Saturday, September 27, 2014

What do the parties' choice of nominees to the devolution commission tell us?

The short answer to that question is that it looks very much like the SNP are the ones who are serious about successfully reaching a genuine compromise - John Swinney and Linda Fabiani both strike me as natural conciliators who members of other parties find it difficult to dislike.  By contrast, I can't even imagine what sort of message the Lib Dems' appointment of Tavish "Two Hoots" Scott, and the Tories' appointment of Adam "IT'S THE LAW!!!!!" Tomkins, is supposed to be sending out.  Both men are noted for their irrational tribal loathing of the Scottish national movement.  In the case of Tomkins, you can kind of see the logic for having him there (even though he isn't, to the best of my knowledge, a member of the Conservative party), because he was the architect of the party's blueprint for greater devolution, and they'd want someone with a mastery of the details in on the discussions - although the snag is that he has a self-image of being an infallible God-like figure, so how flexible he'll be when he discovers that others think his blueprint can be (gasp!) improved upon is open to question.

Scott is a different matter.  His own personal loathing of the SNP famously extended to refusing even to enter into the most preliminary of discussions on a possible coalition after the 2007 election, even though his party had happily compromised for eight years to sit in coalition with the Labour party.  If these negotiations are to have a chance of succeeding, they will surely require the (nominally) federalist Lib Dems to act as the bridge between the Devo Max-supporting SNP and Greens on the one hand and the Devo Minor-supporting Tories and Labour on the other hand.  Is Scott the man to achieve that, or will he turn his back on his own party's policies so that he can do what every instinct in his body will be telling him to do, ie. side with Labour and the Tories?

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I went to the Ryder Cup yesterday.  I bought the ticket last year when the random draw was held, and suffice to say that one day was all I was ever going to be able to afford.  With such ridiculous prices, it's unsurprising that there wasn't the same kind of democratic crowd we saw at the Commonwealth Games - it was mostly dyed-in-the-wool golf aficionados, plus a lot of corporate-looking people.

From my own point of view, the timing wasn't ideal, because for obvious reasons I'm still feeling a bit shell-shocked.  So I spent most of the day just trying very hard to concentrate on what I was actually looking at!  It was fun, though - there aren't many sporting events where you can turn around at any moment and find someone like Justin Rose sitting right next to you in a buggy.  The crowd was infectiously raucous, and of course Gleneagles itself is absolutely stunning.

The place was drenched in tartan, and kilts, and slogans about Scotland being "a land of #brilliantmoments".  I couldn't help wondering if international visitors thought this display of Scottishness-not-Britishness was a bit peculiar from a country that has just decided (albeit perhaps only for the time being, and only by a relatively narrow margin) not to be a proper country, and that was even grotesquely "congratulated" by the US President for voting not to join the global family of nations.  I'm sure the contradiction won't seem so strange once a few months have elapsed - after all, we've lived with it all of our lives.  But right at this moment it does feel very, very odd.  When the train pulled in to Gleneagles station, we were welcomed by a piper - surely in the light of the No vote, it should have been Bernard Cribbins singing Right Said Fred?

This is one side of their decision that I think a lot of No voters are in denial about.  How many times during the campaign did we hear Scott Hastings wax lyrical about how the union gave him the best of both worlds, by allowing him to proudly play for Scotland?  The problem is that the union didn't do that - it's just a freakish accident of history that allows Scotland to play as a country in its own right in rugby and in a handful of other sports (including golf).  In most sports, last week's vote has directly robbed athletes of their chance to play for Scotland, and has subsumed the country into a uniform Great Britain identity in which the waving of saltires Shall Not Be Tolerated.  Perhaps the most poignant moment of the last week-and-a-bit was Andy Murray's declaration of support for the Yes campaign being followed just a couple of days later with him issuing a statement about how he was looking forward to playing for Great Britain for "the rest of my career".  Now, I'm sure he genuinely is looking forward to it - he seems entirely comfortable with either identity.  But the point is that, even if he wasn't so comfortable, he wouldn't actually have a choice.

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If you think the conspiracy theories about the referendum being rigged are a bit silly, you should have heard the woman that was sitting opposite from me on the train back to Glasgow last night...

"I always thought that G-Mac was gay and that the girlfriend was just for show.  But then they got married and had a baby.  They could still just be pretending, though."

