Friday, August 30, 2019

Two by-elections, two big swings to the SNP

As expected, the Shetland by-election proved to be just too big a mountain for the SNP to climb, but by any normal standards the swing in their favour was enormous.

Shetland parliamentary by-election result (29th August 2019):

Liberal Democrats 47.9% (-19.5)
SNP 32.3% (+9.3)
Independent - Thomson 10.9% (n/a)
Conservatives 3.7% (-0.1)
Greens 1.6% (n/a)
Labour 1.3% (-4.6)
Independent - Stout 1.1% (n/a)
Independent - Scott 0.6% (n/a)
UKIP 0.5% (n/a)
Independent - Tait 0.3% (n/a)

That's a swing of more than 14% from the Liberal Democrats to the SNP. If that had been the result of a by-election on the mainland, it would look like an unmitigated disaster for the Lib Dems and their new leader Jo Swinson, because if national polls are to be believed they should be closing the gap in seats they don't hold, and sailing out of sight in seats they do hold. They certainly shouldn't be seeing their vote slump in a previously rock-solid heartland. However, we've known since the European election in May that the Northern Isles were bucking the national trend for whatever reason, and we've always known that localised trends in island constituencies don't usually have any wider significance, so the Lib Dems will probably just feel relieved to get out of this with a win of some description. The SNP will also be pleased, though, at this demonstration that there aren't any no go areas for them in Scotland.

There have been some suggestions that the SNP's biggest failing in this campaign was in the realm of expectation management, ie. that they allowed the impression to take root that they might actually win Shetland outright, which now leaves the big swing in their favour looking like a disappointing result. But I think sometimes you have to build a sense of excitement about a campaign if you want a decent outcome. There's not going to be much of a bandwagon effect if people think your aim is a distant second place.

Oh, and it shouldn't go unmentioned that the Tories specifically said in their election leaflets that if voters wanted Brexit, their only option was to vote Tory.  So presumably this result means that 96.3% of Shetlanders don't want Brexit?

*  *  *

There was also a substantial swing to the SNP in a local council by-election in East Kilbride...

East Kilbride Central North by-election result (29th August 2019):

SNP 46.5% (+4.2)
Labour 20.3% (-11.3)
Conservatives 14.6% (-4.1)
Liberal Democrats 12.4% (+9.9)
Greens 4.5% (+0.6)
UKIP 1.4% (n/a)
Scottish Libertarians 0.4% (n/a)

It's worth bearing in mind that the above percentage changes are from the baseline of the 2017 local elections, when the SNP's national vote stood at 32%. So the SNP are not necessarily setting the heather alight with a 4% increase. But what really matters here is the catastrophic drop in the Labour vote - if that trend continues, the SNP will sweep the board wherever Labour are their main opponents in any snap Westminster election. There still appears to be every chance that Scottish Labour will once again by reduced to just one seat (Edinburgh South).

* * *

How can you tell the difference between a Westminster by-election and a local council by-election? The declaration of a Westminster by-election result is pretty much always broadcast live by the BBC, either on their news channel, or on BBC1, or on a simulcast between the two channels. By contrast, local council by-elections are for obvious reasons never covered live, and indeed are hardly ever mentioned on air after the event. Judging from the complete lack of live coverage of the Shetland result on BBC1, BBC2, the BBC news channel, the BBC Scotland channel and Radio Scotland, it appears that the BBC think that a Holyrood by-election is closer in nature to a council by-election than to a Westminster contest. It's not all that surprising to see London news editors stuck in the dark ages, taking the view that Holyrood is - in the immortal words of Tony Blair - comparable to an English parish council. But BBC Scotland have no excuse after twenty years of devolution, and it's a real dereliction of duty that they didn't broadcast some sort of live by-election special. On past form, it's highly likely they would have done if this had been a Westminster by-election in Scotland.


  1. interesting analysis, James ... and as you say, the SNP (and wider Indy supporters) can take a lot out of the result in Shetland.

    Sure does "bang a nail" in the Coffin of .... "the Nats have no chance here !"
    ... lets here the "usual suspects" read the tea leafs.

    How will Dick extrapolate his parties showing do you think ?

  2. That Labour vote of 1.29% was a real shocker, even if Shetland is somewhat atypical. Remember that they once put up a Militant affiliate in the Isle of Wight and got 2.4%, but they've surpassed themselves here. Less than half of the vote of Mr Ruthwrecked Goodlad as well

  3. Shetland result is one of those results that both SNP and LD can spin. LD will say that they won (which of course is the ultimate aim on an election) and that they still almost got 1/2 the vote. SNP will point to the swing.

