Friday, August 3, 2018

Scot Goes Pop Fundraiser 2018: An Update

Click here to go straight to the fundraising page.

There are times in life when you realise you're in the middle of making an incredibly stupid mistake, and you have to decide whether to see it through or to try to reverse what you've done, no matter how awkward and embarrassing that might be. As regular readers will be aware, I've been trying to fundraise over the last few weeks to help keep this blog going for another year, but I've been doing it in a fairly low-key way as a sort of bolt-on to last year's fundraising page. That was a really daft idea, because the £7000 target on that page was met twelve months ago and the money has since been completely used up, so there was no proper indication of how much I was trying to raise this year or how far away the new target was from being met. A significant amount was raised during July and the first couple of days of August - more than £3000, in fact, and a million thanks to everyone who has contributed. That's not quite halfway towards the rough target, though, and I began to realise that I was potentially going to have to bore people to tears with reminders about the fundraiser for months to come if I didn't bite the bullet and set up a new page with a more meaningful target figure. I was just in the middle of doing that when I suddenly noticed that it was perfectly possible to edit an existing fundraiser and adjust the target! Remind me to actually check these things in future. So I've now adjusted the target to £15,500. For the avoidance of doubt, that does not mean I'm seeking to raise anything like that amount during the current fundraising period - the running total stood at £7,800 after last year, so if/when the £15,500 target is met, that will mean that just over £7,500 has actually been raised this year.

Here are a few questions and answers about the fundraiser...

What's the plan for Scot Goes Pop over the next twelve months?

The mind boggles as to what might happen over that period. A Tory leadership contest? A snap general election? A referendum on the terms of Brexit? The calling of a second independence referendum? Any or all of the above could happen at any time and at very short notice. The beauty of these fundraisers is that it gives me the flexibility to drop everything and provide extensive polling analysis when called for, even if that temporarily becomes a task almost on a par with a full-time job. That was very much the case during the 2014 independence referendum, the 2015 and 2017 general elections, and the 2016 EU referendum. (Oddly enough, there was no spike in visitor numbers during the EU referendum in the way that there was for the other three votes, but I still gave you the round-the-clock polling analysis whether you wanted it or not!)

What gap in the market does Scot Goes Pop fill?

We generally only ever see opinion polls through a unionist filter. The vast majority of Scottish polls are commissioned by anti-independence clients in the media, and even if the results are favourable for the SNP or Yes, that's rarely the story that people actually read about. Scot Goes Pop's polling coverage is a pro-independence corrective to that bias, although I would stress that it isn't about propaganda or wishful thinking - I also spend a fair bit of my time correcting misinformation about polls put about by Yes people.

How many people does Scot Goes Pop reach?

I have to sheepishly admit at this point that I'm not quite sure. I've had Google Analytics installed for years, but it suddenly dawned on me a few months ago that I've had it set up incorrectly all along, and that the figures I was seeing completely excluded visitors to the mobile version of the site. So any traffic/visitor numbers I mentioned until the end of the last year were likely to be a very significant underestimate.  According to the latest figures from Traffic Estimate, the blog reached a combined total of 55,400 unique visitors across two domains over the last 30 days (48,400 for, and 7000 in the early part of the month for the now-defunct domain).  I've no idea how accurate that is, but to give you a rough guide, it compares to an estimated 39,500 unique visitors for The Ferret, and 74,100 for Bella Caledonia.

Are the fundraisers your sole income?

No, of course not, and I really must stress that point for the benefit of our resident troll who likes posting comments along the lines of "get out of bed and do a proper job, you Jocknatsis scrounger". I have other writing-related income, and I'm glad to say I also do some work that has absolutely nothing to do with either writing or politics. However, I simply wouldn't be able to devote anything like as much time to the blog if it wasn't for the fundraisers.

Does the fundraiser help towards running costs?

Strictly speaking no, because the blogging platform I currently use is free.  However, there are a few miscellaneous expenses that are indirectly associated with blogging - for example travel costs if I'm asked to go somewhere for a podcast or rally or whatever, so the fundraiser does help with that.  In the past I've also experimented with using a portion of the funds on Facebook advertising, which is hopefully a win/win for all concerned - promoting this particular blog while also widening the reach of the wider pro-indy alternative media and its message.

Why don't you use the funds to commission an opinion poll?

In an ideal world I'd love to do that (if I can find a polling firm that is still willing to speak to me, that is!).  However, polls are expensive and I'd realistically only be able to do it if the target was significantly exceeded.  I've found in the past that fundraisers tend to only just about reach their target, so it's probably unlikely that I'd ever be able to take the idea forward, but I'll certainly keep an open mind about it.

What happens to the funds if you can't keep blogging?

That point always troubles me, because fundraisers are effectively there to cover a mountain of work that hasn't actually been done yet, and it's impossible to know when personal circumstances might suddenly change and get in the way.  As I've said in past years, if I wasn't able to keep going for any reason I would pass any remaining funds on to other pro-independence alternative media.

