Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Alba may contribute to a Yes-dominated parliament

Just a quick note to let you know that I've written a piece for The National's online-only National Extra feature, about today's remarkable Panelbase poll suggesting that Alba Party could be on course for five seats in the Scottish Parliament.  You can read it HERE.

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You can catch-up with Episode 6 of the Scot Goes Popcast, in which I speak to Alba Party leader Alex Salmond, HERE (with video) or HERE (audio only).  And if you find Scot Goes Pop's coverage of polls helpful and would like it to continue, I'm currently running a fundraiser HERE.

Astounding Alba: new Panelbase poll shows Alex Salmond's new party on course for FIVE seats

Scottish Parliament constituency voting intentions (Panelbase / Believe in Scotland):

SNP 47% (-2) 
Conservatives 23% (+1) 
Labour 20% (-) 
Liberal Democrats 6% (-) 
Greens 4% (+2) 

Scottish Parliament regional list voting intentions: 

SNP 36% (-3) 
Conservatives 22% (+1) 
Labour 17% (-) 
Greens 9% (+1)
Alba 6% (-)
Liberal Democrats 6% (+1)   
All for Unity 2% (-2) 

Seats projection (with changes from the 2016 election): SNP 63 (-), Conservatives 26 (-5), Labour 20 (-4), Greens 10 (+4), Alba 5 (+5), Liberal Democrats 5 (-)

SNP: 63 seats
All others: 66 seats


Pro-independence parties: 78 seats
Anti-independence parties: 51 seats


The only thing about this poll that critics of Alba seem to be interested in is whether or not Panelbase once again listed the party as "Alba (led by Alex Salmond)" - the theory being that this would artificially boost its reported support (although ironically that means people are conceding that Alex Salmond is actually popular with some voters!).  I don't know the answer to that - I can't see any mention of the wording in the Believe in Scotland write-up.  But personally I'm not sure it's totally unreasonable to have a few explanatory words explaining to respondents what Alba is - it's possible that the party's support might even be underestimated if you don't do that on the first few occasions.

UPDATE: It now looks highly likely that Alex Salmond's name was NOT added to the Alba option in this poll - there's no sign of that in the datasets, and anecdotally, people who were interviewed for the poll say Alba were presented in exactly the same way as every other party.  So the commentators who used "a dodgy question" as the get-out clause for Alba being on 6% in the previous poll will have to dream up an alternative excuse this time.

One thing there perhaps should be a health warning over, though, is the 4% Green vote on the constituency ballot.  The Greens are only standing in a minority of constituencies, so I'd have thought it's unlikely that their national vote will be that high.  Assuming most Green voters are pro-independence, that means the 47% SNP vote in the constituencies may be a slight underestimate.

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More details and analysis to follow.  You can catch-up with Episode 6 of the Scot Goes Popcast, in which I speak to Alba Party leader Alex Salmond, HERE (with video) or HERE (audio only).  And if you find Scot Goes Pop's coverage of polls helpful and would like it to continue, I'm currently running a fundraiser HERE.

Stunning Panelbase poll shows pro-independence majority

The Panelbase poll that several people have mentioned being interviewed for has now been published, and it turns out the client (at least on the headline indy question) was Believe in Scotland.

Should Scotland be an independent country? (Panelbase / Believe in Scotland)

Yes 51% (-)
No 49% (-)

This is now the eighth poll in a row, across all firms, to show Yes on 50% or higher, and the seventh poll out of eight to show some sort of Yes lead.  Once again, this bolsters the impression that the Yes vote bounced back very slightly after the dip earlier in the year, and that a slim Yes lead is now the new norm.

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More details and analysis to follow.  You can catch-up with Episode 6 of the Scot Goes Popcast, in which I speak to Alba Party leader Alex Salmond, HERE (with video) or HERE (audio only).  And if you find Scot Goes Pop's coverage of polls helpful and would like it to continue, I'm currently running a fundraiser HERE.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Some free advice for the biggest Alba supporting website

In the wake of Margaret Lynch's alleged comments at the Alba women's conference, a number of the party's most vociferous critics seemed to think it was a natural progression to ask me whether I was now going to "disassociate" myself.  The answer is of course "no", because there's a lot of heated rhetoric on both sides of the trans debate, and if I was going to distance myself from all of that I'd have to distance from both the SNP and Alba, and just about every other party too for that matter.  If Margaret Lynch's comments about the age of consent were overblown, they were no dafter than certain aspects of the SNP's absurdly broad definition of "transphobia", which seek to pathoĺogise the expression of legitimate opinion, or than the embarrassing claims that the moderate, centre-left social democratic Alba Party is some kind of "far-right hate group".

My own view is that there's no prospect of the SNP government reducing the age of consent - although that isn't necessarily because nobody wants it to happen.  Reading between the lines of some of the carefully-worded comments that have been made, it looks like there are indeed advocates of a change to the age of consent, albeit perhaps not quite as dramatic a change as Margaret Lynch is concerned about.  For example, the suggestion is that sex between fourteen and fifteen year olds should be decriminalised, but that it would still be illegal for adults to have sex with them.  But the reality is that the government wouldn't be able to go even that far, because they know they would pay too heavy a price with public opinion.

