Saturday, July 2, 2022

Astounding #Referendum2023 poll shows a pro-independence majority for the first time in any Panelbase poll since April 2021

Should Scotland be an independent country?  (Panelbase / Sunday Times)

Yes 51% (+2)
No 49% (-2)

For my money unionist politicians are going to be absolutely stunned and horrified by the results of the new Panelbase poll - which appears to be the second poll conducted since Nicola Sturgeon's announcement, but the first with a normal sample size of 1000 respondents or so.  Even as an independence supporter, I'd have put money on a Panelbase poll right now showing a small to middling No lead.  The last five Panelbase polls in a row have shown No ahead, and the most recent poll from the firm to have a Yes lead was just before the Holyrood election in the spring of last year.  An outright Yes lead will not have been what the Tories and Labour were expecting, particularly in view of the onslaught from a media that has dropped all pretence of being anything other than a British nationalist propaganda front.  This may be the first sign of the dividends we can expect as a result of the SNP leading from the front, rather than forever running away from making the case for a referendum or for independence.

Similarly, I'm pretty sure unionists would have been expecting sizeable opposition to Nicola Sturgeon's choice of date for a referendum, whereas in fact there's a practically even split, with 43% in favour of the date and 44% opposed.  The naming of the date may well have changed the dynamic by concentrating voters' minds.

The poll also contains Scottish voting intentions for Westminster, but it uses a non-standard question which asks respondents to specifically say how they would vote if the SNP use the election as a de facto independence referendum.  That may well be a more meaningful measure of how such an election would play out, but it does mean that these results aren't directly comparable with any previous poll.

Scottish voting intentions for a UK general election used as a de facto independence referendum:

SNP 47%
Labour 23%
Conservatives 19%
Liberal Democrats 8%
Other 3%

As with the ComRes poll, it's really frustrating that Panelbase haven't offered the Greens as an option - because if, by any chance, all 3% of the "others" are Green (or Alba) supporters, that would take the combined vote for Yes parties to the magic 50%.  However, what is really encouraging here is that the SNP vote isn't falling off a cliff when the plebiscite aspect is specified.  Quite the reverse, in fact - the SNP vote is five percentage points higher than in the last Panelbase poll using a standard Westminster question.

Among the supplementary questions, respondents were asked to predict which way the Supreme Court will jump.  48% think the judges will strike the October 2023 referendum down, and 33% think they will give it the green light.  I must say I can't for the life of me see what the point of that question is, because voters have no control over what the Supreme Court will do, and for the most part aren't qualified to make legal predictions.  Perhaps of more interest, though, is that the percentage of voters who expect Scotland to be independent within five years has shot up by ten points, and the total percentage who expect independence within ten years has increased by four points.

*  *  *

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.

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

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.

If 2024 becomes a plebiscite election, there are only two viable options: either a Yes alliance should put up a single slate of candidates, or the Alba Party should mostly sit out the election and lend its support to SNP candidates

I'd have thought the title of this blogpost should be a statement of the obvious, but I've seen one or two prominent people suggesting on Twitter today that Alba should not only stand against the SNP in a plebiscite election, but that they should stand against the SNP in every single constituency.  That would be a catastrophic misstep, not only for the cause of independence but also for Alba as a political party.  And if this debate is already taking place out in the open, I'm not going to shy away from contributing to it, because often the seed of the most foolish and self-defeating ideas takes root at a very early stage.  

So let's knock this one firmly on the head.  If the next general election becomes a plebiscite election (and it's still an "if" because we've yet to hear the Supreme Court's decision), Alba should for the most part not participate in it, or at least not as a party in opposition to the SNP.  If Joanna Cherry's excellent suggestion of a unified Yes alliance is taken forward, that would be fabulous, and Alba's biggest stars could then stand as Yes alliance candidates.  But if, as seems likely, the SNP insist on standing as a single party in the usual way, or perhaps as part of a narrower SNP-Green alliance that specifically excludes other pro-indy parties, Alba should sit the election out in the vast majority of constituencies and get behind the SNP candidates.  Yes, that will mean turning the other cheek to some extent, but that's been the Alba way from the start - we always do the right thing for the independence cause no matter what the provocation. That's why we supported the SNP's constituency candidates in the 2021 Holyrood election even when senior SNP people were routinely screaming abuse at us.

