Thursday, June 21, 2018

Is there a strategic advantage to what happened yesterday?

Obviously we all wanted the government to lose in the Commons yesterday, but now that they haven't, I'm trying to work out whether in the long run that will prove to be good or bad news for the SNP and the wider cause of independence.  As they say about the French Revolution, it's probably too early to tell.  The case for arguing that it might be good news is that it makes Theresa May's survival as PM more likely (I know, I know, but bear with me), which in turn makes a general election late this year or early next year less likely, thus making any decision to press ahead with an independence referendum next year much less complicated.  But the counter-argument is that now the power-grab story has finally broken through into the public consciousness, the SNP would have had a fearsome weapon with which to fight an early general election - one that simply wasn't available to them last time around.  If they had made gains rather than losses in an election, that would have set them up perfectly for the calling of a referendum shortly thereafter.

So you pays your money and you takes your choice.  I note, incidentally, that there is a great deal of smugness and complacency in many part of the London media about how the Tory government will sail through the vote on Heathrow expansion next week due to the support of the SNP.  My own view, for what it's worth, is that whatever the merits or demerits of a third runway, the SNP should be pursuing a policy of total non-cooperation with the government until and unless the power-grab is reversed.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Sturgeon marches on: new Panelbase poll confirms SNP are on course for gains in any early general election

Today brings word of a new full-scale Scottish poll from Panelbase.  In one sense it repeats the recent findings of YouGov (albeit in less dramatic fashion) because it shows the SNP on the up, and on course for gains from both the Conservatives and Labour in any early general election.

Scottish voting intentions for the next UK general election (Panelbase, 8th-13th June 2018):

SNP 38% (+2)  
Conservatives 27% (-1)
Labour 27% (n/c)
Liberal Democrats 6% (n/c)

The SNP's lead over the Tories has increased from 8 points to 11 since last year's general election, and their lead over Labour has increased from 10 to 11.  This is obviously a relatively modest change (and less than suggested by YouGov), but given the number of ultra-marginal seats out there, it's enough to potentially make a very significant difference.

The meaningful dissimilarity with the YouGov poll (and this can't easily be explained by margin of error) is that Labour's share of the vote has not dropped back at all, and the Tories haven't made any advance.  Quite the reverse, in fact.  YouGov had Labour slumping from second to third, but Panelbase have Labour moving from third into joint second, courtesy of a slight fall in Tory support.  We'll just have to wait for more information to see which firm is closer to being right - although admittedly that moment may never arrive, because both the Panelbase and YouGov polls were (more or less) conducted prior to the SNP walkout from the House of Commons on Wednesday.  Assuming that was the watershed moment in Scottish politics a lot of people think it might have been, future polls may pick up more recent changes in public opinion that will disguise anything that might have been going on prior to the last few days.

The same problem makes it hard to draw many conclusions from Panelbase's finding on support for independence.  It shows no change at all - but of course any surge in Yes support would have been much more likely to occur after fieldwork concluded in the middle of the week, not before.  (Remember that most respondents to online polls tend to give their answers early in the fieldwork period, so for the most part this poll was probably conducted several days before the SNP walkout.)  The jury is still out, then - we'll have to wait for more up-to-date polls to find out just how big an impact the events of Wednesday had.

Should Scotland be an independent country?

Yes 44% (n/c)
No 56% (n/c)

Incidentally, don't be too alarmed to see Yes on a smidgeon below 45%.  Panelbase have of late slotted in at the No-friendly end of the polling spectrum - somewhat ironic, given that for such a long period prior to the first indyref, it was only Panelbase that gave Yes any reason for optimism.

Ever eager to find the most negative possible spin for the SNP, the Sunday Times have placed most emphasis on the Holyrood findings, which are bound to look less encouraging than the Westminster numbers because the SNP are starting from the much higher baseline of 2016.  Curiously, the headline reads "SNP set to miss 2021 seats target for new independence referendum", which ignores the rather obvious point that the SNP have not set any seats target for an independence referendum in 2021, because they've already successfully won a mandate at the election in 2016 for a pre-2021 independence referendum.  Indeed, any suggestion that the pro-independence majority may be lost in 2021 will simply strengthen the already overwhelming argument that the existing mandate for a referendum must be used.

As it happens, though, the poll actually suggests that the pro-independence parties would only very narrowly fall short of the 65 seats required for an absolute majority.  The Sunday Times' projection has the SNP on 56 and the Greens on 7.  So only a couple more seats would be needed, and a small increase in SNP or Green support would do the trick - with the election still three long years away in any case.

Voting intentions for Scottish Parliament constituency ballot:

SNP 40% (n/c)
Conservatives 28% (n/c)
Labour 24% (+2)
Liberal Democrats 6% (n/c)

Voting intentions for Scottish Parliament regional list ballot:

SNP 36% 
Conservatives 26% 
Labour 23%
Greens 7%
Liberal Democrats 6%

Strangely, this is the first time since the 2016 election that Panelbase have asked for regional list voting intentions, so it's not possible to give percentage changes on the list ballot.  However, the list results are fairly encouraging for the SNP - other polling firms have suggested their list vote has slipped rather lower than 36%.