Wednesday, September 4, 2019

First post-Boris Scottish poll puts the SNP on course for dramatic gains from both the Tories and Labour

The wait is now over for the first full-scale poll of Scottish voting intentions since Boris Johnson entered Downing Street.  It's YouGov that have broken the duck, and the figures they've produced neatly prove the point I made a few days ago that you can get a reasonably good idea of the state of play simply by averaging several YouGov subsamples. The following is strikingly similar to the average I published...

Scottish voting intentions for Westminster (YouGov):

SNP 43% (n/c)
Conservatives 20% (n/c)
Labour 15% (-2)
Liberal Democrats 12% (+3)
Brexit Party 6% (+2)
Greens 4% (+1)

The seats projection suggests the SNP would take 51 seats (up 16), the Liberal Democrats 4 seats (no change), the Conservatives 3 seats (down 10) and Labour 1 seat (down 6).

On the face of it, there may appear to have been no change in public opinion since Theresa May was in office.  However, the percentage changes listed above are from the last comparable poll in late April, when the Brexit Party surge hadn't quite reached its height yet.  The reason things looked so desperate for the Scottish Tories just before May's departure is that Farage had eaten directly into their support in a way that the SNP hadn't been able to.  It looks like the Boris effect has clawed back some of that ground, which is why the Tories are 'only' looking at ten losses, rather than eleven, twelve or the whole lot.  Perhaps they might still be able to limit their losses further, but for that to happen they're going to need to squeeze Brexit Party support some more (or hope that Farage doesn't put up candidates in selected seats) and they'll also need to hope that the SNP lose ground to Labour and/or the Liberal Democrats, possibly due to some sort of Swinson bandwagon effect over the course of the campaign.  But as things stand, the SNP are polling an impressive six points higher than the result they achieved in June 2017.

It has to be said that Scottish Labour appear to be staring down the barrel of a catastrophe, one that they might never recover from.  Yes, they made a mini-comeback after being reduced to one seat in 2015, but on that occasion they had a much healthier 24% of the popular vote to use as a base to rebuild from.  If they slump to anything like 15% of the vote, surely some of their remaining voters are going to start to wonder if the game is up this time.  But they turned things around over the course of the short campaign in 2017, so we certainly shouldn't exclude the possibility that they'll do the same again.  Their fate is probably in the hands of the London leadership - it's hard to imagine Richard Leonard spearheading much of a fightback.

There are also Holyrood voting intention numbers in the poll.  Oddly, the summaries that have appeared on social media provide the constituency percentages and an overall seat projection, but not the regional list percentages.  So until the datasets appear, we'll probably just have to surmise the list numbers from the seat projection.

Scottish Parliament voting intentions (constituency ballot):

SNP 45% (-1)
Conservatives 23% (+1)
Labour 13% (-3)
Liberal Democrats 12% (+5)
Brexit Party 3% (-1)
Greens 2% (-1)

Seat projection:

SNP 64
Conservatives 25
Liberal Democrats 15
Labour 12
Greens 10
Brexit Party 3

Pro-independence seats: 74
Anti-independence seats: 55


This is a very timely illustration of the point I've been making about the proposed Wings party, ie. that it's intended as a solution to a problem that doesn't actually exist.  We have a pro-independence majority at the moment, and current polling suggests that we're on course to hold on to it - indeed that we could increase it substantially.  The one and only thing missing from the YouGov seat projection is an outright majority for the SNP - they fall short by just one seat, and of course the only way of squeezing out that extra required seat would be to vote SNP.  Voting for a smaller party wouldn't help.

I've been puzzled as to why Stuart Campbell is so convinced that the pro-indy majority is likely to be lost in 2021.  Having spoken to him, it seems to be partly due to a misunderstanding of how the voting system translates votes into seats - he believes that if pro-independence parties have less than 50% of the vote between them, they can't win a majority of seats unless there's some kind of gaming of the system.  That isn't true, and indeed you can see in this poll that there's a very comfortable pro-indy majority in spite of the fact that the SNP and Greens only have a combined 47% of the constituency vote.  Although AMS is a proportional voting system, it's far from being perfectly proportional, and if the SNP remain dominant in the constituencies, it's entirely possible that a handsome Yes majority can be won on less than 50% of the vote, without any gaming at all.