    Got to remeber that the SNP threw the kitchen sink at this election, something they would not be able to do in a normal election, so in a way the swing should be expected.

    1. And equally the LDs threw everything they had. They also had the "advantage" of a new leader in post.

      Swindon is getting unbelievable coverage for someone in charge of the 4th Westminster party.

      Well done the Independent, puts the overall results into context

  4. I have said in previous posts the SNP are doing much better in mid-term Holyrood polling at the moment than they were doing for the same stage in 2007-11 & 11-16. These results just back that up, and by simple correlation, would imply they win even bigger in 2021 as things stand.

    Westminster results don't correlate to Holyrood directly as these depend on the way England is perceived to be about to swing, creating huge tactical votes. Many Scots also do genuninely treat the two differently, for example a pro-independence voter who wants Scotland out of the EU in the EEA like Norway may vote SNP for Holyrood and Tory (or Brexit) for the GE. Perfectly logically really.

    This is why weighting Scottish polls to past westminster intention is about as useful as an inflatable dartboard. The two votes are quite independent of each other for large sections of the electorate.

    1. 'past westminster vote' that should be. It's very obvious from data that people who voted tactically are often responding with who the supported, not who they tactically voted for, completely unaware how this affects polling. Scots are very consistent in Holyrood recall, but answers for Westminster rarely match what happened.

  5. Swings to a party in power for 12 years normally mean nation-wide swings.

  6. Pardon the suspicion, but what was the turnout and result of postal votes?

  7. With the SNP stating that every constituency seat now winnable, surely it is time for an appropriate conversation on how best to maximise the number of pro-independence list seats at the next election, particularly with the increased focus on securing a mandate for a second indyref.

    1. Oh, I see where you're going wrong there. "Winnable" is not a synonym for "will be won".

  8. 66.5% (11,835) total, 83% postal votes returned (2,414), 63% cast at station (9,421)

  9. 20% of Shetland's population are from England.

    1. Actually it's 13% English born based on the 2011 census, with 81% born in Scotland.

      In terms of identity, Shetland is 60% 'Scottish only' (the magic number for Yes which is readily achievable), and 78% Scottish + other (including British).

      People can rest easy about it wanting independence or something; it's very Scottish; petty much the average for Scotland.

  10. 'Lib Dems will probably just feel relieved to get out of this with a win of some description.'

    Trying to spin winning almost half the vote as somehow scraping across the line is pretty desperate stuff.

    1. How do you make losing 20% of the vote in your safest seat when your main opposition had been in power for 12 years sound good?

      A win is a win, but Jo Swinson + support for the UK union seems to be costing them votes. Little doubt there.

  11. Maybe because of brexit, Shetland will go independent of the UK and stay in the EU, taking all the oil with it?

  12. Could do, Been talk of it becoming something along the lines of IoM in the past. Of course as it was Independent its oil would not belong to Scotland either if it became Independent.

    1. Scotland could join it later. After all, Shetland is more Scottish (in terms of population country of birth and national identity) than many areas of Scotland, as per my earlier post.

    2. For sure only 8% of its population said that it wanted indy when polled back in 2014 so not going to going indy any time soon.

      But its not going to go indy from the UK either, its very pro UK 63% indy ref 57% for pro UK parties yesterday. 68.7% in 2017 election.

      In comparison it was only 56% for remain in EU ref so not very pro EU.

    3. Erm, Shetland voted 36% Yes in 2014.

      If you are correct and 8% Yes in polls = 36(+28)% on voting day, then the SNP+greens getting 34% today implies Yes is already heading for well over 50% in iref2.

      56% = epic landslide. Remember, 52% = 'overwhelming'.

    4. I'm talking about a poll if Sheltanders wanted to be complete indy from UK and/or Scotland. So no not heading for over 50% in indyref2

    5. Ok, sorry, I misunderstood!

      I was obviously playing the devil's advocate anyway. :-)

      In iref2 we shall see many areas of Scotland vote Yes even though their preference was to remain in the UK. Such is the nature of brexit.

      55% voted for the UK in 2014 and 62% voted for the EU in 2016, i.e. the EU is measurably more popular. This is consistent with polling which has shown that brexit, particularly a hard one, will see Scotland pick indy in the EU over the UK. for some, it will be decision they'd have preferred not to make, but brexiters put a gun to their heads and forced them to choose.

      2014 was always going to be simpler to call for specific areas because it did not have memberships of 2 unions being pitted against each other somewhat.

    6. Lets' see what happens with Brexit first. Until that happens I would not but any bets on the result of an indy ref.

  13. As I understand it, if Shetland became independent, it would form an enclave within Scottish territorial waters, with a 12 mile exclusive zone. Outside the 12 miles would still be Scottish waters.
    As far as I know, there is no oil within 12 miles of Shetland.

