Friday, January 5, 2018

Do the SNP have three times as many members as the unionist parties combined?

Just thought I'd pass on a snippet of information sent to me by Stuart Dickson.  He spotted on Stormfront Lite that the ESRC-funded Party Members Project has found that 5% of Labour members live in Scotland, as do 6% of Liberal Democrat members, and 10% of Conservative members.  If those numbers are accurate (ie. if they're not a wildly misleading approximation or out of date), it's possible to use the UK-wide membership numbers to estimate how many members each party has in Scotland.  It would put the Lib Dems on roughly 6500, Labour on about 28,500, and the Tories on about 10,000.  That compares to an SNP membership of 118,000 as of August - roughly three times as much as the apparent combined membership of the unionist parties.

The Labour figure may seem a little higher than expected, but it's broadly in line with what we learned at the leadership election a few weeks ago, in which 17,664 full members cast a vote on a turnout of 62.3%.  The party does seem to have demonstrated a certain cockroach-like resilience during its historic crisis over the last three-and-a-half years.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Cable to the unknown

Just for the sake of completeness, and also because it happens to be a favourable one, here's what is presumably the last Scottish subsample from a GB-wide poll that was conducted during 2017.  It's from YouGov...

SNP 38%, Conservatives 24%, Labour 24%, Liberal Democrats 9%, UKIP 5%

Thirty-two of the last thirty-five subsamples have now put the SNP in the lead.

In the Britain-wide results of the poll's supplementary questions, one thing that leaps out at me is that Vince Cable clearly isn't setting the heather alight.  19% of respondents think he's doing a good job as Lib Dem leader, 29% think he's doing a bad job, and 53% don't know.  The stock excuse for the high level of don't knows on personal ratings for a new Lib Dem leader is that he hasn't had a chance to build up his profile yet, but that doesn't really apply to a readymade household name like Cable.  I'm inclined to wonder whether the bulk of those 53% of people weren't actually aware that he's become leader.  Either that or they can't think off the top of their heads of a single thing he's said or done as leader.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

To lead or not to lead - that is the question

As you may have seen, there's been a new outbreak of the intra-Yes culture wars today, triggered by a post on Wings about another question from the Panelbase poll, showing that by a margin of 58% to 18% the Scottish public are opposed to the proposal that individuals should have the right to change their own legally-recognised gender without reference to anyone else.  I'm not going to get involved in any discussion on the substance of this issue - life's too short (elements of the radical left have spent a fair bit of the last twelve months complaining about me writing a light-hearted Christmas poem, for pity's sake), and as it happens my views on this particular subject aren't especially well-developed anyway.  However, what I do want to offer a view on is the dispute over whether the question the Wings poll asked was "leading" or not.  Here it is in full -

A new government review of the Gender Recognition Act 2004 has proposed that people should in future be allowed to legally decide which sex they are simply by self-definition, without the current medical or psychological assessments which can take two years or more.  This would mean abolishing all current single-sex public spaces, such as women-only changing rooms and men-only toilets, and it would become a hate crime to disagree with someone about which sex they were.  Broadly speaking, what is your view of this proposal?

My simple verdict is: yes, of course that's a leading question, but that doesn't make it an illegitimate question.  This is an unfamiliar topic for most people, which means you're not going to get a considered response from them unless the question goes into a reasonable amount of detail about what the proposal actually is.  And as soon as there's detail, there's a bias, because the person framing the question is effectively making an editorial judgement about what to put in and what to leave out.  There's no such thing as absolute neutrality in such a long question.  This particular question was clearly framed by someone who thinks that the perceived negative consequences of the proposal are more worthy of mention than any positive effects.  Personally, I'd say the final bit about 'hate crimes' seems a bit gratuitous - it reads as a 'chucking in the kitchen sink' addition.  Nevertheless, it's valuable to learn how people react when confronted with the perceived negatives, and it would be equally interesting to see how people react when confronted with the positives - presumably other polls can enlighten us on the latter point.  I think, however, that it would be naive to assume that the result would be dramatically different even if the most favourable and reassuring slant was put on the question.  We know from the debate over equal marriage that social attitudes can sometimes change very, very rapidly, and that may well prove to be the case once again.  But as of right now, at this very moment in January 2018, legally-binding self-definition of gender doesn't seem to be something that the majority of the public are ready to fully embrace.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

"Don't you DARE try to stop us!" say Scots in landmark Panelbase poll that REJECTS any Westminster veto on an independence referendum

OK, you've probably already seen this story earlier today on Wings, but you know me - I just couldn't resist the headline.  (It's a fond tribute to a characteristically unhinged headline that was run by either the Express or the Mail - God knows which - not long after Indyref 1.)

Which government do you think should make the decision about whether there should be a new referendum on Scottish independence? (Panelbase, Don't Knows excluded)

The Scottish government: 57%
The UK government: 43%

Tellingly, even if Don't Knows are taken into account, there is still an absolute majority (51%) in favour of the Scottish Government making the decision.

One of the problems we've had since the EU referendum is that a lot of voters seem quite ambivalent on whether a second vote on independence should take place over the next few years, meaning that polls asking about that point produce very different results depending on exactly how the question is framed.  As most polls are commissioned by anti-independence clients, it's unsurprising that in the majority of cases the question is worded in a way that produces a result that can be spun negatively.  That has given the UK government some cover for their "now is not the time" delaying tactics, but of course what those polls generally don't bother asking is whether this should even be any of the UK government's business.  Quite clearly, the majority view is that it should not be.

Indeed, given that it's common knowledge that the SNP are minded to hold a referendum in the relatively near future, it's highly significant that an absolute majority of voters are content that the Scottish government - not even the parliament as a whole, but a government consisting of the SNP only - should be left to make a unilateral decision.  That finding may well come in very useful over the months to come, depending on exactly what Nicola Sturgeon and her advisers have in mind.

*  *  *

I have a new article in the January issue of iScot magazine, and it's considerably more topical than I expected it to be, because it's partly about Neil Oliver.  If you're not a subscriber to the print edition of the magazine, a preview of the article can be found on Twitter HERE, and a full digital copy can be purchased HERE.

Monday, January 1, 2018

New Year hammerblow for the pro-nuclear wing of CND as Leonard fails to move Scottish Labour out of third place in latest Panelbase poll

I'm fairly certain I've never done this on New Year's Day before, but here is the latest Scottish Parliament voting intention poll, gleaned from datasets published today on Wings.

Scottish Parliament voting intention, constituency ballot (Panelbase):

SNP 39% (-3)
Conservatives 26% (-2)
Labour 25% (+3)
Liberal Democrats 6% (n/c)
Greens 2% (n/c)

Percentage changes are from the last Panelbase poll a few months ago. 

We've been gradually getting used to the idea that Labour have regained their previous place as Scotland's second party and have pushed the Tories back to third, but perhaps we should hold our horses.  Across all firms, this is actually the fourth of the last five polls to show a virtual dead heat for second place in the Holyrood constituency vote, which suggests that Labour have made progress in recent months, but that it hasn't been sufficient to even get them over the first big hurdle as of yet.