used to seeing.  If the 2021 survey had been face-to-face as usual, that would be a very obvious potential explanation for the divergence with conventional polls, and might call into question whether online polls have been systemically underestimating the Yes vote for some time - especially bearing in mind that the only telephone poll conducted in autumn 2021 (by Ipsos-Mori) also contradicted the online polls by showing a very handsome Yes lead.

But just to muddy the waters, the pandemic meant that the Social Attitudes Survey wasn't conducted face-to-face last year - the What Scotland Thinks website suggests it was a hybrid telephone/online panel survey.  Nevertheless, I do still wonder if the telephone element, and perhaps a different approach to online fieldwork (particularly random participant selection), may have been factors in producing such a strikingly different result from conventional polls.

The other sense in which the Social Attitudes Survey seems to exist in a different universe is the longer term trend.  It suggests that support for independence has more than doubled since 2012, has increased by almost twenty percentage points since the indyref year of 2014, and has increased by thirteen points even since the SNP's golden year of 2015.  There's no sign in conventional polling of quite such a dramatic transformation, and Stuart Campbell must be looking on in horror, because it's a trend that's utterly impossible to reconcile with his repeated claims of flatlining Yes support since 2014.  The question format probably is the explanation here, because it looks as if a lot of people who said they supported devolution in past surveys nevertheless voted for full independence when presented with a binary choice in a referendum.  But their increasing readiness to actually identify as independence supporters rather than devolution supporters suggests that their position has hardened considerably as the years have progressed.

And just a final thought.  Renowned Liberal Democrat "fast bowler" Alex Cole-Hamilton tried to mock The National for reporting a survey with fieldwork that was a year old.  "Whatever this is, it's not journalism" he sneered.  But hang on.  Isn't it his own side that claims that the state of public opinion eight years ago is more important than the state of public opinion now?  Even though in 2014 nobody knew Brexit was coming, and even though some people who are now eligible to vote were only eight years old back then?

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How English voters react to the new Thatcherism over coming days could be decisive for the Scottish independence project

One type of context we sometimes lose when we think about political history is the sense of shock in the moment about certain developments.  People didn't know Churchill would be proved right about Germany in the 1930s - they thought the opposite.  People didn't know the communist bloc would fall in the 1980s - in fact they expected it to persist indefinitely, albeit perhaps in a reformed state.  And people in Scotland did not see Thatcherism coming in the late 1970s.  The 1979 Tory manifesto was far from the first post-war Tory manifesto to promise wide-scale privatisation or other right-wing measures, but once in office Conservative governments had always tended to chart a more moderate course.  If you look back at the coverage of the 1979 election, there was no real sense that Mrs Thatcher's win would represent a decisive break from the past - except in the obvious sense that she herself would be Britain's first female Prime Minister.

So when Scots experienced the effects of Thatcherism, they didn't just think to themselves "well, this is what we expect from Westminster".  In fact, what they had come to expect from Westminster over decades was effectively social democracy, a large public sector and a healthy welfare state - and when they started getting the total opposite, with no prospect of any respite, it was a bewildering shock that fundamentally changed Scottish attitudes to the United Kingdom.  The modest majority for devolution in the 1979 referendum (disregarded by our Westminster masters) quickly became a massive majority or "settled will" as John Smith put it.  Although support for full independence remained in the minority, it pretty much doubled from where it had languished in the 1970s - meaning that the Thatcher period marked the moment when independence went from being a fringe pursuit to something that people could just about imagine actually happening.

But there was an additional necessary ingredient for this transformation, and that was the fact that Thatcherism was for a long time popular in England.  The Tories introduced a type of simplistic transactional electoral politics that really seemed to work for them - give us your vote and you'll get 1p off the basic rate of income tax in return.  The 1983 and 1987 landslides increased the sense of Scottish despair that change could ever come from Westminster, and in turn stiffened the resolve to seek a solution in the form of self-government.

