Saturday, June 30, 2018

Panelbase poll suggests the prize of staying within the EU will boost Yes support

The new full-scale Scottish poll from Panelbase, which is being released bit by bit over on Wings Over Scotland, has failed to provide any comfort for the small minority of SNP parliamentarians who take the view that the party needs to water down or reverse its pro-Europeanism to win back Yes voters from 2014 who want to leave the EU.  The poll shows that, when the independence question is asked on the assumption that an indy Scotland would definitely stay in the EU, Yes support is in fact several points higher than in recent Panelbase polls that asked the standard independence question.

The UK is currently scheduled to leave the EU in March 2019.  If a referendum on Scottish independence was held around this time, and if a Yes vote meant that Scotland would stay in the EU, which way do you think you would vote?

I would vote for an independent Scotland in the EU: 49.4%
I would vote for Scotland to stay in the UK and leave the EU: 50.6%

That's about as close to a 50/50 split as you can get, and compares to figures of Yes 44%, No 56% in the last Panelbase poll that asked the standard independence question.  (I gather from my informant that Stuart Campbell didn't get Panelbase to ask the standard question, so there's no direct comparison available within this poll itself.)  So it looks as if simply convincing people that independence more or less guarantees EU membership would be enough to add around 5 or 6 points to Yes support at a stroke.

Of course, this doesn't prove that Yes haven't lost a minority of supporters because of Brexit (in fact they almost certainly have), but what matters going forward is whether a particular pitch would increase or decrease support from where it currently stands.  It looks from this poll as if putting a doubt in people's minds as to whether the SNP want Scotland to remain a full part of the EU could potentially be a major strategic blunder.

As you probably saw a couple of days ago, the poll also found that a slim majority (50.6%) want a second independence referendum to take place within the next eight years, and a much more comfortable majority of 66.5% want it to take place at some point in the future.  Of course these results are always very susceptible to the way the question and possible answers are framed by the polling company, but nevertheless there is no real doubt that when the Tories say "the people of Scotland don't want another independence referendum", they are quite simply not telling the truth.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Anguish for mystery man Leonard as Scottish Labour slump to THIRD in new Panelbase poll

Tonight has seen the publication of a new full-scale Scottish poll, conducted by Panelbase and commissioned by Wings Over Scotland.  Funnily enough, I had advance warning this was coming, because one of the poll's respondents sent me some of the questions the other day, and I couldn't think of anyone else but Wings who would commission a political poll that included supplementary questions about the Old Firm and Wee Ginger Dug!

So far we only have the headline voting intention numbers for Westminster and the Holyrood constituency ballot...

Scottish voting intentions for the next Westminster general election:

SNP 38% (n/c)
Conservatives 27% (n/c)
Labour 25% (-2)
Liberal Democrats 7% (+1)
Greens 2% (n/c)

Scottish Parliament voting intentions (constituency ballot):

SNP 41% (+1)
Conservatives 27% (-1)
Labour 22% (-2)
Liberal Democrats 6% (n/c)
Greens 2% (n/c)

The eagle-eyed among you will already have spotted that the percentage changes listed above are different from the ones listed in the Wings article.  That's because I'm using the standard approach of comparing with the last poll conducted by the same firm, whereas Wings states that he's comparing the Holyrood numbers to a much earlier poll from last December, and comparing the Westminster numbers to the result of the general election a year ago.

When the last Panelbase poll came out a couple of weeks ago, I mentioned that I was a little startled that it showed Labour's Westminster vote holding up, and indeed that it showed Labour moving from third into joint second - which flatly contradicted what looked like a highly significant Labour slump in the most recent YouGov poll.  The YouGov direction of travel seemed intuitively much more plausible, because it was in line with the Labour-to-Tory swing witnessed in Britain-wide polls in recent months.  Tonight's poll may go some way towards solving the mystery, because it shows Labour slipping back in both Westminster and Holyrood ballots.  It could be that the last Panelbase poll overstated Labour a tad due to normal sampling variation, and that what we're seeing tonight is closer to the true picture.  That said, Labour are only just behind the Tories in Westminster voting intentions, whereas YouGov suggested a slightly bigger gap of four points.

Although tonight's poll and the previous one from Panelbase were only conducted two weeks apart, something very significant happened in the intervening period - ie. the SNP walkout in response to the power-grab.  Superficially, then, it looks like that eye-catching moment was not an immediate game-changer, although I would argue that the real value of it was in hardening and motivating the SNP's core vote.  That's something that doesn't necessarily show up in headline poll numbers, but could make a huge difference in any snap general election.  The SNP's biggest problem last year was not so much voters drifting off to Labour or the Tories, but rather SNP voters just not turning out at all.

Having said that, the SNP's Holyrood vote has crept up by one point, which although not statistically significant leaves open the possibility that the power-grab issue has caused some small movement in the SNP's favour.

Rather than fretting about the lack of any major SNP bounce over the course of June, I think we'd be better off reflecting on just how admirably the SNP's vote has held up over the year - and, incredibly, it is now a whole year - since the general election.  Given the hysterical post-election narrative in the media, you might well have expected some kind of anti-Nat bandwagon effect that could have led to Labour quickly reclaiming their traditional place as the dominant party of Scottish politics, at least as far as Westminster voting intentions are concerned.  But they haven't even come close to doing that.  There have now been twelve full-scale Scottish polls since last June, and nine of them have given the SNP a higher vote than the 37% achieved at the general election.  (No poll has put the SNP lower than 36%.)  If tonight's numbers are to be believed, the SNP's lead over the Tories has increased from 8 points to 11 since the election, and their lead over Labour has increased from 10 points to 13.  Given the large number of ultra-marginal constituencies in Scotland, that would be more than enough to produce a significant number of SNP seat gains from the two main unionist parties.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

The momentum is now unstoppable as the previously unionist Mail on Sunday demands...THE BREAK-UP OF THE UNITED KINGDOM

You've probably already seen this, but it has to be one of the all-time classic newspaper front pages.  Today's Scottish edition of the Mail on Sunday declares that Scotland is an "OPEN DOOR FOR TERROR" on the grounds that the paper's "investigators" (I rarely say LOL, but LOL) were able to take a ferry trip from Belfast to Cairnryan without encountering any "border controls" or having to show their passports.

There is of course a remarkably simple explanation for this shocking lack of border security.  The "investigators" didn't actually cross over an international border.  As most people have discovered by the time they leave primary school (let alone by the time they have editorial control over a national newspaper), Northern Ireland and Scotland are both part of the United Kingdom.  A ferry crossing from Belfast to Cairnryan is therefore a routine domestic voyage.  Having to show your passport on such a trip would be quite literally as daft as having to show your passport on a ferry between Mull and Oban, or between the Isle of Wight and Southampton.

I'm just about old enough to have done that trip (or rather the very similar Larne to Stranraer crossing) on three separate occasions during the Northern Ireland Troubles - in 1990, 1992 and 1994.  Even back then, there were no passport checks, and in fact there wasn't much in the way of ordinary security - a far cry from the heavily militarised international border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

The amusing part of all this is that there is only really one way to introduce the kind of hard border between Scotland and Northern Ireland that the Mail on Sunday are demanding.  And that is for Scotland and Northern Ireland to cease to be part of the same state.  Scotland will have to become independent, or Northern Ireland will have to leave the UK.  Either way this is a long distance from the Mail on Sunday's previously rock solid British nationalism, and is a development to be greatly welcomed.