Now that I'm back on the same side as Wings Over Scotland (albeit 'co-belligerent' rather than 'ally' is probably the correct term), I'd like to offer Stuart Campbell some free advice.  He's unlikely to take it, but I'll offer it anyway.  Stuart, you lost faith in the SNP, and you lost faith in Nicola Sturgeon.  But against all the odds, the creation of the Alba Party has given you an opportunity to go back to what you do best - campaigning passionately for a pro-independence mandate, and without having to compromise your principles.  Don't squander that opportunity by wasting the next three weeks talking about nothing else but the trans issue. I know you think the public are on the same page as you on that subject, and I would agree that polling tends to bear that belief out. But there's a difference between voters holding a certain view and caring enough about it to allow it to change their vote.  If Alba are going to succeed, it won't be primarily as a family values party, or even as a feminist party.  It'll be as an independence supermajority party, and that's what we need to spend the remainder of the campaign getting people excited about.

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You can catch-up with Episode 6 of the Scot Goes Popcast, in which I speak to Alba Party leader Alex Salmond, HERE (with video) or HERE (audio only).

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If you find Scot Goes Pop's coverage of polls helpful and would like it to continue, I'm currently running a fundraiser HERE.

Alba and absolute numbers

After the Alba Party was launched a couple of weeks ago, I ran a Twitter poll asking how people were planning to vote on the list.  "Nothing scientific," I stressed, "just curious to see how my own followers are planning to vote". The poll was reasonably popular, attracting more than 2000 votes, and a couple of people suggested that I should repeat the exercise every week or two to see if anything changes.

So that's what I did yesterday, and I assumed that people were intelligent enough to understand that the "non-scientific" disclaimer still applied without me having to reiterate it every single time - but no.  Instead I had to wade through a sea of drivel all evening along the lines of "what sort of polling 'expert' thinks that a self-selecting poll is meaningful, you've lost the plot James, but whatever keeps you busy, ho ho ho". Some of these were people who really should have known better.  Lesson of the day: never expect an intelligent reaction, and always insert footnotes for numpties.

The poll initially followed a very similar path to the first poll, with Alba moving into a double-digit lead over the SNP and the Greens trailing far behind in third place.  But no sooner had I provisionally declared Alba the winner before a sudden influx of thousands of votes pushed the SNP into a modest lead over Alba.  The most likely explanation is that the second poll attracted a lot more retweets from SNP supporters than the first poll did.

So with around twice as many overall votes as the first poll, the results are not directly comparable, but what's interesting in both cases is the absolute numbers.  Unlike many self-selecting polls, Twitter polls are restricted to one vote per account.  OK, some people have multiple accounts or fake accounts, but it's reasonable to assume that most votes come from real, unique people.  At time of writing, there have been 4656 votes, of which 32.6% were for Alba - so that's approximately 1518 Alba votes.  It might surprise you to know that on a typical turnout, only around 80,000 real votes for Alba would be required to win eight seats (one in each region). So even my little Twitter poll has picked up roughly 1 in 50 of the voters that Alba would actually need.

None of this is to imply that the other 98% of the required votes are necessarily out there - but it's a useful reminder to look at absolute numbers, and not just percentages, before dismissing an exercise completely out of hand.

A number of people have mentioned being interviewed for a Panelbase poll with Wings-type questions, so we should have another real, scientific poll quite soon.  It remains to be seen whether the full poll is for Wings or whether he asked for a few  questions to be tacked on to someone else's poll, or to an omnibus poll.

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You can catch-up with Episode 6 of the Scot Goes Popcast, in which I speak to Alba Party leader Alex Salmond, HERE (with video) or HERE (audio only).

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If you find Scot Goes Pop's coverage of polls helpful and would like it to continue, I'm currently running a fundraiser HERE.

Monday, April 12, 2021

Seven good reasons to vote for the Alba Party on the list ballot

1) Commitment to independence.  Of the three main pro-independence options at this election, there's not much doubt that Alba has the strongest commitment to the goal.  Some of the party's critics say "if you want to vote for a pro-indy alternative to the SNP on the list, you should vote for the Greens, because they at least have a track record of winning seats", but the Greens are quite open about the fact that a substantial minority of their members are anti-independence.  That means almost inevitably that some of their candidates in this election must be unionists - in fact I recall someone left a comment on this blog a few weeks ago expressing concern that one of the Green list candidates in the Lothian region was on the record as being a UK federalist.  Independence is also not necessarily a particularly high priority for the Green candidates who nominally support it. As for the SNP, I don't take the cynical view that they've become a devolutionist party - I do think the vast majority of SNP parliamentarians believe in independence, at least in principle.  However, it's now possible to identify a small number of SNP MPs at Westminster who appear to have a different agenda - they're not necessarily actively opposed to independence, but they're more than happy for it to remain on the backburner for twenty or thirty years while they get on with their exciting careers in London.

2) Urgency about independence.  A few years ago, the Glasgow SNP councillor Mhairi Hunter was asked what the Scottish Government would do if a Section 30 order was rejected, and she said "campaign some more for a Section 30 order".  What if it's refused again?  They would "campaign some more for a Section 30 order", apparently.  At no point would anyone say "enough is enough" and try a different tack - they would just keep going pointlessly round in circles into infinity.  Now, OK, Mike Russell's 11-point plan moved things forward a bit and raised the hope that the SNP might pursue a Plan B to at least a limited extent.  And if the SNP were the only credible pro-independence option available, the logical thing to do might be to take a leap of faith and assume they're serious this time about the action they've proposed, even though in the past they've failed to follow through on a number of occasions. But now the voters have their own Plan B in the shape of Alba - an insurance policy just in case the real intention is for Ian Blackford to boom "Scotland will not stand for this!" at PMQs every week for the next five years, and then to ask for yet another mandate for a referendum in 2026, and then another in 2031.

