Saturday, February 8, 2020

Scot Goes Pop / Panelbase poll: By wide margin, Scottish voters say Holyrood should legislate for a consultative independence referendum WITHOUT a Section 30 order if London remains intransigent

We’re coming to the end of the results of this blog’s crowdfunded Panelbase poll, but in my opinion we’ve saved the most significant result for last. It won’t attract the headlines in the London media that the main independence numbers did on Tuesday, but it’s the one that gets to the heart of the SNP’s internal debate over strategy, and the method by which we’re actually going to make independence happen in the real world. The most obvious way of breaking through the current wall of Westminster intransigence is to legislate for an independence referendum without a Section 30 order, and then wait to see if the UK government challenge the law in court. Nicola Sturgeon very carefully didn’t rule that option out in her Brexit Day speech, but she expressed misgivings about it. Her public doubts related to the possibility that the courts might rule against the Scottish Government, but I strongly suspect that she’s also concerned about scaring the horses and driving away soft Yes and soft No voters by acting in a way that might be perceived as too rash or confrontational. If that is her worry, this poll result should provide a massive dose of reassurance.

There are differing legal opinions on whether the Scottish Parliament currently has the power to hold a consultative referendum on independence without Westminster’s permission. If the UK government continues to refuse to give permission, do you think the Scottish Parliament should legislate to hold a referendum and then allow the courts to decide whether it can take place?

Yes 50%
No 39%

With Don’t Knows excluded, approximately 56% of respondents think a referendum should be called without a Section 30 order, and only 44% disagree. If those numbers sound familiar, it’s because a couple of the other favourable results in this poll have had exactly the same margin. Of course it won’t be precisely the same respondents giving positive and negative replies in each case, but there’s bound to be a considerable amount of overlap, which suggests to me that the vast bulk of those who are resistant to ‘go-it-alone’ legislation are the people who are irreconcilable to independence or to a referendum anyway. There’s practically no evidence in the poll that the current pro-Yes majority would be threatened by bold action – a mere 4% of people who would currently vote Yes, and 9% of people who voted SNP in December, don’t think the Scottish Parliament should act without a Section 30. Once again, the rump Labour vote is the most fascinating part of the sample – a healthy 44% of respondents who voted Labour in the general election think Holyrood should go ahead and legislate, and 47% do not.

When I first saw the headline numbers, it did occur to me that the majority may have come about due to a sizeable number of anti-independence Tory voters saying to themselves “go to court, then, and let’s get it settled”. But that’s not the case at all – only 5% of Tory voters answered Yes to this question. The majority very much seems to be based on people who are sympathetic to either independence, or a referendum, or both.

I also asked one other question in the poll. I was curious to discover whether people thought at the time of the 2014 independence referendum that they’d be able to vote on the subject again in future, and it turns out a significant minority thought they would.

Casting your mind back to the day of the 2014 independence referendum, what was your impression at the time of whether Scotland would be able to hold another independence referendum in the future?

I was under the impression that it would be possible to hold another independence referendum if the Scottish people voted for a party with a manifesto commitment to hold a referendum: 39%

I was under the impression that Scotland wouldn’t be allowed to hold another referendum, regardless of how the Scottish people voted in future elections: 47%

It’s important to stress that the question didn’t ask whether Alex Salmond or anyone else had “promised” there wouldn’t be another referendum – merely whether another referendum had seemed possible. Around 17% of respondents who actually voted Yes in 2014, and 19% of respondents who voted SNP in December, thought that another indyref wouldn’t be “allowed” irrespective of election results, which suggests to me that some of these are people who simply had a realistic (and appropriately cynical) assessment of the UK’s government’s regard for democratic principles.

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You can read articles I've written for The National and the Sunday National about this poll HEREHERE, HERE and HERE.

