Saturday, July 13, 2019

If the McEleny/MacNeil alternative plan isn't even to be considered, what *is* the alternative?

It's disappointing but not surprising that the very sensible resolution tabled by Chris McEleny and Angus MacNeil, calling for the next Holyrood or Westminster election to be used to seek an outright mandate for independence in the event that a Section 30 order is refused, has not even been allowed to go forward for consideration at the SNP conference.  However, this does not necessarily mean that the leadership would never consider the proposed course of action under any circumstances.  What it does mean is that the leadership is determined to keep an iron grip on the strategy for achieving independence, and to not give the membership any meaningful say at all.  Indeed, over the last couple of years the leadership has been pretty determined not to even keep the membership informed about what the strategy is.  At a Women for Independence event a few months ago, Nicola Sturgeon urged Yes supporters to just leave "process" to her and to get on with campaigning instead.  I'm not sure that's a sustainable position when many Yessers have had a reasonable suspicion that there isn't actually a specific plan for getting around the roadblock of Westminster's refusal to respect the mandate for a second independence referendum.

That said, another comment from Ms Sturgeon at the same event left the impression that she was minded to use the next Holyrood election to obtain a mandate, not for independence itself, but for a referendum.  Yes, I know we already have such a mandate from the 2016 election, but the theory seems to be that yet another one might somehow break down Westminster's resistance.  There was an intriguing comment in the New Statesman a week or two back that "many Scottish MPs" (whether this referred to SNP MPs, or Tory MPs, or both, wasn't made clear) now expected Nicola Sturgeon to engineer an early Holyrood election for that purpose.  I must say that if we are going to go down the road of seeking a superfluous repeat of a mandate we already have, I would much prefer it to be done in a snap election, because at least that means less valuable time would be squandered.  And it would almost be like a 'free hit', because under the rules, as long as a snap election takes place before November 2020, the next election in May 2021 would go ahead as scheduled.  So if the snap election didn't work out as hoped, we would have another chance before too long.  Probably the worst-case scenario for a snap election would be the SNP being returned as a minority government but without a pro-indy majority.  (Although at the moment it seems that a pro-indy majority would be the most likely outcome.)

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Some good news from the Scottish subsample of the latest GB-wide YouGov poll...

SNP 45%, Conservatives 20%, Labour 13%, Liberal Democrats 10%, Brexit Party 9%, Greens 2%

YouGov's Scottish subsamples appear to be correctly structured/weighted, so the only problem with them is the small sample size.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Scot Goes Pop fundraiser hits target

Well, what can I say, you're all stars, every single one of you.  In spite of the fact that the £8500 target was slightly higher than in recent years, we got there after only a month or so.  Thank you to everyone who has donated so generously, everyone who has shared the fundraiser on social media, and everyone who has promoted it through word of mouth.  I'd particularly like to thank The National for giving it a prominent mention on their 'Yes DIY' feature a few weeks ago - that really did make a very significant difference.

GoFundMe allows fundraisers to remain open for donations indefinitely, so with your forgiveness I'll continue to promote it occasionally for a little while longer, although I'll try to do so less obtrusively than before.  (I know there are always one or two people who are holidaying down a cave in Albania when the fundraiser is run, and only find out about it later on.)  And as has been the case for many years, there'll continue to be a permanent "Donate" link in the sidebar (desktop version of the site only).

Thank you again, and hopefully you'll find the blog to be an interesting read over the weeks and months to come.

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As you probably saw the other day, Plaid Cymru has decided to take the highly unusual step of sitting out the Brecon and Radnorshire by-election and urging its supporters to back a unionist party (the Lib Dems) instead.  My initial reaction when I first heard this was being contemplated was that it might just about make sense in the current circumstances, but only as a complete one-off.  However, it appears that the new Plaid leader Adam Price sees the Brecon deal as merely the first step towards a more comprehensive "Remain alliance".