3) Breaking the SNP leadership's monopoly on strategic thinking.  Even if we get to a referendum, we need to win it, and there must at least be a question mark over whether that can happen on the safety-first, small 'c' conservative prospectus that the SNP currently seem to have up their sleeve.  An Alba group in the Scottish Parliament will be a breath of fresh air, bringing alternative strategic ideas to the table that are currently going unheard.

4) Experienced, serious and moderate leadership.  The reason why the increasingly desperate attempts to portray Alba as some kind of 'zoomer', 'extremist', or even 'far right' (!) group have failed to gain any traction whatsoever is that the party's leadership and candidates have a track record that cannot be matched by any of the other opposition parties.  In Alex Salmond they have the longest-serving First Minister of Scotland, in Kenny MacAskill they have the former Justice Secretary of Scotland (and the man who bravely released Megrahi on health grounds in the face of huge pressure from the Americans), in Chris McEleny they have the former leader of the SNP group on Inverclyde Council, in Jim Walker they have a world-renowned economist, in Caroline McAllister they have the former SNP women's convenor, and in Lynne Anderson they have the former SNP equalities convenor.

5) Better candidates.  Due to the SNP's controversial 'reserved places' scheme, the top place on the SNP list in each region is held by a very mixed bag of individuals, and in some cases their Alba counterparts are obviously superior.  The clearest example of all is in Lothian, where it's a no-brainer that Kenny MacAskill would be a better list MSP than Graham Campbell.  

6) There is no 'tactical' bar on voting Alba.  As long-term readers know, I'm not a fan of 'gaming the system' or of attempts to 'vote tactically on the list'.  But the irony is that the SNP's attempts to suppress the Alba vote actually amount to a call to vote tactically on the list - they're effectively saying "look at the opinion polls, they show that Alba votes might be wasted, so vote tactically for the SNP to ensure that doesn't happen".  The problem is, though, that even if there's a danger of your vote being wasted, it only makes sense to tactically vote against your first-choice party if the party you vote for instead can offer some kind of guarantee that your vote will not be wasted - and that plainly isn't the case with the SNP in most regions.  Of course it's possible that the SNP might nick a list seat in Central or in Glasgow, but is it certain?  Is it even likely?  Nope. It's six of one and half a dozen of the other - if you vote Alba, your vote may or may not be wasted, if you vote SNP, your vote may or may not be wasted, and if you vote Green, your vote may or may not be wasted.  That being the case, there's no particularly strong reason not to vote Alba if they're your first choice.

I know some will argue that the Greens in Lothian are an exception, and that they can offer a virtual guarantee of taking at least one list seat in that region.  But that just takes us back to the earlier problem, because the Green MSP in Lothian between 1999 and 2011 was the party's former co-leader Robin Harper, and he was/is viscerally opposed to independence!

7) Pressurise the SNP.  If you have reservations about a governing party's current direction (in this case excessive caution on pursuing independence and an obsession with identity politics), a respectable and time-honoured tactic is to pressurise them into changing course by voting for a smaller party.  If they want your vote back in future elections, they'll have to at least reflect on what made you and others like you feel strongly enough to look elsewhere.  I know the stock counter-argument to that is "you can't gamble with the pro-indy majority by casting a protest vote", but that doesn't really apply for the reason given above - in most cases, there's just as much risk that an SNP list vote will be wasted as an Alba list vote.

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I've had lots more constituency profiles in The National over the last few days - Moray, Banffshire and Buchan Coast, Na h-Eileanan an Iar, Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, Strathkelvin and Bearsden, Clydebank and Milngavie, Galloway and West Dumfries, Dumfriesshire, Glasgow (regional list), West Scotland (regional list), Glasgow Cathcart and Glasgow Kelvin.

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You can catch-up with Episode 6 of the Scot Goes Popcast, in which I speak to Alba Party leader Alex Salmond, HERE (with video) or HERE (audio only).

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If you find Scot Goes Pop's coverage of polls helpful and would like it to continue, I'm currently running a fundraiser HERE.

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Optimal Opinium poll shows a pro-independence majority - and is the SEVENTH poll in a row to show Yes on 50% or higher

I'd been thinking over the last few days that we were strangely light on polls given how dramatic the recent events have been, but today has made up for that - we already have our second poll of the day, this time from Opinium.

Should Scotland be an independent country? (Opinium / Sky News)

Yes 51% (-)
No 49% (-)

So no change from the last Opinium poll - but across all firms, this is the seventh poll in a row to show Yes on 50% or higher, and the sixth out of seven to show an outright Yes lead of some description.  It's arguably no longer really accurate to say that "the polls are broadly showing it's 50-50".  There's a case to be made that the general picture is now of a Yes lead, albeit a very slim one. 

Scottish Parliament constituency vote: 

SNP 53% (+7) 
Conservatives 21% (-3) 
Labour 18% (-2) 
Liberal Democrats 6% (-) 

Scottish Parliament regional list vote: 

SNP 44% (+2) 
Conservatives 22% (-) 
Labour 17% (-2) 
Greens 7% (-) 
Liberal Democrats 5% (-) 
Alba 2% (+2)

There have now been five polls which offered Alba as an option, and that makes it possible to offer a slightly more confident estimate of the party's support as it seeks to establish itself.  The median Alba vote share is 3%, and the mean average is 3.4%.  As mentioned in the previous post, that's the sort of level of support at which the Greens and the SSP won one seat apiece in the 1999 election.  So if things stay the same, we're falling between two stools - Alba aren't doing quite well enough to win a significant number of seats or to even be sure of winning any seats at all, but they are doing well enough that it would be ludicrous to pretend that they aren't in serious contention to win seats (even though a great many people are attempting precisely that pretence).  

