Saturday, March 16, 2019

Survation poll shows Yes vote holding up impressively

The eagle-eyed David Halliday pointed out to me earlier today that independence figures can be found in the datasets of the new Survation poll, which seems to have been a composite poll commissioned by three very different clients - the Daily Mail, the Scottish Green Party and the ever-hapless Scotland in Union.  It's impossible to know what the headline independence figures would be (or perhaps what they will be if they're ever published), because the numbers in the datasets are not weighted by likelihood to vote.  But for what it's worth, the figures weighted politically and by demographics - but not by likelihood to vote - appear to put Yes at 45.2% and No at 54.8%.  That's basically the same as the previous Survation poll way back in the autumn.

I know the 'delay' lobby within the SNP may look at those figures and say "ooooh, there's no big breakthrough, this means we have to wait for another 64,000 years and hope that something turns up".  But the reality is that if you're not even campaigning on independence, and if you're letting your opponents make all the running on the issue, then probably the best you can really expect is that your own vote will hold up.  And the Yes vote is holding up impressively.  If we want to kick on from there, we'll have to use the indyref mandate and actually get on with the campaign.

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It's self-indulgent stats time, folks.  Based on recent trends this will probably be an accolade for one day only, but I may as well shout about it while it lasts.  As of this moment, and for the first time ever that I'm aware of, Traffic Estimate is showing that Scot Goes Pop has moved up to third place in the ranking of most-read Scottish alternative media sites over the last 30 days, slightly ahead of both CommonSpace and Bella Caledonia.

1) Craig Murray: 237,900 unique readers
2) Wings Over Scotland: 178,900 unique readers
3) Scot Goes Pop: 70,600 unique readers
4) Bella Caledonia: 70,200 unique readers
5) CommonSpace: 70,100 unique readers
6) Talking Up Scotland: 60,900 unique readers
7) Wee Ginger Dug: 59,900 unique readers
8) The Ferret: 37,900 unique readers

Thursday, March 14, 2019

With 334 MPs voting against, the 'People's Vote' option now looks dead

Although the headline moment tonight was the wafer-thin defeat of the Benn amendment, which may once again increase the chances of a No Deal outcome, I'd have thought equally significant is the exact numbers on Sarah Wollaston's amendment calling for a 'People's Vote' - 85 in favour, 334 against.  Obviously the scale of the defeat was due to Labour whipping an abstention, and the argument is that Labour will swing behind a referendum at a more propitious moment.  But the snag is that the 334 MPs who actively voted against the amendment today, plus the two tellers on the No side, represent 51.7% of the entire House of Commons.  In other words, there appears to be a natural majority against a referendum regardless of whether Labour abstain or not.

It may be that a few Tory supporters of a referendum felt that they had been given 'permission' by the People's Vote campaign to vote against the amendment, and will change their vote next time around.  But even if such MPs exist, they'll probably be offset by some Labour opponents of a referendum who felt able to follow the whip today, but who will vote against if they feel there is any danger of a referendum being approved.  On the basis of today's numbers, I just can't see any way a People's Vote will be called - and that in turn removes any lingering doubt over whether Brexit will actually happen.

If the European elections go ahead, the SNP's chances could be boosted by a split Kipper vote

Just as an interesting addendum to the previous post about the increasing possibility that the UK may take part in this May's European Parliament election after all, here is the result of the 2014 Euro-election in Scotland...

SNP 29.0%
Labour 25.9%
Conservatives 17.2%
UKIP 10.5%
Greens 8.1%
Liberal Democrats 7.1%

Scotland has six seats in the European Parliament, and there was never any real doubt about where five of them would go - the SNP and Labour were both bound to take at least two each, and the Tories at least one.  But the final seat was a dogfight, and several parties were able to make a plausible case for being in the running to win it.  You might remember that the Greens did their usual thing of telling SNP voters to switch "tactically" - supposedly to thwart UKIP.  But in fact if UKIP hadn't been there, the SNP would have claimed the elusive third seat that they had been trying and failing to win ever since proportional representation was first introduced in 1999.

Under the d'Hondt system, each seat is distributed individually, with the vote for each party being divided by the number of seats they have already won, plus one.  So using percentages rather than absolute numbers for convenience, here is how the calculation looked for the final seat in 2014 -

UKIP 10.5%
SNP 9.7%
Labour 8.6%
Conservatives 8.6%
Greens 8.1%
Liberal Democrats 7.1%

Why does this matter for any forthcoming election in May?  Because we know that the "Kipper" vote is likely to be split in a way that it wasn't five years ago.  Nigel Farage, David Coburn and others will stand for their new Brexit Party, and will take a lot of UKIP voters with them - but probably not all, simply because the UKIP brand is so well-established.  (Indeed, a lot of people may well vote UKIP on the false assumption that Farage is still a member or even the leader.)  I suspect the two parties may 'knock each other out', and divide the hardline Brexit vote in such a way that it's impossible for either to win a seat in Scotland.

The Lib Dems have been quietly doing quite well in recent Scottish polls, but they may suffer a similar fate if the Independent Group feel compelled to enter the fray.  At least in Britain-wide polls, the Lib Dem vote generally seems to be significantly lower if the Independent Group are offered as an option, presumably because the Lib Dem and TIG votes are drawn from the same centrist pool.

