Saturday, October 7, 2017

Stunning rebuke for Ruth Davidson as new YouGov poll gives SNP a mammoth SEVENTEEN point lead - with the Tories set to slip into THIRD place

Kenny "Devo or Death" Farquharson is full of beans this morning about a new full-scale Scottish poll that his publication has commissioned from YouGov, and which he says shows that "Nicola Sturgeon would lose her pro-independence majority".  My first reaction was that if that's the angle he had chosen, the results of the poll must be pretty good for the SNP, because if there was any danger of the SNP actually losing power that would have been the first thing he'd have mentioned.  And so it has proved.  A kind payer of the Murdoch Levy has sent me the full results, and just like the full-scale Scottish polls from Survation and Panelbase in September, they show the SNP with an absolutely enormous double-digit lead in Scottish Parliament voting intentions - something that surely nobody would have predicted during July or August.

Constituency vote:

SNP 42%
Labour 25%
Conservatives 25%
Liberal Democrats 5%

Regional list vote:

SNP 35%
Labour 24%
Conservatives 23%
Greens 6%
Liberal Democrats 6%

Remarkably, in spite of Farquharson's triumphalism about the supposed loss of the pro-independence majority, the Times' own seat projection shows that the pro-indy parties between them would win 61 seats on the basis of this poll - just FOUR short of a majority.  Which begs a rather awkward question for the unionist media - if the propaganda they've been feeding us over the last few months is correct, why would there seemingly be a fighting chance of the pro-indy majority being re-elected, even if there was a Scottish Parliament election as soon as tomorrow?

This poll follows in the footsteps of the Panelbase and Survation polls in that at the point of publication there doesn't appear (correct me if I'm wrong) to be any sign of Westminster voting intention numbers, even though it seems hard to believe a Westminster question wasn't asked.  In the case of Panelbase, the Sunday Times withheld the Westminster results for a week and then gave them only a cursory mention.  In the case of Survation, the Daily Mail decided not to report them at all, and the only reason we ever found out about them was because they were quietly revealed on Survation's own website.  In both cases, a unionist newspaper was playing a very cynical game - focussing all the attention on the Holyrood numbers because they showed a decrease in SNP support from an extremely high base in May 2016, and ignoring Westminster numbers which inconveniently (and very unexpectedly) showed the SNP gaining support from a slightly more modest base in June 2017.  Is exactly the same thing being done with the YouGov poll?  I don't know, but I doubt if any of us will faint with amazement if that turns out to be the case.

The use of this blatant propaganda technique is why we've got every right to be angry about the following nonsense on the YouGov poll from Keiran Pedley, a pollster and analyst who I believe I'm right in saying is open about his support for the Labour party -

"SNP poll rating in Scotland continues to fall like a slowly deflating balloon"

Well, of course you can pretend to believe that's what happening when your fellow travellers in the media are intentionally giving the public only one half of the polling story.  If this was anyone else but Pedley, I'd give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he was speaking from ignorance, but as a polling expert he presumably knows perfectly well that both post-election Westminster polls have shown an increase in the SNP vote, and an increase in the SNP lead over both Labour and the Tories.  It's really sad to see him giving people such a misleading impression, and I can only conclude that he's probably doing it deliberately.

Let's stay for a moment on the subject of dubious claims that have been made about the YouGov poll on Twitter.  I can't locate the tweet, but I spotted someone suggesting earlier that Nicola Sturgeon was projected to be left with "even fewer" seats than she currently has.  Er, what?  "Even"?!  The SNP currently has 63 seats out of 129 in the Scottish Parliament - that's 49% of the total.  How many other countries in western Europe can you think of that use proportional representation voting systems and have a party with 49% or more of the seats?  Yeah, exactly.  The SNP had an absolutely phenomenal performance last year by any normal standards, and today's poll suggests they stand to suffer only relatively modest seat losses (six, to be exact) from that high.

As a rearguard defence against people who were quite reasonably pointing out that 42% of the constituency vote for the SNP and a 17-point lead is an extremely good performance, Kenny Farquharson tried this line -

"Dear Scottish Twitter peeps, it's the regional vote that determines shape of Holyrood parly, not constituency vote. SNP polling 35% on list."

