Saturday, November 2, 2013

Kilclooney's baloney, part 2

Lord Kilclooney, aka former deputy leader of the Ulster Unionist Party John Taylor, has made yet another stirring 'contribution' to our own independence debate in a letter to the Scotsman -

"As an Ulster Scot I am obviously anxious about the possible outcome of the independence ­referendum next year."

As shall we all be, for as long as one or two of your fellow Ulster Scots are running around demanding an Ulster-style partition of Scotland should the vote go 'the wrong way'. Oh wait - wasn't it you who suggested that, Your Lordship? (And naturally, this would be a get-out-of-jail-free card only available to the No campaign - if Scotland votes No, then Yes-voting regions wouldn't get the consolation prize of their own little statelet.)

"In reply to my parliamentary question this week the Treasury confirmed that some £30 billion of block grant was sent to Scotland in each of the past three years. Of course, an independent Scotland would lose this £30bn with resulting reduction in public funding for education, health, social services and transport. That is unless supporters of independence have a proposal to overcome the loss of this £30bn. I await their answer."

Await no longer, Your Excellency! You see, independence has upsides as well as downsides. On the one hand, we will no longer receive a block grant from Westminster, but on the other hand we will stop sending billions of pounds of tax revenues to Westminster - which is, after all, what the block grant is there to compensate us for at the moment.

Glad we could clear that up so quickly for you, Your Eminence, and please don't hesitate to ask if you have any other nagging doubts (for example, how Scotland will overcome its loss of latitude after independence). Mind you, I do hope you can actually see our answers, what with the Scotsman adopting a Labour Hame-style moderation policy of late.

And I fear that if you seriously think you have a personal stake in these matters (because Northern Ireland would "have to decide" after Scottish independence "whether to remain with England or remain with Scotland"), you may be labouring under something of a misapprehension. You see, we'll be becoming independent from the United Kingdom - and, as you remind us so often, Northern Ireland is an integral part of the United Kingdom. Not wishing to be unkind, but we'll be becoming independent from you, Your Highness.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Yeah, Blair, what have the nationalists ever done for Wales?

Those ever-delightful anti-independence chaps on Twitter seem to be terribly excited about events in Wales today.

Better Together : Devolution of key powers to Wales is more proof that further devolution is being delivered within the UK.

Which raises a couple of obvious questions - a) how exactly would it be possible to deliver devolution outside the UK, and b) if it's possible to deliver extra devolution to Wales right now, why is it necessary for Scotland to wait until some unspecified date in the future, which will conveniently be long after we've surrendered the bargaining power of an impending independence referendum?

Blair McDougall : By the way, support for leaving UK = 7% in Wales (ICM). So today also blows away idea that it's nationalism that delivers powers.

Yes, Blair, you don't need nationalism to deliver extra powers - well, just so long as nationalists win an election in another part of the UK and hold a referendum on independence, thus making the UK government realise that there is potential short-term tactical gain in making a small "demonstration" concession to the decentralisers. After all, as Mr McDougall so helpfully reminded us just two days ago, the UK government will only be seen to act against the Celtic Fringe after the independence referendum is safely out of the way.

Oh, and it probably also helps if you had a nationalist party - Plaid Cymru - in government between 2007 and 2011, and thus in a position to build some momentum for new powers in the face of total boneheaded intransigence from a Labour Secretary of State for Wales.

But apart from those two minor details, yeah, this is incontrovertible proof that you can trust the Tory/Labour "people's choice" alliance to deliver all the extra powers that you could ever dream of.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Questions to which the answer is "Me!"

We're all hugely indebted to Andrew Morton for his illuminating report for Wings from behind enemy lines, at the 'launch' (do these things ever have a follow-through?) of Better Together Musselburgh.  The obvious highlight (if that's the right word) was this cringe-inducing question from Tory MSP Gavin Brown -

"What Scottish soldier, proudly serving in the British army, would want to join the Scottish forces and spend their time parading up and down in a kilt in front of Edinburgh castle waiting for tourists to take their picture?"