There are a number of reasons why the whole Yes movement essentially needs to get behind a single slate of candidates in a plebiscite election, regardless of whether that slate fights under a Yes alliance or an SNP banner:

* It may seem unfair, illogical and irrational, but a single-party or single-slate majority of the popular vote will be taken more seriously in London than a multi-party or multi-slate majority.  We saw that in 2015 when the SNP and Greens between them took an absolute majority of the popular vote, and when there were still newspaper articles (I distinctly remember blogging to correct one) claiming that there was a unionist majority, because the SNP on their own fell just short of 50% and journalists just lazily assumed that any non-SNP vote was a unionist vote.

* In a plebiscite election, the popular vote matters most, but seats matter too.  Given that Westminster elections are fought by first-past-the-post, a split pro-indy vote will cost us seats.  That matters at both the 'higher end' and the 'lower end' of Yes support.  If we actually achieve a popular vote mandate - ie. the 'higher end' - having as many pro-independence seats as possible gives us the maximum leverage in pressing home that mandate.  If, for example, it's decided to withdraw pro-indy MPs from Westminster either temporarily or permanently, the impact will be greatest if those pro-indy MPs constitute as near as possible to 100% of Scottish representation in the Commons.  We wouldn't want a 2% vote for Alba helping one or two unionist MPs get needlessly elected.  And at the 'lower end', if we fail to achieve our popular vote mandate, we don't want to compound that setback by losing a truckload of seats to unionist parties at the same time.  It's always important to live to fight another day.

Alba do of course have the incumbent MPs in two constituencies.  In those two seats, the debate is different, because I don't think it's for me or for anyone else to tell incumbent MPs that they shouldn't seek to defend their seats if they feel very strongly that they want to do so.  It would be a very powerful unifying gesture if the SNP were to decide not to put up candidates against those two MPs in a plebiscite election - but if the SNP do stand, a decision will have to be made on the Alba side.  The same problem applies in those constituencies as everywhere else - a split pro-indy vote could be very harmful.

I've heard it said that "political parties stand for election, that's what they do".  Absolutely - but that doesn't mean you stand in every single election, regardless of circumstance.  Alba has already shown great wisdom in choosing its battles with care - in 2021 it stood on the list ballot but not the constituency ballot, and it then declined to stand in a string of local by-elections in order to keep its power dry for the local elections this May.  There's no more important time to keep choosing your battles wisely than when the independence of your country is on the ballot.

Yes, James Mitchell, of course there's such a thing as a de facto referendum

For many years, Alex Massie regarded Nicola Sturgeon as a fellow traveller.  He thought - and he was probably right - that she shared his view that the only truly dignified way of attempting to achieve independence is to not particularly attempt to achieve it at all.  On that basis he lauded her as a "serious" leader.  But now that Sturgeon has returned to her roots as a politician who wants independence in practice as well as in theory, Massie is attacking her with all the bitterness of a lover spurned.  The latest leg in his neverending whingeathon concerns Sturgeon's repudiation of Professor James Mitchell's claim that "there is no such thing as a de facto referendum" and that people can and will vote on all sorts of issues in an election.

The way I was originally going to put it was that Mitchell was half-right and half-wrong, and that it was the half-wrong part that was far more important.  But actually, on reflection, he's just plain wrong.  Of course there's such a thing as an election which functions as a de facto referendum, and there are examples of it from the past.  From a UK perspective, the best-known one is the Irish component of the 1918 general election, which was decisively won by Sinn Féin and was regarded as the mandate for Ireland to become an independent country.  Essentially that's the precedent the SNP would be trying to emulate if the 2024 election becomes a plebiscite election, although it remains to be seen whether they would be brave enough to do what Sinn Féin did after winning the 1918 election - ie. refuse to take their seats at Westminster and instead unilaterally set up an independent parliament comprised of their MPs.

