Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Ten reasons to be optimistic about a Yes to independence in 2014

Unlike so many of our friends in the London media, I don't claim to have a crystal ball handy, and therefore I wouldn't be surprised by either a Yes or No outcome in September. We're in for a campaign that will be thrilling and terrifying in equal measure. But as we reach the eve of referendum year (crikey) it's time for strictly positive thinking only. So here are my top ten reasons for feeling optimistic about a Yes to independence in 2014...

1) The Tories are worried. Just a couple of days ago, the Sunday Times reported that David Cameron's campaign consultant Lynton Crosby believes that the polls are wrong and that a Yes vote is not only possible, but likely. OK, there's probably a bit of kidology at play here (like a rugby team coming to Murrayfield and saying that 'Scotland must be the favourites at home'), but there's also likely to be at least an element of truth in it, otherwise they wouldn't be taking the risk of talking the Yes campaign up.

2) The polls. Even if we assume that the polls are not understating the support for Yes (and that's a very big if, as already noted), they're still nowhere near as favourable for No as the London media have collectively convinced themselves. This is a truth that No campaigners on Twitter don't like to hear, so let's remind them of it once again - even on the current snapshot of opinion which could easily change, the polls are not actually showing a majority against independence. The average No vote is just 48.8%, meaning that the majority of voters in Scotland are either in favour of independence or are undecided. The Yes campaign have also undoubtedly closed the gap somewhat since the publication of the White Paper, as even Professor John Curtice has accepted.

3) The strength of Scottish national identity. There was some evidence in the two Quebec independence referendums that people's responses to questions relating to national identity were a better early predictor of how they would vote than their responses in polls to the actual referendum question. Most surveys suggest that a majority of the Scottish population regard themselves as either 'Scottish not British' or 'more Scottish than British'. (Admittedly, the preference for a Scottish identity seems to have fallen back a little over the last decade, but it's still a very clear majority.)

4) Alistair Carmichael isn't as good as they expected. Frankly he isn't as good as I expected either - I thought he would at least prove to be a marginal improvement on Michael "007" Moore, but if anything he's even less impressive. Realistically, they're stuck with him for the duration now, because yet another change would look like blind panic. But what do they do with him? Is it really credible to 'shield' your Secretary of State for Scotland during a referendum on Scottish independence? I doubt if allowing David Mundell to regularly deputise will be much of a help either.

5) Alistair Darling isn't as good as they expected. The bad news is that they aren't necessarily stuck with him, but don't worry, because...

6) Some of Darling's Tory critics think it would be a good idea to replace him with Jeremy Hunt. I'll just say that again to allow the enormity of it to sink in - they think the No campaign would have a better chance of winning if it was headed by JEREMY HUNT. Is there some kind of petition of encouragement that we can sign?

7) The number of prominent Labour figures supporting independence is increasing. With former Labour MP Dennis Canavan, former Labour leader of Strathclyde Regional Council Sir Charles Gray, and former Labour Lord Provost of Glasgow Alex Mosson all openly campaigning for a Yes vote, the message is gradually getting through to traditional Labour voters that support for independence is not some kind of heresy against their political culture. In fact, it's the only means by which that political culture can possibly survive and flourish. Even if just 30% of Labour voters were to come to that obvious conclusion, it could prove sufficient.

8) There are also suddenly a few chinks in the hitherto monolithic Tory opposition to independence, with former Tory MSP Nick Johnston coming out for a Yes vote, and with the launch of the centre-right, pro-independence Wealthy Nation campaign headed by former Tory parliamentary candidate Michael Fry. Although the Conservative vote in Scotland is small, it's not non-existent, and up to now the Yes campaign have found it particularly difficult to win much support from that direction. Even if Wealthy Nation and their fellow travellers could attract a modest percentage of Tory voters, that might be worth as much as an extra 1% for Yes overall.

9) The No campaign seem to think they're fighting the AV referendum again. I can't think of any other plausible explanation for their self-styled 'Project Fear' approach of relentless negativity. But the scare stories in the 2011 referendum only worked as well as they did because the electorate didn't give a monkey's about electoral reform, and couldn't be bothered applying any critical thinking to the silly claims that were being made about babies dying so the Alternative Vote could live. This time, the No campaign's attack lines will be directed against the country that we all love, and its capacity to govern itself. So yes, voters will be offended and provoked into asking some very awkward questions, not least of which will be 'what is the No campaign's alternative prospectus?'

10) 'If you vote No you are voting for David Cameron and a Tory government' is a devastating line, because it's true. It's also a negative message, so may have to be used very sparingly, but nevertheless that could well be enough to get under people's skins.

Monday, December 30, 2013

The anti-independence campaign are insulting some of the world's leading economists

A guest contribution by Dorice

We shouldn't be remotely surprised by the results of yesterday's Panelbase poll on attitudes in the rest of the UK towards an independent Scotland remaining part of the sterling zone and the Common Travel Area. After all, it was four of the planet's most highly-acclaimed, trusted, and respected economists who first recommended that an independent Scotland use sterling and the Bank of England, create a monetary union with rUK, create TWO 'oil funds' and a radically new tax system, and much more.

Yet the media has effectively and efficiently suppressed the work of the completely independent Fiscal Commission Working Group, leaving Better Together, Westminster, Davidson, La Mont, Gray, and all the others free to ridicule those proposals and claim that they are the work of the Scottish Government and its civil servants.

Would they dare stand in front of Sir Crawford Beveridge (Chair), Professor Sir James Mirrlees (Nobel Laureate), Professor Joseph Stiglitz (Nobel Laureate), Professor Frances Ruane, and Professor Andrew Hughes-Hallett and call THEM 'delusional', 'fantasists', and accuse them of creating all those and other proposals 'on the back of a cigarette packet'?

No, they wouldn't - but every time those things are said about the Scottish Government's proposals that's who they are ACTUALLY insulting and ridiculing.

It's high time the public were made aware of the Fiscal Commission - who its members are and what it's done and is doing.

It has published FOUR lengthy, detailed, and factual reports so far, but not a single newspaper has even mentioned them.

We all know why!

It was the Commission members who first discovered that Scotland has been paying more into the Treasury than we got back for over thirty years, and the opposition KNOW that.

But voters don't.

Please take a look at the Commission's combined CV, and then compare it to those who work for the IFS and Treasury. It's very much a case of 'master and pupil'.

Those esteemed economists have between them either run, advised, worked for, or consulted the World Bank, the OECD, the IMF, the US Federal Reserve, the EC, the UN, the IFS (yes - that 'IFS'), and dozens of governments, Central Banks, and leading financial institutions.

The IFS's two-volume taxation 'Bible' was the work of Professor Mirrlees, and the current IFS Director was his editor!!

Even arch-unionists agree that the 'Mirrlees Report' is an amazing piece of work. Innovative, radical, and forward-thinking, it condemns the current tax system, and proposes a radical, simplified, streamlined one.

How many of those unionists know it was Mirrlees who took the lead on the tax paper published by the Commission last month? It will be the basis of the forthcoming Scottish Government tax proposals, and we'll see the insults start again.

Please read those four reports (the Executive Summaries should be enough), and you'll realise why Better Together and Westminster don't actually say 'No' to anything. If they did, they'd have to challenge the Commission's findings directly - and, frankly, I'd like to see that happen.

You should also watch Professor Hughes-Hallett's BBC Scotland webcast, and note his responses. I was surprised that my (edited) question was put to him, but was delighted with his response. I asked what he thought of the Fiscal Commission's work being called 'delusional' by unionist politicians (they edited out the 'unionist'), and .... well, give it a look.

It's priceless, and should have been on the Herald and Hootsmon front pages.

I'm convinced that when the Scottish 'middle classes' - those who take more of an interest in the details - discover who is actually advising the Scottish Government, and what they have recommended and why, they'll move to 'Yes' in huge numbers.

They'll start asking why those leading economists are being insulted, and why their work is being suppressed by our media.

People NEED this information, and that's why the opposition is hiding it!

* * *

James said yesterday that he had a premonition about John Curtice. But in fact the Professor has already dropped that (also ignored) clanger.

During the summer he was a guest on Good Morning Scotland. The topic was increasing 'English' hostility towards Scotland. It was put to him that Scotland isn't being 'subsidised' by England - it's just spending its money differently. His reply was something along the lines of : "We now know that many polls operating in England start by making a misleading statement. Something like 'Did you know that Scotland gets more money to spend on services than England?', followed by the poll question : 'Do you think it's fair that Scotland gets more for services than England?'".

You do realise that Curtice is one of nine 'Fellows' being funded by Vince Cable's department to work with the (same funding) IFS 'Scottish Independence' programme? Those 'Fellows' are costing £1.2 million, on top of the many millions being poured into that 'independent' IFS programme by Westminster.

It's worth looking at those fourteen IFS reports - the parts the media avoids - the bits that say 'but an Independent Scotland can do things differently, and if it does, it will succeed'.

Of course the media always uses the average PESA (Public Expenditure Statistical Analyses) figures for the UK/England/rUK. It always has done, and the reason is obvious. Look at the Treasury figures for each of the nine English regions, plus Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland, and we see that on a per capita basis, Scotland isn't top of the list for public spending at all.

Number one is Northern Ireland, and number two is...London. Yes, the richest 'part' of the UK (with 'part' being defined by the Treasury as the nine regions plus Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland) also receives the highest per capita spend for all public services AND capital spending - by a lot!

And that's why the London-based media always compares Scotland to the AVERAGE figure for the nine English regions.

Remember that next time you see those comparisons being made.