Leaving aside the obvious point that, regrettably, this particular brand of Brigadoon Separatism isn't actually on offer from anyone, I would imagine the literal answer to Mr Brown's question would go something like this -

"One who wants to be well-paid without facing the risk of being blown to kingdom come in a pointless and illegal war."

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Wisdom on Wednesday : Some jokes are truly timeless

"George Robertson says that a semi-detached Scots Parliament will 'kill dead the rump separatist desire'.  Ho, ho, ho."

The former SNP Westminster MP George Reid speaking in 1995, some four years before becoming an MSP in the new parliament, and eight years before becoming Presiding Officer.  Yes, people couldn't help but laugh at Robertson even before he was proved wrong.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Boost for pro-independence campaign in new Panelbase poll

I'm delighted to see that RevStu has included a straight voting intention question in the latest Wings over Scotland poll, partly because it takes away any alibi from Alex Massie and others for making any of the thoroughly daft comments they did last time, but also because it will help enormously in the pursuit of the poll's secondary objective of bolstering the profile and credibility of alternative media. The fact that the poll was apparently discussed on this morning's Headlines programme on BBC Radio Scotland (with full attribution given to Wings) tells you all you need to know.

The figures themselves make encouraging reading for the Yes campaign, with the No lead decreasing by two points since the last Panelbase poll in September -

Should Scotland be an independent country?

Yes 37% (-)
No 45% (-2)

I know those are slightly different from the headline figures used by RevStu, but the only figures that are directly comparable from last month's poll are the ones filtered by certainty to vote.  In any case, the difference isn't significant - with or without the filter, the No lead stands at a modest eight points, although understandably the number of undecided voters falls if less probable voters are removed from the equation.

Incidentally, although the usual suspects will doubtless ignore the two-point drop in the No lead, and dismiss this as "another no change poll" (isn't it amazing how a decrease in the No lead is always invisible, whereas any increase is invariably a "blow for Alex Salmond"?), it's worth pointing out that those same people were all too keen to discredit the Panelbase poll conducted in August showing a lead for Yes.  Well, if we take their views at face value and treat that August poll as illegitimate, then today's No lead is in fact smaller than in both of the last two Panelbase polls, conducted in July and September respectively.

I was also very excited to see that Panelbase have called the bluff of their more moronic critics, and used another polling company's panel for half of the sample in this poll.  The No lead is actually slightly smaller (eight points) in the other company's sample than it is in Panelbase's (nine points).  Not only does that go a long way towards disproving the bizarre Twitter smear that Panelbase have been "infiltrated by Cybernats", but more importantly, it lends credence to Panelbase's own theory that the significant divergence between different pollsters' results is not caused by differences in the raw responses of the voters interviewed, but rather by the filters and weightings that the pollsters themselves apply after the interviews.  That raises the fascinating possibility that polls by companies such as YouGov would be showing exactly the same type of close race that Panelbase polls typically show, if the filtering and weighting of the raw data was done in the same way.  Indeed, it suggests that YouGov and co might even be showing an outright lead for Yes by now, if they also asked the main question after the same two innocuous questions that Panelbase did in their "illegitimate" August poll!

It would be really interesting to know which pollster's panel was used in this poll - the findings would be highly significant regardless of the pollster's identity, but they would be even more significant if it was YouGov, Ipsos-Mori or TNS-BMRB, which are the three pollsters that have tended to be most favourable for No.  (ICM and Angus Reid are somewhere in the middle.)

There was a great deal of theorising in the comments section of Wings this morning about the reason why 18-24 year olds are the least likely to support independence (while, paradoxically, 25-34 year olds are the most likely to support it), but in my view that may have been based on a false premise.  It's only been a few months since an Ipsos-Mori poll showed a huge lead for Yes among 18-24 year olds.  The sample sizes for that age group are extremely small, and when we have such widely varying results, all we can meaningfully say is that we just don't know what the true state of play is.