As I've said a few times now, if people are concerned about Alba votes being wasted and thus indirectly helping the unionist side, one logical way of resolving the problem is to campaign hard and spread the word and do everything we can to make sure that Alba have reached at least 5% by polling day.  That option may be a lot more realistic than lecturing the existing Alba supporters about how they have to set aside all their misgivings over GRA reform, or the Hate Crime Bill, or the lack of progress towards an independence referendum, and obediently toddle back to the SNP on the list.  It's hard enough for those people to vote SNP even on the constituency ballot, but they're doing that for the specific reason that Alba have recommended it as part of a two-pronged strategy for securing an independence parliament.

The extremely good news from this poll is that the SNP's constituency vote has shot right up, and if by any chance they can maintain that sort of popularity, the question of wasted votes on the list may not even matter.  But as we saw in 2016, it's phenomenally hard for any party to maintain 50%+ support in the heat of a campaign - it's like gravity will always pull them back.

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More details and analysis to follow.  You can also catch-up with Episode 6 of the Scot Goes Popcast, in which I speak to Alba Party leader Alex Salmond, HERE (with video) or HERE (audio only).

More signs of the Yes bounceback: support for independence is back up to 50% in new Savanta ComRes poll

The evidence continues to mount that there may have been a slight uptick in Yes support after the dip in the early part of the year.  The last poll in the regular Savanta ComRes series for the Scotsman showed a small No lead, but today's has Yes and No exactly level - regardless of whether Don't Knows are left in or stripped out.

Should Scotland be an independent country?

Yes 50% (+1)
No 50% (-1)

Incidentally, the last poll but one from the Scotsman series was the notorious #Matchettgate fake poll which purported to have Yes on 48% and No on 52%. That's the problem with pulling a stunt like that - all you succeed in doing is making the later polls look better for Yes.

Scottish Parliament constituency ballot:

SNP 49% (+1)
Conservatives 23% (-)
Labour 18% (-2)
Liberal Democrats 6% (-2)

Scottish Parliament regional list ballot:

SNP 40% (-)
Conservatives 21% (-3)
Labour 18% (-)
Greens 9% (-1)
Liberal Democrats 7% (+1)
Alba 3% (+3)

We've now had four Holyrood polls that included Alba as an option, and all four have shown the party registering on at least 3% - enough to put it in the mix for one or two seats as long as its support isn't spread too evenly across the country.  As I pointed out last night on Twitter, at the inaugural Scottish Parliament election in 1999, the Greens took one seat on 3.6% of the vote and the SSP took one seat on just 2% of the vote.  Official seats projections from polls will not show that sort of outcome for Alba because they will assume an even swing - but in practice an even swing is very unlikely to happen.

However, because the official seats projection for today's poll is showing Alba on zero seats and the SNP falling slightly short of a majority due to a lack of list seats, the argument is being made that Alba votes are wasted and that Alba supporters should return to the SNP on the list for tactical reasons.  That could be very misguided, because there's a core of Alba's support that is completely alienated from the SNP - those people are not going to go back, and if we want to make sure their votes aren't wasted, the more viable course of action could be to build on Alba's support and get it to the 5-6% needed to win a decent number of seats.

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More details and analysis to follow.  You can also catch-up with Episode 6 of the Scot Goes Popcast, in which I speak to Alba Party leader Alex Salmond, HERE (with video) or HERE (audio only).

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Ipsos-Mori telephone survey is the FIFTH poll in a row to show a pro-independence majority

Is this the point at which we can stop mourning the loss of the unbroken sequence of Yes majorities which stretched from last June to this February?  Without wanting to tempt fate, we now appear to have a new little unbroken sequence - the latest in Ipsos-Mori's regular series of telephone polls for STV is the fifth poll in a row, across all firms, to show some kind of Yes lead.

Should Scotland be an independent country?

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

Of course another way of looking at it is that if Ipsos-Mori's methodology is right, Yes never actually lost the lead in the first place.  There was a dip in Yes support earlier in the year and the position has now stabilised - which would explain why the less Yes-friendly firms are flipping back and forth between tiny Yes leads and tiny No leads.

Scottish Parliament constituency voting intentions:

SNP 53% (+1)
Conservatives 20% (-3)
Labour 18% (+3)
Liberal Democrats 6% (+1)
Greens 2% (-1)

Scottish Parliament regional list voting intentions:

SNP 38% (-9)
Conservatives 21% (-1)
Labour 18% (+4)
Greens 12% (+4)
Liberal Democrats 6% (-)
Alba 3% (+3)

That's arguably a pretty encouraging result for Alba.  The danger was always that online polls were overestimating them due to volunteer polling panels containing a disproportionate number of politically engaged people.  If that had been the case, you'd have expected Alba not to trouble the scorer in a telephone poll.  Instead they're registering on 3%. Obviously they'll need to come close to doubling that to win a decent number of seats, although even on 3% nationally they could pick up one or two seats if their vote is distributed unevenly across the country.  Incidentally, telephone polling does make all the difference as far as George Galloway's anti-independence party is concerned - they're languishing on less than 0.5% of the list vote and don't appear to be in contention for any seats at all.