Of course no party can simply decide on its own that an election is going to function as a plebiscite - but the voters can.  If the voters give more than 50% of the vote to a party putting forward a single-issue proposition, then they are simultaneously doing two things - they are giving majority assent to the idea that the election is a plebiscite, and they are also giving majority assent to the party's preferred position in that plebiscite.  So in the case of 2024, an SNP popular vote majority would mean that a majority of voters are saying Yes to the principle of a plebiscite election, and Yes to independence.  If fewer than 50% of the electorate vote for the SNP and allied parties, there is no clear majority for the principle of a plebiscite election and no clear majority for independence.

That's pretty straightforward and I don't really see how Mitchell or anyone else can credibly argue with it.

*  *  *

Just a quick postscript to my post about the ComRes poll: I meant to mention that it showed Nicola Sturgeon has a better net personal rating than other Scottish political leaders, including Anas Sarwar.  This leaves Mandy Rhodes looking a bit foolish for putting all her eggs in the basket of an earlier individual poll which gave Sarwar a better net rating than Sturgeon -  and on that basis declaring that Sarwar "looks increasingly credible as a future First Minister".  In truth, net ratings can be a bit of a red herring anyway, because a lesser-known leader can have a better net rating than a well-known leader while still having a lower percentage of people feeling positively about them.

*  *  *

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.

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

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.

Friday, July 1, 2022

Dramatic Savanta ComRes poll suggests pro-independence parties could be just 1% away from winning an outright mandate for independence at a 2024 plebiscite election

After the shocking events of the #Matchettgate fake poll scandal in the early part of last year, it's entirely rational for us to treat any Scotsman poll written up by Conor Matchett with a due amount of scepticism until the full facts become clear.  Matchett's piece on the new poll yesterday is hidden behind a paywall, but it certainly looks to me like his claim that voters are opposed to Nicola Sturgeon's date for the independence referendum is not quite what it appears - because the only Scotsman poll mentioned on the ComRes website was conducted before Nicola Sturgeon announced the referendum date.  I can't find the relevant question in the data tables, so I suppose it's possible Matchett is referring to a second poll conducted immediately afterwards, but that seems highly unlikely.  So presumably this was just the typical generic question about whether voters want a referendum within a couple of years.

The whole point about the setting of the date is that it changes the dynamic - for the first time the Scottish Government is attempting to lead public opinion on referendum timing rather than being a slave to it.  Instead of hypotheticals, any future polling on timing is likely to be a binary choice on whether voters want the referendum on 19th October next year as announced.  It's perfectly possible there might still be a degree of public opposition even with the greater clarity we now have - but it looks like Matchett's poll can't tell us that one way or the other.  

What it can tell us, though, is that the Yes vote is holding up nicely on the main independence question.

Should Scotland be an independent country?  (Savanta ComRes / Scotsman, 23rd - 28th June 2022)

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

Remember that ComRes tended to be on the No-friendly end of the spectrum last year, so a virtual dead heat is very creditable for Yes at this stage.

There were also Holyrood numbers in the poll...