As I write this, I'm listening to Neil Findlay (yes, I'm an anorak) claim that the proposals for oil funds are from the SNP's 'fantasy tree'! Yet those proposals come directly from the Fiscal Commission in its 85-page 'Stabilisation and Savings Funds For Scotland' published in October. Findlay either doesn't know about that report, or he hopes that we don't.

That has to change.

Dorice is a regular commenter at the Guardian website.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Hammerblow for the anti-independence campaign as it turns out they can't even run a push-poll properly

I'm indebted to Marcia on the previous thread for pointing me in the direction of the anti-independence campaign's latest failed attempt at a push-poll, and the comic spectacle of them trying to put a brave face on it. Let's face it, we all know that voters generally say they disapprove of absolutely any government spending that isn't on health, education or (for viewers in the Tory shires) weapons of mass destruction, so you can almost tangibly feel the disappointment and frustration as Project Fear announce that they persuaded a mere 56% of respondents to say "Yes" to their doom-laden question about the SNP supposedly spending too much money on delivering information to the public about the independence referendum.

"In recent weeks people will have seen billboards, newspaper adverts and leaflets advertising the SNP's White Paper manifesto for breaking up the UK. This is all paid for by the Scottish taxpayer, rather than the money being spent on important things like schools, hospitals and childcare. Some reports put the amount as high as £800,000."

God, I see what you mean. And to hell with the schools and hospitals - in line with the UK's traditional "better together" priorities, we could have purchased 0.0000001 Trident missiles with that kind of money. It might not sound like much, but that's enough to wipe out at least three Iranian villages. Think of all the children we could have slaughtered if it hadn't been for those pesky separatists.

The moment of true comic genius comes later in the piece, however -

"In a further blow for the SNP just 9% of people in Scotland believe Alex Salmond is spending "too little" public money advertising his campaign to break up the UK."

Yeah, that really is a crushing blow, chaps - only a tenth of the population think that Alex Salmond should be doing something that he...er, isn't doing.

On a more serious note, 9% is an astonishingly high figure. It means there are fewer people planning to vote Liberal Democrat at the next election than there are who think the SNP aren't spending enough money on information about independence! In the light of which, it's deliciously ironic that it was Willie Rennie's turn to conclude the article with the standard do-it-by-numbers "this poll is a wake-up call for Alex Salmond" quote.

Fascinating Panelbase poll suggests that English, Welsh and Northern Irish voters are firmly behind the SNP's plans for an independent Scotland to remain part of the sterling zone

I wasn't really expecting any referendum-flavoured opinion polls between Christmas and New Year, but one has arrived just the same, and it's proved to be something of a festive setback for McDougall's merry mob. Contrary to the anti-independence campaign's curious belief that England is exclusively composed of stroppy teenagers who will take their ball away and refuse to play anymore if Scotland dares to govern itself, it turns out that voters south of the border are actually rather adult, and are overwhelmingly in favour of the sensible proposals for an independent Scotland to remain part of both the sterling zone and the passport-free Common Travel Area (which currently comprises Scotland, the Republic of Ireland, England, Wales, Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man, and the Bailiwicks of Jersey and Guernsey).

Here are the full findings...

Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom are among each other's largest trading partners. Putting aside your own views on whether or not Scotland should become an independent country, if independence does happen do you think that Scotland and the rest of the UK should continue using the pound in an agreed sterling area?

Yes (either 'Yes, definitely' or 'Yes, I think so') - 71%
No (either 'Definitely not' or 'No, I don't think so') - 12%

A Common Travel Area has existed since the 1920s which provides for freedom of movement throughout the area for citizens of the UK, Republic of Ireland, Channel Islands and Isle of Man. Putting aside your own views on whether or not Scotland should become an independent country, if independence does happen do you think that there should continue to be freedom of movement with no passport controls between England and Scotland?

Yes (either 'Yes, definitely' or 'Yes, I think so') - 75%
No (either 'Definitely not' or 'No, I don't think so') - 12%

Now, I already have a premonition of John Curtice muttering something about 'leading questions', but the fact is that the vast majority of people in England are almost certainly unaware that the Common Travel Area even exists, and so until that is explained they cannot possibly give an informed opinion on whether Scotland should remain a part of it. Likewise, the little-known fact that Scotland is rUK's second-biggest trading partner is the most crucial piece of information for English voters in judging whether it would be in their own interests for Scotland to remain part of the sterling zone. Certainly the discovery that simply pointing this information out is sufficient to produce such huge majorities should be a warning sign for the No campaign and the UK government that their treasured little games have a very limited shelf life ahead of them.

Oh, and I presume this tweet from Ian Smart was intended as a response to the poll -

"So, the overwhelming majority in England is in favour of maintaining the union. Good. So is the overwhelming majority in Scotland."

Just two small objections here -

1) You seem to have unaccountably overlooked the rather crucial phrase 'if independence does happen' in the wording of the poll questions - ie. English voters were expressing a view on what should happen after the dissolution of the union, not on whether the union should be maintained.

2) There is not an 'overwhelming majority' in Scotland opposed to independence. In fact, there is not a majority of any sort in Scotland opposed to independence. According to the current poll average, the No vote stands at just 48.8% - meaning that most people in Scotland are either in favour of independence or are undecided.

But apart from that, what a truly fabulous point, Ian.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Christmas Word-Search solution

As promised, here is the solution to Christmas Day's word-search puzzle -

And these are the 29 names you were looking for - all of them people who have left comments on this blog over the last five-and-a-half years...

Tris (pro-independence blogger at Munguin's Republic)

Marcia (long-standing SNP activist, and a fellow Eurovision fan)

Doug Daniel (pro-independence blogger)

Mark MacLachlan (pro-independence blogger of Universality of Cheese fame)

Andrew Tickell (pro-independence blogger, legal expert, intellectual colossus, and winner of the prestigious 'Guy With The Biggest Vocabulary' prize for sixteen out of the last seventeen years)

Peter Curran (pro-independence blogger)

Alex Gallagher (Labour councillor for North Coast and Cumbraes ward, who as an anonymous Nat-bashing blogger liked to style himself as 'Braveheart'. Seriously.)

Stuart Dickson (author of the Independence blog, voice of reason at PB for many, many years, and Sweden's best-known SNP member!)

AM2 (The man. The myth. The legend. Alex Salmond's most stunning personal endorsement in 2011. Named 'AM Two' in the puzzle to avoid a giveaway.)

Cranmer (Extremely right-wing blogger who thinks he's a dead archbishop. Let's put it this way - Tom Harris is a devoted fan.)

Kevin Baker (He's the thin star-spangled line that is all that stands between America and communism, and he couldn't do it without his loaded firearms. Don't forget, folks - the mysterious fact that Scotland has a much lower murder rate than gun-lovin' America can be easily explained away by non-specific "cultural factors".)

D. Hothersall (Scottish Labour's one-man online presence)

DougtheDug (long-time scourge of anyone who thinks there is any such thing as Scottish Labour)

Mick Pork (SNP supporter who knows more about the phone hacking scandal than the rest of us have had hot dinners, and who has been proudly banned from PB on no fewer than 90 separate occasions - that's 86 more than me!)

Timothy (likes zebras)

Caron Lindsay (Liberal Democrat blogger)

Stuart Campbell (by some distance Scotland's most widely-read pro-independence blogger)

J R Tomlin (author of historical fiction, and America's leading Yes Scotland supporter!)

Aubrey de Grey (biomedical gerontologist who has predicted that humans will have 1000-year lifespans in the relatively near future)

Joan McAlpine (SNP MSP, and former editor of the Sunday Times' Scottish edition)

Alison Thewliss (SNP councillor for the Calton ward in Glasgow, and formerly a prolific blogger as Bellgrove Belle)

Sophia Pangloss (quite simply the finest blogger in the Scots language that I know of, and another fellow Eurovision fanatic)

Sean Thomas (Cornish sex memoirist, self-styled "international thriller-writer", and die-hard fan of ethnic determinism)

Iain Dale (Tory blogger and former parliamentary candidate)

James Mackenzie (Doubleplusgood Eradicator-in-Chief of Thoughtcrime and Crimethink from the comments section of Better Nation)

Subrosa (pro-independence blogger)

Andrew Reeves (the late and greatly-missed Liberal Democrat blogger and Director of Campaigns)

Rachel Lucas (Very witty and very right-wing American blogger, who has the distinction of being the only advocate of Tea Party-style politics that has ever made me laugh with them rather than at them. On a less positive note, she was also the person who indirectly introduced me to the dubious delights of the Kevin Baker Fan Club.)

Ezio (Florentine nobleman and all-round megastar. What has happened to Ezio? Someone send out a search party!)

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Word-Search Wednesday : Christmas Special

As we're nearing the end of the year in which Scot Goes Pop marked its fifth anniversary (it all started in May 2008 with this post), I thought we'd have a special Christmas treat - a word-search puzzle made up of the names of some of the people who have left comments on this blog over the last five-and-a-half years.

(Click to enlarge)

You're looking for 29 names - some of them are regulars, and others are well-known or notable people who may have only left one or two comments. Please don't be offended if your name isn't there - if I'd included everyone, there would have had to be about 200 rows!

The solution will appear here on Saturday.  In the meantime, a very happy Christmas to you all!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

A small prediction for 2014...

If there's a Yes vote in September, the first we'll hear from John Rentoul, Euan McColm et al will be something along the lines of -

"OK, OK, so we've had the Nat-friendly Panelbase 'result'. Now let's get serious - when's the Ipsos-Mori declaration due?"

