Saturday, May 20, 2017

Never forget that more than 42% of Moray voters backed independence in 2014

Matt Singh of Number Cruncher Politics has drawn attention to the fact that the SNP (at least according to the latest YouGov poll) have lost most of the anti-independence people who used to vote for them, and that the Tories now have roughly 50% of both Leave voters and No voters.  He reckons this points to "big swings in NE + Moray".

Common sense will already have told you there's a danger that the SNP-to-Tory swing in areas like Moray and Aberdeenshire will be significantly bigger than the national average, because those are the places where large numbers of people have traditionally floated between SNP and Tory/Lib Dem, rather than between SNP and Labour.  That does leave several SNP seats looking very vulnerable.  However, there's also an "up to a point, Lord Copper" element in this - you really do have to go back to basics and remind yourself that both Moray and Aberdeenshire actually voted to remain in the European Union, and both had significant minorities that voted Yes in September 2014.

It's true that Moray had the highest Leave vote in Scotland last year, but even if three-quarters of those voters break for the Tories, that would only take the party to roughly 37.5% of the electorate (leaving aside for a moment the complicating factor of turnout).  OK, the Tories will also attract a percentage of Remain voters, but the vast majority of 'Tory Remainers' will have voted No in 2014 - and three-quarters of the constituency's No voters would still only take the party to roughly 43.2%.  It's not hard to see why Angus Robertson is likely to at least be competitive in a constituency which had a 42.4% Yes vote and a 50.1% Remain vote, especially once you factor in his personal following and a potential "leader's bonus".

There was an almost 40% Yes vote in Aberdeenshire, so again, it scarcely stretches credulity to believe that the SNP may be able to hold on there in first-past-the-post contests.  Having said that, Aberdeenshire is a vast and varied local authority, and West Aberdeenshire & Kincardine looks to be tougher terrain than Gordon or Banff & Buchan.

Perhaps the more important question here is what the loss of anti-independence voters means for the SNP's strategy.  Do they conclude that those people have basically gone for good, and instead concentrate on firing up the Yes vote, and perhaps winning over the 25% of current Labour voters who are pro-independence?  Do they look at the unionist parties' success at using the fear of independence to dramatically reduce the number of No voters who vote SNP, and conclude that talking up the independence issue is the obvious way to deter Yes voters from backing unionist parties, especially Labour?  At the moment, the SNP's answer to both of those questions appears to be a firm "no".  They've instead gone back to the 2015 strategy of not scaring the horses on independence, which presumably indicates that they believe they can win some No voters back, even in the face of the unprecedented paranoia about independence being whipped up by the unionist parties.  I do have a slight doubt in my mind as to whether that's the correct call, but thankfully this is all way above my pay grade, so I'll just wait and see how it plays out.

*  *  *

Public Service Announcement : As a matter of urgency, please ask everyone you know if they're registered to vote.  If they're not, they can register by following this link, and it only takes a few minutes.  The deadline is Monday evening.


  1. Why are Unionist parties so desperate to win these seats from the SNP? What difference will it make to them when they have ALREADY DECIDED that Scotland will not be having a 2nd IndyRef until the foreseeable future (and then some)?

    It does not apparently matter to them that Scotland's Parliament (elected with the consent of and to represent the people of Scotland) has voted to have a snd IndyRef. They simply do not respect Scotland's parliament or its decisions with the singular exception of MSP payday.

    1. If the Tories had "already decided", they wouldn't have used such ambiguous language in their manifesto. They clearly want to postpone a referendum, and perhaps avoid it altogether, but even now they seem to recognise there are dangers in simply blocking it indefinitely.

    2. They have blocked it indefinitely, but not permanently and for all time (which no government can do anyway). But it certainly looks as if they will kick it as far down the road as they can, for as long as they can get away with it. Post brexit, you'll need to wait until the transitional period is over. Post transition period, you'll need to give 'bedding in' time. Post bedding in time, you'll need to get a fresh mandate - too much water under the bridge since last time. If you get re-elected with a majority but on a minority of the votes or public opinion polling still demonstrates opposition to an indyref or independence itself, these are all reasons to put it back further and further. They will do this until the SNP are out or there is a genuinely popular clamour for a referendum that simply can't be ignored. At that point, they will relent but probably not before as there would be no reason for them to do so. Welcome to the 'unionist' part of conservative & unionist.