Yesterday marked one of those historical moments of shock and rupture when we realised that after twelve years of Tory rule, we suddenly have a full-fat Thatcherite Restoration that we didn't really see coming.  We know how Scots tend to react to Thatcherism, so we already know what the effect of that psychological jolt is likely to be in these parts.  All of the optimistic noises from the mainstream media about how Nicola Sturgeon is "under intense pressure" to replicate the Tory tax cuts will cut very little ice with most Scottish voters.  But what we don't yet know is whether the return to transactional electoral offers will open up a 1980s-style schism between Scottish and English voters, with the latter eagerly re-electing the Tory government to bag their tax cuts.  If that does happen, independence could become near-enough inevitable.

However, I'm a bit sceptical as to whether English voters will actually react in the way Truss and Kwarteng appear to expect.  Remember that even Mrs Thatcher eventually over-reached herself on tax.  The whole point of the poll tax was to export transactional politics to local elections, with Tory councils offering a low and very specific flat tax rate that could be easily compared by voters to a higher 'bid' from Labour.  But instead English voters focused on the injustice of the whole principle of a flat-rate tax which took no account of people's ability to pay, and they concluded in many cases that Tory rule would actually leave them worse off.  It's quite possible that yesterday's mini-budget will generate a similar perception in England due to the emphasis on tax cuts for the wealthiest.  There's also the problem that the mini-budget is being blasted by experts as fiscally irresponsible and potentially even crisis-inducing, which is not the sort of critique that Mrs Thatcher's chancellors ever had to face.  If Kwarteng's gamble backfires, it could destroy the Tories' most potent line of attack against Labour - ie. that only the Tories can be trusted to manage the economy responsibly.

It could well be that the 2024 general election will come round with Scottish voters in a mood to escape this new Thatcherism, but with English voters in a very similar mood, which would not quite be the perfect storm that the independence movement is looking for.  But, there again, it wouldn't totally surprise me if the next batch of opinion polls shows a swing at GB level to the Tories, and then we'd be able to credibly portray independence as the only way out of this nightmare. So the next few days could be crucial.

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POLL FUNDRAISING FOR SCOT GOES POP

The incident with The Sun makes the case eloquently for crowdfunded opinion polls commissioned by pro-indy alternative media outlets like Scot Goes Pop.  Not only did The Sun get their pollster to ask truly ridiculous questions (like "did you CRY after the Queen died?") to try to artificially generate a picture of Scotland being at one with the rest of the UK, they also then brazenly lied about the poll's results.  Because the data tables hadn't been published at that point, it took a long time for us to discover we were being lied to about the supposedly "plummeting Yes vote", and by that point some of the damage was already done in terms of public perception.  But with crowdfunded polls for a pro-indy outlet, we get to choose which questions are asked, and we can also make very sure the results are reported accurately right from the start.  I'm continuing to fundraise for a seventh Scot Goes Pop poll, and also more generally to help keep Scot Goes Pop going - it's been slow progress this time (totally understandable given the cost of living crisis) but we're gradually getting there.  If you'd like to donate, here are the various options...

Direct payments via Paypal - my Paypal email address is:   jkellysta@yahoo.co.uk

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Friday, September 23, 2022

It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for control over stamp duty, which (checks notes) it appears we already have

Gordon Brown's constitutional review was supposed to be the massive wild card, the potential game-changing moment that could transform Scottish politics and see voters switch back en masse from the SNP to Labour, at least in Westminster elections.  And, in fairness, it was semi-plausible that it could have worked out that way.  Imagine that, as now seems conceivable or even likely, Labour go into the 2024 general election on the brink of finally bringing to an end fourteen years of unbroken Tory rule.  And suppose they were also going into that election making Scottish voters a credible offer of significantly enhanced devolution.  Wouldn't a lot of Scottish voters be tempted to do what might look to them (wrongly) as the pragmatic thing and get behind a party that has the capacity to actually replace the Tory government and then quickly deliver more powers for Holyrood?  Such an electoral strategy could potentially have the same effect as the New Democratic Party's "French kiss" to Quebec voters in the 2011 Canadian federal election, which saw the pro-independence Bloc Québécois lose majority status in the province for the first time in almost two decades.

