Thursday, December 3, 2020

YouGov indy polling gossip

First of all, if you'd like to read more analysis of yesterday's Ipsos-Mori poll putting support for independence at 56%, I have an article in today's edition of The National HERE.  

I've also just received an email from a reader to let me know that another YouGov poll on independence is underway - which might be a cause for dismay, because I suspect that YouGov may be the firm most likely to break the long sequence of Yes majorities (they had Yes ahead by 'only' 51-49 in their last poll).  However, it remains to be seen whether the new poll is even intended for publication, because some of the supplementary questions are a bit odd and have the look of a private poll.  There's a question about how the army should be branded in Scotland, and also one about whether the unionist parties should form an electoral pact on the constituency vote in May.  (Seems a bit of a pointless query, because it's surely unthinkable that Labour in particular would be willing to go down that road.)

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Make that fourteen/fifteen in a row: Ipsos-Mori shows yet another huge majority for Scottish independence

I wasn't sure if we'd see any more independence polls before the end of this calendar year, but today brings word of something really important - it's only the second telephone poll conducted in 2020, and it's another cracker.

Should Scotland be an independent country? (Ipsos-Mori/STV)

Yes 56% (-2)
No 44% (+2)

This is the fourteenth poll in a row which has produced a Yes majority on the standard independence question - although many people will say it's the fifteenth by adding in one poll with a non-standard question.

Unionists will of course point to the apparent small swing back to No, but the fact is that this is the second-highest ever Yes vote recorded in a telephone poll, and indeed the joint second-highest ever Yes vote recorded in any sort of poll.  What's more, the previous Ipsos-Mori poll in October contained significantly too many respondents who recalled voting Yes in 2014, and the new poll doesn't, so there's a genuine case to be made that the 56% in this poll is as good as, or better than, the 58% in the last one.  

The latter point makes it hard to read the general trend, because the last two polls from other firms gave a contradictory indication - YouGov suggested a small drop for Yes, while Panelbase reported a small increase, taking Yes to a new high watermark.  It still looks entirely possible that nothing much has changed since independence support reached its peak in the summer, but we'll have to await further polls to be sure.

Scottish Parliament constituency voting intentions:

SNP 55% (-3)
Conservatives 22% (+3)
Labour 14% (+1)
Liberal Democrats 6% (-2)
Greens 1% (n/c)

Scottish Parliament regional list voting intentions:

SNP 47% (-1)
Conservatives 22% (+4)
Labour 16% (+2)
Greens 7% (-2)
Liberal Democrats 6% (-2)

Seats projection (with changes from 2016): SNP 73 (+10), Conservatives 27 (-4), Labour 19 (-5), Greens 5 (-1), Liberal Democrats 5 (n/c)

So a small apparent recovery for the two largest unionist parties since the last Ipsos-Mori poll, but again that can perhaps be partly explained by the fact that there were too many 2014 Yes voters in the sample for the previous poll.  Either way, the SNP remain on course for a comfortable overall single-party majority of 17 seats, with pro-independence parties in combination taking more than 60% of the seats.

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

A quiet revolution inside the SNP

Just before Tony Blair invaded Iraq, something which he had plainly already made up his mind to do, he sent out junior ministers to claim they were making a "last push for peace".  It was the ultimate Orwellian linguistic trick - framing the warmongering government as peace-lovers, and the anti-war resistance to the government as the obstacle to peace.  I was reminded of that episode the other day when Alyn Smith started his rather brazen crusade against "factionalism" within the SNP - which was really a pitch for people to vote for his own diehard faction in the name of anti-factionalism.  And yet we know that one or two souls were naive enough to be impressed by his words and to take them at face value.  So the question was whether enough people would be hoodwinked to change the trajectory of the SNP's internal elections over the weekend.  Judging by Mr Smith's own result, his gambit failed.

Policy Development Convener Election (first preferences):

Chris Hanlon 43.3%
Alyn Smith 37.5%
Graeme McCormick 19.3%

Final count:

Chris Hanlon 54.8%
Alyn Smith 45.2%

That really is an astounding result when you consider that Mr Smith is far, far better known than Mr Hanlon.  OK, conference delegates are perhaps a little less likely to be 'starstruck' than the rank-and-file membership, but even so.

I've lost count of the number of times over the years that it's been suggested that SNP members might use an internal election to push the party in a more radical direction.  Usually nothing materialises, which makes this batch of results all the more remarkable.  Perhaps delegates could sense that independence was on the ballot this time, and that it was now or never if we were to get back on track in terms of strategy.  Take a look, for example at the contest for President - everyone knew that Mike Russell would win, but what we were waiting to see was whether Craig Murray would secure a big enough minority of the vote to send a message about members' unease in regard to the lack of urgency on an independence referendum. I think it's fair to say that he exceeded expectations.