Happy Christmas when it comes - and don't forget to leave a carrot out for Santa!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Denis the Double Standard

I do actually have a modicum of human sympathy for Denis MacShane today - my only real problem with the guy is that he's a pompous, sanctimonious windbag who invents 'facts' to support his feeble arguments and then just cranks up the pomposity and sanctimoniousness even further whenever anyone calls him out on the lies. I don't want everyone like that put in prison. But then those of us who don't go around blaming the most vulnerable in society for all of the country's ills, and who are willing to take account of mitigating circumstances that may explain those people's failings, are actually in a position to express sympathy for MacShane without being hypocritical. Tom Harris is, to put it mildly, not in such a position, and yet he still posted this extraordinary tweet a few hours ago -

"Thoughts are with my friend and former colleague @DenisMacShane on this awful day. A good man."

So it seems that, in Harris-world, teenage mothers, immigrants, the homeless and benefits claimants must be mercilessly condemned as the authors of their own misfortunes, but the Great and the Good must be understood. Remind me - just why did you join the Labour party in the first place, Tom? Ah, that's right, because it's not "some sort of charity set up to help the poorest in society". Yeah, I think a number of us are certainly forming that impression.

* * *

If the events of the day have put you in the mood, why not delve into the archives and try out the Scot Goes Pop Denis MacShane word-search puzzle? You might as well take the chance to limber up, because Word-Search Wednesday will be making a thrilling one-off return on Christmas Day!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Regeneration : a complete new life cycle

Since it's very nearly Christmas, I'm going to indulge myself with a shameless geek-post about continuity problems in Doctor Who. Cut me some slack here, guys - if Ruth Davidson's sincerest fears (ahem) are realised, it might be my last ever chance to do something like this.

As a more or less lifelong fan of the show, one thing that really bugged me when it was revived in 2005 was the apparent attempt to 'retcon' out of existence the established principle that the Doctor (in common with all other Time Lords) could only regenerate twelve times, and was therefore restricted to thirteen incarnations before there had to be some sort of cunning plot twist that allowed him to live on. It just seemed like pure laziness on the part of the programme-makers, because if they had wanted to dispense with the rule so badly, it would only have taken them ten seconds to drop in a throwaway explanation. It's not hard to think of what that explanation could have been - even in the days of the classic series, some fans quite liked the idea that twelve regenerations was not a biological limit, but was instead something imposed by the Time Lords upon themselves. This was implicitly supported by the suggestion in a couple of stories that extra regenerations could be gifted to an individual Time Lord. So the Doctor could very easily have just casually mentioned that he used to be restricted to thirteen lives, but as a result of the Time Lords' demise the bar had been lifted and he was now effectively immortal. But no, instead there was just a pretence that the rule had never existed in the first place, which reached its nadir with the unexplained ability of the Master to regenerate in the episode Utopia, in spite of the fact that in the classic series he had well and truly used all his lives up. Again, fans were able to concoct their own methods of explaining the contradiction away (the Master had been resurrected and therefore had perhaps been restored to the start of his regeneration cycle), but the lack of any explicit reference to the problem in the narrative made it clear enough that retconning was the order of the day.

But why? Russell T Davies, the man who masterminded the revival of the show, was a dedicated fan of the classic series who was constantly dropping in self-indulgent continuity references that new viewers were never going to pick up on. This culminated in David Tennant's Doctor reciting a lengthy and near-verbatim quote from Tom Baker's famous 'homo sapiens' monologue - ironically in the very same episode as the Master's regeneration. So Davies would certainly have been aware from the word go of the twelve regenerations rule, leaving only one real conclusion to be drawn - that he personally disliked the rule so much that the idea of even taking ten seconds to explain it away offended him, and he therefore preferred to just ignore it.

That theory was put to the test a year or two after Davies stepped down as the 'showrunner', when he penned an episode of the spin-off series The Sarah-Jane Adventures that was billed in advance as containing an explanation of how the Doctor could essentially go on regenerating forever (or, more specifically, 507 times). But in fact, there was no 'explanation' offered at all - just yet another statement that flatly contradicted the established rule. After the episode was broadcast, Davies said this in an interview -

"507 – I could not resist! I was hooting. It'll never stick, though. That 13 lives is stuck in people's heads. It is, isn’t it funny? Yet they only said 13 once or twice...

There's a fascinating academic study to be made out of how some facts stick and some don't – how Jon Pertwee's Doctor could say he was thousands of years old, and no-one listens to that, and yet someone once says he’s only got thirteen lives, and it becomes lore. It’s really interesting, I think. That's why I'm quite serious that that 507 thing won’t stick, because the 13 is too deeply ingrained in the public consciousness. But how? How did that get there? It's fascinating, it's really weird. Anyway, that'll be my book in my retirement!"

I must admit my jaw dropped to the floor when I read that. Er, no, Russell. The twelve regeneration rule was not mentioned only "once or twice", and more to the point when it was mentioned it wasn't in the same casual way as Jon Pertwee's Doctor claiming to be thousands of years old. The rule was in fact at the very core of several storylines, leaving not even the slightest conceivable mystery about how it came to be so deeply ingrained in the public consciousness. For example...

THE DEADLY ASSASSIN (1976) : In this story the Master is in an emaciated state, having reached the end of his thirteenth incarnation. A key part of his motivation is to extend his life.

THE KEEPER OF TRAKEN (1981) : The Master returns in the same emaciated state, still with the plan of extending his life, this time by taking over the Doctor's body - although ultimately he takes over the body of a character called Tremas instead. It is stated that: "I am now reaching the end of my twelfth regeneration." / "Then that is the end for a Time Lord." / "But not for the Keeper of Traken."

LOGOPOLIS (1981) : The aftermath of the Master's rebirth, now in the body of Tremas. Again, we have a very clear statement of the position: "The Master escaped from Traken? Why take Nyssa's father?" / "To renew himself. He was very near the end of his twelfth regeneration."

MAWDRYN UNDEAD (1983) : In this story, a group of undead creatures want the Doctor to donate his remaining regenerations to help them to die. Again, the position is made absolutely crystal-clear: "I can only regenerate twelve times. I have already done so four times." / "So?" / "Don't you see? Eight of them, eight of me!" / "They want your remaining regenerations?"

THE FIVE DOCTORS (1983) : Reminding viewers once again that the Master has used up his twelve regenerations, the Time Lords offer him "a complete new life-cycle" as an inducement to do what they want.

THE TRIAL OF A TIME LORD (1986) : In this epic story, the sixth Doctor encounters a prosecuting lawyer who turns out to be himself in a future incarnation. The Master explains that "the Valeyard is an amalgamation of the darker sides of your nature, somewhere between your twelfth and final incarnation - and I may say that you do not improve with age". The strong suggestion in episode 13 is that the Valeyard's motivation is the same as the Master's in The Keeper of Traken, but with a twist - he wants to extend his own life by killing an earlier incarnation of himself and "inheriting" that incarnation's remaining seven regenerations. Unfortunately, this very imaginative storyline is somewhat undone in episode 14 (the final installment) when a completely different motivation is suggested instead. The contradiction came about because of behind-the-scenes chaos - the original writer withdrew his script for episode 14, and new writers were brought in at the last minute who completely misconstrued the meaning of key dialogue in episode 13.

When you take all that together, you can see how the twelve regenerations rule is rightly considered to be an indispensable part of Doctor Who 'lore', as Davies calls it. So I was delighted to hear that the current showrunner Steven Moffat will be addressing the problem (and effectively reinstating the original rule) in this year's Christmas special that sees Matt Smith regenerate into Peter Capaldi. Until recently, it had been assumed that Smith was the Doctor's eleventh incarnation and that Capaldi would be the twelfth, but the 50th anniversary episodes introduced John Hurt as a previously unheard-of ninth incarnation between Paul McGann and Christopher Eccleston - and now apparently it's going to be additionally claimed that another regeneration was used up in the David Tennant episode Journey's End, meaning that the Doctor has reached the end of the road and can't regenerate anymore (until the aforementioned cunning plot twist, which is presumably about to arrive).

This is all good news, but it throws up a few continuity problems of its own. It's been implied a good few times that Matt Smith's Doctor anticipates having several lives ahead of him - but why would he anticipate that, if he knows full well that he is the thirteenth incarnation? For instance, when he meets Tom Baker's Doctor in the anniversary special, it's hinted (but thankfully not stated explicitly) that Baker may not be playing the original fourth Doctor, but rather a future incarnation that has revisited an old body. Smith's Doctor doesn't seem remotely surprised by this, which would seem to contradict the idea that he knows his lives are all gone - although because this plainly doesn't make any sense, I would be happy enough to infer that the alternative interpretation of the scene (that Baker is in fact playing the fourth Doctor) must be the correct one. Furthermore, in the episode The Angels Take Manhattan, Smith's Doctor heals River Song's hand by using his regeneration energy - but why would he be able to do that if he doesn't have any regenerations left?

These are all minor quibbles, though. As this is such a pivotal moment in the show's development that has been speculated upon for such a long time, my main concern is that whatever explanation is given for the Doctor being able to live on, it should 'feel' right. One slight cause for doubt on that point is that Steven Moffat, just like his predecessor, has given a clear indication that he misunderstands something important from the classic series - he said in an interview that he wasn't sure if the Valeyard was really intended to be a future Doctor in a literal sense. Well, that certainly was the intention, and it was explictly stated to be the case. So that makes Moffat's unexpected mention in an episode earlier this year that the Doctor will "before the end" be known as the Valeyard a bit worrying, and makes me wonder if that whole storyline is about to be (perhaps unintentionally) retconned as well.