Well, of course there's some truth in that - under the Additional Member System the overall composition of parliament is supposed to be broadly determined by the list vote.  But it seems an odd point to make in this particular context, when your own newspaper's seat projection is saying that the SNP would win 44% of the seats - a considerably higher number than 35%.  What's happening here is that the SNP are benefitting from the wrinkles that Labour so carefully built into the system in the late 1990s - if a party (expected to be Labour itself) has a big enough lead on the constituency vote, it effectively overwhelms the list vote and gives that party a hefty 'winner's bonus'.  The SNP are hitting a particularly sweet spot because the unionist vote in the constituencies is split down the middle, allowing them to do even better in terms of seats than would normally be possible with 42% of the vote.  It's certainly arguable that the SNP are extremely fortunate that a Labour wheeze is backfiring so comprehensively, but there's no point sticking your head in the sand and pretending it isn't even happening.

Like Survation, YouGov have found an increase in support for independence, but unlike Survation that increase does not look particularly significant: Yes 44% (+1), No 56% (-1).  Amusingly, the Times use percentage changes from the referendum result itself in an attempt to make it look as if support for independence has dropped slightly!

Respondents were asked three different ways about the principle of whether an early independence referendum should be held.  The most favourable results are on the question of whether a referendum should be held after Britain leaves the EU, where there is almost (not quite) a statistical tie - 38% say yes, 45% say no.  Those results are markedly better than when the same question was asked in April.  Certainly no evidence there for the media's belief that interest in independence and a referendum has fallen away since the election.

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Have you joined Scot Goes Pop's new Facebook discussion group yet?  It's called Scottish Independence Required By Next Tuesday, and it's already attracted several hundred members in its first 48 hours.  You can join HERE.

Friday, October 6, 2017

No wonder the Mail kept it a secret : their September poll gave the SNP a huge Westminster lead

You might remember a few weeks ago that the Daily Mail published a full-scale Scottish poll from Survation, showing that the SNP were maintaining a considerable lead in Scottish Parliament voting intentions.  We knew that a question about Westminster voting intentions had also been asked, and yet mysteriously there was no mention of that anywhere in the Mail's reporting.  The obvious suspicion was that the results were good enough for the SNP that the Mail were too embarrassed to report them.  It looks like the numbers were quietly revealed on the Survation website three days ago (I missed that at the time because I was travelling), and just like Panelbase's full-scale poll they show that the SNP's position has improved since the general election - in stunning defiance of the media narrative.

Scottish voting intentions for the next Westminster general election (Survation) :

SNP 39.3% (+2.4)
Labour 26.4% (-0.7)
Conservatives 26.1% (-2.5)
Liberal Democrats 6.6% (-0.2)

(Note: This is the first Survation poll since the election, so the percentage changes listed above are from the actual election result rather than a previous poll.  The figures are weighted by recalled 2017 vote, so aren't comparable with pre-election polls in any case.)

Ironically, the SNP's Westminster lead is a little more modest than its Holyrood constituency lead, so why were the Mail happy to report the Holyrood figures but not the Westminster ones?  Quite simply, because the SNP's Holyrood vote has decreased since last year's election, allowing the Mail to put a negative spin for the party on a very healthy lead.  By contrast, it's simply not possible to put a negative spin on the Westminster figures - the Mail would have been forced to concede that the SNP stand to gain a number of seats from both Labour and the Tories in any early general election.

To be fair, the Survation poll is a touch less dramatic than Panelbase's.  In particular, the picture is somewhat rosier for Labour - they're in second place (just), their vote share is down by only a trivial amount since June, and the distance between themselves and the SNP has increased by only three percentage points.  Nevertheless, there are so many ultra-marginal seats out there that a modest swing of that sort is more than enough to do plenty of damage.

Of course such small changes could in theory be illusions caused by the standard margin of error.  But with both post-election full-scale Scottish polls showing a pro-SNP swing, it does at the very least seem highly unlikely that the SNP's position has significantly worsened since June.  That goes against pretty much everyone's expectations at the end of summer - and it seems to be an inconvenient truth that the unionist media would prefer you didn't know about.

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Have you joined Scot Goes Pop's new Facebook discussion group yet?  It's called Scottish Independence Required By Next Tuesday, and it's already attracted several hundred members in its first 24 hours.  You can join HERE.