Stuart also appears to be concerned that the Alex Salmond trial may turn voting intentions upside down before the Holyrood election takes place.  All I can say is that there's lots of "what ifs" between now and May 2021, and the Salmond trial is only one of them.  The closest thing to a precedent is the Jeremy Thorpe trial in 1979, which did have a negative impact on Liberal support, but not as big an impact as had been feared.  And that was in spite of the fact that Thorpe was still actively involved in frontline Liberal politics in a way that Salmond is not currently involved in frontline SNP politics.  Incredible though it may seem, Thorpe's trial was postponed specifically so he could stand as an official Liberal candidate in the 1979 general election, a factor which must have pulled down the party's national support.  Mr Salmond, by contrast, is not currently even an SNP member, which may help to minimise any fallout.  But time will tell, and none of us have a crystal ball - not about the Alex Salmond trial, and not about the economic impact of Brexit, which is more likely to work in the SNP's favour.

You might remember that when the Ashcroft poll a few weeks ago showed a slim majority in favour of independence, I pointed out that there was no earlier Ashcroft poll to compare it to, and that we therefore didn't know whether there had been a very recent boost for Yes caused by the advent of Boris Johnson and the rising chances of No Deal, or whether regular polling by Ashcroft would have shown much the same picture during the closing months of Theresa May's tenure.  The new YouGov poll gives the impression that the latter is more likely to be true, because public opinion on independence appears to be unchanged since April.

Should Scotland be an independent country?

Yes 49% (n/c)
No 51% (n/c)

In some ways that's a good thing, because it suggests the boost for Yes reported by Ashcroft isn't a transitory bounce caused by a new PM, but instead has been with us for months and has been sustained.  49% for Yes remains well above the 'normal range' of 43-45% that YouGov reported throughout 2017 and 2018.  As I always point out, Panelbase and YouGov are both on the No-friendly end of the spectrum, so if YouGov are showing 49%, it's perfectly possible that another pollster (like Ipsos-Mori or Survation) might show 51% or 52%.

At the end of the day, YouGov and Ashcroft are essentially reporting the same thing: that the public are split down the middle on independence, and that the race is a statistical tie, ie. it's impossible to know who is really ahead due to the margin of error.


  1. Very close to what you mentioned at the weekend.
    But surely 3 CON seats would mean a fall for them of 10? Or am I misreading things?
    Thanks for these timely updates - they are absolutely invaluable. Tapadh leat gu mòr.

    1. Yes, that was just a typo - corrected now. I was in a rush to get the post up.

    2. I know I sounded like a pedant, and thanks again. This is the site I come to every morning to get an idea of what's going on and I find your analysis spot on. Thanks very much for what you do. It's pretty obvious that we are going to become independent sooner rather than later, and this website is showing the signposts. Thanks again. Tapadh leat gu mòr mòr.

  2. Watching the panto in the London parliament, I realised we can't lose. All they have is money and status. What we have is people, realisation and a desperate need. They've lost and they know it.

  3. It looks very likely that we are heading for a General Election. One of the things that everyone needs to be aware of, is that the UK electoral system has been increasingly corrupted by unlawful and secretive funding sources and unlawful use of social media. It would be timely for the Scottish Government to do all it can to publicise the ways in which ordinary citizens can report possible breaches of election rules to the Electoral Comission (EC) or directly to the police. The EC has the power to impose stop notices that require parties or individuals to instantly cease activities that are forbidden by the election rules. It could also be useful for the SG to call for all parties to embrace transparency by publishing details of donations in real time on their websites. At present, the EC publishes donor details but with a time delay (which means that they are not known until after the election has finished - too late to do anything about them). All this is very important because higher election spend translates into votes.

  4. So 51% Yes on average now (since PM Johnson), and that's with Yougov tending to modestly underestimate Yes/SNP/Green.

    Also, crucially, while Scotland/the UK remain firmly in the EU.

    I think we can be fairly confident of a very solid Yes if brexit ever actually happens; e.g. like the '6 in 10' the BBC have found for no deal.