Scottish Parliament constituency ballot:

SNP 46% (-)
Labour 25% (-)
Conservatives 18% (-)
Liberal Democrats 8% (+1)

Scottish Parliament regional list ballot:

SNP 33% (+2)
Labour 24% (+1)
Conservatives 20% (+2)
Greens 13% (-1)
Liberal Democrats 8% (-2)
Alba 2% (-1)

So barely any change at all on the constituency ballot, and nothing hugely significant on the list either. Of note is the fact that Alba are still very much registering, even though they're down one percentage point on the previous ComRes poll.  In the briefing SNP sources gave to the press on Nicola Sturgeon's new strategy, there was a thinly-coded signal that part of the motivation was to get Alba voters back on board with the SNP.  Even though Alba haven't won any seats in the two elections they've fought so far, the SNP will probably feel they need to have those 2% of voters back in the fold, especially in a Westminster election - and making it a plebiscitary election is an elegant way of achieving that.  If that has been part of the thinking, we in Alba should be patting ourselves on the back - it means we've played a crucial role in dragging the SNP to where they need to be on independence strategy.  Our role now is not to impede the SNP as they pursue the new strategy, but to support them - unless of course they start backtracking, in which case we'll need to hold their feet to the fire.  (They may not think they want our support, but they certainly need it whether they realise that or not - many of the most experienced pro-indy activists are in Alba's ranks.)

Last but by no means least, we have Scottish voting intentions for Westminster, which show us how close the SNP are to achieving a mandate for independence in a plebiscitary election.

Scottish voting intentions for the next UK general election:

SNP 46% 
Labour 25%
Conservatives 18%
Liberal Democrats 8%
Another party 3%

I wouldn't normally bother including the "another party" figure, but in this case it's absolutely crucial, because if those people are basically Greens, the combined SNP-Green vote share (ie. the pro-indy vote share) could be just 1% or 2% shy of the magical 50% threshold.

We also have a snap independence poll from a firm I've never previously heard of called Techne (it looks like the offshoot of an Italian firm), and this one was carried out after the First Minister's announcement.  It has Yes 46% and No on 54%. I'd treat this with caution, because the sample size was only around 500 - which is high enough to be credible, but is only about half of what is normal.  There's also a degree of uncertainty due to the firm's lack of any track record in Scotland, although it is a member of the British Polling Council.

*  *  *

We've already seen in the three days 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.

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

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.

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

A reminder of the mountain of polling evidence that the Scottish public strongly support the "Plan B" options for seeking a mandate for independence if the UK Government continue to refuse a Section 30

As I mentioned yesterday, I've used several of the full-scale Scottish opinion polls that I've commissioned for Scot Goes Pop over the last two-and-a-half years to test public opinion on a range of "Plan B" options for seeking to secure an independence mandate if the UK Government remains intransigent on a Section 30 order.  It might be worth refreshing our memories of the exact results of those polls in the wake of Nicola Sturgeon's announcement.  As you can see below, no matter which "Plan B" option was presented and no matter how the question was posed, there was consistently clear public support for the proposition that the Scottish Government should circumvent any attempted Westminster veto and find a way of giving Scottish voters the promised choice on independence.

Scot Goes Pop / Panelbase poll, 28th-31st January 2020: 

There are differing legal opinions on whether the Scottish Parliament currently has the power to hold a consultative referendum on independence without Westminster’s permission. If the UK government continues to refuse to give permission, do you think the Scottish Parliament should legislate to hold a referendum and then allow the courts to decide whether it can take place? 

Yes 50% 
No 39% 

With Don't Knows excluded:

Yes 56% 
No 44% 

*  *  *

Scot Goes Pop / Panelbase poll, 1st-5th June 2020: 

If Boris Johnson and the UK Government manage to block an independence referendum, do you think that pro-independence parties such as the SNP and the Greens should consider including an outright promise of independence in their manifestos for a future election, to give people an opportunity to vote for or against the idea? 
 
Yes 49% 
No 29% 

With Don't Knows excluded: 

Yes 63% 
No 37%

*  *  *

Scot Goes Pop / Panelbase poll, 5th-11th November 2020:

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%

*  *  *

Scot Goes Pop / Survation poll, 11th-13th January 2021:

The UK Government has stated that it will seek to prevent a Scottish independence referendum taking place for several decades, regardless of whether Scottish voters elect a Scottish Government committed to holding a referendum. In view of this stance, do you think pro-independence parties, such as the SNP and the Scottish Greens, should or should not include an outright independence pledge in their manifestos for this year's scheduled Scottish Parliament election, to give people the opportunity to vote for or against independence? 