VIDEO: Teaser for tonight's final installment of the Scot Goes Pop / Panelbase poll

Thursday, February 6, 2020

"As usual, England talking over Scotland"

Earlier tonight I appeared on the Al Jazeera show The Stream to talk about the potential for Brexit to lead to the break-up of the UK.  The other guests were the station's correspondent Laurence Lee, and the former Brexit Party MEP Alexandra Phillips.  I think I made the mistake of being a bit too gentlemanly - I allowed Alexandra Phillips to speak more or less uninterrupted, but she certainly didn't do the same with me.  At one point, the host said "as usual, England talking over Scotland".  However, I got in most of the points I wanted to make, after a bit of a struggle.  You can watch the programme HERE.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Scot Goes Pop / Panelbase poll: Day of shame for the United Kingdom as, by a convincing margin, Scots say the Section 30 rejection means the UK is "no longer a fully democratic country"

It shouldn’t be forgotten just how dramatic a break this UK government has made with decades of British democratic tradition. Until Theresa May, every British Prime Minister since Harold Wilson had made clear that Scotland could leave the UK if it voted to do so. Now we’re told that’s there is no longer any democratic route to independence for decades to come, and that no matter how many times we vote to hold an independence referendum, our decision will simply be ignored. Perhaps fittingly for an administration led by a proponent of “cakeism”, though, the Tories still seem to expect Scottish voters to punish Nicola Sturgeon for using the rather appropriate word “prison” in relation to the UK. That’s the paranoid language of the wild nationalist fringe, we’re told, and must be denounced by any right-thinking person.

I actually give voters more credit than that. I don’t think they’re going to allow the Tories to have it both ways – if the UK isn’t a prison, where are our democratic rights? So I decided to take the opportunity of this blog’s Panelbase poll to test Scottish public attitudes about what the denial of a Section 30 order means for the state of UK democracy. The results are nothing short of damning.

The UK government has said that it will not allow the Scottish Parliament to call an independence referendum even if the SNP win an outright majority of seats in next year's Scottish Parliament election. In light of that decision, which of these two statements is closest to your own view of democracy in the UK?

The UK is no longer a fully democratic country: 49%

The UK is still a fully democratic country: 39%

With Don’t Knows removed, approximately 56% of respondents say that the UK is no longer fully democratic, and only 44% disagree. Remarkably, as many as 14% of respondents who would vote No in a new referendum appear to feel that the denial of a Section 30 has implications for democracy.

I don’t think it should be underestimated how big a warning sign these findings are for the Johnson government. The UK is not Spain, and it’s doubtful whether the London commentariat will turn a blind eye forever if the penny really starts to drop that Scotland isn’t remotely relaxed about the way its democratic decisions are being disregarded. Once consciences start to prick about Scotland-the-colony, a few holes may appear in the wall of intransigence that we’re currently faced with. And even if that doesn’t happen, it’ll clearly be a lot easier for Nicola Sturgeon to take the radical steps that will then be necessary if the Scottish public understand the nature of the democratic deficit that has to be addressed.

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Before I published last night's blogpost, I sent it over to Panelbase to be checked.  They had no problem with what I'd written, but they did make the point that there was no direct evidence in the datasets as they stood to either support or disprove my theory that a significant minority of current No voters must think that Brexit is a big enough change of circumstances to justify another independence referendum.  So to find out one way or the other, they very kindly expanded the datasets today, and it turns out that 10% of people who would currently vote No think that Brexit justifies a new indyref.

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There's still one more installment from the poll to come (probably tomorrow), so if you'd like to be the first to know about the remaining results, you can follow me on Twitter HERE.  You can also read articles I've written about the poll earlier in the week for The National HERE and HERE.

VIDEO: Teaser for tonight's latest installment of the Scot Goes Pop / Panelbase poll

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Scot Goes Pop / Panelbase poll: By decisive margins, the Scottish public say the election result *does* give the SNP a mandate to hold an independence referendum, and that Brexit *is* a big enough change of circumstances to justify another indyref

I have two more results for you tonight from the Panelbase poll this blog commissioned with your help.  The first question is an extremely simple and obvious one that no-one seems to have asked before.  The UK government insist that the SNP's landslide win in the general election is neither here nor there, and that it's certainly not a mandate to hold a second independence referendum (even though a referendum this year was specifically promised in the SNP's manifesto).  But do the public agree with the UK government?  Let's find out...

In last month's general election, the SNP won 48 of the 59 Scottish seats in the House of Commons.  Do you believe this result gives the SNP a mandate from the Scottish people to hold a second independence referendum?