This is a rare occasion when a poll shows the Greens on course for a significant breakthrough and I don't have to put a health warning on it - as far as I know there's no question mark over how Ipsos-Mori pose the list question.  However, it's only one poll, so caution should still be exercised.

More details and analysis to follow.  You can also catch-up with Episode 6 of the Scot Goes Popcast, in which I speak to Alba Party leader Alex Salmond, HERE (with video) or HERE (audio only).

VIDEO: Scot Goes Popcast interview with Alex Salmond

You've already heard it, and now you can watch it in glorious technicolor. Here is the video version of Episode 6 of the Scot Goes Popcast, in which I speak with Alex Salmond, leader of the Alba Party and former First Minister of Scotland. If you have any trouble with the embedded player below, the direct link is HERE.

I've written quite a few constituency profiles for The National since I last mentioned them: Clydesdale, Hamilton, Larkhall & Stonehouse, Mid-Fife & Glenrothes, Kirkcaldy, Highlands & Islands (regional list), Falkirk West, Falkirk East, Glasgow Anniesland and Glasgow Provan.  

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Scot Goes Popcast with special guest Alex Salmond

Well, you can't say you haven't been getting top-class guests in the Scot Goes Popcast recently - Miss PunnyPennie in the last one, and today for the sixth episode I was joined by none other than the former First Minister of Scotland, former leader of the SNP, and current leader of the Alba Party, Alex Salmond.  He's been extremely generous in giving time to several new media outlets - I believe he was interviewed by quite a few bloggers today in the aftermath of Alba's campaign launch.  I'm not holding my breath about getting the same access to Willie Rennie.

Question I asked Alex include -

* On what basis was he excluded from the BBC leaders debate?

* Is there any contradiction between him asking people to give both votes to the SNP in 2011, but saying this year that SNP list votes are wasted?

* Will he undertake to support any initiative the SNP take towards delivering independence or an independence referendum, even if he doesn't think it goes far enough?  In other words, will he ensure that the perfect doesn't become the enemy of the good?

* Will there in future be internal democratic elections in Alba to choose candidates and the leader?

* Hasn't Alba's creation given controversial journalist David Leask the satisfaction of saying that his schtick about "the real SNP" and "alt-Nats" has been sort-of-proved right?

If you have any problem with the embedded player below, the direct link to the podcast is HERE.

You can also listen to earlier episodes of the Popcast - 

Monday, April 5, 2021

Yes Corner interview

In a few minutes (8pm) I'll be interviewed for Yes Corner on YouTube, with a viewers' question and answer feature.  If you happen to be around and fancy watching or taking part, I believe this is the link.

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Alba ascendant: sensational new Panelbase poll shows Alex Salmond's party on course for SIX seats

I'd say a good rule of thumb is not to pronounce a new political party "dead on arrival" until at least the second poll.  It was never the case that Alba's 3% showing in the Survation poll a few days ago put it out of contention for seats, but tonight's Panelbase poll shows a radically different picture.

Scottish Parliament constituency ballot voting intentions (Panelbase / Sunday Times):

SNP 49% (+2)
Conservatives 22% (-1)
Labour 20% (-)
Liberal Democrats 6% (-1)
Greens 2% (-)

Scottish Parliament regional list ballot voting intentions:

SNP 39% (-3)
Conservatives 21% (-1)
Labour 17% (-2)
Greens 8% (+2)
Alba 6% (+6)
Liberal Democrats 5% (-2)
All for Unity 4% (+4)

Seats projection (with changes from 2016 election): SNP 65 (+2), Conservatives 24 (-7), Labour 20 (-4), Greens 8 (+2), Alba 6 (+6), Liberal Democrats 5 (-), All for Unity 1 (+1)

SNP: 65 seats
All others: 64 seats


Pro-independence parties: 79 seats (61.2%)
Anti-independence parties: 50 seats (38.8%)


So many of the claims made over the last few days now look highly questionable.  It was said that there would be no pressure from the polls for the broadcasters to consider the case for Alba to included in the TV election debates - well, here we have a poll showing Alba ahead of the Liberal Democrats in terms of both votes and seats.  If Alex Salmond isn't going to be in the debates, what's Willie Rennie doing there?  It was said that Alba couldn't possibly contribute to a pro-independence supermajority, and that the Greens were the only game in town if voters wanted to achieve that outcome - well, here we have a poll showing both Alba and the Greens making a major contribution to a supermajority.

Are there any health warnings that need to be put on these numbers?  As Scottish Skier will doubtless point out, it seems that Panelbase took the unusual step of putting the words "led by Alex Salmond" in brackets next to Alba's name.  It could be argued that may have led to an overstatement of support, but the flipside of the coin is that there could have been an understatement of support if it hadn't been done, because voters may not be familiar with the Alba name yet - but hopefully will be by the time of the election.

Another possibility is that Alba may be enjoying a honeymoon spell following its launch, and that its support will fade before polling day.  It's also conceivable that the hysterical "it's all over for Salmond" reporting of the Survation poll may have put off potential Alba supporters and that the Panelbase poll hasn't picked that up because of its fieldwork dates.  So, yes, there are all sorts of reasons for being cautious - but the bottom line is that Alba are now in the mix, and for the time being the prospect of them gaining several seats needs to be taken very seriously.