    3. Openly scared of democracy = death of unionism in Scotland.

      'popular clamour'? as opposed to a democratic vote from our legally constituted and proportionally elected Scottish Parliament, whose governing party's manifesto specifically promised a referendum.

      Aldo, what you propose is not democracy. If your political creed follow that advice then they are not democrats. So, are you now confident enough to be seen personally and collectively for what you are? Very interesting times...


  2. Ashcroft model has been updated. He characterises each seat as being "likely", "leaning" or "too close to call"

    Scottish seats are as follows:

    Likely SNP (38):
    Aberdeen North
    Caithness, etc
    Central Ayrshire
    Coatbridge, etc
    Cumbernauld, etc
    Dundee East
    Dundee West
    East Kilbride, etc
    Edinburgh East
    Edinburgh North
    Glasgow Central
    Glasgow East
    Glasgow North
    Glasgow Northeast
    Glasgow Northwest
    Glasgow South
    Glasgow Southwest
    Inverness, etc
    Na H-Eileanan An Iar
    North Ayrshire
    Paisley North
    Paisley South
    Ross, Skye & Lochaber
    West Dunbartonshire

    Leaning SNP (13):
    Aberdeen South
    Argyll & Bute
    Ayr, Carrick & Cumnock
    Banff & Buchan
    East Dunbartonshire
    East Lothian
    Edinburgh Southwest
    Edinburgh West
    Northeast Fife
    Orkney & Shetland (!)

    Too Close (5):
    East Renfrewshire
    Edinburgh South
    West Aberdeenshire

    Leaning Tory (1):
    Dumfries & Galloway

    Likely Tory (2):
    Berwickshire, etc
    Dumfriesshire, etc

    1. As I said yesterday, it's very difficult to take seriously any model that has the SNP as favourites to win Orkney & Shetland. At the moment, I'd say that list is slightly on the optimistic side for the SNP.

    2. His model gives SNP 49 seats. This is less than the total of "likely SNP" and "leaning SNP", presumably because the combined chances of losing some of those are greater than the combined chances of winning some of the other seats.

      I wouldn't read too much into each reading (e.g. Orkney & Shetland looks a bit strange) given that they must be based on a very small number of respondents.

    3. But as I understand it, he's drawing inferences based on demographic data from each constituency? That assumes a degree of uniformity in the correlation between demographics and voting intention across the UK, which clearly is going to come a cropper in a place like Orkney & Shetland.

    4. It could come a cropper in Scotland generally. If the idea is that people who are unhappy with government / direction of country / pessimistic about economy will vote for the principal Tory opponent, well that won't necessarily happen in some places as having a positive or negative view of "the government" is a double-edged sword in Scotland.

  3. ORB / Telegraph subsample: SNP 47, Tory 24, Lab 22

  4. Opinium / Observer subsample: SNP 47, Tory 29, Lab 17

  5. Yeah, the SNP are definitely running a 'don't scare the horses' election again. To be fair, they did so in both 2015 and 2016. I suspect they are thinking that it is better to let the dust settle after the independence referendum and now Brexit. The only ones talking about independence are unionists in Scotland, even the UK MSM don't seem that interested. My guess is the SNP leadership think that it is better for the electorate to see Davidson and company go on and on about independence, and given that they caused both Brexit and now this general election, it is probably the right thing to do, particularly since the electorate in Scotland seems pretty jaded of politics at the moment.

    Since September 2014, in Scotland there has been two major constitutional referendums, a council election, and three major elections, GE 2015 and now in June, and the Holyrood one last year. That is mental, and no wonder there is a tired air to the campaigning.
    This is in less than three years as well.

    1. Also European Parliament Elections in May 2014.

    2. Yeah, we were all knackered after the Euros.

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. Sunshine on CrieffMay 20, 2017 at 6:51 PM

      I don't know what "dems list stars last election" means, but I think you'll find it was Ashdown.