Hammerblow for besieged Ruth Davidson as NINTH subsample in a row puts the SNP ahead - with the Tories in THIRD place

Today brings word of the first Britain-wide voting intention poll for over a week.  The YouGov poll actually shows a minor decrease in the Labour lead in spite of Theresa May's comical mishaps during her conference speech.  Of most interest to us are the Scottish subsample figures, which show: SNP 35%, Labour 34%, Conservatives 21%, Liberal Democrats 6%, UKIP 3%.

YouGov appear to be the only firm that weights its Scottish subsamples separately, although of course with such a small sample size the margin of error is still enormous.  So what matters is not so much the size of the SNP lead, but the impressive consistency of the fact that this is the ninth subsample in a row across all firms that have shown the SNP ahead.  What a contrast to the summer months, when a substantial minority of subsamples were putting Labour ahead, and one or two even had the Tories in front.

That said, it's not implausible that the SNP lead might have slipped a little over the last couple of weeks due to the relentless focus on Labour and the Tories during the UK party conference season.  Any effect of that sort ought to be only temporary.

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Have you joined Scot Goes Pop's new Facebook discussion group yet?  It's called Scottish Independence Required By Next Tuesday, and it's already attracted several hundred members in its first 24 hours.  You can join HERE.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

The attractions of holding a referendum without a Section 30 order

I rarely disagree with G A Ponsonby, but I do part company with him on his belief that it would be a strategic mistake to hold an independence referendum without Westminster granting a Section 30 order (although of course he does very much want a referendum and thinks the Scottish Government should press for a Section 30 next year).  Basically he thinks that the unionist domination of Scotland's mainstream media would doom the referendum to delegitimisation and failure.  I think that argument overlooks a few key points -

1) Just like in Catalonia, there absolutely must be a back-up plan if the state cuts off the most obvious route to an exercise in self-determination.  There isn't much point in being a pro-independence Catalan if you accept the risible argument that voting for independence is illegal, and by the same token there isn't much point in being a pro-independence Scot if you're willing to accept that Westminster has the right to say "now is not the time, and the right time is never".  Most of us agree that it would be preferable to hold a referendum with Westminster's agreement, but if we don't have a prepared answer to an insistent "no" we might as well pack up and go home.

2) It's not possible for the unionist establishment (both political and media) to delegitimise the referendum without also boycotting it.  If there's a unionist boycott, a Yes victory in some form is assured.  As in Catalonia, that will immediately create new facts on the ground - at the very least the anti-independence mandate from the 2014 referendum will no longer be unchallenged.

3) Unlike in Catalonia, the referendum will not actually be illegal.  What we're talking about is legislation that is framed in such a way that the Presiding Officer's legal advisers, and perhaps the courts if necessary, will accept that a consultative referendum is within the Scottish Parliament's existing powers.

4) Irrespective of legality, the referendum will almost certainly not be disrupted by British state violence of the sort that we've just seen from Spain.  The UK population just wouldn't stand for that sort of thing - witness the spontaneous disgust displayed towards Spain's actions by establishment figures such as BBC network newsreader Huw Edwards.  That means the only limit on the number of Yes votes we can attract will be determined by the shortcomings of our own campaigning skills.

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Now I'm back from my travels, I have a couple of things to let you know about.  This year has seen a bumper number of visitors to this blog, culminating in the month leading up to the general election when Google Analytics recorded approximately 35,000 unique visitors - the second busiest month in Scot Goes Pop's nine-year history, outstripping even the month of the 2014 referendum.  Part of the reason for that success is that I was made an admin (or editor, or whatever the correct word is) on one of the most popular pro-indy Facebook pages, and was encouraged to post links to my own content.  I've no idea exactly what percentage of the blog's visitors were coming from that page, but my vague impression is that it was making a significant contribution.  The page was recently taken down, seemingly due to a long-running dispute with Tommy Sheridan and his supporters.  It's now back up again, but the creator has stepped aside, and it appears that as part of the shake-up I've been quietly removed as one of the admins.  I briefly thought about querying that, but I quickly realised that a) I don't actually know who is in overall charge of the page now, and b) it's very unlikely that I would have been removed by mistake.  I'll probably never know the reason why.  This could obviously prove to be a big setback, so it's led me to think about alternative ways of promoting the blog on Facebook.