My gut instinct is to be a bit sceptical about the finding that George Galloway will take a seat for All for Unity.  The assumption until now has been that all Galloway would do is take votes away from the serious unionist players without getting close to actually winning a seat - and to be honest that's still how I expect it to play out.  However, we can't have it both ways - if we're going to take Alba's numbers in the Panelbase poll seriously, we have to do the same for All for Unity's numbers.  So perhaps Alex Salmond and George Galloway will be sparring in Holyrood debates before too long - just like old times in the House of Commons.

Should Scotland be an independent country? (Panelbase / Sunday Times)

Yes 51% (+1)
No 49% (-1)

So Yes are back in the lead with Panelbase, and across all firms this is also the fourth poll in a row to show a Yes lead of some description.  It's starting to look like there may been a small but genuine bounceback in Yes support after the dip in the early part of the year.  The poll apparently also shows that 54% of respondents want a second independence referendum to be held within the next five years (ie. within the term of the Holyrood parliament that's about to be elected).

Saturday, April 3, 2021


It may be a surprise to you to learn that Newsnet Scotland still exists - the site had certainly fallen off my radar for a few years, presumably because it wasn't being updated.  However, it's back up and running, but in a very different form to before - which leaves little room for doubt that there's been a change of ownership, although they're very cagey about that when asked.  It's basically morphed into a tabloid-style attack dog, anti-Alba, anti-Salmond propaganda outfit, with quite a nasty streak - there was a tweet about Alex Salmond's supposed 'instability', for example. They did respond to my question, but only with the non-answers of "it means what it says James" and "aye whatever", which is not surprising because their claim was complete gibberish. The Brexit party fought two elections in Scotland - the 2019 Euro election and the 2019 general election.  In the former, they took well over 3% of the vote but most certainly were not "thumped" - they were in second place on 15% and won one of the six Scottish seats.  In the latter, they were indeed thumped - but took well under 3%.  So whichever way you look at it, the point simply doesn't make any logical sense and doesn't have any particular relevance to a poll showing Alba on 3%.

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As you may have spotted, I turned pre-moderation of comments on yesterday because I'd reached saturation point with the abuse, trolling and astroturfing.  In particular, there was a chap called Alexander who had started to repeatedly repost comments that had already been deleted - and when that happens, the situation has clearly spiralled out of all control and a spell of pre-moderation is the only answer.  The results were quite comical - one person assumed he'd been "blocked" when he discovered that his comment hadn't been auto-published, and had an almighty hissy fit about it.  To reiterate for the millionth time, it is not (unfortunately) possible to "block" or "ban" people on the Blogger platform.

It's not just Alba supporters who are having to deal with this nonsense, incidentally.  I spoke to Paul Kavanagh a few days ago (he's continuing to back the SNP on both ballots), and he's been receiving a tonne of abuse in the opposite direction.  It would help if we all just calmed down and got on with making the case for our own preferred pro-indy party.

As the ground rules for commenting the other day failed to make any impression at all, let's see if I can make things even simpler.  I am under no obligation to allow trolling, astroturfing or propagandising in the comments section.  If you post that sort of comment, it's entirely at my discretion whether it stays up.  The lazy reply is always "oh well if you're not going to allow any anti-Alba comments" or "oh well if you want to be an echo chamber", but people can see with their own eyes that a great many anti-Alba comments have stayed up.  If someone is camped on this blog for hours on end, reacting to every tiny piece of news with "this shows Alba are dead on arrival and that Alex Salmond is toxic", I'm entitled to conclude that what is going on is a little bit more than an interested individual trying to contribute to the debate.

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Drama as Yes storms back into the lead in Survation poll

"Do I contradict myself?  Very well then I contradict myself.  I am large, I contain multitudes." - Walt Whitman

As I've pointed out many times in recent weeks, the headline numbers in independence polls are the ones with Don't Knows excluded.  On those, the new Survation poll shows Yes drawing level.

Should Scotland be an independent country? (Survation / Courier)

Yes 50% (+1)
No 50% (-1)

However, the unionist media have shown that, when it suits them (ie. to claim there is a No lead), they'll dispense with those numbers and use the ones with Don't Knows included.  We might as well follow their example tonight, because in this poll there's a slight Yes lead - Yes 45% (+2), No 44% (-1).

These numbers have to be seen in the context of Survation being a relatively No-friendly pollster in recent times.  They showed figures like these (a two-point Yes lead) in the late autumn, at a time when other firms were reporting a huge pro-independence majority.  It would be interesting to see what a ComRes or Ipsos-Mori poll shows right now.

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You can catch up with Episode 5 of the Scot Goes Popcast, with special guest Len Pennie (Miss PunnyPennie) HERE.

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If you find Scot Goes Pop's coverage of polls helpful and would like it to continue, I'm currently running a fundraiser HERE.

First opinion poll since Alba Party launch keeps Alex Salmond in contention for a dramatic return to the Scottish Parliament

What seemed like the endless wait for the first opinion poll to include Alba as an option is now over, but what most certainly isn't over - despite what the Courier would like you to believe in their spin on the Survation poll they've commissioned - is Alex Salmond's hopes of winning seats in this election.