To be fair, introducing a future incarnation of the Doctor in a 1986 storyline was always a bit of a hostage to fortune in continuity terms, because it wasn't realistic to expect writers several decades down the line to reconcile it with their own plans. The simplest method of explaining the contradiction away would be to assume that the Valeyard was simply a 'possible' future for the Doctor, and that the encounter between the two was in itself sufficient to avert that future (the fact that the Doctor seemed fairly untroubled by the whole situation at the end of The Trial of a Time Lord would certainly support that interpretation). However, that's been blown out of the water by Moffat reinforcing the idea that the Valeyard is still part of the Doctor's future. I think the most elegant way around the problem now would be to spot a bit of creative ambiguity in the Master's original words that wasn't actually intended to be there - when he said "the Valeyard is...somewhere between your twelfth and final incarnation", he doesn't actually specify that 'final' means 'thirteenth'. It could be argued that he was choosing his words with care, because he somehow had foreknowledge that the Doctor would escape the twelve regenerations limit - in which case, the Valeyard could be absolutely any incarnation from the twelfth onwards. So I just hope nothing in the Christmas plot twist contradicts that serendipitous potential explanation!

I'll be on tenterhooks about all that, but of course mostly I'll be on tenterhooks to find out if Peter Capaldi utters his first lines in his own Scottish accent...

Friday, December 20, 2013

Considering the state of play among young voters

It always used to baffle me that politicians and journalists alike seemed to take it as read that the female vote is more important than the male vote. I wondered if that mindset simply boiled down to political correctness, until someone patiently explained to me that women tend to be considerably less partisan than men, and are therefore more important in the sense that their votes are more likely to be up for grabs. But I'm still not so sure that the fetishisation of the youth vote has a similar rational basis. There are two ways of looking at it - on the one hand, young people are the least important section of the electorate in that they are the least likely to actually turn out to vote, but on the other hand they are the greatest prize of all because they have (on average!) a greater number of voting years ahead of them than anyone else. In normal circumstances the two factors might be thought to offset each other, but given that the Yes campaign are aiming to win the independence referendum outright (and given that practically no country has ever willingly surrendered its independence after winning it), securing the hearts and minds of the younger generation for the decades to come is not such an obvious consideration this time around. It's also worth bearing in mind that nobody of any age has ever voted in an independence referendum before (unless they did it in another country), so neither is it the case on this occasion that young people are unique in lacking hard-to-break voting habits established over a period of years.

In spite of all that, the youth vote is undoubtedly regarded as special, perhaps because many commentators are determined to believe that the SNP gave 16 and 17 year olds the vote for tactical rather than principled reasons, and would be all-too-delighted to have a little gloat about how the whole thing had 'backfired'. A few months back, it was practically being stated as fact that this had already happened, and that younger voters were breaking disproportionately against independence. But the evidence for that claim was never particularly strong, and has become weaker still after the latest batch of polls. We now have datasets from three polls that were wholly conducted after the publication of the White Paper, and although they present a decidedly mixed picture, none of the polls suggest that young people are the most anti-independence group, while one of the polls suggest that they are in fact the most pro-independence group. Let's take the three in turn -

YouGov unambiguously suggest that 18-24 year olds are the most pro-independence age group, with 42% of them planning to vote Yes and 50% planning to vote No. By contrast, the Yes vote in the three older age groups falls within a narrow band between 30% and 32%, with the No vote ranging between 50% and 55%. Incidentally, YouGov are still failing to poll under-18s, which is astonishingly bad practice in a referendum that has a minimum voting age of 16.

Ipsos-Mori suggest that 16-24 year olds are the second most favourable of the four age groups for the Yes campaign. Paradoxically, though, the Yes vote among young people is very slightly lower than among the overall sample - this apparent contradiction is brought about by the particularly heavy support for Yes among 35-54 year olds, which pulls the overall figure up.

TNS-BMRB are the only pollster that offer any real succour for those who believe that young people represent some kind of problem for the Yes campaign, but even here the picture is far from clear-cut. It's true that out of the six age groups that are listed, 16-24 year olds are less likely to be Yes voters than anyone other than the over-65s. But they're also the third least likely to be No voters, after 25-34 year olds and 35-44 year olds. In a nutshell, if TNS are right there are simply an awful lot of undecided young voters out there.

Probably the best way of summarising the totality of the available evidence is "we don't actually have a scooby whether young people are more likely than their elders to vote for independence or not", but for what it's worth my own gut feeling is that they will indeed ultimately break slightly more for Yes - and that includes the symbolically important 16-17 year old group.

* * *

Scottish Skier mentioned in a comment on Wings over Scotland that he felt that TNS-BMRB are severely underestimating the Yes vote due to shy voter syndrome - ie. since they are the only pollster that interviews people face-to-face, Yes voters are less willing to admit their true intentions to them. As evidence, he points out that TNS are reporting a much lower percentage for Yes among the 2011 SNP support than other pollsters are. This theory certainly has the ring of plausibility to it, but the problem is that TNS are similarly finding a lower No vote among 2011 Labour voters. So it could be that 'shy Yes voters' are one of two factors at play here, with the other more obvious one being the relatively new TNS practice of asking how people think they will vote on the actual referendum date, rather than in a hypothetical referendum 'tomorrow'. The latter factor probably lowers the Yes and No figures by a more or less equal amount.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Dramatic new TNS-BMRB poll shows the pro-independence campaign closing the gap for the FOURTH time in a row

Just as I was about to go to bed safe in the apparent knowledge that the day's only polling "news" was the Herald's farcical attempts to portray the vastly inferior popularity ratings of the No campaign's leaders as some kind of bad news story for the Yes side (!), I heard the exciting news on Twitter of a new TNS-BMRB poll of referendum voting intentions in tomorrow's edition of the paper.  Here are the full headline figures (not excluding Don't Knows) -

Should Scotland be an independent country?

Yes 27% (+1)
No 41% (-1)

The No lead with TNS-BMRB has now almost halved since it stood at a peak of 25 points in the autumn of last year.  This is also the fourth successive poll from the company to show a drop in the No lead - in the late September/early October poll the lead fell from 22 points to 19, in the late October poll it fell from 19 points to 18, in late November it fell from 18 points to 16, and now it has fallen from 16 points to 14.  It's the second TNS-BMRB poll in a row to find the Yes campaign increasing its raw level of support.  And it's the fifth poll out of five published by all polling companies since the publication of the White Paper to show a drop in the No lead.  Over to you, oh wise London media - try spinning that little lot as "essentially a no change position"!

The significance of the Yes campaign's advance becomes even more stark when the Don't Knows are stripped out of the equation, with the lead closing by a full 4%, and with Yes reaching the psychological 40% mark...

Yes 40% (+2)
No 60% (-2)

Remarkably, TNS-BMRB have just jumped from fifth place to third in the rankings for the most favourable pollster for the Yes campaign when Don't Knows are excluded, although that's largely because the figures from ICM, YouGov and TNS-BMRB are all tightly bunched together.

Hopefully I'll have more to say about this poll when the full datasets are made available.

*  *  *


Now we turn to the fourth update of this blog's Poll of Polls - and I'm delighted to say that it's the fourth out of four to show an increase in support for the pro-independence campaign!  Just to reiterate, the Poll of Polls is based on a rolling average of six polls - the most recent one from each of the six referendum pollsters that adhere to the British Polling Council's rules (Panelbase, YouGov, Ipsos-Mori, ICM, Angus Reid and TNS-BMRB). If any other BPC pollsters enter the fray at some point, they'll be taken into account as well. This update simply replaces the last TNS-BMRB poll with the new one, and therefore only one-sixth of the sample has changed.

MEAN AVERAGE (not excluding Don't Knows) :

Yes 33.0% (+0.2)
No 48.8% (-0.2)

MEAN AVERAGE (excluding Don't Knows) :

Yes 40.3% (+0.2)
No 59.7% (-0.2)

MEDIAN AVERAGE (excluding Don't Knows) :

Yes 39.6% (+0.4)
No 60.4% (-0.4)

Those of you who have been following the Poll of Polls closely from the start will have noticed that the Yes vote has now increased by a full 1% on the headline figures since the publication of the White Paper - and that's in spite of the fact that only three of the six pollsters have updated their numbers since then. Over the same period, the overall No lead has slipped from 17.5% to 15.8%.

The median average is the most affected by the new TNS-BMRB poll. Last time around, the median was calculated as the mid-point between ICM and YouGov, as the third and fourth most favourable pollsters for the Yes campaign. This time it's the mid-point between TNS-BMRB and ICM, with the latter having slipped from third to fourth.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Wisdom on Wednesday : The relationship between trust and expectation

CALLY : My people have a saying. 'A man who trusts can never be betrayed, only mistaken.'

AVON : Life expectancy must be fairly short among your people...

Dialogue from the Blake's 7 episode 'Mission to Destiny'. They could almost have been talking about us Scots - forever putting our trust in others (ie. Westminster politicians) to solve our problems with their 'jam tomorrow' pledges, and ending up with the lowest life expectancy in western Europe as our reward.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Green Yes

I must admit that, until I saw the mention of it on Wings over Scotland yesterday, I wasn't aware that the Green Yes campaign was running a fundraiser on Indiegogo.  I've decided to do my ecumenical deed for the morning by making a modest donation.  It doesn't feel like such an unnatural thing to do - although as things stand I would always vote for the SNP over the Greens, it's probably fair to say that the Greens are somewhat closer to my own views on some constitutional matters relating to an independent Scotland, such as opposition to NATO membership and support for an elected Head of State.  It's not inconceivable, therefore, that if independence is achieved next year, I might then switch to voting Green in an attempt to 'complete the journey'.  (Admittedly I discovered a few months ago that at least some high-profile Green members have a chillingly intolerant attitude towards any dissent on gender politics, so that's one factor that might put me off.)  I certainly wouldn't switch to voting Green if there was a No vote, because there's not much point in arguing the toss over NATO membership or the monarchy unless you're taking the fastest possible route to independence.  Scotland sure as hell won't be leaving NATO or abolishing the monarchy as part of the United Kingdom, and although independence would revert to being a longer-term objective in the event of a No vote, the timescale would only get longer still if natural supporters desert the SNP.