For many years Scot Goes Pop has had its own dedicated Facebook page, but it 'only' has 1780 followers, probably for the very simple reason that I spend a fair bit of time on Twitter and almost no time at all on Facebook.  (And there are only so many hours in a day.)  I'm wondering if a Facebook group might conceivably work better, because it would allow non-admin members to post their own content, and indeed to annoy friends by adding them directly.  So just as a mad experiment, I've set up a group called Scottish Independence Required By Next Tuesday.  There's probably a 95% chance it'll fall flat on its face, but let's give it a go and see what happens.  If you have a Facebook account, you can join the new group HERE.  Rest assured that if it takes off it'll be an anything goes funfair.

And the other little piece of information is that I have a new article in the October issue of iScot magazine.  If you're not a subscriber to the print edition, a digital copy can be purchased HERE.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Homage to Catalonia

So I was just doing some basic sums.  A little under 92% of Catalan voters who turned out yesterday voted in favour of independence.  The overall turnout, suppressed by Spanish state violence, was 42.3%.  This means that roughly 38% of the entire registered electorate voted Yes.  You could therefore take the turnout all the way up to 75% (not all that far short of what was achieved in the free and semi-fair Scottish referendum), and still be guaranteed of a Yes victory even if all the extra voters were No voters, which would obviously be extremely unlikely.  In reality, even a turnout in the low 80s would almost certainly have produced a Yes majority.

Spain now has a massive legitimacy problem.  Even the dogs on the street know that Catalonia is being held captive within Spain by means of thuggery.  All that Madrid and its apologists have left is the claim that the vote was not "free and fair" - but the problem is that (very unusually) it was the losing side that ensured it was not and could not be free and fair.  The losing side also has the capacity to hold a free and fair re-run at any time it chooses.  The onus is therefore on Madrid to either organise/facilitate that re-run, or accept yesterday's result.  Doing neither is simply unsustainable in the modern world.

I hope the Catalan government's success in creating new facts on the ground by holding an unauthorised referendum has been noted by the SNP leadership.  Thankfully, I doubt if we would have to face British state violence, but if London remains intransigent we might (at some point) have to be brave enough to get the ball rolling without a Section 30 order.

Incidentally, on the subject of London wanting a "strong and united Spain" (and to hell with the democratic choice made by the Catalan people) - I presume that means we'll be handing back Gibraltar?  Madrid does, after all, regard Gibraltar as being every bit as much part of Spain's "indivisible territory" as Catalonia is.  Exercises in Gibraltarian self-determination have been held in exactly the same contempt by Spain as yesterday's vote.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

More misery for beleaguered Ruth Davidson as Tory vote collapses in Tain by-election

I'm not quite back from my travels yet (although I'll be darkening your doors very shortly), so apologies for being a couple of days late with the intriguing result of the Tain & Easter Ross by-election...

Independent - Rhind 49.4% (+33.1)
SNP 23.9% (n/c)
Liberal Democrats 14.5% (-5.0)
Conservatives 9.1% (-6.9)
Independent - Holdsworth 2.7% (n/a)
Scottish Libertarians 0.5% (n/a)

Obviously the main story here is an outstanding personal triumph for Mr Rhind, who returns to Highland Council after losing his seat only a few months ago.  But I think it's fair to say this is also a very solid result for the SNP, who simply by standing their ground enjoy a 2.5% net swing from the Liberal Democrats, and a 3.5% net swing from the Tories.  Unlike in the by-elections at the start of September, the good news for the SNP in the Panelbase opinion poll hasn't been contradicted in any way - although the obvious health warning is that there was no Labour candidate, and Tain & Easter Ross isn't the sort of ward that could tell us anything about the Labour v SNP battle in any case.

Technically Mr Rhind has gained his seat from the Liberal Democrats - the vacancy was caused by Jamie Stone standing down from the council to concentrate on his work as an MP.  (Highland Council's gain is Westminster's loss, etc, etc.)  However, that's just another of the meaningless quirks of STV by-elections - the Lib Dems finished third in the ward in May, and have done so again this time.  One fewer Lib Dem councillor in the world can't be a bad thing, of course.

Note: The normally reliable Britain Elects account on Twitter reported completely inaccurate percentage changes for this by-election.  The changes I've listed above are the correct ones.