Should: 45% 
Should not: 36% 

With Don't Knows excluded: 

Should: 55% 
Should not: 45%

*  *  *

Although there's been a certain amount of coincidental convergence in recent times between Stuart Campbell's analysis of the political situation and my own, as a matter of principle I really must call out the dodgy graph he keeps punting as supposed proof that support for independence has remained static at 47% during the entirety of Nicola Sturgeon's reign as First Minister.  It's an absolute embarrassment which makes a typical Lib Dem bar graph look statistically robust.  Judging from the small print, what he appears to have done is cherry-picked six individual polls, which are not even comparable with each other due to being conducted by different firms, and which just happen to all show a Yes vote of 47%.  The problem, of course, is that those individual polls are not representative of the state of polling in each given year.  The average Yes vote in 2019 was significantly higher than the average Yes vote in 2018.  The average Yes vote in 2020 was significantly higher than in 2019, and was in the majority for the first time.  There was then a sharp dip in 2021.

This is what is so self-defeating about what Stuart is doing.  The actual trend would give him the perfect basis for charging the Scottish Government with building up a sizeable Yes lead in 2020 and then losing it again in 2021 due to a number of mis-steps.  But instead he wants to peddle a fantasy of a flatlining trend which the facts simply do not even come close to supporting.  If you want to look like you're putting together a forensic case, it's always best to underpin it with the truth, rather than doing a Donald Trump. 

(And of course Stuart is also wrong with his claim - that he's repeated yet again - that the SNP had some kind of arithmetical leverage in the Commons prior to the 2019 general election which they could have used to gain a Section 30 in return for facilitating Brexit.  The reality is that Theresa May wouldn't have touched a deal of that sort with a bargepole, but I've rehearsed that point multiple times.)

*  *  *

Scot Goes Pop Fundraising

Over the years, Scot Goes Pop has provided extensive Scottish polling analysis and political commentary, as well as commissioning no fewer than six full-scale opinion polls, and producing numerous podcasts and videos.  If you'd like to help me continue this work, donations are welcome via any of the following methods...

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

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, June 28, 2022

The practical implications of using the 2024 general election as a de facto independence referendum

There's one caveat that needs to be placed on my two previous posts from earlier today, which relates to the fact that the referendum legislation the Scottish Government are referring to the Supreme Court specifies that the question would be exactly the same one that was asked in 2014, ie. 'Should Scotland be an independent country?"  Since the outset of devolution in 1999, it's been widely felt that a referendum held without Westminster's consent would have the best chance of being legal if it asked a more indirect question about whether the Scottish Government should open independence negotiations with Westminster.  The fact that Nicola Sturgeon is very deliberately spurning that tactic makes it look as if she's actually trying to maximise the chances of the Supreme Court rejecting the legislation.  I would be incredibly cynical about that if she hadn't so firmly committed herself to the Plan B of a plebiscitary election in 2024.  Nevertheless, it's legitimate to ask questions about why the SNP leadership now seem to actively prefer a plebiscitary election to a legal referendum, given that they've spent several years lecturing us that a legal referendum is the only viable way of achieving independence.

The explanation is, as ever, likely to be bound up in the SNP's own partisan interests, and I'm wondering if they fear a Scottish Labour surge at the general election if it looks like Starmer could become Prime Minister.  They may have calculated that turning the election into a de facto referendum is the best way of ensuring that Yes supporters don't drift off to Labour.  It resolves the 'Cat Boyd Paradox', ie. the problem of left-wing Yes supporters who seem to sincerely believe that voting Labour at a general election is not irreconcilable with their backing for indy.