My only slight doubt about donating was that I knew I'd be contributing to a campaign that will be somewhat critical of the SNP government on certain issues (as we saw from Patrick Harvie on Question Time, for instance), and indeed will be diverging sharply from my own views at times.  But when I reflected on it, I realised that was no bad thing, because a high-profile and sincere Green Yes campaign will drive home the message to voters that the independence movement is genuinely cross-party and diverse.  And I don't think there's any danger at all of a 1979-style 'Berlin Wall' being erected between two rival Yes campaigns who dislike each other more than the real opposition - it looks like Green Yes sees itself as very much a complement to Yes Scotland, rather than a competitor.

I've no doubt that the Greens' support for independence is founded on principle, but it has to be said it's tactically savvy as well.  Win or lose, Patrick Harvie is guaranteed to emerge from the campaign as one of Scotland's highest profile politicians, because he will be appearing constantly on TV as the most senior non-SNP parliamentarian supporting independence (unless of course an MP or MSP from Labour, the Lib Dems or the Tories is smart enough to seize that mantle from him, which is perfectly possible).

To read more about the Green Yes fundraising drive or to donate to it, click HERE.

*  *  *

There was a provocative article on the BBC website a few years ago that characterised the division on the island of Cyprus as being almost 'autistic' in nature, with each side seemingly finding it utterly impossible to perceive the situation through the other's eyes, even as an idle thought-experiment.  For some reason, that analogy popped into my head when I heard about the nature of John Major's latest thrilling foray into the Scottish constitutional debate.  He described Scottish independence as "folly on a grand scale", which he elaborated on by setting out a number of reasons why he felt it would be a terrible idea from the point of view of the London political class, such as the likelihood of diminished influence for the UK overseas, and a possible loss of permanent member status on the UN Security Council.  As an argument against Scottish independence, that's the rough equivalent of a husband trying to persuade his wife to stay in the following manner -

HUSBAND : If you leave it'll be a disaster!  I'll lose access to your income!  I'll have no-one on my arm at parties!  I'll have to do all my own cooking!  My mother will lose all respect for me!

WIFE : OK, and what will I lose?

HUSBAND : Sorry?  I don't quite follow?

In any case, I've always felt that the 'concern' about rUK's Security Council status is a massive red herring.  When Russia replaced the Soviet Union at the UN in the early 1990s, it had effectively lost 40% of the population of the old state, and a huge chunk of the territory - and yet its assumption of the permanent seat on the Security Council was seamless.  Let's face it, if membership of the Security Council was determined on a fair basis by population size or global influence, the UK would have been booted off decades ago - but it doesn't work like that, and unfortunately there's no particular reason to suppose that it will suddenly start working like that just because Scotland has become an independent country.  It's a colonial relic, not a representative body.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Clues from YouGov about undecided voters

Just one final (probably!) dip into the details of last week's YouGov referendum poll. Unlike the recent Ipsos-Mori poll or the second Panelbase poll commissioned by Wings over Scotland, there doesn't seem to have been any direct attempt made to discover how the Don't Knows are more inclined to vote.  However, there was one question on the economy which produced responses that correlated extraordinarily closely to actual voting intentions - just 2% of Yes voters thought that an independent Scotland would be economically worse off, while 0% of No voters thought it would be economically better off.  So it struck me that the responses of undecided voters to that question might furnish us with a very useful indirect way of detecting which way those people may be leaning. Irritatingly, YouGov haven't provided that particular cross-break, but it's still possible to get a rough idea by extrapolating from the percentages elsewhere in the datasets.  These numbers won't be absolutely dead-on accurate, but they'll be reasonably close.


14% think an independent Scotland would be economically better off.
9% think an independent Scotland would be economically worse off.
12% think independence would make no difference to Scotland's economic prospects.
65% don't know how independence would affect Scotland's economic prospects.

(Note : Technically the above numbers include 'won't votes' as well, but they're a relatively small percentage.)

Now I'm not pretending for a moment that these numbers represent some kind of slam-dunk for the Yes campaign.  But one thing that is self-evident is that this section of the electorate bears very little resemblance to the No camp's current constituency of support.  (For comparison, the figures for No supporters are : Better off - 0%, Worse off - 88%, No difference - 7%, Don't Know - 5%.)  So at the very least it would appear that the undecideds are wide open to persuasion by either campaign.  And interestingly, it may not be quite enough for the No campaign to fight their opponents to a stalemate on the economic arguments, because the poll also seems to suggest that people who think that independence would make no difference to our economic prospects are at the moment breaking disproportionately for Yes.  Again, this is based on an extrapolation, because the relevant raw numbers haven't been provided.


Should Scotland be an independent country?

Yes 55%
No 30%

So it's just possible that the bar is slightly higher for the No campaign on the economy - to win new converts, they may need to persuade undecided voters that Scotland's economic prospects would actually be worse under independence, rather than merely no better.

Either way, it's worth bearing in mind that if YouGov's headline figures are accurate (admittedly a big if), it wouldn't be sufficient for the Yes campaign to win over a lion's share of the Don't Knows - they would also need a chunk of the No camp's current support.  But it wouldn't necessarily have to be that big a chunk.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

I am a traitor

And I mean that quite literally. From the Guardian -

"A 165-year-old law that threatens anyone calling for the abolition of the monarchy with life imprisonment is technically still in force – after the Ministry of Justice admitted wrongly announcing that it had been repealed...

The Ministry of Justice said: "Section 3 of the Treason Felony Act 1848 has not been repealed."...

That means in theory that to "imagine" overthrowing the Crown or waging war against the Queen, as the wording of the act describes, could still result in a life sentence."

Merely 'imagining' it is enough? Having been brought up a Catholic, that reminds me a bit of the doctrine that having 'impure thoughts' is just as sinful as actually doing the deed. Now, I don't know about you, but I find that while I may be able to control my actions, my thoughts are rather resistant to that form of discipline. Which begs the obvious question - if you're going to be deemed as bad a criminal/sinner anyway, why not just go the whole hog? Let's do it now - let's overthrow the Queen!

Friday, December 13, 2013

YouGov poll suggests that the pro-independence campaign's childcare proposals have made a big impression on voters

The remaining details of this week's YouGov poll have been released, and the most eye-catching finding is that there are now more than twice as many voters (35%) who think that an independent Scotland would have better childcare provision than there are who think provision would get worse (15%). Even more remarkably, a plurality of Labour voters (27% to 18%) think that independence would lead to expanded childcare provision, while as many as 15% of those who are currently planning to vote No in the referendum share the same view - meaning that, by a fair distance, childcare is the issue that provokes the most favourable impression of independence among current No supporters. That leaves little room for doubt that the decision to make childcare the centrepiece of the independence White Paper has been noticed by many key voters, and that the No campaign's attempts to neutralise the impact of the proposals have thus far been unsuccessful.

One of the subtexts of John Curtice's commentary on recent polls is that, because Yes have failed to storm into an outright lead on the back of the childcare proposals, the strategy must have been wrong, and that they should have focused relentlessly on the economy instead. I disagree. The economy is undoubtedly a vital battlefield, but the idea that there was some kind of silver bullet available that would have produced an overnight 10% swing in voting intentions is risible, and the idea that dry talk about economic growth or tax revenues could have constituted that silver bullet is even more risible. No, the task of the White Paper was not to instantly shift votes in huge numbers (although as we've seen in the polls that have been published since then, some voters have certainly moved over to the Yes camp), but instead to shift perceptions of what independence is all about among the most sceptical voters, many of whom are women, and many of whom care deeply about issues such as childcare. With a change in perceptions you earn a fair hearing further down the line that you might not otherwise have got, and with a fair hearing you have the chance to ultimately win new votes - if your campaigning is skillful enough, that is. There's every indication in these YouGov numbers that things are going to plan so far.

The other thing that struck me is just how few issues there are that really provoke any fear about independence, even amongst people who are currently planning to vote No. For example...

* 53% of current No supporters think that schools would be as good as now or better after independence.

* 62% of current No supporters think that the crime rate would not get worse or would reduce after independence.

* 45% of current No voters think that Scotland would be just as 'safe in the world' (whatever that means) or safer after independence. (This also constitutes a plurality, because only 42% of No supporters believe Scotland would be less safe.)

So we're not exactly dealing with voters who have an all-encompassing dystopian view of independence - their reluctance to embrace the idea seems to boil down to a relatively narrow (albeit very important) range of concerns about issues such as taxation and pensions. The poll also detects a nominal 'concern' about Scotland's influence in the world, which of course is entirely misguided - Scotland can hardly lose any further influence in world councils when the people 'representing' us there at the moment are David Cameron and William Hague. But I don't think it really matters whether the electorate come to accept that fact or not, because the only people who ever actually lose any sleep over a declining influence in the world are to be found in the political class.