Yes 48%
No 42%

With Don't Knows excluded, that works out as roughly 53% who say there is a mandate for an indyref, and 47% who say there is not.  In BBC lingo, that's a decisive margin, although the main reason it's a relatively close result is the near-unanimity of opinion among Conservative voters.  No fewer than 95% of respondents who voted Tory in December deny that the SNP have a mandate, which I must say is rather ironic given that they're the ones who voted for a party that claimed the holding of an indyref was on the ballot paper.  It takes a fair bit of cognitive dissonance to go down that road and then tell yourself that the very clear outcome of the election is irrelevant, but that's what seems to have happened.

There's more of a mixture of views among the supporters of other unionist parties, though - 24% of Liberal Democrat voters accept the SNP's mandate, and so do a very healthy 39% of Labour voters.  (But remember that over one-third of Labour-voting respondents support independence anyway.)

The next question I decided to ask was another very obvious one.  I'm sure something similar must have been asked in previous polls, but maybe not in quite these precise terms.

When Scotland voted against independence in the 2014 referendum, it was not known that Britain would leave the EU a few years later.  Do you think Brexit is a big enough change of circumstances to justify holding a second independence referendum?

Yes 52%
No 41%

If Don't Knows are excluded, approximately 56% of those who expressed a view think that Brexit justifies another indyref, and 44% disagree.  I must admit I was quite surprised by the size of that majority, and it suggests to me that a significant minority of anti-independence voters must understand and agree with the argument that the No vote in 2014 was at least partly won on a false prospectus, ie. that it would preserve the EU citizenship of Scottish residents.  What's the fairest thing to do in those circumstances?  The blindingly obvious answer is "hold a re-run".

Incidentally, no single group of respondents is particularly responsible for the bigger majority on the second question - there's just a smidgeon more support in lots of different places.  Even Tory voters were slightly more likely to answer Yes to the second question - although admittedly the difference is merely between 2% on the first question and 4% on the second!

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There are more questions from the poll still to be released, and in my opinion the most significant result of all is still to come.  If you'd like to be the first to know when the remaining results are published, you can follow me on Twitter HERE.

VIDEO: Preview of tonight's questions in the Scot Goes Pop / Panelbase poll on independence

Monday, February 3, 2020

Scot Goes Pop / Panelbase poll on independence: Yes vote surges to 52% - the highest figure for three-and-a-half years. And pro-indy parties are on course to take 57% of the seats at Holyrood 2021.

I can now reveal the first results of the Panelbase poll commissioned by this blog, with the very generous help of readers via the crowdfunder. First up are the headline independence numbers, which show a clear Yes majority.

Should Scotland be an independent country?  (Panelbase poll for Scot Goes Pop, 28th-31st January 2020):

Yes 52% (+5)
No 48% (-5)

(Note: Before the exclusion of Don't Knows, the figures are Yes 49%, No 46%, Don't Know 6%)

That’s the best result for Yes in any poll conducted by a member firm of the British Polling Council since the immediate aftermath of the EU referendum in the summer of 2016. It’s a particularly remarkable result for a poll conducted by Panelbase, which was one of two pollsters (the other was YouGov) that in 2017 and 2018 frequently reported a Yes vote that was a little below the 45% achieved in the 2014 referendum. It’s possible that part of the reason for the turnaround is that Panelbase have now (in common, presumably, with most other firms) replaced weighting by 2017 past vote with weighting by 2019 past vote.

That means the two political weightings now applied by Panelbase are 2014 indyref vote, and 2019 general election vote. The former is still leading to a very sharp downweighting of respondents who voted Yes in the indyref – the 469 Yes voters in the unweighted sample have been scaled down to 405. There is actually quite a significant downweighting of SNP voters from the 2019 election as well, but it’s nowhere near as big an adjustment as in the last Panelbase poll that used 2017 past vote weighting. So I would guess (and it can only be a guess) that part of the swing to Yes in the poll reflects a genuine change in public opinion, and part of it can be explained by the methodological revision, which will have corrected what may have been a small but significant underestimate of the Yes vote in polls published last year.