I've always said that there are dangers in using a Westminster election, rather than a Holyrood election, as a de facto referendum, because it's harder to control the narrative - we have a London dominated media that will always tell us UK elections are about UK-wide issues.  That may explain why pro-indy parties in combination won an absolute majority in the Holyrood list vote last year, but not at the Westminster election in 2019.  But let's accentuate the positive - there has been one occasion in the past when Yes parties won more than 50% of the vote at a Westminster election, so that shows it can be done in theory.  It happened in 2015 in the very special post-indyref atmosphere, and it may well be that a plebiscitary election is a potential way of recreating that atmosphere.

I would imagine it's also occurred to the SNP that even if Yes parties fall short of a popular vote majority, they can still win a majority of seats with the help of first-past-the post.  That would allow them to muddy the waters with a 'contested mandate'.  The biggest threat to a majority in terms of seats would be a formal unionist electoral pact - but I just can't see that happening, because it would be tantamount to a unionist concession that the election is functioning as an independence referendum.

One obvious practical issue is what the non-SNP pro-indy parties will do at the 2024 election.  The SNP are in coalition with the Greens, so those two parties will undoubtedly have already nailed things down between them.  I hope to goodness there's no electoral pact allowing the Greens a clear run in one or two constituencies, because there are plenty of people who would vote SNP but would never vote Green. From a popular vote perspective, we can't afford to squander those votes.  

As far as my own party Alba are concerned, we're all still processing today's announcement, but it's pretty much inconceivable that we would do anything to impede a serious attempt by the SNP to secure an outright independence mandate - exactly what we've been begging them to do from the start.  So I would imagine we'd end up backing the SNP in the vast majority of constituencies.  The only real question mark would be over the two constituencies in which Alba currently have the incumbent MPs.  There will be considerable thought on the latter point, I'm sure, but I'm very confident that any decision will be taken with the best interests of the independence cause in mind, rather than the partisan interests of the Alba Party.

Scotland may not have declared independence yet - but it's just declared independence from the tyranny of "once in a generation"

For many years now, I've been arguing that there's considerable beauty in finding out once and for all whether the Scottish Parliament can legislate for an independence referendum without a Section 30 order - because if it turns out it can't, we can then stop worrying about referendums altogether and get on with achieving a mandate for independence via a scheduled election.  That carries three huge advantages - 

1) It acknowledges the principle that while there may be a legal barrier to Scotland becoming independent without the consent of the UK Parliament, there is no legal barrier to Scotland voting for independence without the consent of the UK Parliament.  Those are two completely distinct concepts that have been conflated and muddled for far too long - including, it has to be said, by very senior people in the SNP.  There is nothing to stop any political party putting independence in its manifesto for any election, and indeed it's highly unlikely that there's any legal impediment to holding an informal, 'unauthorised' referendum.  This is not Spain and voting is not a criminal offence - not yet, anyway.

2) It frees us from the tyranny of "once in a generation", which again has been a tyranny caused by people both outside and inside the SNP.  If and when it's established that the referendum option has been legally closed off and that scheduled elections are the route to independence, never again should we hear the argument that "we only get one more shot so we have to wait for the absolutely perfect moment".  Scheduled elections by definition occur on a regular basis - every five years or sometimes less.  So the fear of failure will be taken away - we know another opportunity will present itself relatively quickly even if we fail to get our mandate in 2024.

3) It's going to cause a considerable strategic dilemma for the Tories and other unionist parties.  Can they really fight the 2024 election on the familiar  "stop a referendum" pledge when the SNP are no longer asking for a referendum?  But if they fight it on a starker "stop independence" pledge, that'll tacitly acknowledge that the election is a de facto referendum, and make it harder to later discredit or ignore any pro-indy mandate that may be achieved.  Do they therefore go into the election largely ignoring the independence issue, and thus deprive themselves of the tried and tested way of firing up their own base?  It's a real problem for them.