    1. Sure, I was just acting like a dumbass unionist.

    2. No. The idea of Shetland not being Scottish ( we are told it's Danish and extreme English loyalists) has made its way to USA. It's presented as a given that if Scotland were to go Indy they would refuse and either stay with England and keep oil or join their Danish " cousins". It's on the business channels a lot.( Yes, we have that many stations that we have business news only channels!!)

    3. No, that's what would happen if Shetland declined Scottish independence and somehow managed to stay with Wales, England, and NI.

      If Shetland chose its own path without rUK or Scotland, its territorial waters would stretch from the Faroes to Norway and Orkney.

    4. Sure, as would e.g. a independent Lewis. However, both wouldn't get far with independence as they don't meet standard criteria for being distinct nations / 'peoples' as required for the right to self determination (otherwise, my hamlet could become a republic).

      Scotland passes with flying colours on every aspect here, but no individual part of it comes close. If that were the case, we'd have been dealing with our own internal independence movements as long as e.g. Britain has. The 'Lord of the Isles' party would be planning iref2 and whatnot.

    5. To become an indypendant country you have to meet the requirements set in the Montevideo Convention which are:
      Defined Territory
      Permanent population
      Diplomatic relationship with at least one other country.

      Shetlands has the first two and could easily get the second two.

      The go to UN get 9/15 votes in the security council (with none of the permanent members vetoing) and then 2/3 vote in the general assembly. Can't see any reason why would not get that (as long as Independence was through democratic route, ie majority in a ref). Once that's done The Shetlands would be a UN recognised country.

    6. Do try getting the name right, Anon. It's "Shetland", not "the Shetlands". I'm guessing you're from daan saaf?

    7. Fair point to rephrase 'Sheland' would be a UN recognised country.

      As for the other point I left Scotland when I was 10 and currently live in the Midlands. I never have been to or lived in east London though (i'm guessing that was the accent you were trying to emulate) :)

    8. My house and garden fits 3 of these. I'm president.

      Also, this convention has only been ratified by 16 out of 195 countries. It’s only applicable to them; it’s not international law. Furthermore, the factors state don't define the right to self-determination, but what's required for final recognition as a functioning state; the stage after qualifying for self-determination. ‘To be a country you must have a government that other countries can talk to’ is a simple statement of the obvious.

      Here is our key convention:

      “All peoples have the right of self-determination...”

      If folks in Shetland wanted to keep the indy option open in the short term, they were rather stupid in openly admitting to the world that they are not a people en masse in 2011 when everyone was consulted and 80%+ of them said they were Scottish.

      They were asked to freely state ‘What is your nation / your people’ and the vast majority of them said ‘Scotland / Scots’.

      Of course they are free to start nationally identifying as ‘Shetlanders’, which would be the first place to start on their journey to being recognised as a people and, eventually, an independent republic. For the moment though, they're not a distinct people (in majority) by their own admission. It's not my opinion, but straight from their own mouths.

    9. At the end of the day, if there is a democratic referendum and the people of Shetland decided they wanted to become an independent country can't see any problems. Certainly an Indy Scotland would not stop them would it. It would be 'sorry to see you leave but good luck in the future'. With Scotland happy to see Shetland go can't see many countries not recognising Shetland and its becoming a UN recognised state.

    10. Of course the SNP has already agreed that if enough people in Shetland indicate that they want an indy ref they would not object to one happening; no mention of them having to call themselves Shetlanders first

    11. re; Anonymous, Shetland does not have a 'government' though, and that takes time to set up, and to make it work, it would not be easy for them and would not happen overnight.

      Shetland like the rest of Scotland as far as I know, has been under Britnat English rule for 300 years.

      Do the people of Shetland ask themselves what that 'union' has done for the people and economy there?

      I am sure the government in London would look after them, if they decided to ditch an independent Scotland, and stay under the Britnats' rule, not!

      Shetland is also definitely not the only part of Scottish territorial waters to have lots and lots of oil either.

    12. The people of Shetland or Bute or East Lothian currently have the right to self determination through their historic self identification as Scottish. So they vote as one with all Scots; an internationally recognised people who, through that recognition, gain the right to self determination under .

      If in the next census 50%+1 of folks in East Lothian nationally identify as East Lothianish (not Scottish), then we'd be into new territory and that would be their first step on the road to nationhood, i.e. collectively seeing themselves as a distinct nation. That's when international conventions on the subject start to kick in.

      Fundamental to all nations is the collective agreement that they are one. After that, you need the neighbours to agree.