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Introducing the Scot Goes Pop Subsample Aggregator

OK, I probably won't be updating this one quite as religiously as I did the referendum Poll of Polls, but it might be interesting to have a look at now and again.  In the absence of regular full-scale Scottish polls of Westminster voting intentions, it's possible to get a very rough idea of trends by adding up the Scottish subsample figures from the daily GB-wide YouGov polls.  It's not an ideal method by any means, because YouGov weight their GB-wide figures by Westminster party ID, meaning they usually produce a much worse result for the SNP than other pollsters.  But as it happens, in the four polls that have so far taken place entirely after the referendum, the SNP have been doing extraordinarily well...

Westminster voting intention (average of four YouGov subsamples) :

SNP 40.3%
Labour 29.5%
Conservatives 17.3%
Liberal Democrats 5.5%
Greens 4.0%
UKIP 2.8%

We really can't rely on this lasting - it's only happening because the SNP have been in the spotlight so much recently.  Where we end up will depend on how resilient the vote proves when publicity from the London media melts away in the heat of a general election campaign, and especially after the broadcast of another round of rigged leaders' debates that completely exclude the SNP and Plaid Cymru.

The main hope will be that the debates don't capture people's imaginations in quite the same way this time.  Even if Clegg performs reasonably well, he's so distrusted now that he won't get much credit for it.  And I think we can safely assume there isn't going to be any "Mili-gasm".

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I gather that Alex Massie wrote a snide article the other day about how Yes supporters were going through the classic "stages of grief".  Well, he's half-right, but what we're actually grieving for is the loss of those halcyon days when we thought Massie was an "undecided voter" (ahem), and when it didn't even occur to us for a moment that he was misleading people by blagging his way on to a BBC referendum debate as a "Don't Know".  And then it turned out just days before the referendum that he'd been some kind of Tory unionist all along.  The shock!  The devastation!  How could we not have noticed?

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If you'd like to help Scot Goes Pop continue until the May 2015 general election, a second fundraiser is now underway.


  1. We were told in 2007 and again in 2011 that 'Scots support Labour (and the Libs), but they like the SNP in Holyrood as they are competent'.

    This might be true. However, there is an alternative:

    'Scots support the SNP but previous they voted Labour and Libs tactically for Westminster as a better option than the Tories'.

    Which might make more sense given which Parliament Scots want to run everything (45% indy) or just about everything (74% Devo Max). That and respective satisfaction, trust ratings etc.

    Of course the game has now changed considerably with indy and devo max at all time highs and more devo possibly on the cards.

    Labour are totally against more devo with the SNP most for. The Tories are more progressive on this front FFS. Libs are finished.

    Obviously, voting Lib or Lab also gives you a Tory government. 2010 reminded us of that.

    So, whom to vote for in 2015?

  2. Really enjoyable post, James.

    I know exactly what you mean regards the Ryder Cup and 'being Scottish'. I watched it yesterday with a few pals and we all felt almost what you could describe at the "Cringe" of it all. I've never been a sufferer of it before, but, more so for the international audience.

    They voted no. Yet, still claim to be unique and have this own identity and mentions of Scotland here, pipes, kilts, and so on.

    Heard some traditional Scots music last night and usually it would have me bouncing or tapping along. Felt absolutley nothing! I am assuming this is a 'bitter' phase I am going through, but even seeing the Saltire now and again I'm sick to my stomach seeing it - it flies above the local authority and seeing as my voted no, it probably should be replaced by the real flag.

    I had an interesting conversation with a No yesterday. He's a 'proud' Scot. He was talking about the upcoming qualifiers and friendlies for the football team and I told him I am not interested in going as it's far too expensive and I can't be bothered with it, and will most definitely not be watching the England and Irish games - to hear that anthem, and how much of a (quite right too) ribbing we'll take from the Irish and English about voting no.

    I hope this will pass through and I'll be passionate about Scotland, but I'm finding it very hard at present. More apathetic really about it all.

    Would rather focus on something else in my life. Joined the SNP so will be working at that.

    All the best and looking forward to hear some more polls.

    Wonder if we'll get a post-Indy opinion poll to see what the numbers would be now after the vow, fracking, bombing Iraq, possible cut in our allowance,

    It looks mental ridden down, but that's basically what we have. We get an allowance like a 17 year old might get for doing chores around the house for his parents.

    I find it unbeliveable that Scottish people, or the people who reside in Scotland would not want to control their own affairs or at least not want more fiscal freedom for their government.

    The SNP nneed to push on now for Devo Max. Sit tight the now, go to the Kelvin Commision and listen/be productive - the Unionists will fight amongst themselves, Tories seem to be offering the most, Labour the least, Libs saying they back home rule, but they may well be an irrelevance. We wait and bide.

    SNP come back in time for 2015 election and say that so far progress is not enough for us to control our own affairs, we will fight for home rule.