If everyone who has read this blog in the last month donated just 50p, would the target be met straight away?


Click here if you'd like to donate.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Questions for the BBC on the YouTube controversy

A great deal has been written about the closing down of the Wings and Moridura YouTube accounts, but there are a few points that I don't think have received enough attention yet.  The BBC suggested in their statement that the initiative for targeting the two accounts did not come from themselves, but rather that they always take action on copyrighted content when they receive a sufficient number of complaints.  This implies, somewhat implausibly, that dozens if not hundreds of public-spirited citizens have been spontaneously sending in complaints in an attempt to protect the BBC's copyright.  If there's any truth at all to it, much more likely is that any complaints sent to the BBC were malicious and politically motivated.  That would drive a coach and horses through the BBC's insistence that they take action on copyright regardless of the political views of the alleged "infringers", because self-evidently their own policy means that they would be taking more action against one side of the constitutional debate if it was the other side that happened to be putting in the bulk of complaints.

It may be, of course, that the "we take action whenever we receive complaints" thing is just a face-saving PR cover story anyway.  It has that sort of ring to it, a bit like Radio 1 pretending recently that they pulled an interview because it "wasn't good enough", and not because of the sea of outrage about the interviewee.  One obvious question is: how would someone actually go about alerting the BBC to a copyright infringement?  If there is an established procedure for doing that, is it really likely that large numbers of ordinary people would know about it?

The BBC appear to be alleging that the copyrighted material on the two channels was extensive enough to negate the "limited" fair use exemption.  That's a subjective argument, and one that a court might well disagree with.  But even if the BBC truly believe that their copyright has been technically infringed, it doesn't automatically follow that a state-owned and publicly-funded broadcaster always has to seek redress, or that it would be in the interests of those they serve for them to do so.  If it was drama or comedy, it would be an entirely different matter - they would be protecting the creative work of actors, writers, comedians, etc, who have a right to receive revenue when their product is viewed.  But who is being protected when the words of a politician who just happened to be speaking on the BBC are censored?  If there's a public interest in these videos being removed, why can't the BBC articulate what it is?  Why have they not even attempted to do so?

There's also an issue here about BBC centralisation and disrespect towards Scotland.  We were told a few months ago that BBC Scotland were about to make a conscious effort to build bridges with Yes voters and to win back the trust in the corporation that was lost during the independence referendum.  What looks like a political attack by the BBC in London on two leading pro-independence bloggers makes that task ten times harder.  Shouldn't it have occurred to the people responsible to clear such an enormously sensitive move with BBC Scotland, who after all were best placed to understand the repercussions?  If it didn't occur to them to do so, what does that tell you?

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On an unrelated subject, I just thought I'd bring the following to your attention.  Faisal Islam of Sky News has posted a screenshot of Pembrokeshire County Council's planning for Brexit, which makes an observation about devolution -

"There are powers in devolved areas which HMG [Her Majesty's Government] wishes to withhold from WG [Welsh Government] under the EU Withdrawal Bill that are currently implemented under EU law by Welsh local authorities.  How long they will be withheld, and for what purpose, is unclear.  This introduces some legal uncertainty for Welsh local authorities."

Perish the thought that there's any sort of power grab going on, eh? 

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Fundraiser: If you find Scot Goes Pop's polling coverage useful and would like to help it continue, donations can be made via the 2017 fundraiser page.  The initial £7000 target was reached last summer, but one year on that money has all been used up.  I know there are always lots of very worthy pro-independence causes looking for support, so I've held off for as long as I possibly could before actively seeking donations again.

The Chequers shambles brought UKIP back from the dead - and May's fear of UKIP could increase the chances of a no deal Brexit

One of the paradoxes of last year's general election is that the Tories had to increase their vote sharply just to avoid going backwards any further than they did.  Theresa May took 42% of the popular vote and yet lost the overall majority that had been won by David Cameron two years earlier with only 37% of the vote.  It's easy to dismiss what happened as a form of general polarisation in which both the Conservatives and Labour were bound to see their support increase while smaller parties were inevitably squeezed out, but in fact the processes that led to the Tory and Labour increases were largely separate.  UKIP voters went home to the Tories because the issue of Brexit seemed to be settled (laughable in retrospect, I know), while Labour were only able to capture former abstainers and Green voters because Corbyn had become leader - something that had absolutely nothing to do with Brexit.  So if circumstances had been different it would have been perfectly possible for the Corbyn surge to occur without any corresponding swing back from UKIP to Tory - and we're now starting to see what the effects of that would have looked like.

