Friday, July 19, 2013

Go get 'em, Tiger! You da man! Get in the HOOOOOLE!

Yup, you've guessed it. Not content with my already impressive credentials as a woman-hater (well, if you believe Edinburgh Eye and Better Nation supremo James Mackenzie), I decided to burnish them still further yesterday by popping along to Muirfield for the first round of the Open. I've never experienced anything like that before (heat in Scotland, I mean) so it was all very exciting.

Not having previously been to a golf tournament, my main concern was that I would unwittingly do something stupid or wrong and find myself being bawled out in Monty-style by a player, caddie or marshal. That fear wasn't entirely unfounded, because I repeatedly thought I was ambling along, minding my own business, only to discover I was actually in the middle of a fairway or on the edge of a green. Most of the time it was impossible to tell who was the unfortunate target of the shrieks of indignation, although on the one occasion that I thought it might well be me, it was (to my eternal shame) a Scottish player I was potentially distracting. Fortunately, Martin Laird recovered his composure sufficiently to put together a below-par round, and I see that he has done well again today. It's probably too much to hope that he's a potential winner, but it's good to know that a Scot can at least still be competitive in majors. Reading his back-story, though, it's slightly sad to find that he's another example of a Scottish sportsman like Andy Murray who had to go abroad at a young age to achieve great things.

There's obviously some logic to the draconian rules that the marshals enforce, but it does lead to an unfortunate fixed setting of "aggressive official". Even the chap who "welcomed" us to the course started by screaming "WE WANT YOU TO ENJOY YOURSELVES TODAY", but thankfully refrained from adding "OR YOU WILL BE EXECUTED". I felt a bit sorry for a Spanish guy with very poor English, who misunderstood an instruction to put his camera away, and found himself being charged up to in nightclub bouncer style by a marshal, who menacingly whispered in his ear : "I appreciate it may be silent, but if you use that everyone else will follow your example, so it needs to go away now". Given the circumstances, I think "do you speak English?" might possibly have borne more fruit than the War and Peace edition of "why cameras are banned".

The only mention I heard of the male-only issue was on the train, when a young Scottish guy asked an Irish woman what she thought of it. "That's golf," she replied. Emboldened, the man complained that "nobody ever says anything about the all-women clubs". Well, yes, but that's probably because the all-women clubs were predominantly founded to compensate for the existence of all-male clubs. If that hadn't been the case, they certainly would be legitimate targets for criticism, just as the bizarre Women's Prize for Fiction is.

As a final thought, the woman added : "I watch women at my own club, most of them don't even know the etiquette, it's an embarrassment". Spurious anecdotal justifications for discriminating against an entire gender - don't you just love them? Typical bloody redhead.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

ICM subsample : SNP retain lead in Westminster voting intention

More bad news for the No campaign has arrived in the shape of this month's GB-wide poll of Westminster voting intentions conducted by ICM, regarded by some (but not all) as Britain's most reliable pollster. First of all, the SNP retain a clear lead in the Scottish subsample, suggesting that last month's extraordinary figures were not a fluke -

SNP 40%
Labour 30%
Conservatives 18%
Greens 6%
Liberal Democrats 3%
Others 2%

Perhaps even more significant, though, is that the Tories have now drawn level with Labour across Britain as a whole. As we know, Scots are significantly more likely to favour independence if they think that the Tories are heading for victory at the next general election. And on these figures, at a point in mid-term when the main opposition party ought to have a significant lead, there can be very little doubt that the Tories are indeed strong favourites to remain in office after 2015 -

Conservatives 36% (+7)
Labour 36% (-)
Liberal Democrats 13% (+1)
UKIP 7% (-5)
Others 8% (-2)

YouGov poll : Scotland says a resounding no to renewing Trident

Here's another significant blow for journalists who like to peddle the fiction that Scottish public opinion on key issues is near-enough indistinguishable from public opinion in the rest of the UK. YouGov's latest poll on the future of Britain's "minimum nuclear deterrent" (translation : a weapons system that, if used, would extinguish the lives of hundreds of millions of innocent civilians within minutes) shows that Scotland is the only part of the UK where outright abolition is the most popular of the three basic options. Support for that option is also a full fourteen points higher in Scotland than it is across Britain as a whole.


The UK should order four new submarines to maintain its nuclear weapons system - 32%
The UK should try to find a cheaper system for keeping nuclear weapons - 34%
The UK should give up nuclear weapons altogether - 20%


The UK should order four new submarines to maintain its nuclear weapons system - 25%
The UK should try to find a cheaper system for keeping nuclear weapons - 31%
The UK should give up nuclear weapons altogether - 34%

One small consolation for the above-mentioned journalists, though - this doesn't necessarily prove that Scots hold more progressive views in general. It may have just been the effect of living with these inhuman weapons on our doorstep for the last few decades that has brought us to our senses a little quicker than others. Although, to be fair, respondents in both Scotland and the rest of the UK seem thoroughly unconvinced by the argument that the retention of nuclear weapons somehow makes us safer, as opposed to putting us at far greater risk of being the target of a nuclear attack ourselves.

Thinking about nuclear weapons, please say how persuasive, if at all, you find the following statements...

Having nuclear weapons makes the world more dangerous, not less, because we encourage other countries to get them by having them ourselves.


Persuasive 61%
Not Persuasive 25%


Persuasive 62%
Not Persuasive 30%

But unsurprisingly, the marked difference between Scottish and British opinion returns with a vengeance when we move on to the true rationale for retaining Trident - the need for a British national status symbol. (If we simply had to have one of those, couldn't we have done humanity a favour by holding onto Concorde instead?)

If the United Kingdom abandoned its nuclear weapons, then it could be seen as a less important country in the world.


Persuasive 46%
Not Persuasive 38%


Persuasive 36%
Not Persuasive 51%

The United Kingdom doesn't need its own nuclear weapons to have influence because some other countries have a lot of influence without having their own nuclear weapons.


Persuasive 41%
Not Persuasive 42%


Persuasive 54%
Not Persuasive 31%

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Just 11% of Scots think Labour have a strong leader

One fairly consistent feature of GB-wide polling is that Labour tend to fare better in supplementary questions among Scottish respondents than they do among respondents elsewhere. For example, Scots are typically more likely to think that Ed Miliband and Ed Balls are preferable to Cameron and Osborne as custodians of the economy. But there's precious little sign of that phenomenon in YouGov's latest polling on whether Ed Miliband is a strong or a weak leader. Only one region of GB has a lower proportion of people than Scotland who think that Miliband is a strong leader, and there is no region at all that has a higher proportion of people who think he is weak.


London 12%
South excluding London 10%
Wales and English Midlands 14%
North of England 15%
Scotland 11%


London 45%
South excluding London 49%
Wales and English Midlands 42%
North of England 45%
Scotland 49%

This matters because the No campaign's hopes rest to a large extent on Labour being perceived as having a genuine chance of winning the next UK general election. Scots who think that the party is led by a weak leader are scarcely likely to be filled with confidence on that score.