    2. Android phone spelling! My bad. Thanks! Deleting mine!

  7. The seats that are likely to be difficult for the SNP to hold are Edinburgh West, East Dunbartonshire, Roxburgh, Aberdeenshire West, East Renfrewshire, Caithness, possibly a few more rural seats imo. I think the rest should be okay, but it very difficult to know if you don't have a lot of data for the individual seats.

    As for challenging, Edinburgh South is a very hard seat for the SNP because of some of the wealthier parts to it, such as Morningside, but they have a good candidate this time. Orkney could go to the SNP, looks like they have got a good candidate again, and liar and smearer Carmichael is a disgrace. The same applies to Dumfriesshire, the SNP have a candidate who could beat Mundel. Whether they will or not is another question.

    1. There isn't a hope in hell of beating Mundell unless the Tories drop back nationally - a good candidate can't do much about a 10% national swing when the seat is already Tory-held. I'm sceptical about Orkney & Shetland, but the politics of that part of the world are a source of bafflement to anyone who doesn't live there (and probably to a fair few who do). I'd have thought Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross should be somewhat safer than a number of seats that aren't on your list.

    2. James, Mundell only has a majority of 798, Carmichael has one of only 817, Ian Murray has a majority of about 2,500, but I can see a lot of Tories swithering about supporting him this time, as they don't like Corbyn, plus Kezia Dugdale seems to be having a ongoing meltdown at the moment. Remember that Mundel had a lot of resources last time, and he still almost got beat. As for Caithness, Monaghan has a majority of less than 4,000. If some think the SNP are in difficulty in Aberdeen South, where the majority is around 7,000, why not in Caithness, where it is significantly lower?

      Sure, the SNP are unlikely to be that close to around 50 per cent again, but pensioners might rebel against the Tories over winter payments, pensions etc, so their turnout might be affected.

    3. "James, Mundell only has a majority of 798"

      So what? Tory support has practically doubled since then. Mundell is going to hold his seat comfortably unless the Tories slip back over the next three weeks.

      Last year's Holyrood election is probably a better guide than 2015 to what will happen in Orkney & Shetland, but I suppose the hope is that the candidates' qualities will count for more in a constituency like that, and I do agree that Miriam Brett is an impressive candidate. (I've met her a couple of times.)

      The SNP are in more trouble in Aberdeen South than in Caithness for the very simple reason that the Tories are the challengers.

  8. James - haven't seen many talk about this but do you think the doubling of Tory support in polls might be distorting the Tory % in rest of UK in polls. I.e. Could be low 40s rather than mid to high 40s which - depending on where their vote share is concentrated - might mean they pick up less Labour seats than is generally expected? Could mean they take seats from SNP but I suspect not more than 4-5 thankfully

  9. Ps - that was Tory support in Scotland compared to 2015

  10. Caithness is a low population constituency. The percentage majority is likely to be higher than Aberdeen South.


    1. No, the percentage majority in Caithness is 11%, and in Aberdeen South it's 15%. And the majority in Aberdeen South is over Labour, whereas we all know the real threat is the Tories, who were third last time.

      I wouldn't write off the Lib Dems in Caithness by any means - they're not starting from that far back, and they have a very well-known (if utterly insufferable) candidate. But I do think that seat is less vulnerable for the SNP than a number of others, including Aberdeen South.

  11. James - I agree. I also hope that the position in Ross, Skye and Lochaber and Caithness is stronger than 2015 where there were long-standing incumbents.


  12. Yes, but perhaps some of those 42% voted the way they did primarily to achieve Scottish independence from the EU and have now switched sides post brexit.

  13. msm were happy to call labour 41 MPs scotland a mandate - if SNP end up with 49 , they will call it cataustraphic

  14. Labour never proposed the massive constitutional change the SNP is proposing. The seps look set to lose the popular vote in Scotland and lose representation - at the exact same time as they are going for indyref2. Had Labour engaged in similar activities, they too would have been panned. As it stands, the most radical thing labour ever did was the NHS. Red tories - string them up!

  15. Moray has a large Tory inclined white settler population who don't even recognise they are in Scotland. Mention the words Scotland and Sottish to them and they foam at the mouth. It is nothing short of an actual miracle that the SNP have held it for so long.