Incidentally, it's not totally impossible that an incoming Labour government in 2024 might refuse to accept an SNP victory as an outright independence mandate but would at that point finally accept that the issue has to be resolved, and offer a legal referendum as a compromise.  But before the election it's absolutely vital that everyone in the SNP and the wider Yes movement holds the line that an independence mandate must simply be respected, full stop, without any suggestion that a compromise will be considered.  That'll give us the maximum leverage after the mandate is achieved.

At long last, we're there - a CREDIBLE guarantee that there will either be a referendum next year, or a plebiscitary election the year after

As most readers will know, I'm a member of the Alba Party's NEC, but I'm not going to be churlish about this - Nicola Sturgeon's statement today at last contained the clarity that we've been crying out for ever since the Brexit referendum six long years ago.  She'll try to hold a legal referendum on 19th October 2023, and if the Supreme Court strikes that down, she'll use the 2024 Westminster election as a de facto referendum by seeking an outright mandate for independence and NOT seeking yet another pointless mandate for a referendum.  Substantively, that's what I've been calling for her to do for a few years, and what I used the Scot Goes Pop / Panelbase polls to establish that there was, indeed, public support for.

I might quibble about some of the details - I'm not sure about the wisdom of the Scottish Government effectively challenging its own referendum in court, even if that's just a procedural device to expedite an inevitable legal process, and I would have preferred a snap Holyrood election to be used as a plebiscitary election, because a Westminster campaign could easily be overwhelmed by UK-wide issues.  But none of us were going to get every single detail of what we wanted.  What's important is that we at last have a credible guarantee of a vote on independence in either 2023 or 2024 at the absolute latest.  

So I'm more than happy to say it: well done, Nicola.  You delayed for far, far longer than you should have done - this should have happened before Brexit, not after, but you've done the right thing in the end.

Monday, June 27, 2022

#Referendum2023: It's like Christmas Eve for the Yes movement as we are now just ONE SLEEP AWAY from hearing the PRECISE METHOD by which the guarantee of an October 2023 independence referendum will be delivered

On the eve of her historic announcement about how exactly she will deliver her promise of an independence referendum in sixteen months' time, Nicola Sturgeon has been reported as saying that the Scottish independence movement has now also become "the Scottish democracy movement", due to the attempts of Labour and the Tories to stop a referendum that people have already voted for.  A few critics have suggested that this is rather troubling mood music, because if Ms Sturgeon was genuine in her stated determination to hold a 2023 referendum without a Section 30 order, she would just get on and legislate for it, without according undue importance to the unionist parties' futile attempts to thwart it.  There have even been a few dark mutterings that maybe she isn't even serious about holding a referendum next year, and that what she is actually doing is preparing the ground for the SNP to pitch itself as the "pro-democracy party" in the 2024 Westminster election.

Please, please, please, I beg of you, ignore this corrosive cynicism.  If Nicola Sturgeon's words appear to be consistent with a stunt intended to boost SNP support in 2024, you can rest assured that is purely coincidental, because as we've been told again and again, a referendum is definitely going ahead in 2023 - "no ifs, no buts".  The SNP aren't even wasting a split-second of thought on strategy for the 2024 election, because they know we'll have voted for independence by then, and the election will thus be an irrelevant sideshow as far as Scotland is concerned.  And let's face it, even if by some billion-to-one chance the SNP end up reneging on their promise of an October 2023 referendum, SNP activists still wouldn't be powerless to do anything about it because they could always come over to Alba en masse at that point, but I'm quite sure it won't come to that because the referendum is definitely on.

Roll on our guaranteed independence referendum of October 2023.  Signed, sealed, and tomorrow it will be delivered.  There'll be no more "next steps" or "shortly" or "in due course", because this time is the real deal.  Prepare to be impressed.

*  *  *

SCOT GOES POP #Referendum2023 COUNTDOWN CLOCK

There are just 465 days until the earliest possible date for #Referendum2023 (5th October)

There are just 486 days until the last possible date for #Referendum2023 (26th October)

(Note: the Countdown Clock calculations assume that tradition will be maintained by holding #Referendum2023 on a Thursday.)