Scottish Parliament constituency ballot voting intentions (Survation / Courier):

SNP: 49% (-1)
Conservatives: 21% (-)
Labour 20% (-)
Liberal Democrats 9% (+1)

Scottish Parliament regional list ballot voting intentions:

SNP 37% (-2)
Labour 19% (-1)
Conservatives 18% (-1)
Greens 11% (-)
Liberal Democrats 8% (+1)
Alba 3% (+3)

Scottish Skier and I had an exchange the other day about the sort of level at which Alba might poll if they were below 5%.  I said 3-4% was realistic, but Scottish Skier thought 0-1% was just as likely.  Well, if I may say so, I've been proved right, at least in the first poll.  3% puts the party in contention for seats - although 5-6% is required to win a seat, remember that's in each individual region, so if support varies across the country, a 3% national vote could be enough for one or two seats overall.  It's probably reasonable to assume that Mr Salmond himself is the candidate most likely to be elected.

Nevertheless, the danger of falling between two stools is clearly there, ie. Alba taking votes from other pro-indy parties without winning many seats itself.  It's unlikely that Alba's passionate converts will go back to the SNP, so if Alba votes aren't going to be wasted (thus potentially harming the independence cause), the challenge for the party's supporters is to double the current level of support, and then we could potentially be looking at eight seats, rather than wondering if it'll be zero or one or two.

Although Survation tend to report lower SNP list vote shares than other firms (and higher Green vote shares), 37% is the lowest they've reported for two years.  That would suggest, as you'd expect, that most of Alba's 3% support has come direct from the SNP.

I think I can reasonably claim vindication from this poll in another sense as well - I've been saying for years that Alex Salmond is the one and only person who has a chance of making a list-only pro-indy party work, and these numbers bear witness to that.  If even Mr Salmond can only manage 3% in the first poll, it's highly likely that a Wings party, or ISP, or AFI, wouldn't be troubling the scorer at this stage.

As for the Courier's hysterical spin of "it's all over for Alex Salmond", the last time I checked the paper was edited by David Clegg of "The Vow" fame, who clearly has 'issues' with Mr Salmond dating back many years.  So not only is the reporting clueless from a psephological point of view, there are also many other reasons to take it with a hefty dose of salt.

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You can catch up with Episode 5 of the Scot Goes Popcast, with special guest Len Pennie (Miss PunnyPennie) HERE.

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If you find Scot Goes Pop's coverage of polls helpful and would like it to continue, I'm currently running a fundraiser HERE.

The politics of non-withdrawal

There has been an Alba-bashing troll on this blog over the last few days who has made dozens of attempts to post the claim that Alex Salmond is costing us the pro-indy majority because the Tories are withdrawing candidates in response to the new party.  Every time I deleted the claim, he triumphantly insisted that I didn't like him telling the truth.  Er, no.  There were two reasons for the deletions, and the first was that the story self-evidently wasn't true.  There was never a cat in hell's chance of the Tories withdrawing candidates without a reciprocal arrangement with Labour and the Lib Dems, because it would have had too big an effect on their national vote share.  The second reason is that even if the story had been true, there's no conceivable way that Alex Salmond or the Alba party would have been responsible for it.  The Conservative party could have theoretically withdrawn candidates with or without Alba standing on the list - it was entirely a decision for the Tories and for no-one else.

I appreciate that feelings are running high as a result of the large number of defections from the SNP to Alba, but the trolling has now got completely out of hand (and there was more nastiness in my inbox this morning).  People are welcome to post comments either in support or opposition to Alba, but there does need to be some ground rules.  Please note that the following types of comment are likely to be deleted - 

* Misrepresentations of my own position or attempts to put words in my mouth.

* Claims that I have failed to answer questions that I have, in fact, answered.  (For instance, someone is repeatedly trying to make out that I evaded a question about whether I want a minority government.)

* Bogus claims that my support for Alba makes me a "bigot", a "transphobe", a "conservative", "far right", etc, etc.

* Potentially defamatory claims about Alba politicians.  I am aware of no evidence to support claims that Alex Salmond is a "sex pest" or that Neale Hanvey is an "anti-Semite", so if you want to say that sort of thing, try your luck elsewhere.

* Attempts to lecture me on what I can and can't blog about, for example the old favourite "stick to the polling James".

* Misrepresentations of how the voting system works.  (And although I'm not deleting comments simply for using the "1&2" shorthand, I wish to God people would stop doing that, because it could inadvertantly cause spoilt ballots.)

* Any variant on "why was my comment deleted?" or "have the decency to explain why my comment was deleted James".

* Any other miscellaneous attempt to waste my time.

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I have two more constituency previews in today's edition of The National - Glasgow Southside and Glasgow Maryhill & Springburn.

The Bairns of Boris Bridge

People have complained that I've been spending too much time promoting the Alba Party and not enough time attacking unionists, so I'll just take a brief interlude to nod towards the barking mad story in the Telegraph suggesting that there might be a 'Union Island' midway across any bridge or tunnel connecting Scotland with Northern Ireland.  The idea is that a small maternity unit will be constructed on the "island" to give patriotic expectant mums the opportunity to give birth to babies who are "not Scottish, not Northern Irish, not English, not Welsh, but quite simply British".

You really have to worry about people who think it's normal to say that sort of thing out loud.  Years of talking to themselves about "Our Precious Union" have caused them to lose touch with reality.  Rory Stewart's madcap "let's link hands on top of Hadrian's Wall to raise Union awareness" plan suddenly looks quite sane and restrained in retrospect.

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You can catch up with Episode 5 of the Scot Goes Popcast, with special guest Len Pennie (Miss PunnyPennie) HERE.