SNP President election:

Mike Russell 61.7%
Craig Murray 24.5%
Corri Wilson 13.9%

The headline result is Joanna Cherry's triumphant return to the NEC - a body that has lost its way to such an extent that, under the control of Alyn Smith's anti-faction faction, it made a botched attempt to bar Ms Cherry from standing in last year's general election.  Her unofficial running-mate Neale Hanvey was well off the pace on the NEC vote, but managed to win a place on the Conduct Committee - quite an achievement for someone who was himself suspended from the party until only a few months ago.

Arguably the most important results symbolically are the oustings of Rhiannon Spear and Fiona Robertson as Women's Convener and Equalities Convener respectively.  Both had narrowly won their positions last year in the face of a fierce challenge, and I had thought they might hold on with a bit more to spare this time due to Colette Walker and others decamping to a new fringe party.  Their unexpected defeats will surely make it a lot harder for the leadership to press ahead with plans for self-ID.

But in a sense this outcome poses a dilemma for one or two of the rebels too - having won the party back to some extent, won't it be harder to justify sabotaging the party next May by splitting the vote on the list?

Sunday, November 29, 2020

It's hard to defend the BBC on a day like today

The BBC always innocently claim to be scrupulously impartial on the Scottish political debate and independence in particular, but they really do make it hard for themselves to hold that line when they attempt stunts like the one we've seen today.  An article on the BBC news website is titled "Sturgeon defends handling of the pandemic", framing her from the start as being on the back foot and having something to defend.  The opening paragraph states that Scotland's death rate is higher than England's - but then we discover that what is being referred to is not the overall duration of the pandemic (which has of course seen a much worse outcome in England than in Scotland), but "the week to 15 November", in which the per capita death toll was slightly higher in Scotland.  Such figures are scarcely surprising, given that England went into a nationwide lockdown when Scotland did not - which was made possible by the fact that Scotland has had the virus under better control in preceding months.  And we know from past experience that the BBC would have been the first to hammer Nicola Sturgeon if she had imposed extra restrictions any earlier than she did.

The rather pathetic impression is given of a state broadcaster just eagerly waiting for months until the first opportunity came along to claim on a thin technical basis that Scotland is performing worse than England, and then pouncing in a less than subtle manner.

SNP vote surges in two Perth by-elections

So just a brief round-up of a couple of local by-election results I overlooked the other day... 

Perth City South: 

SNP 32.9% (+5.2) 
Liberal Democrats 31.6% (-3.1) 
Conservatives 29.4% (+4.2) 
Labour 3.5% (-2.9) 
Greens 2.3% (-0.8) 
UKIP 0.3% (n/a) 

This is one of those bonkers results that can only occur due to the STV system, and which we know from past experience that poor old Mike "impartial Lib Dem election expert" Smithson struggles to get his head around. The Lib Dems topped the poll in the ward in 2017, and the SNP have overtaken them this time. The SNP vote has gone up, and the Lib Dem vote has gone down. The net swing from Lib Dem to SNP is a very healthy 4%. And yet technically the result of the by-election is a Lib Dem gain from the SNP. How is that even possible? Well, it's because STV is a proportional system with multi-councillor wards, and the by-election was caused by the death of an SNP councillor who was elected in 2017 after finishing in third place in the ward on the first preference vote. However, as soon as a vacancy occurs, STV suddenly stops being a proportional system, and all the voters of the ward get to choose a replacement, which naturally gives an in-built advantage to whichever party topped the popular vote in the ward last time around.

But hang on, didn't the SNP top the popular vote in the by-election? So how come it's a Lib Dem gain? That's because STV is also a preferential system, and the lower preferences of Tory voters will have broken heavily for the Lib Dems. A tight head-to-head between the SNP and the Lib Dems on first preferences when there are lots of Tory transfers sloshing around is essentially an unwinnable scenario for the SNP. 

Perth City North: 
SNP 61.0% (+12.5) 
Conservatives 22.9% (-2.7) 
Labour 9.5% (-6.3) 
Liberal Democrats 3.9% (+0.4) 
Greens 2.6% (n/a) 

Not much need to worry about transfers when you have 61% on first preferences! The SNP's average increase across the two by-elections is more than 8%, which tends to suggest the mildly underwhelming recent result in Clackmannanshire was - as we suspected at the time - an aberration caused by local factors.