Now here's an interesting paradox for you. The poll shows that most people in Scotland think of themselves as having either a wholly or predominantly Scottish national identity (ie. they say they are either 'Scottish not British' or 'more Scottish than British'). The poll also shows that most people with a wholly or predominantly Scottish national identity are in favour of independence. So why aren't Yes already in the lead? Well, quite simply because the No vote encompasses a substantial minority of those with a mostly Scottish identity, and a big majority of those without one. But all the same, this represents a huge potential opportunity for Yes due to the power of example - if voters who think of themselves as primarily Scottish start to notice that most people of like mind are plumping for independence, there might well be a bandwagon effect. There are no guarantees, of course - I mentioned Quebec last night, and the pro-independence campaign there were stuck with their own paradox of losing narrowly in spite of a 60-40 split in their favour among the majority French-speaking population. But the possibility is certainly there.

It's also intriguing that more than twice as many respondents (10%) say they are 'British not Scottish' than opt for the more nuanced option of 'more British than Scottish' (4%). It seems to me the most plausible explanation is that most of the 'British not Scottish' group are literally non-Scots - they're people resident in Scotland who have come here from other parts of the UK. By and large, that means they'll be English people answering a question they feel doesn't really apply to them in the only logical way they can - that would certainly explain the counter-intuitive finding that a respectable minority of them are planning to vote Yes or are SNP supporters. If this theory is correct, then it suggests that Scots with a primarily British national identity are now almost an extinct group, and that the No campaign's hopes depend heavily on retaining support among the quarter of the electorate who feel 'equally Scottish and British'.

Lastly, the poll backs up the suggestion from Ipsos-Mori that a swing in favour of independence has occurred in spite of a simultaneous small swing to Labour in Holyrood voting intentions. That suggests that referendum voting intentions are becoming gradually decoupled from party loyalty - and that's a very good thing, even if a modest boost for Labour in the polls isn't. The SNP do retain a slender lead on the constituency vote among respondents who are 100% certain to vote, which many pollsters regard as the most accurate test of how the electorate would actually vote at any given moment.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Vive L'Écosse Libre!

As I've spent a fair bit of time recently calculating poll averages, I thought I might take it a step further and do the same thing for what is probably the closest international parallel to our own independence referendum, namely the Quebec referendum of 1995. I'm sure most of you know that, in the early stages, the Yes camp in Quebec found themselves in a seemingly hopeless predicament, before recovering with a few months to go to roughly where we in Scotland are right now on a mean average of the polls - 40% Yes, 60% No (with Don't Knows excluded). They then made further impressive gains which took them all the way to a narrow lead by the close of the campaign.

That part of the story is well-known, but what might surprise you a little more is that an average of the polls from September 1995, the month before the referendum, shows that Yes were still trailing by more than five points...

SEPTEMBER 1995 AVERAGE (excluding Don't Knows) :

Yes 47.4%
No 52.6%

An average of polls conducted during the month of the referendum itself shows that the position had been dramatically reversed...

OCTOBER 1995 AVERAGE (excluding Don't Knows) :

Yes 50.7% (+3.3)
No 49.3% (-3.3)

Then of course came the famously cruel twist in the tale that has poisoned Quebec politics to this day. Fieldwork for the final poll was concluded three days before the referendum, too late to pick up any late swings. The No campaign indulged in some rather questionable practices in a desperate effort to rescue the situation, and it appears that this was sufficient to generate a small but decisive late swing back to No. However, this didn't reverse all or even most of the gains that Yes had made between September and October, as a comparison between the final result and the September average will demonstrate...

REFERENDUM RESULT, 30 OCTOBER 1995 (changes from September polling average) :

Yes 49.4% (+2.0)
No 50.6% (-2.0)

I'd say those numbers fairly definitively give the lie to the hoary old myth that you'll still sometimes hear otherwise intelligent people trot out, namely that a Yes campaign is bound to suffer a seepage of support during any referendum campaign, and that undecided voters are bound to break for No. More specifically, it suggests that our own Yes campaign in Scotland could still hope to win even if it remains a few points behind next August. It currently stands at 40.1% in the Poll of Polls with Don't Knows excluded, so if the Quebec precedent is anything to go by, it would probably need to increase its support by at least 7% or so over the coming seven or eight months. For my money, the crucial period will be from May until early August, because it's in May that the official campaign period starts, and from that point on the broadcasters will finally be obliged to treat both sides of the debate equally (and it'll be fascinating to see how faithfully they live up to that obligation).

NOTE : Apologies if I got my French grammar wrong in the title of this post. If so, hopefully Tris will correct me!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Alex Massie unwittingly pinpoints yet another excellent reason to vote for independence

From Alex Massie in his Spectator blog today -

"Nor is nationalist talk of a renewed democratic deficit all that persuasive. Sure, the Tories only have one MP in Scotland and between them the coalition parties can only count on a dozen Scottish votes. But a majority of English voters did not vote Conservative either. There is a distinction to be drawn between legitimacy conferred by a parliamentary majority and that earned by a majority of votes cast. In the latter instance, Scotland is different only by degree not kind.

The fact of the matter is that almost all British governments are delivered on a minority of the vote. Neither Tony Blair nor Margaret Thatcher ever won a majority of votes cast."

Which entirely misunderstands the nature of the democratic deficit. If our betters in the London establishment are to sustain the notion (and they certainly do their level best to) that the first-past-the-post electoral system used for Westminster is both fair and democratic, then the only meaningful tests of a democratic deficit are a) whether any given British government would have been elected in Scotland under the same system, and b) whether that government would even have come remotely close to being elected in Scotland under the same system. The Conservative government of 1959-64 failed test a) but not test b). The Tory governments of 1970-74, 1979-83 and 1983-87 failed both tests, but could at least claim to have put up a respectable fight on test b). But the three subsequent Tory governments, including the present one, failed test b) by absolute bloody light-years. It seems reasonable to suppose that the same will be true of any other Tory government that may come along in the foreseeable future.

"Even after independence most of us are likely to be ruled by a party for which we did not vote. Scotland, in this respect, will just be a smaller Britain. That’s fine but I think it reduces the impact of the democratic deficit argument which is, in any case, in part the consequence of our electoral system not the cumulative total of votes cast."

But that's not quite right, is it? An independent Scotland will be more democratic in two ways, not just the one that Alex is hinting at there. The built-in and supposedly unavoidable "British" democratic deficit that Alex refers to can be more succinctly described thus -

The UK uses an antiquated voting system for its national parliament that delivers a result that bears little resemblance to how the electorate actually votes. As a result of the Liberal Democrats' tactical bungling, there is now almost no prospect of that system being replaced for several decades, if ever.

And the solution to the problem can be described thus -

An independent Scotland will replace first-past-the-post with proportional representation for the national parliament, ensuring that election results closely mirror how the electorate actually votes, and that a much lower proportion of votes will be wasted.

Hardly a position consistent with "voting Yes won't make much difference". And funnily enough, what I've just done is a good example of the Yes campaign narrative that Alex spends most of his piece moaning about (while confusingly conceding that it is totally necessary). It goes like this - you identify something that is profoundly wrong with the United Kingdom, you explain why that problem cannot possibly be fixed from within the United Kingdom, and then you set out in very simple terms how an independent Scotland would fix it. I'm not remotely squeamish about any of this - if the Yes campaign have been using that narrative to a sufficient extent that Alex now feels able to accuse them of 'victimhood', then it shows that it's hitting home. What Alex sees as 'scaremongering', I see as facing facts - the fundamental difference with the No campaign's negativity is that they are dreaming up wildly implausible speculative claims of how an independent Scotland might flounder, while Yes are talking about what is verifiably wrong with the UK right now. There is no dispute over the factual reality of unwanted nuclear missiles being present on Glasgow's doorstep, for example.

An authentic Yes equivalent to Project Fear (or to the No2AV campaign) would instead be one that comes up with hypothetical examples of what Westminster might do to Scotland over the coming decades, and presents them to the electorate as cold hard fact. Frankly, I think there might be a place for that tactic as well, at least to a modest degree. The No campaign have got to learn that they're not the only ones allowed to play hardball. And although I don't agree with Iain Macwhirter's assessment of the White Paper's impact, one thing he is certainly right about is that another vital aspect of a successful Yes campaign will be a vastly enhanced rebuttal operation, with a team of experts constantly on hand to rapidly and authoritatively rebut any or all of the silly scare stories that crop up on a daily basis. There's a strong case for having separate rebuttal units based in both Scotland and London, to finally get to grips with the utter drivel that is routinely bounced back to voters via the London media.

Alex concludes his piece by suggesting that the Yes campaign's attempts to identify what is wrong with the UK will come up against voters' own perceptions that life isn't really so bad at the moment. I must say that it seems quite odd for a blogger who prays in aid shades of grey and matters of degree in respect of the democratic deficit to see no relevance at all for those same concepts when it comes to people's level of contentment with the way in which they are governed. I don't think life for Scots within the UK is intolerable by any means (although it may well be for a substantial minority) - but there's an awful lot wrong with it just the same, and there's plenty we can do to put it right in an independent Scotland. Conversely, there's precious little we can do about it for as long as we contract out our choice of government to a country that - perfectly legitimately - keeps voting for right-wing administrations.

New YouGov poll shows increase in support for independence since the White Paper

My new favourite pastime of "spot the good #indyref poll for Yes by seeing what Blair 'Complacency' McDougall doesn't say about it on Twitter" continues to delight.  An hour or two ago he posted this tweet...

"Interesting figure on what £800,000 worth of taxpayer-funded White Paper propaganda gets you coming up."

...and it instantly became blindingly obvious that there must be a new poll about to be released in which the No lead had fallen yet again, because the narrative he was manfully trying to prepare the ground for was "Yes haven't made enough progress". The problem for him being that the poll he was hinting at was a YouGov, which is highly significant because - a) YouGov have traditionally been one of the most favourable pollsters for the anti-independence campaign, and b) the last YouGov referendum poll showed a dramatic slump in the lead for No, which was down to its lowest level in eighteen months. So any further improvement for Yes from that position represents unalloyed good news, no matter how much Mr McDougall might care to harrumph about it. Here are the full figures from tonight's poll -

Should Scotland be an independent country?