  5. Also a very good mid-term Holyrood poll for the SNP.

    This is how they were doing by the end of August 2014, just ahead of the referendum:

    37(-8)% SNP
    35(+22)% Lab
    16(-7)% Con
    5(-7)% Lib

    Changes are relative to the latest yougov poll, i.e. SNP were polling 8 points lower / Lab 22 points higher at the same point in the electoral cycle last time compared to now.

    Surgeon's sat ratings are also positive and on the up, so I'm not sure why some claim things are looking bad at the moment here. As it stands, simple correlation suggests and even bigger SNP win in 2021.

    1. Sat ratings:

      +5(47)% Well
      -34(24)% Well
      -58(13)% Well

      Pretty remarkable that Sturgeon is in positive territory (and on the up) 12 years into her stint as DFM/FM.

      Johnson in his honeymoon period at -34%.

  6. Do you know if this is Pre- or Post- Davidson?

  7. It's not just the Alex Salmond trial which has the potential to harm the SNP vote, self-ID has that potential too. But the really big one is indyref2. If the SNP don't deliver indyref2 before May 2021 then it becomes very hard to imagine their vote share holding up.

    I'm on the fence about a Wings party, but I can see that, in the event that all three of the above go badly, Yes voters might be looking for an alternative by 2021.

    1. The Salmond trial will have no impact. That's not how politics works. Not unless it turns out Mi5 set him up or something. That or e.g. Sturgeon was complicit. If he's guilty, it's not the guilt that matters to party VI, but how the SNP handled it. If they protected him, knowing he was guilty, that could hurt them. If they acted honorably, there will be no effect. That is now 'personal' scandals work in terms of party VI.

      The self-id maybe a little, but they've already backed down, so unlikely, unless they tried to push the same thing again without any changes. It would not push people to unionism anyway. Again, that's not how these things work. The trans issue is one facing all western democracies right now. It's in woke fashion.

      Indy absolutely. People voted for iref2 on the back of brexit. They must deliver or folks will start to seek a party that will, and an 'Scexit/SCIP' will develop.

    2. I'm very surprised anyone thinks it will have *no* impact.
      To be clear, I have no special knowledge of the case. I only know what I've read in blogs, newspapers etc.
      I think it could easily have a big impact.
      At the last trial the judge said that the Government process against Salmond was “unlawful” and “unfair”.
      What if the trial is delayed until the beginning of 2021?
      What if Salmond wins again and as a result the people responsible are forced to resign?

    3. I mean if Salmond was genuinely guilty of the charges involved, that would in itself have no bearing on Scottish indy / elections. It would be an inglorious end to his career, but that's it.

      Nobody supports the SNP or indy 'coz salmond', ergo no voters will change their minds because of his personal actions.

      Only the actions of the British state...SNP relation to the case might have an impact. If it turned out he was set up by MI5, then that would win Yes votes. If it turned out he was guilty and the SNP had be protecting him for years, that would lost them votes... etc.

    4. Astonished that you are thinking that the Salmond case will have zero impact on the independence movement. Salmond is the man who almost single handed took the SNP to the brink of independence, and if he is found guilty of even one the more serious charges, then it will impact seriously into the independence cause.
      And then there is Sturgeon... what did she know and when did she know it? If the above scenario happens, it may bring down the First Minister.

    5. Why do you think that? Is your support for independence vs the union based primarily on Alex Salmond? Even though, I'll add, he's retired from politics?

      Stuff like democracy, EU membership, the economy, poverty and inequality not of importance. Just mainly Alex Salmond?

      I can't say I've met anyone like this, ever. How weird.

      Sure if Sturgeon was complicit in crime that might well impact the SNP. If they knew she was complicit, so they were complicit too. If they didn't and dumped her as soon as they knew, it would be unlikely to affect them. As long as her replacement was as competent.