But there's a bit of a snag.  The broad thrust of Brown's review has now been "leaked" (ie. announced unofficially to the Guardian) and it looks as if it doesn't offer any significant new powers to the Scottish Parliament at all.  The biggest devolution-related promise is: "New tax powers for some devolved governments, which could include stamp duty".  A quick Google search confirms that stamp duty is already devolved to Scotland as a result of the post-indyref changes, which means the "some devolved governments" which will receive new tax powers does not include the Scottish Government.  The 'making excuses' tone of Blair McDougall's tweet strongly suggests that he's seen the report and knows there isn't any enhanced devolution for Scotland, but only for the rest of the UK.  He still wants us to believe that Scottish voters are being offered a "reformed UK", but it's hard to see how that's much use when the only parts of the UK being reformed are the parts Scottish voters don't actually live in.  It's a bit like responding to the aspirations of French voters by saying "we are offering you a reformed Paraguay!"

McDougall might retort that the replacement of the House of Lords would directly benefit Scotland.  Well...maybe to a very limited extent, but I'd want to see the details.  In Germany, for example, members of the upper chamber (the Bundesrat) vote as a bloc as directed by their provincial government.  That might be a moderately useful power for the Scottish Government to have, because it would give them direct control of 8% of the seats in the UK upper house, which might lead to them holding the balance of power on some issues, which in turn could generate some wider bargaining leverage.  But I've just given the exact reason why a German-style system is very unlikely to be adopted in the UK.  More probable is a system of indirect election which gives representation to parties in proportion to the number of seats they hold at Holyrood.  That would mean Scottish members of the upper house wouldn't vote as a bloc, and there would be an effective replication of the way Scotland is currently represented in the lower house, but without direct election.  What that's got to do with federalism, or with near-federalism, or even with devolution, is far from clear.

It can't be overstated how vital it is that the independence movement gets the message out to voters that this is a massive con-trick that is being portrayed as a historic reform but without offering Scotland a damn thing.  And that's before we even come to the elephant in the room: that UK parties have been promising House of Lords reform for over a century, but have always failed to deliver it once in power.  To this day we have several dozen hereditary peers in the Lords, which is a reminder that Labour backtracked on even the absurdly modest reform they promised in the 1997 election - ie. to scrap all hereditary peers and leave us with an all-appointed House.  The bottom line is that it suits every government that draws its power from an elected majority in the Commons to have an upper house that lacks the democratic legitimacy to be any kind of threat.  And pretty much any reform you can think of would make the Lords at least marginally more democratic and legitimate.

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POLL FUNDRAISING FOR SCOT GOES POP

The recent incident with The Sun makes the case eloquently for crowdfunded opinion polls commissioned by pro-indy alternative media outlets like Scot Goes Pop.  Not only did The Sun get their pollster to ask truly ridiculous questions (like "did you CRY after the Queen died?") to try to artificially generate a picture of Scotland being at one with the rest of the UK, they also then brazenly lied about the poll's results.  Because the data tables hadn't been published at that point, it took a long time for us to discover we were being lied to about the supposedly "plummeting Yes vote", and by that point some of the damage was already done in terms of public perception.  But with crowdfunded polls for a pro-indy outlet, we get to choose which questions are asked, and we can also make very sure the results are reported accurately right from the start.  I'm continuing to fundraise for a seventh Scot Goes Pop poll, and also more generally to help keep Scot Goes Pop going - it's been slow progress this time (totally understandable given the cost of living crisis) but we're gradually getting there.  If you'd like to donate, here are the various options...

Direct payments via Paypal - my Paypal email address is:   jkellysta@yahoo.co.uk

(Paypal payments are the best method because they're direct and eliminate all fees as long as you choose the "paying a friend" option.  However, please take great care to spell the above email address correctly.  Also, if you wish you can add a note saying something like "for the fundraiser", but rest assured it'll be obvious what the payment is for anyway.)

Scot Goes Pop General Fundraiser 

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If you prefer a bank transfer, please message me for details using the contact email address which can be found in the sidebar of the blog (desktop version only), or on my Twitter profile.

Thursday, September 22, 2022

The Sun's lies about their independence poll: an update for anyone pursuing a complaint to the press regulator

A couple of people have been in touch with me after making complaints to the press regulator IPSO about The Sun's notorious article in which they misrepresented the results of their own poll on independence.  It seems IPSO's initial response to anyone complaining has been to ask "how do you know" that The Sun were making a (bogus) comparison with last month's Panelbase poll, and also to ask to see details of that poll.