The fieldwork was conducted entirely in the days leading up to Brexit – so it remains to be seen what impact the reality of leaving the EU will have. It could be that it will push Yes higher, although the counter-argument is that the minimal change during the transitional period could lead to a false sense of security and people saying “ah, that’s not so bad, then”.

This poll differs from YouGov’s numbers last week in suggesting that support for independence is somewhat higher among men than among women. It also suggests a significantly higher Yes support among Labour voters than YouGov reported – and if it’s true that more than one-third of the rump Labour vote in the 2019 election want Scotland to be an independent country, Richard Leonard’s headache has just got even worse. It means that Labour could have even further to fall in Scotland if they follow the ultra-unionist path advocated by certain candidates in the party’s leadership and deputy leadership elections.

Respondents who voted Labour in December 2019:

Yes 35%
No 54%
Don't Know 11%

And now to the Scottish Parliament voting intention numbers, which if anything are even more sensational.

Scottish Parliament constituency ballot:

SNP 50% (+7)
Conservatives 26% (n/c)
Labour 14% (-5)
Liberal Democrats 7% (-1)
Greens 3% (+1)

Scottish Parliament regional list ballot:

SNP 47% (+9)
Conservatives 25% (-1)
Labour 14% (-4)
Greens 7% (+1)
Liberal Democrats 7% (-2)

In recent years it’s been pretty common for Panelbase polls to suggest that the pro-independence parties might fall slightly short of a majority of seats in the 2021 election. But this poll could scarcely be more different, because the figures would almost certainly translate into a single-party overall majority for the SNP. One projection model suggests the SNP would have 67 seats, with all other parties in combination on 62. The SNP and Greens combined would push pro-indy representation up to 74 seats, leaving the unionist parties with just 55. And of course one thing that leaps out straight away is that pro-independence parties have an absolute majority of the popular vote on both ballots, which in theory leaves open the possibility of using the 2021 election to seek an outright mandate for independence itself – an idea that many people in the SNP have touted, but which so far Nicola Sturgeon doesn’t appear attracted to.

Full seats projection: SNP 67 (+4), Conservatives 32 (+1), Labour 17 (-7), Greens 7 (+1), Liberal Democrats 6 (+1)

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Now that there have been three post-election polls on independence (from Survation, YouGov and Panelbase respectively), it's possible to produce a rough-and-ready 'poll of polls', and of course it's a very simple calculation.  The three average out as: Yes 51%, No 49%.

There are several more questions to come from the Panelbase poll, and some of the results are pretty incredible.  I had fairly modest expectations about one of the questions in particular, and my jaw dropped to the floor when I saw the outcome this morning.  The remaining results will be released gradually over the coming days - if you'd like to be the first to know about them, you can follow me on Twitter HERE.

Super Survation survey sees Yes soar into slight lead

For the avoidance of doubt, this is not the Scot Goes Pop-commissioned poll, which was conducted by another firm and will be published this evening. It looks like Survation have been sitting on this for a little while, because the questions were asked as part of the Progress Scotland poll conducted between the 20th and 22nd of January.

Should Scotland be an independent country?

Yes 50.2%
No 49.8%

Scottish Parliament constituency voting intentions:

SNP 51%
Conservatives 23%
Labour 17%
Liberal Democrats 7%

Scottish Parliament regional list voting intentions:

SNP 38%
Conservatives 21%
Labour 19%
Greens 9%
Liberal Democrats 9%

As I always point out, Survation's regional list figures should be taken with a heavy dose of salt, because they generally seem to be markedly worse for the SNP and markedly better for the Greens than other firms suggest. I strongly suspect the problem lies in the way the question is posed, which may lead some respondents to wrongly suppose that they're being asked for a second preference vote.

Scot Goes Pop independence poll incoming: a quick video teaser about what to expect

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Al Jazeera film on Brexit Day

Yesterday morning I made my way to a swanky coffee shop in the west end of Glasgow to be filmed speaking about Brexit Day for an Al Jazeera social media feature, along with Remain-supporting Australian Tahnee Conn, Leave-supporting Tom Walker, and the no-introductions-required Gerry Hassan.  You can watch it via the tweet below.