      Anyway, there's another census coming in a few years so we can gauge the local picture.

  14. Lib Dem advantages:
    - New leader
    - Safe seat 'home territory'
    - Popular incumbent retiring scandal-free and endorsing their replacement
    - Tory brexit looming large
    - SNP 12 years into Scottish government (so Honeymoon should be well over)
    - Tories 4 years into UK government (as above)

    Result? Lib dem share crashes by a whopping 19.5%

    Jo Swindon has some explaining to do.

  15. Good results to the SNP in both seats. Labour and Tories did worse than I expected.

  16. The Lib Dem vote was down from 7440 in 2016 to 5659 in 2019. So they got 1781 fewer votes and that is 24% of their 2016 vote.

    The SNP vote on the other hand was up from 2545 in 2016 to 3822 in 2019. An increase in their vote of 1277 or almost exactly a 50% increase on their 2016 vote number.

    A 50% increase in votes for the SNP compared with a 24% decrease in votes for the Lib Dems looks pretty good to me.

    1. Yes, and with a slightly increased turnout, the LD lost votes.

  17. I've got decent money on Boris aiming for a new deal where the current backstop is re-negotiated with the EU to only cover N. Ireland. The ERG will happily vote for that; he just needs to dump the DUP and replace them with more Tories.

    Of course that means the end of the UK anyway as one part getting all the advantages of EU membership while the others don't / one part being devo maxed (which it would need to be) etc would be unsustainable. If we are not all ulitmately subject to the same parliament, then we are not the same country.

    So Scotland would shortly depart.

    A lot less messier than a hard brexit driven independence.

    Throughout this whole thing I have chatted with solid brexit voter. You are not going to change these people's minds and rightly, they are furious that MPs have not delivered brexit. As furious as Scot nats would be if our own MSPs didn't deliver on a Yes indy vote.

    So I cannot see brexit being reversed. It is going to happen, and it will cause the UK to break up.

    In time though, I think England & Wales will rejoin, at least the EEA.

    SNP really do need to now just let England cliff jump if it wants to. We have established they are not going to change their minds down there. If we get a GE before the 31st, I'm sure Boris will get his majority and that will be that.

  18. Best guess for next week S24 debate tabled on Tuesday, granted and the debate held on Wednesday. As s24 debates are no longer neutral this can theirfore be amended and parliamentary time alocated for other debates as happened earlier in the year. Thursday law to send Boris to ask for extension debated and passed, Lords have said they will sit Friday/Weekend if necessary so by Monday Boris will no longer be able to say defiantly leaving on Oct 31st and the ERG/Brexit Party will be turning on him.

    1. Polls have him winning a GE now without the DUP. Still tight, but a few weeks more and he'll be looking comfortable on current trends.

      If the 'remoaners' manage to stop the UK leaving on the 31st, he'll likely win a huge majority, can dump N. Ireland to the backstop go ahead with the exit.

      This is exactly his strategy IMO. It also suits the SNP I suppose too, as they'll clean up in Scotland while brexit goes ahead, ergo iref2. If N. Ireland stays in the EU, Scotland will be following.

    2. If we have a GE and the SNP clean up in Scotland - can't we just declare independence? If it is in the manifesto we do not need indyref2 surely?

    3. but he can't call a election, he has not got 2/3rds of the vote. The opposition parties will simply say they won't agree to an election till no deal in October is off the table. As soon as it is he looses 2/3% to Brexit party. That's before as Rory Stewart hinted in a interview today he has to deselect 20 - 30 MPs including big names like Hammond because they will refuse to stand on a no deal if necessary Brexit ticket.

      Hes overplayed his hand and screwed himself. Before yesterday anti no deal MPs were divided, the whole Queens speech thing has united them.

    4. If he asks Lab + Lib + SNP + Green to vote him out of office, do you think they'll say no?

      If so, the hard brexit will be their fault.

      I think he has overplayed his had, but maybe not sufficient to set him back in a GE.

      He needs shot of the DUP and N. Ireland. It's his only hope of delivering a workable brexit that keeps him in office.

      Now imagine Scotland goes indy and N. Ireland goes half way to reunification. He would be the first king of England.

    5. Nope hes overplayed his hand, more importantly his managed to piss off Bercow to a stage were he isn't going even try pretend to neutral and hes the one who says when the S24 debate is held.

      Boris has one card leave by the 31st whatever happens. Thats what got him elected, once parliament take that card from him hes finished. All going to shift very quickly next week.

  19. The PM has played an honest game and called out the remainer fascist idiots who are only loyal to their pockets and the Brussels elites. Those shits have no loyalty to their countries in the UK.