Monday, December 11, 2017

A gentle word in the ear of Tommy Sheppard: let's get real

My jaw has just dropped to the floor upon reading an article in The National in which SNP MP Tommy Sheppard argues that if Kezia Dugdale defects from Labour to the SNP, she should be required to stand down and fight for re-election under her new colours.  Now, for the avoidance of doubt, I do not believe for one moment that Kezia Dugdale is going to defect - I think the idea that she must be a secret SNP sympathiser because of her father and her partner is a paranoid fantasy put about by the Ian Smarts of this world.  But let's say for the sake of argument that she (or more likely somebody else entirely) were to make the jump.  Are we really supposed to accept that the SNP should turn down the golden chance to move closer to overall majority status at Holyrood, and to make the pro-independence majority in parliament more emphatic, just on some point of principle that no other party is signed up to?  Are the SNP going to treat politics as a game of cricket when other parties would be completely ruthless if the circumstances were reversed?

At Westminster, there have been instances of Labour MPs defecting to the Tories or Liberal Democrats without a by-election, Tory MPs defecting to Labour or the Liberal Democrats without a by-election, and even one instance of a Labour MP (Dick Douglas in 1990) defecting to the SNP without a by-election.  Why would we suddenly get squeamish at a time when the stakes are so much higher?  If we assume that Mark McDonald can still be relied upon to informally follow the SNP whip, just one more MSP would take the party to exactly 50% of the seats in Holyrood (excluding the non-voting Presiding Officer), thus making it much harder for the opposition parties to inflict any defeats.  By contrast, if Ms Dugdale or any other Labour list MSP were to simply resign, the SNP wouldn't even have a chance to win the seat in a by-election - a slavishly loyal replacement Labour MSP would simply be appointed from lower down the list, and we'd be no further forward.

I'd suggest to Tommy Sheppard that if we're going to win independence, it might be an idea not to turn our noses up at golden opportunities, especially any that may fall gift-wrapped from heaven.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Ruth Davidson set for "future of demeaning irrelevance" as yet another Scottish poll puts the SNP on course for Westminster gains from the Tories

Stuart Campbell of Wings has tweeted the following Survation polling figures, which appear to be from a new full-scale Scottish poll.  I can't find any other reference to them yet, so I suppose there's an outside chance they may turn out to be from a subsample or something like that, but I doubt it.  If it is indeed a full poll, it's the fifth to be published since the general election, and the fourth of those to suggest that the SNP's support is higher than it was on polling day.  (The exception was the previous Survation poll a few days ago that had the SNP on exactly the same 37% vote share they managed in June.)

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

SNP 38% (+1)
Labour 29% (+1)
Conservatives 24% (-1)
Liberal Democrats 7% (n/c)

Note: the percentage changes listed above differ from the ones in the Sunday Post graphic tweeted by Stuart, because I'm using the most recent Survation poll as the baseline, whereas the Post are using the last Survation poll but one.

We've now had three Survation polls since the election, and the sequence of results for the SNP has been 39-37-38.  That's the kind of minor fluctuation that is easily consistent with margin of error noise, so it could well be that SNP support bounced back a little after the general election aftermath and has remained steady over the last two or three months.  It's also worth recalling that the two non-Survation polls in the early autumn had the SNP in the low 40s, which leaves open the possibility that SNP support has been running steady at an even higher level than Survation are suggesting.

It's easy to become distracted by the eye-catching detail of Labour overtaking the Tories to reclaim second place, but the bottom line is that the SNP are the challengers in all of the Scottish seats held by the Tories.  What will determine whether the Tories can hold what they have is the lead held over them by the SNP - and, according to this poll, that lead has increased from eight points at the general election to a whopping fourteen points now.  And the direction of travel could be the most troubling thing of all for Ruth Davidson - if the lead grows to twenty points or more, the Tories could be facing carnage at the next election.

As for the SNP v Labour battle, it's much harder to judge.  This poll, just like the last Survation poll, implies a trivial net swing of 0.5% from SNP to Labour, which because of the large number of ultra-marginal seats would be enough to move several to the Labour column.  But the snag is that no poll can really be that precise due to the margin of error.  The figures are also perfectly consistent with a small swing from Labour to SNP, which could see the SNP regaining seats from Labour as well as the Tories.

Scottish Parliament constituency voting intentions:

SNP 39% (n/c)
Labour 28% (+3)
Conservatives 24% (n/c)
Liberal Democrats 7% (-1)

Unlike the Survation poll a few days ago which dented the "progress for Labour" narrative by suggesting Labour's Holyrood support was absolutely static, this one does suggest a bit of an advance.  Obviously it's unlikely that anything significant has changed over such a short time-scale, so the difference can probably be explained by the margin of error, and we'll have to wait for more information to discover where the truth lies.

Voting intentions for next Scottish independence referendum:

Yes 46% (-1)
No 54% (+1)

No statistically significant changes on independence, but what very much is significant is that this is the third Survation poll in a row to put Yes support higher than the 45% recorded in the September 2014 referendum, and indeed substantially higher than the 43% recorded in the post-election Survation poll in June.

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UPDATE: Confirmation from Stuart on Twitter - "It's a full-size poll. 1006 respondents, 1-5 December."  It looks like Survation didn't send out the usual embargoed information about the poll (perhaps at the Sunday Post's request), because even several hours later it's barely been mentioned anywhere online.  Britain Elects haven't reported it, and it hasn't made it onto the Wikipedia list yet. 

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UPDATE II: The regional list results from the poll have now been revealed, and oddly enough Labour's step forward on the constituency ballot hasn't been mirrored at all on the list.

Scottish Parliament regional list voting intentions:

SNP 32% (-1)
Labour 24% (-1)
Conservatives 21% (-1)
Greens 10% (+2)
Liberal Democrats 10% (+2)