    The Union parties are in a bit of a pickle. In their blind panic and their private polling have Yes on 53% and their un-informed media painting up these "more powers" as "devo max" and "federalism".

    Christ, that was a bity long.

    Anyhoos it's Saturday and the sun is shining in the No voting parts of east Scotland, north Britain.

    So I'm off for a walk.

  3. At future internationals during the national anthems , including our own, why don't the crowd simply chant, YES WE CAN.

  4. I really do not see anything significant coming out of Calman 2. The SNP are right to take part, and be constructive. I would expect them to campaign for Devo max when we learn of the insufficient powers on offer.

    If the SNP remain at anywhere near 40 per cent next May, then SLAB are in real difficulties. Their usual 'vote Labour to keep out the Tories' is going to start suffering from the law of diminishing returns. The SNP just needs to point to 2010. The message needs to be hammered home that the Scottish vote very rarely affects the formation of governments at Westminster.

  5. If I see another indyref poll I will lose it. I'd also rather not know if we are up from 45% due to recent events. As again, I would lose it lol.

    What were the SNP on in 2010?

  6. Chalks : The SNP had periods of being in the lead in the 2005-10 parliament, especially in 2008 after the Glasgow East by-election. But they slipped back, and then suffered a catastrophic drop after the broadcast of the TV debates from which they were excluded. It was a minor miracle that they recovered sufficiently to just pip the Lib Dems for second place in the popular vote.

    I fear we could see a similar pattern this time unless an electoral pact is negotiated.

  7. The thing that might help the SNP this time is if there aren't any TV debates. Cameron didn't like them last time and you've now got the Farage problem.

  8. Yes, that would be absolutely ideal. I have a horrible feeling something will be thrashed out, though.

  9. " I have a horrible feeling something will be thrashed out, though."

    Well see James. To add to the hilarity tory MP Mark Reckless has also now defected to the kippers so there's going to be huge amount of pressure on the broadcasters.

    You add to that the fact that the SNP is now easily the third biggest party in the UK and we're going to see soon enough just how trustworthy all the 'Better Together' spin and VOWS from the our of touch westminster parties were.

    The cowardly Cameron looks weaker than ever mere hours after he and the other two westminster party poodles did their pathetic Blair impersonation on Iraq to please the chickenhawks and warmongers.

    As the post at 1.42 indicates Cameron certainly didn't like the debates last time. He and the chumocracy have actively been making noises for months to try and delay and scupper the debates this time. Even though Cameron is up against the pitiful little Ed and the toxic Calamity Clegg.

    So even if the debates somehow do go ahead just like last time it's guaranteed to be a voter repelling 'battle of the giants'. ;-)

    Most lib dems probably wish the debates could be scuppered to considering just how much damage calamity Clegg will do when he gets asked about manifesto pledges, VOWS and commitments.

  10. G Mac could well be covering up something. Wouldn't be the first famous person to get married and have children while going for long walks on Hampstead Heath.

    He might not though ,however vote rigging happened. Postal votes were filled out by party wonks. Yes votes were destroyed. We know it happened. proving it and the numbers involved is the difficult bit.

    BTB. Some people even become PM with lavender marriages. So I've heard.

  11. G Mac could well be covering up something. Wouldn't be the first famous person to get married and have children while going for long walks on Hampstead Heath.

    He might not though ,however vote rigging happened. Postal votes were filled out by party wonks. Yes votes were destroyed. We know it happened. proving it and the numbers involved is the difficult bit.

    BTB. Some people even become PM with lavender marriages. So I've heard.

  12. Anon : There may well have been some postal vote fraud. It's reasonable to assume that goes on to some extent in most elections, because the system is wide open to abuse. But even if it did happen, there's no way that it swung the balance, because No won a narrow majority of votes cast on the day itself.

  13. There's always some low level fraud. People move away and remain registered at the family home. People register to vote at their holiday home. Labour have a reputation for registering fictitious people at real and fictitious addresses. That last is the only one that's really systematic fraud, and the councils have been clamping down on it. In any case, there's a limit to how far they can take it, because all parties have access to the electoral roll and they have to stay until the radar.

    I wish people would stop going on about the low level fiddling as if that proves major organised misconduct. It doesn't. The system is remarkably robust at the macro level.

    Low level fiddling is far more likely to make a difference in a close fought FPTP seat. It isn't capable of affecting a country wide referendum with a 400,000 gap between the sides.

  14. Rolfe, see this letter that states that there should have been a unique identifying number
    on the back of ballot papers. I am in the Scottish Borders and my postal ballot had one on the back.