That reply could be seen as slightly vexatious, because it would take IPSO's staff all of ten seconds to do a Google search and find the datasets from the Panelbase poll.  They also undoubtedly have a channel of communication with The Sun and could very quickly check with the horse's mouth to find out which poll was being used as the basis for comparison.  However, I suppose as a complainant you just have to play the game to some extent, so this is what I would suggest saying.  

First of all, there's no room for ambiguity about the fact that The Sun were using the Panelbase poll for the comparison, because the wording in the article as it currently stands is "compared to one poll last month".  There was in fact only one published poll on independence last month, and that was the Panelbase poll.  So there's nothing else they can possibly be referring to - unless they're going to pretend that it's some mysterious private poll that no-one's allowed to see, in which case they could just make up any old cobblers and how could anyone ever verify whether it was true or not?

Secondly, there was an article in the Herald which explicitly stated that the comparison was with the Panelbase poll.  As the datasets for The Sun's poll had not yet been published at that point, it seems highly likely that the Herald were taking their cue in some form or another from people at The Sun itself.

Finally, here is the URL for the data tables from the Panelbase poll, as requested by IPSO - 

https://drg.global/wp-content/uploads/ST-Tables-for-publication-220822.pdf

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POLL FUNDRAISING FOR SCOT GOES POP

The incident with The Sun makes the case eloquently for crowdfunded opinion polls commissioned by pro-indy alternative media outlets like Scot Goes Pop.  Not only did The Sun get their pollster to ask truly ridiculous questions (like "did you CRY after the Queen died?") to try to artificially generate a picture of Scotland being at one with the rest of the UK, they also then brazenly lied about the poll's results.  Because the data tables hadn't been published at that point, it took a long time for us to discover we were being lied to about the supposedly "plummeting Yes vote", and by that point some of the damage was already done in terms of public perception.  But with crowdfunded polls for a pro-indy outlet, we get to choose which questions are asked, and we can also make very sure the results are reported accurately right from the start.  I'm continuing to fundraise for a seventh Scot Goes Pop poll, and also more generally to help keep Scot Goes Pop going - it's been slow progress this time (totally understandable given the cost of living crisis) but we're gradually getting there.  If you'd like to donate, here are the various options...

Direct payments via Paypal - my Paypal email address is:   jkellysta@yahoo.co.uk

(Paypal payments are the best method because they're direct and eliminate all fees as long as you choose the "paying a friend" option.  However, please take great care to spell the above email address correctly.  Also, if you wish you can add a note saying something like "for the fundraiser", but rest assured it'll be obvious what the payment is for anyway.)

Scot Goes Pop General Fundraiser 

Scot Goes Pop Polling Fundraiser 

If you prefer a bank transfer, please message me for details using the contact email address which can be found in the sidebar of the blog (desktop version only), or on my Twitter profile.

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Two quick plugs

Just a couple of little plugs while I'm thinking of them.  First of all, it looks like there are still delegate passes available for the Alba Party conference in Stirling next month.  Any Alba member can purchase a pass on a first come, first served basis via the link HERE.  For an emerging party like Alba that is still starved of mainstream media attention, video clips of the party conference - and especially of the leader's speech - are an incredibly valuable 'shop window', and obviously in an ideal world we want those clips to show a well-attended venue cheering Mr Salmond to the rafters.  Conference is of course the supreme decision-making body of the party, and attendees will have the opportunity to vote and to speak on a variety of motions.  And I'm sure there'll also be a chance to hear speeches from a star-studded line-up including Kenny MacAskill (Depute Leader), Neale Hanvey (Westminster group leader), Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh (party chair) and Chris McEleny (General Secretary).  

It also looks very much like registering for conference will actually be the only way to vote in Alba's internal elections this year.  In theory, the whole membership can vote in the elections for office bearers - however, on this occasion there's only one nomination for each office bearer position, meaning those elections will be uncontested.  So unless there are multiple nominations for Leader or Depute Leader (which seems highly unlikely), the only contested elections will be for ordinary members of the National Executive Committee, and those votes are only open to those who have purchased a conference delegate pass.  I'm one of the twelve candidates chasing the four male spots available on the NEC (hint, hint, cough, splutter, violent sneeze), and there are a further eight candidates chasing the four female spots.