    6. Your are making several assumptions on there about me Mr Skier, all of them wrong.
      Salmond for many is the figurehead of the nationalist movement, much, much more than Sturgeon will ever be and it is without doubt that he is the most able Scottish politician of his generation. If he falls, there will be a domino effect.
      I'm struggling to understand your last paragraph.... who is this "they" you refer to? If sturgeon is found to have lied about her involvement with the Salmond case, about her meetings with salmond, she will have to resin. You cannot seriously say that this will have no impact on the independence movement?

  8. Latest on the dawning of the 'Brexit golden age'.

    Brexit-worn Britain looks on track for recession - PMI

    LONDON (Reuters) - Britain’s economy is in serious danger of entering its first recession since the financial crisis as business confidence wilts in the Brexit crisis, a closely watched business survey showed on Wednesday.

  9. still looks like we have to do the donkey work of convincing voters that independence is where our future is. We still need to find a way to communicate with NO voters.

    1. Keep speaking to relatives/friends/neighbours. Start to reassure them. Politely counter any doubts. Don't hector them.

  10. Marcia

    I'm with you here - most of my extended family have viewed me as an annoying rebel outlier for the last 5 years, but are coming around to the now and future realities of life in the UK, and not liking it.

    As for Corbyn and the election, I cant really see any benefit to him (or us) in an election atm. At this particular point in time, it seems as though he has parliament in a place where he might be able to get it to do his bidding, and if that's an agreed consensual bidding,(ie takes us to some sort of customs/freedom of movement arrangement) so much the better for us all.
    soon as we are into an election, all the rebel tories get swept away and who knows where we will end up?
    In any scenario I really don't think the growing doubts within the 'maybe' indy voters will be allayed.

  11. 'growing doubts about the benefits or acceptability of the UK'

  12. I think what you may be overlooking regarding the Salmond factor is that to many people Alex Salmond is still the SNP. He's the bogeyman, the one they hate, and he is going to be forever bound up with the SNP, whatever may happen. He was basically running the SNP for as long as I can remember (Swinney apart). You think the SNP won't be hammered over this?

    Conversely, there are many people who think that Salmond is being persecuted. Im not making judgements until the trial, but if he is innocent, there are people who will be put off by the lack of support that the SNP gave him.

    I also agree with DW regarding indyref2. A lot of people are getting somewhat irritated by the lack of movement on that.

    1. The only people who base who vote in a particular way 'coz Alex Salmond' are hardcore unionists...

      Who are obviously not basing their vote on Alex Salmond at all, but just lying as usual.

      The idea that people would choose between indy and the UK based on the personal conduct of a single person is a unionist wet dream, but that's all it is. Salmond has already been found guilty by the BBC etc, yet yes is on the up and the SNP are looking way in better in polls than they did 2011-16.

      Jeez, Trump actually has affairs with porn stars and grabs ladies crotches and he was elected president!

    2. Note I would be very surprised if the British state has not tried to set-up Salmond in a sex scandal, even if that's not the case here.

      Such things are standard practice for aggressive imperial powers, even if they are very much on the wane.

    3. Well you say that, but floating voters of either direction could be listening to media coverage and going either "Well the SNP were protecting a rapist, they must have known", or "the SNP were once again hanging an innocent person out to dry, all so they could play nice". It has the potential to make an impact.

      Also, my point was partly in reply to earlier posts saying " He isnt even an SNP member at the moment". In the case of Alex Salmond, it doesn't matter whether he's a paid up member or not, he is still associated with the SNP regardless.

    4. If this were the case, it would already have affected polling.

    5. Oh, and no rape took place, so salmond is not a rapist. A would be one maybe, but not an actual one. At least for this case.

  13. I only have one problem with James' Blogg I always seem to get it either very late in the day or next day, but I still read it and still post it Facebook its worth the reading.

  14. Britain occupied Scotland and Northern Ireland are disputed territories.!��
    United Kingdom tere tukde honge
    Insha Allah, Insha Allah.��
    United Kingdom, you shall be broken to pieces
    Allah willing, Allah willing

  15. This poll shows how much easier to get a pro Indy majority it is if you vote SNP 1 other Indy party 2. Voting SNP 1 & 2 is clearly much harder.
    The only discussion should be is what is the 2nd party. For a lot of people, the Greens are unelectable and so a more mainstream 2nd Independence party is the obvious answer.