Effectively this means that the SNP's chances of winning a third seat this year may not be seriously threatened by either UKIP or the Lib Dems.  The likelihood is that the Tories will comfortably win two seats this time, which could leave the final seat as a straight fight between the SNP and Labour.  If, for example, Labour take 21% of the vote, the SNP would probably win the final seat with 32% or higher.  (It may seem obvious that the SNP should be doing a lot better than 32%, but voting patterns in European elections have traditionally been a little different.)

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Undoubtedly the most amusing part of tonight's votes was when the commentator on BBC Parliament revealed that David Mundell had abstained on the main motion, and mused that this might lead to resignation.  Obviously nobody had bothered to tell this particular BBC employee about the only cast-iron law of modern politics - ie. that David Mundell never, ever resigns under any circumstances whatsoever.  Sure enough, it turned out that the traditional rules had been relaxed to allow ministers to defy a three-line whip without resigning or being sacked, as long as they 'only' abstained rather than voting with the opposition.  A government that has to go to such extreme lengths because it can't afford to lose David Mundell is in a very dark place indeed.

And I doubt it will prove to be a cost-free action - Brexiteer ministers will now expect (and demand) the same right to abstain on future important votes with impunity.  Collective cabinet responsibility as we know it has ceased to exist, which could make an early general election unavoidable.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Tonight's votes mean that, one way or another, a moment of truth for the independence movement is arriving

On the narrowest of margins does history turn.  If the Spelman amendent had been defeated (and it would have taken just two MPs voting the other way for that to happen), the most likely outcome might well have been a No Deal Brexit, either on the scheduled date this month or after a very short last-ditch extension.  As it is, Theresa May has clearly shifted her ground and started to countenance the possibility of a longer extension.  She did it in her customary "nothing to do with me guv" sort of way, but the change is real - before tonight she was definitively ruling out an extension of more than a few weeks, while now she is accepting that it could be an unavoidable and unwelcome consequence of parliament's decisions.

Which seems to leave us with a binary choice between a) the Brexiteers being spooked by the threat of delay into voting for May's deal at the third time of asking, or b) an Article 50 extension of sufficient length that the UK would be forced into taking part in the European elections in two months' time.  (Admittedly the latter would cause such fury among Brexiteer MPs that the government might well be toppled.)  Either way, a moment of truth is coming for the independence movement - the passing of the deal would mean that the clarity Nicola Sturgeon has been awaiting would arrive imminently, at which point we could expect a decision about an independence referendum.  Or if the European elections are held in Scotland, the SNP would presumably use them to attempt to further reinforce their mandate for an indyref - with a good result being vitally important.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

65% of the Scottish public want a second independence referendum, says superlative Survation survey

For the second time in a few days I have to query the editorial priorities of the Herald in dealing with opinion polls - their take on the new Survation poll is "Nicola Sturgeon faces strong public opposition to Indyref 2", which is a tad odd, because the poll actually shows that 60% of respondents want a second independence referendum at some point, rising to 65% if Don't Knows are removed.  The only negative side of the poll for independence supporters is when respondents say the referendum should be held, with many saying it shouldn't be for at least five or ten years.  However, for my money that has a lot to do with the way the question is posed - it's a five-option question, which will lead strong supporters and opponents of a referendum to choose the option at either extreme, with everyone else likely to be drawn to an option somewhere in the middle to show their moderation.  And of course it was entirely at Survation's discretion to decide what "in the middle" would actually look like.  If you want a meaningful verdict on the referendum the SNP are proposing, you have to ask a more direct question - "do you support or oppose the SNP's call for an independence referendum once the terms of Brexit are known?"  We can only guess what the outcome would have been if Survation had posed that one.

On the voting intentions for Westminster and Holyrood, it's pretty much unalloyed good news for the SNP and the independence movement more generally.

Scottish voting intentions for Westminster:

SNP 40% (+1)
Conservatives 24% (-2)
Labour 23% (-1)
Liberal Democrats 8% (n/c)

Like the recent Panelbase poll, the above figures represent a swing to the SNP from both the Tories and Labour since the June 2017 election, but the swings are bigger, and the SNP's own vote share is up on 2017 as well.  In the unlikely event of a totally uniform national swing, this would see the SNP win 46 seats (up 11), the Tories just 8 (down 5), the Lib Dems 4 (no change) and Labour 1 (down 6).

In a perverse way, Labour might think their 23% vote share is not too bad, because it's within their normal range for recent Survation polls, albeit at the lower end of it.  Panelbase, by contrast, had put Labour on a post-June 2017 low, which appeared to reflect the impact of the Independent Group breakaway.

Scottish Parliament constituency ballot:

SNP 43% (+5)
Conservatives 24% (-2)
Labour 22% (-3)
Liberal Democrats 9% (n/c)

Scottish Parliament regional list ballot:

SNP 32% (n/c)
Conservatives 22% (-1)
Labour 19% (-4)
Greens 11% (+2)
Liberal Democrats 11% (+2)

Remarkably, the Scotland Votes predictor suggests that the pro-independence majority in the Scottish Parliament would slightly increase on these numbers - the SNP and Greens between them would have 70 seats, rather than the 69 they won in 2016 when the mandate for a second independence referendum was secured.  That once again gives the lie to Robin McAlpine's claim from a few weeks ago that all recent polls have suggested the pro-indy majority would be lost. In all honesty, though, Survation's methodology is making it very difficult to work out what would really happen, because it's been blindingly obvious for ages that the question wording they use for the list vote ("your second vote") is confusing respondents and producing distorted results - the SNP's vote share is likely to be a few points too low and the Greens' vote share is likely to be a few points too high.