Monday, June 20, 2022

Alex Massie's bizarre repudiation of the principles of parliamentary democracy

Courtesy of an anonymous commenter on the previous thread, I've now seen Alex Massie's column in full, and it's even worse than I thought.  It effectively contains a repudiation of the most fundamental principle of parliamentary democracy, which is pretty extraordinary from someone who imagines himself to be a traditional moderate conservative.  The strength of parliamentary democracy, we're generally told, is that it's not rule by whim or rule by impulse - a party puts forward a manifesto containing a considered package of proposals, and voters give that party a broad mandate to implement its programme.  The result of a general election is not then frivolously over-ridden by random opinion polls saying "yeah, but we don't like that bit of the programme, just leave that bit out, actually".  

Massie is now elevating opinion polls above parliamentary democracy by saying it's inconceivable that the elected SNP-Green government should be allowed to honour its manifesto commitment of an independence referendum because there are purportedly ComRes or YouGov polls saying the voters aren't enthusiastic about a referendum in 2023.  (In reality, the polling evidence on voters' preferred timing for an indyref is a lot more complicated and contradictory than he'd care to admit.)  He apparently thinks the 'government by YouGov' principle is so self-evident that anyone who argues in favour of parliamentary democracy instead is being knowingly fatuous.

This really shouldn't need saying, but no country has introduced rule by opinion poll yet, and there are exceptionally good and obvious reasons why.  First of all, polls can be inaccurate.  They have a margin of error, but sometimes they're not even accurate to within the stated margin of error.  Secondly, they can be easily manipulated with leading question wordings - the propaganda polls Survation regularly carry out for Scotland in Union are the most obvious example, but there are subtler forms of manipulation too.  And most fundamentally of all, polls are throwaway affairs.  Respondents are giving an instantaneous reaction to questions they may not have previously encountered or considered in any depth.  By contrast, most voters in general elections will have thought about their decision carefully and at considerable length.  Elections are a serious business, opinion polls are (relatively) disposable.

And, actually, the word 'serious' brings me to another of Massie's recurring themes.  When Nicola Sturgeon was in "do nothing" mode, he used to praise her to the skies as a "serious" political leader, drawing an implicit contrast with "unserious" activists or politicians who actually want to take some kind of action to overcome Westminster's anti-democratic obstructionism of Scottish self-determination.  Now that Sturgeon has - temporarily and/or superficially at least - moved to the other camp, Massie is of course blasting her for "looking unserious".  (This is the Alyn Smith school of politics, where the main objective is to avoid at all costs "looking odd" when viewed through some sort of centrist dad prism.)  Even more absurdly, he's claiming that "do nothing" would be a far better strategy for achieving independence, because for some fantastical reason he's never specified, he expects us to believe that Westminster will eventually agree to an independence referendum if we just wait for enough years or decades.

But let's imagine that Sturgeon had actually done what Massie thought she should do, or what he thought "a serious leader" would do.  That would have meant that, having won an election on an unambiguous pledge to hold a referendum, she would then have said that obviously she can't honour her promise because Boris Johnson doesn't fancy the idea and mumble mumble something about YouGov.  It's hard to think of anything that would carry a more fundamentally unserious look than that.  It would be treating voters with utter contempt, it would be treating the whole process of democratic elections as a meaningless farce.

To be frank, the best that can be said for Massie is that he's making a set of mind-bogglingly stupid propositions look intelligent or defensible with the use of some elegant prose.

*  *  *

Scot Goes Pop Fundraising

Over the years, Scot Goes Pop has provided extensive Scottish polling analysis and political commentary, as well as commissioning no fewer than six full-scale opinion polls, and producing numerous podcasts and videos.  If you'd like to help me continue this work, donations are welcome via any of the following methods...

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

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.