Although only Alba members are eligible to buy a delegate pass, I presume people instantly become eligible as soon as they join the party, so if it feels like the right time for you to come on board, please click HERE.  You'll be more than welcome.  Very few people who have joined Alba have ended up regretting it, because there's far more room to breathe and just be yourself than there is within the SNP at present.

The second plug is for the wonderful iScot magazine, for which I've now been a columnist for exactly five years.  In fact the latest issue is only the second time in those five years that my column hasn't appeared, because publication was delayed for a few months and thus the piece I had sent in ended up being out of date (I think it was about the local election results in May).  As you may know, iScot's editor Ken McDonald has been going through multiple health issues, but I spoke to him on the phone recently and he was in excellent spirits and absolutely determined to keep the magazine going.  There are, however, a number of significant challenges - not only his health, but also rising printing costs and the fact that some previous subscribers have fallen away.  A high-quality pro-independence print magazine is a vital asset for our movement and it's well worth supporting.  I've said it before but it really is true - every single issue is a collector's item and it's a genuine treat when it arrives each month.  If you're interested in becoming a subscriber or even just checking the magazine out, please click HERE.

Fresh revelation from that notorious Sun / Deltapoll survey on independence: they didn't bother interviewing 16 and 17 year olds

Every time there's a poll on independence that shows a No lead, there's always a minor chorus of people asking me "did they interview 16 and 17 year olds?"  And it's been getting to the point where I just roll my eyes to the heavens, because the answer is almost always "yes" - it's become completely standard to include over-16s in Scottish indy polls.  But, I'm afraid, the now-notorious Deltapoll survey for The Sun is a shocking exception to that general rule.  Marcia pointed me in the direction of the newly-published datasets this morning, and if they're accurate they show only over-18s were polled.  There's no way of knowing whether that made any difference to the headline results, but it could conceivably have cut the Yes vote by 1% - in other words if 16 and 17 year olds had been there (as they certainly should have been), it could have been a 52-48 lead for No, rather than 53-47.

I suspect the reason for this breach of good practice is simply that Deltapoll are not experienced in running Scottish-only polls - it may not have occurred to them that 16 and 17 year olds needed to be there, or they may not have had any 16 or 17 year olds on their panel.  The explanation for the small sample size may also be that they don't have enough Scots on the panel - it seems unlikely The Sun didn't have the cash to pay for a full-scale sample of 1000.  

There are a few other points of interest.  The poll shows that only 47% of the sample (before Don't Knows are excluded) are opposed to an independence referendum.  This will come as a massive surprise to anyone who read the Sun's write-up of the poll, which claimed that 55% were opposed to a referendum.  They can only have reached that figure by excluding Don't Knows - but if that's what they did, why did they quote a Yes figure of 42% which they arrived at by not excluding Don't Knows?  It's just the most appallingly deceitful and cynical article you'll ever see - it leaves Don't Knows in when it's convenient, excludes them when it's not, and never even bothers to mention that different numbers are being calculated in a completely different way.  (And frankly, I suspect the 55% figure must be yet another outright lie.  The figures with Don't Knows excluded aren't available on the data tables, but I can't see any arithmetical way in which 55% is even possible.  The real figure is probably around 51%.)

There were only ten Green voting respondents in the sample, and they had to be massively upweighted to count as 36 people.  That's magnified a peculiar (and almost certainly inaccurate) pattern - 71% of Green voters are counted as Yes supporters, zero as No supporters, and an unusually high 29% as Don't Knows.

There's also a finding in the poll that shows the Queen's death has made 17% of people more likely to vote for an independent Scotland, compared to only 12% of people who are less likely to vote for independence.  Mysteriously, this result is totally absent from the Sun's report, and I'm sure that's got nothing whatever to do with the fact that it drives a coach and horses through the "independence support plummets due to Queen's death" angle they wished to take.  