I must say I have my doubts as to whether that would be a runner in a general election.  My guess is that we'll end up with something that looks very much like the recent past, ie. only a few limited and localised deals between the Lib Dems and the Greens in a handful of constituencies.  Possibly the Lib Dems might also hold their noses and give some or all of the remaining Change UK MPs a clear run in return for Change not making too much of a nuisance of themselves anywhere else.  But I strongly suspect that the Lib Dems will conclude that they have too much to lose from entering into a full-blown electoral pact with Plaid - it would almost certainly mean giving up on their hopes of retaking Ceredigion, for example.

But just suppose for a moment that it happened.  It would be bound to lead to pressure on both the Lib Dems and the SNP to agree something similar in Scotland.  That would be uncomfortable territory for both parties, not least because it would be almost unprecedented in modern times for the SNP to throw their weight behind an anti-independence party in any constituency.  But could there be scope for the SNP to make what David Cameron might have called "a big, open and comprehensive offer to the Liberal Democrats"?  The obvious shape of any pact would be that one party would stand aside if the other party is either the incumbent in the constituency or in a clear second place to a non-Remain party.  That would mean the SNP standing aside in only four constituencies, and the Lib Dems standing aside in the other fifty-five.

Let's face it: the Lib Dems would be bound to turn the offer down, not only for the above reason but also because an arrangement with the SNP would drive a coach-and-horses through their 'double down on British nationalism' strategy by costing them an untold number of Tory tactical votes in their current constituencies. But they'd walk away from a Remain alliance at the cost of the moral high ground.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

It's perfectly possible that Yes are ahead already

As you may have seen, the senior SNP MP Angus MacNeil and the former depute leadership candidate Chris McEleny have tabled a resolution that would require the SNP to use the next Westminster or Holyrood election to seek an outright mandate for independence in the event that the UK government refuse a Section 30 order for an independence referendum next year.  I was startled to see an independence supporter on Twitter brand the plan as "childish" and "idiotic" - a rather bizarre outburst against the whole principle of parliamentary democracy, which recognises that a party has a mandate to implement a policy if it fought and won an election on a relevant manifesto pledge.  A number of us asked the irate indy supporter what his alternative was.  Was he just going to hold his hands up and say "well, it's been a good, clean fight, but London have said no, and that's the end of that"?  All he came up with was that we needed to have majority support for indy before we could do anything - a very slippery answer that completely evades the issue.  An unambiguous majority for Yes in the opinion polls would just give the increasingly unhinged imperialists in the Tory leadership an even greater incentive to refuse a Section 30 order, so what do you do then?

But actually, though, we shouldn't even let the point that "we need a Yes majority" pass without questioning the premise that there isn't a Yes majority already.  There have been four proper independence polls this year, all of which have put Yes support in the high 40s, and on each and every occasion I've made the observation that it was an unusually high level of support from a polling firm (either Panelbase or YouGov) that have in recent years tended to show relatively No-friendly results compared to other firms.  I'm not sure the full implications of that have quite sunk in.

For example, in the first half of 2018, when Ipsos-Mori put Yes support at 48%, YouGov were saying it was only somewhere between 43% and 45%.  Now that Yes are on 49% with YouGov, doesn't it seem entirely plausible that a new Ipsos-Mori poll would put the figure at 51% or above?

In October 2018, when Survation had Yes on 47%, Panelbase had Yes on only 44%.  Now that Yes are on 49% with Panelbase, would it really be that surprising if a new Survation poll put Yes on 51% or 52%?

It doesn't necessarily work that way, of course.  At the end of the 2014 indyref campaign, when the hitherto No-friendly pollsters like YouGov suddenly showed a massive swing towards Yes, the other firms didn't follow suit.  Instead, there was a sudden convergence between the findings of different pollsters - and something very similar happened in the EU referendum.  So it's not certain that Ipsos-Mori or Survation would be reporting an outright Yes lead if they were polling right now - but for my money there's a reasonable chance that they would.

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Click here for the 2019 Scot Goes Pop fundraiser.