As you probably know, for several months in the early part of this year, the Tories had re-established a small but significant GB-wide lead over Labour, but that was reversed at the time of the Chequers "deal"/shambles.  Labour briefly went into the lead, but we now seem to be back to roughly a neck-and-neck race.  Although Labour may have taken some support direct from the Tories, the most important impact of Chequers appears to have been to bring UKIP back from the dead.  In every poll published in May and June, UKIP had been somewhere between 2% and 4%, and in most cases they were on 3%.  Since Chequers, they've been hovering between 5% and 8%, with the most common figure being 6%.  So their support has essentially doubled, and needless to say a lot of the extra votes are coming from the Tories.  In the last two YouGov polls, 9% or 10% of respondents who voted Tory in 2017 said they would now vote UKIP, which compares to an equivalent figure of just 3% in the last YouGov poll of June.  Labour's position relative to the Tories could therefore have improved without any direct boost for Labour at all (and indeed after the reversal of a temporary bounce that is effectively what has happened).

The question that forms in my mind is whether what we're currently seeing is merely a staging-post.  UKIP's support may be double what it was a few weeks ago, but it's still only half of what it was at the 2015 election.  With talk of Nigel Farage just possibly returning as leader next year, there's surely scope for a much bigger swing back from Tory to UKIP if the narrative of "Brexit betrayed" is allowed to develop.  There's no particular reason to think Labour would lose support to smaller parties at the same time, which means that the polls could move firmly into Labour overall majority territory by default.  Fear of that happening could be another constraint on Theresa May that will make it less likely that she'll agree to any deal remotely acceptable to the EU - thus further increasing the chances of a disastrous no deal Brexit.

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Fundraiser: If you find Scot Goes Pop's polling coverage useful and would like to help it continue, donations can be made via the 2017 fundraiser page.  The initial £7000 target was reached last summer, but one year on that money has all been used up.  I know there are always lots of very worthy pro-independence causes looking for support, so I've held off for as long as I possibly could before actively seeking donations again.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Any Blairite breakaway from Labour could be Christmas for the SNP

Subscribers to iScot magazine might remember that for my December 2017 column, I made a series of non-predictions for the year ahead.  That is to say, I made the point that the range of possibilities was much wider than the conventional wisdom would have you believe, and that there were a number of perfectly conceivable events being prematurely ruled out by pundits because of what the mood music happened to be at the end of the year.  For example, it seemed silly to me that the possibility of a Blairite/"moderate" breakaway from Labour at some point during 2018 was being completely excluded.

The small minority of you who bother trying to get past the New Stateman's intensely irritating registration-wall may have seen a recent piece by Stephen Bush in which he suggested that the prevailing private view among many Corbynsceptics is that a new party may well be necessary.  Now, admittedly there are only five months left in 2018, so if a breakaway does happen it's likely to be in 2019 or later.  But nevertheless this gossip (which should be taken seriously given Bush's track record) does go some way towards vindicating my point that the cowing of the Blairite tendency at one particular point in time did not tell you a great deal about what the position would be a few months later.  The rebels have cynically used the issue of antisemitism to breathe life back into their cause, and the question has reverted to being how to fight back against Corbyn rather than whether to do so.

If a new centre party emerges, would it be Christmas for the SNP?  Answer: probably, but not necessarily.  It's just possible that a fresh political force with a charismatic leader could ride the backlash against no deal Brexit and sweep all before it, including even the SNP in Scotland.  More likely, though, is that the new party would be strong enough to do severe damage to Labour, but not strong enough to come close to taking power itself.  The outcome would be a split and demoralised Labour and ex-Labour vote, which in a first-past-the-post Westminster contest would be a boon for any parties in competition with Labour in marginal seats.  That would obviously include the SNP.  There might even be limited benefits in a Holyrood election fought under proportional representation, because if either Labour or the new party fell below 5% of the list vote in any region, any votes they did receive in that region would be effectively wasted and would free up list seats for other parties.

It's worth bearing in mind, though, that the last time there was a breakaway from Labour, it was less widespread in Scotland than elsewhere.  It's no coincidence that George Robertson was one of only two members of the SDP's predecessor group in parliament who didn't ultimately join the new party.  Other Scottish MPs on the Labour right, such as John Smith, who would have been prime candidates to defect if they had represented constituencies south of the border, didn't even entertain the idea for a nanosecond.  There was a stronger cultural and emotional attachment to the Labour brand here than there was in parts of England.  Of course things have changed in the intervening few decades, and until the advent of Richard Leonard the Scottish party was almost starting to look like the last bastion of Blairism.  Many Scottish Labour MSPs will probably be sorely tempted to join a new party, but will sense deep down that by abandoning the Labour brand they would be giving up the one and only thing that makes them vaguely electable.  

Even if the history of the SDP breakaway repeats itself and Scottish Labour manages to basically hold together as English Labour falls apart, we can rest assured that the new party will still be beamed into Scottish homes courtesy of our wonderful homogenising broadcast media.  A split vote would effectively be imported from down south, and I suspect the SNP would still cash in quite heavily.

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Fundraiser: If you find Scot Goes Pop's polling coverage useful and would like to help it continue, donations can be made via the 2017 fundraiser page.  The initial £7000 target was reached last summer, but one year on that money has all been used up.  I know there are always lots of very worthy pro-independence causes looking for support, so I've held off for as long as I possibly could before actively seeking donations again.