Incidentally, the Sun article has now been quietly modified.  The word "plummets" has been replaced by "falls", and the claim of a "seven-point drop" in Yes support has been replaced by "four-point drop".  (In reality, it's a mere two-point drop on the headline numbers, and it's a comparison they shouldn't even be making because the polls were conducted by different firms, but they can justify the claim of four points by leaving Don't Knows in.)  This almost certainly means they knew they were on a sticky wicket with the press regulator IPSO.  If anyone is proceeding with an IPSO complaint, my strong advice would be to not accept this furtive change as sufficient and to push instead for a clear correction and apology.  And please note that the Express article about the poll has not yet been changed to remove the false claim about a seven-point drop in Yes support.

You might like to know there's an article in today's edition of The National, which quotes me at length about The Sun's lies - you can read it HERE.

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We've already seen since Nicola Sturgeon's announcement that the overwhelmingly unionist mainstream media are attempting a 'shock and awe' campaign to try to kill off independence - and the misuse of polling is playing a key part in that.  If you'd like to balance things out with polling commissioned by a pro-independence outlet and which asks the questions we want to see asked, one way of doing that would be to help Scot Goes Pop's fundraising drive - see details below.

Scot Goes Pop General Fundraiser 

Scot Goes Pop Polling Fundraiser 

If you prefer another method, such as Paypal or bank transfer, please message me for details using the contact email address which can be found in the sidebar of the blog (desktop version only), or on my Twitter profile.

Feel free to follow me on Twitter or to join our sister group on Facebook.

Monday, September 19, 2022

This one reason is enough to make a referendum on the future of the monarchy worthwhile

So here's a polling observation of a very different sort from the ones I normally make on this blog.  If a pollster asks people how many sexual partners they've had in their lives, heterosexual men will on average give a much higher number than heterosexual women, which on the face of it doesn't make any sense.  There are potential statistical explanations that would square the circle, but it's generally accepted that the real explanation - or the main one - is fibbing.  Men tend to exaggerate their number of sexual partners and women tend to understate their number.  Men are either boasting or are too embarrassed to admit to a low number, while women tend to give an 'edited' version of their past, and justify that by thinking to themselves "that one doesn't really count because it wasn't a relationship".

And that's a rather useful analogy for the BBC at the moment, because they have a self-image of being impeccably impartial, the envy of the world in that respect, and regard anyone who questions their objectivity in even the remotest way as a tinfoil hat nutter.  And yet they've spent the last ten days churning out propaganda on behalf of the state in quantities that would make the North Korean state broadcaster blush.  How on earth are they going to reconcile what they've just done with their self-image of impartiality?  Simple: they're going to say "it doesn't count".  As far as they're concerned, anything to do with the monarchy is somehow totally different.  It's sealed off from the rest of their political output and no-one should judge them by it or even take it into account.

I'm not sure that's going to wash anymore.  Anecdotally, a lot of people who have given the BBC the benefit of the doubt until now have finally seen them for what they are.  But, as we discovered in Scotland eight years ago, an erosion of public trust doesn't mean the BBC will suddenly reflect or change.

Perhaps the only thing that would force them into a different approach is a referendum on the monarchy.  Until now, I've always thought a referendum would be a pointless exercise because there's at least a 3-1 majority in Britain for retaining the monarchy, and that's been very stable over time, so the outcome would be virtually a foregone conclusion.  But sometimes the journey is more important than the destination, and it may well be that a referendum campaign would in itself have a transformative effect on Britain.  For the first time ever, the BBC would be forced to treat the monarchy as an issue of political controversy just like any other, and to give parity of esteem to the arguments in favour and against.  Once that precedent has been set, it would be very difficult to go back to the sort of absurd adulatory output we've seen in recent days.

For clarity, I'm talking specifically about a Britain-wide referendum here.  If Scotland became independent, it would be a very different situation because I think a Scottish referendum on the monarchy would actually be inevitable sooner or later.  As Commonwealth Realms like Jamaica and Australia queue up to give their citizens the choice of a homegrown Head of State, it's unthinkable we wouldn't follow suit eventually.  And what's more, such a vote would be perfectly winnable for the republican side.