Yes 33% (+1)
No 52% (-)

Now you'll notice that I list the real referendum question above the results, but that isn't intended to suggest that YouGov were necessarily professional enough to actually let that question speak for itself when conducting the poll. I've heard some dark whispers that they may in fact have reinstated their notorious biased preamble that unsubtly attempts to push people towards saying No. If so, it would be an astonishing retrograde step for both their own credibility as a company and for the accuracy of referendum polling more broadly, so let's fervently hope it isn't true. We should find out one way or another tomorrow, and rest assured I have my customary "YouGov's credibility in tatters" headline raring to go if it turns out that the preamble has indeed reared its ugly head yet again. The only consolation is that it would make tonight's figures look even better for Yes, because it seemed that the simple act of introducing a more neutrally-worded preamble was responsible for as much as eight of the ten percentage points by which the No lead dropped in YouGov's September poll. If Yes have closed the gap even further in spite of the reinstated handicap of the preamble, it would represent a massive "real terms" advance for them.

Either way, YouGov have now become the fourth pollster out of four to report that the No campaign's lead has fallen since the publication of the White Paper, so there can be very little remaining doubt about the general direction of travel. Indeed, it's been so long since YouGov have produced a No lead as low as this that I'm struggling to definitively put my finger on the last occasion that it happened - I think it may have been October 2011.

* * *


And now its time for the third update of this blog's Poll of Polls - yes, these updates are coming thick and fast all of a sudden! As you probably know by now, the Poll of Polls is based on a rolling average of six polls - the most recent one from each of the six referendum pollsters that adhere to the British Polling Council's rules (Panelbase, YouGov, Ipsos-Mori, ICM, Angus Reid and TNS-BMRB). So this update simply replaces the last YouGov poll from September with the new one.

MEAN AVERAGE (not excluding Don't Knows) :

Yes 32.8% (+0.1)
No 49.0% (-)

MEAN AVERAGE (excluding Don't Knows) :

Yes 40.1% (+0.1)
No 59.9% (-0.1)

MEDIAN AVERAGE (excluding Don't Knows) :

Yes 39.2% (+0.3)
No 60.8% (-0.3)

Given that only one-sixth of the sample changes with each newly-published poll, the movements are inevitably glacial. But even a 0.1% change on the mean average excluding Don't Knows is sufficient for the No vote to slip below 60% on that particular measure for the first time since the Poll of Polls began.

The swing required for the pro-independence campaign to draw level is now just 8.1% if Don't Knows are taken into account, and 9.9% if Don't Knows are excluded.

* * *

UPDATE : I'm hugely relieved to say that YouGov haven't reinstated the Dodgy Preamble. The most likely explanation for the 'dark whispers' I mentioned is that YouGov have been using the preamble for internal party/campaign polls not intended for publication (ie. the No campaign are getting the comforting answers they're paying to hear), or have been doing it for testing purposes of the sort that Oldnat mentions in his comment below. If it's the latter, then I'm still immensely troubled that they're even bothering to 'test' such a self-evidently biased preamble, because it suggests that they still haven't entirely given up on the ludicrous idea of reinstating it.

The detailed results from the poll also show that the No lead (excluding Don't Knows) is slightly narrower among those who are absolutely certain to vote. It also appears that the Yes lead among SNP supporters is not only slightly higher than the No lead among Labour supporters, but also quite a bit higher than the No lead among Liberal Democrat supporters.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Ipsos-Mori poll : SNP retain lead in Scottish Parliament voting intentions

As I noted in the comments section from yesterday's post, I was a bit concerned after looking at the Ipsos-Mori datasets that Labour might have taken a narrow lead in Holyrood voting intentions.  As it turned out, I needn't have worried, because it's just been revealed that the SNP are still ahead on the headline figures.  In fact there's only a very marginal difference with the last Ipsos-Mori poll from September, amounting to the equivalent of a 1% swing to Labour (in other words the change could easily be an illusion caused by that legendary "margin of error stuff").

SNP 36% (-3)
Labour 34% (-1)
Conservatives 15% (+3)
Liberal Democrats 8% (+1)

The figures are for the constituency vote - for some reason Ipsos-Mori don't seem to bother asking their respondents for list vote intention.

The fact that the SNP's lead is relatively narrow, though, may provide a clue to the reason for the huge differences we've been seeing between the pollsters on referendum voting intention.  We know, for example, that Panelbase (the most favourable pollster for Yes) has tended to show very large SNP leads for Holyrood, while Newsnet Scotland discovered after some sleuthing that Progressive Scottish Opinion, the non-BPC pollster that has been producing the most inflated No leads of all, was privately showing a thoroughly implausible Labour lead for Holyrood of 8%.  So there does seem to be a clear (and admittedly unsurprising) relationship between the divergence on referendum voting intention figures, and the number of SNP voters each pollster has in its sample.

That's not to say Ipsos-Mori are necessarily getting it wrong, of course, although that will certainly be the suspicion of many of us - especially given that they are one of the only pollsters who still refuse to weight their sample in line with the 2011 Holyrood result.

Monday, December 9, 2013

New Ipsos-Mori poll confirms increase in support for independence since the publication of the White Paper

Ipsos-Mori have just released the third poll on independence referendum voting intentions to be published since the launch of the Scottish Government's White Paper, and the second to be wholly conducted since then (last week's TNS-BMRB poll was partly conducted before the WP).  It confirms the trend suggested by the previous two, of a clear swing in favour of the pro-independence campaign.  Here are the full figures -

Should Scotland be an independent country?

Yes 34% (+3)
No 57% (-2)

In the STV report on the poll, Ipsos-Mori's Mark Diffey acknowledges the boost in support for independence, but goes on to note that No retain a healthy lead.  Unfortunately, what he doesn't go on to note is that, even with this shift, Ipsos-Mori remain the outlier at the No-friendly end of the polling spectrum, showing a bigger lead for the No campaign than any of the other five pollsters that adhere to British Polling Council rules.  They also remain one of only two BPC pollsters (the other is YouGov) to be showing a raw No vote higher than 50%. In all likelihood, therefore, the true position is somewhat rosier for Yes than the raw figures of this poll would imply.

A couple of interesting titbits from the poll's datasets - Yes have a slim lead (47% to 45%) in the country's most deprived communities, while the No lead among Labour supporters (73% to 18%) is now several points lower than the Yes lead among SNP supporters (74% to 15%).

* * *


And now for the second update of this blog's Poll of Polls, which is based on a rolling average of six polls - the most recent from each of the six BPC pollsters to have been active during the referendum campaign (Ipsos-Mori, Panelbase, ICM, YouGov, Angus Reid and TNS-BMRB). This update simply replaces the last Ipsos-Mori poll with the new one, and therefore unsurprisingly sees the pro-independence campaign moving in the right direction.

MEAN AVERAGE (not excluding Don't Knows) :

Yes 32.7% (+0.5)
No 49.0% (-0.3)

MEAN AVERAGE (excluding Don't Knows) :

Yes 40.0% (+0.5)
No 60.0% (-0.5)

MEDIAN AVERAGE (excluding Don't Knows) :

Yes 38.9% (-)
No 61.1% (-)

As you can see, the Yes camp have broken through the psychological 40% threshold in the middle batch of figures. The median average is unchanged for the simple reason that Ipsos-Mori remain one of the outliers, and are therefore irrelevant to the calculation.

When Don't Knows are taken into account, the Yes side now need just an 8.15% swing to draw level. With Don't Knows excluded from the equation, the required swing is down to 10%.


On the evening of Saturday, 7th December 2013, the Rt Hon Douglas Alexander MP said kitten, and the world changed forever.

In an intellectually-coherent and devastatingly powerful rebuttal to the argument that staying in the UK as a form of "solidarity" with the poor of England doesn't work because the populous south of England keeps voting for governments that continually widen the gap between rich and poor in Scotland as well as in England, Alexander explained that things would be totally different in future because of kitten.

And in a minutely-detailed and highly plausible prospectus, Alexander pledged that Labour would transform the governance of Scotland after a No vote by doing kitten.

The Scottish press were understandably wonderstruck.  Editorials were united in declaring that kitten was a game-changer, and had opened up a "new phase" in the referendum campaign.

Scotland on Sunday's Kenny Farquharson noted that, while No voters constitute a fixed point in space/time and have effectively already cast their ballots, Yes voters are entirely different and are now likely to drift away in huge numbers due to the potency of kitten.  "It's no great surprise to hear Scot Nats dismiss kitten - the very fact that they're Scot Nats means that they don't understand the emotional pull of kitten.  But their own voters do feel the pull, and that disconnect could prove fatal for Yes."

Faced with imminent calamity, rattled SNP chiefs hurriedly dreamed up puppy as a response to kitten.  After being told of this, anti-independence campaign figurehead Alistair Darling could only shake his head, more in anger than in sorrow.  "Puppy?  Puppy?  PUPPY?!  Is that it?  The SNP have had 79 years to come up with a case for independence, and it's puppy???  This just won't cut it with the people of Scotland, I'm afraid.  They want facts, they want details, they want a comprehensive explanation for the origins of the universe.  I'm very, very angry about puppy."

A blustering Alex Salmond was reduced to asking where Mr Darling's positive case for the union was, which provoked a degree of incredulity among the Scottish press.  "Quite simply, it's no longer good enough for the Nats to complain that we haven't seen a positive case for the union yet," explained Farquharson.  "We now have kitten and it's sensational.  The SNP's credibility depends upon acknowledging that fact.  Once they've accepted the indisputable premise of kitten, then perhaps they'll be worth listening to again, and we can at last have a grown-up debate about independence."

Asked for a comment on puppy, Farquharson rolled his eyes to the heavens and muttered "for the love of Jesus".

Friday, December 6, 2013

Breslin-gate rumbles on...

As a quick follow-up to my last post about Jeff Breslin's now famous tweet comparing Alex Salmond with Nelson Mandela, here's a very brief exchange (the ending was abrupt in a rather familiar way!) I've just had with a Labour supporter called Rayleen Kelly on Twitter, who says without a trace of irony in her self-description that she "hates rude people".

Rayleen Kelly : Don't care what political persuasion it was tasteless when it was a joke, beyond it now!!

Me : What was tasteless about it? It was an honest opinion, which you're free to disagree with.

Rayleen Kelly : It was vulgar and crass, that you can't see that says everything I want to know about you

Me : You're also free to think what you like about me, I'm just struggling to understand your logic. How was it vulgar and crass?

Rayleen Kelly : If you don't know the answer to that you really need to learn about Mandela

Me : Do you have an answer to the question, Rayleen, or are you just going to sneer at people all night?

(At this point she blocks me.)

Rayleen Kelly : As I am entitled to my opinion I will be blocking any idiot seriously comparing wee Eck with Madiba!

Rayleen Kelly : Just blocked another yes fanny that thinks wee Eck is comparable to Nelson Mandela, insulting and crass

Rayleen Kelly : For those who don't quite understand Madiba united a torn people and made a country whole ... Wee Eck is he'll bent on division and hate

Well, we got there in the end, even if it was a thoroughly stupid (some might charitably say "vulgar and crass") answer. I'd be interested to see if Jeff's more thoughtful critics - for example Kenny Farquharson and Alex Massie - can come up with a more convincing explanation for why the tweet was supposedly so "offensive". As Tris points out on the previous thread, we might not think Jeff's comment entirely makes sense, particularly on the "personal sacrifices" point. But how precisely is it offensive?

Alternative 'tributes' to Nelson Mandela

I discovered the news about Nelson Mandela last night in the worst possible way - I stumbled on a Twitter conversation midway through, and the sickening realisation only very gradually dawned about what it was referring to. I'll leave the tributes to those who can do it far better than me. I'm not sure if Glenda Jackson has written anything yet - I recall that back at the turn of the century, there was a programme on the BBC News channel in which Jackson, Shirley Williams and Ken Clarke were all asked to choose their 'Person of the Millennium', and Jackson had no hesitation in opting for Mandela. (Williams chose Thomas Aquinas, while Clarke bizarrely plumped for Henry II of England on the grounds that he was an "excellent Tory"!)

Unfortunately, moments like this do tend to bring out the worst in some people, and in many ways we're seeing a reverse mirror image of what happened when Mrs Thatcher died - this time it's a few extremists on the Right who are disgracing themselves by 'celebrating' the demise of a 'terrorist'. Mick Pork sent me an email earlier today to say that, predictably, the racists and bigots were out in full force at Political Betting (with, we're entitled to assume, the full blessing of the site's right-leaning Lib Dem owner Mike Smithson, because we know that he has no compunction whatever about banning or censoring people when it suits him). Mick added that it was jaw-dropping stuff even by PB standards. I had a quick look, but to be honest I couldn't bear to wade through the usual drivel (believe it or not there was still someone wittering on about "the Shetlands"!) to get to the extremist comments.

However, I'm still glad I had a peek, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, there was the unintentional comic genius of Plato, the site's untouchable (and unspoofable) Queen Bee, who was earnestly comparing Mandela to the Queen Mother! And secondly, the site's notorious Tory moderator TSE reposted a tweet from Jeff Breslin that I probably would have missed otherwise.

As long-term readers know, I used to be a huge admirer of Jeff's. To some extent I still am - it's refreshing to see a highly intelligent person with no fixed loyalty to any ideology or party thinking aloud in such a straightforwardly honest way about his political views and underlying reasoning. However, I stopped following him on Twitter a few months ago. The reason was that I got the distinct impression that he was one of the ten or so people (almost all of them associated in some way with the Better Nation blog or Green politics) who had immediately unfollowed me after Better Nation supremo and former Green press officer James Mackenzie decreed on the basis of no evidence whatsoever that I am a Woman Hater. Now, don't get me wrong - I have no problem at all with people unfollowing me. But when someone does it in apparent solidarity with an individual who has just launched an unprovoked and deeply offensive personal attack on me, then it's bound to give me some pause for thought about them.

All the same, I wouldn't have wanted to miss Jeff's tweet today, mainly because of the revealing way in which certain people responded to it -

Jeff Breslin : I might as well say it since everyone knows it - in time, history will view Salmond as Scotland's paler Mandela. #LongWalkToFreedom

Now this is what Jeff does best, because there's so much potential ambiguity to it, and it forces people to stop and think. Is he being deadly serious, or only half-serious? Or is the tweet in fact dripping with irony, and intended to subtly poke fun at the regard in which some people hold Salmond? You can read it in almost any or all of those ways - or if you're less smart, you can give the game away about your own prejudices by not bothering to check, and rushing in with a knee-jerk response. Guess which course of action the chief of the anti-independence campaign decided to follow?

Blair McDougall : do you honestly not see how offensive that is?

Even if Jeff was being 100% serious, what would be "offensive" about it? It isn't in any way disrespectful towards Mandela - it might well be considered overly respectful of Alex Salmond, and therefore open to mockery, but it's not "offensive". Unless of course you find it inconceivable that the democratically-elected political leader of Scotland could ever be held in extremely high regard by any rational person - that's the only way in which comparing a recently-deceased world leader with the First Minister of Scotland could ever be considered disrespectful, insulting or offensive. And if that is indeed the way you see things, then you might want to reflect on what it says about your perception of your own country, and the credibility of your claim to be running a 'patriotic' anti-independence campaign.

For the record, here is how Jeff explained his tweet -

Wow. Mental response to earlier tweet. To clarify, only a handful of lives as remarkable as Mandela's, of which Salmond's isn't. But there are clear similarities to a lesser (i.e. paler) degree, eg personal sacrifices, which there's little point ignoring.

* * *

UPDATE : Has Jeff Breslin been harried into deleting his entire Twitter account? He suddenly seems to have completely disappeared. Absurd if so.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Support for independence increases, as new TNS-BMRB poll shows lowest lead for the No campaign in almost two years

There's an encouraging new poll out tonight from TNS-BMRB, which essentially backs up the trend suggested by the PSO poll the other day of a small swing to the pro-independence campaign since the publication of last week's White Paper. Here are the full figures -

Should Scotland be an independent country?

Yes 26% (+1)
No 42% (-1)

What's particularly significant is that this is now the third TNS-BMRB poll in a row to show a shrinking lead for the No campaign. In the late September/early October poll, the lead dropped from 22 points to 19. In the late October poll, it dropped from 19 points to 18. And now it has dropped from 18 points to 16.

Like the proverbial broken record, John Curtice and certain others have reacted to every single recent poll, regardless of whether it shows a static position or a small swing in favour of independence, with a "no change" narrative - the suggestion being that any apparent setback for the No campaign is merely an illusion caused by margin of error "noise". I'll be fascinated to see if he tries the same line when his analysis of this poll is released (presumably in the morning), because frankly I don't see how he can sustain it this time. It's quite true that, on their own, any of the changes in the last three TNS polls can be plausibly dismissed as "margin of error stuff", but taken together they add up to something more important - a clear six-point drop in the No lead over the last three months.

I noted last time round that the No lead had dropped to its lowest level in a TNS-BMRB poll since early 2012, and for obvious reasons the same thing has just happened again. And if anything, the news is even better if we turn our attention to the figures for those respondents who say they are certain to vote in the referendum, with the Yes vote back above 30%, and the No lead dropping by three points -

Yes 31% (+2)
No 46% (-1)

Oh, and yes. Just like last time, the first clue I had that this was a good poll for the pro-independence campaign came from what Blair McDougall didn't say in his tweet about it. In amongst all the complacent, self-congratulatory waffle, there wasn't the slightest trace of any mention of the Yes vote having fallen or the No vote having risen, so it was fairly obvious that the opposite had happened!

* * *


And now, drumroll please. It's only a couple of days since I unveiled the Poll of Polls, and already I can announce its first post-White Paper update. Just to reiterate, the Poll of Polls is based on a rolling average of six polls - the most recent one from each of the British Polling Council members that have been running referendum polls (TNS-BMRB, Panelbase, ICM, Ipsos-Mori, YouGov and Angus Reid). The update simply replaces the last TNS-BMRB poll with the new one.

MEAN AVERAGE (not excluding Don't Knows) :

Yes 32.2% (+0.2)
No 49.3% (-0.2)

MEAN AVERAGE (excluding Don't Knows) :

Yes 39.5% (+0.2)
No 60.5% (-0.2)

MEDIAN AVERAGE (excluding Don't Knows) :

Yes 38.9% (+0.1)
No 61.1% (-0.1)

Obviously with only one-sixth of the sample having changed, the movement in the figures is glacial in nature. But if the No campaign had been entertaining any hopes of getting themselves above the psychologically-important 50% threshold on the headline numbers, they've suffered a blow tonight.

* * *

UPDATE : John Curtice's analysis is now out, and to be fair he has indeed changed the record somewhat. He also notes that the fieldwork for the TNS poll largely took place before the release of the White Paper, which leaves open the possibility of an even bigger shift of opinion since then.