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If you find Scot Goes Pop's coverage of polls helpful and would like it to continue, I'm currently running a fundraiser HERE.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Enough of the hate mail, thanks

Since I declared my support for the Alba party, I've been receiving hate mail from SNP members - in particular, repeated emails from two individuals.  I've ignored them until now, but come on, chaps, enough is enough.  You know perfectly well that what you're doing is inappropriate, and that this isn't what the contact address is there for.  Just pack it in.

Perhaps disappointed that screaming blue murder at me hasn't affected my choice of party, one of the two correspondents has recently changed tack and started messaging me with rants about my constituency profiles in The National.  Anyone who has read those profiles will know that they're not influenced in any way by my own party preferences - I've just been giving my honest assessment of the knowns and the unknowns.  However, even if they were influenced by partisan considerations, they most certainly wouldn't be anti-SNP in nature, because I'll be voting SNP on the constituency ballot, and the whole independence movement will be praying that the SNP win as many constituencies as possible.  The idea that I'm in any way trying to undermine the SNP is, frankly, idiotic.

The specific complaint today is about the profile of Caithness, Sutherland & Ross, which I quite reasonably stated is a Lib Dem target seat in which the SNP remain slight favourites.  Apparently that's not good enough - in this era of "you're either with us, or you're with the terrorists" I was supposed to demonstrate my loyalty by saying that the SNP victory is beyond all question and that Maree Todd will be pelted with flowers by the adoring crowds on her way to the declaration (although that would breach the pandemic restrictions, of course).

Here are some responses to the specific points that are raised in the email - 

'Gail Ross won the seat with a comfortable majority last time' - Yes, she did, and at that point the equivalent Westminster seat was also held by the SNP with a similar majority.  It's since been won twice by the Liberal Democrats - in spite of the fact that on one of those occasions the SNP won the wider national election by a landslide.

'Maree Todd is better known than the Liberal Democrat candidate Molly Nolan' - That'll probably be why I said so in the article.

'The Westminster constituency has different boundaries' - Yes, it does, but on absolutely any boundaries this is a seat with a strong Liberal Democrat tradition.

'The popular and much-loved Jamie Stone almost lost the Westminster seat to a complete unknown from the SNP' - In that case, why are you placing so much emphasis on Molly Nolan being an unknown?

Today's other constituency profile is Orkney.

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You can catch up with Episode 5 of the Scot Goes Popcast, with special guest Len Pennie (Miss PunnyPennie) HERE.

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If you find Scot Goes Pop's coverage of polls helpful and would like it to continue, I'm currently running a fundraiser HERE.

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

More Alba Party FAQs

There have been more questions for me in the last couple of threads, although I deleted one of them because it was in a comment full of potentially defamatory allegations about Alba politicians.

If the Alba Party are below 5% support in the polls, would you tell people that voting Alba is a wasted vote, and that they should go back to the SNP?

That might make sense if Alba are on zero or 1% in the polls, but if - in a more plausible scenario - they're on 3% or 4%, a more viable course of action would be to prevent those votes being wasted by building on them and pushing the party to the 5-6% they would need to take seats across Scotland.  The people who have already moved over to Alba are quite passionate, so in most cases asking them to go back to the SNP would not be realistic unless Alba literally had no chance whatever of winning seats.

Would you still support Alba if Stuart Campbell was a candidate?

Yes, I would, not because I'm a huge fan of the guy, but because my objective is independence and I think the Alba party is the best vehicle on the list to achieve that.  I presume he would take the same view if I was a candidate.  (Spoiler alert: don't hold your breath.)  In practice I don't see how he can stand, because he's indicating that he'd like people to vote for Anas Sarwar against Nicola Sturgeon in Glasgow Southside, which is contrary to Alba's position that everyone should vote SNP on the constituency ballot.

Aren't the MP defectors to the Alba Party causing harm?

This is a really tricky one, because normally if you support a party that's just been set up, you'd welcome absolutely every defection to it.  But if the Alba experiment is going to work, there has to be limitations on it.  The new party can never stand on the Holyrood constituency ballot, and it can never stand for Westminster unless there is some sort of electoral pact with the SNP, which seems unlikely.  So MPs who defect have to be sure that they won't want to stand again for Westminster in 2024 if Scotland isn't independent by then.  The local elections next year are a borderline case - although those will take place under proportional representation, the de facto threshold for getting elected is much higher than on the Holyrood list.  So vote-splitting would potentially be more of a problem, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Incidentally, I've noticed a peculiar tendency among Alba's critics to read words and sentences as if they say the polar opposite of what they actually say.  So, for example, in my last post I wrote that I had no intention of defending Alex Arthur's comments about Romanians and the vaccine, and for some reason people seemed to think I meant "I wholeheartedly support Alex Arthur's comments about Romanians and the vaccine".

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You can catch up with Episode 5 of the Scot Goes Popcast, with special guest Len Pennie (Miss PunnyPennie) HERE.

SNP are fundamentally misreading the nature of Alba's appeal to voters

I'm not in any way going to defend Alex Arthur's past views on Romanians and the vaccine (I was vaccinated last week, incidentally). But the jubilation in some quarters yesterday about a supposed failure of "vetting" brought home to me just how fundamentally the SNP are misreading the nature of potential Alba Party voters. Anyone looking for a safety-first party with bland candidates who have never gone off-script in their lives would be sticking with the SNP anyway. The real attraction of a new party is for people who want a bit of fire, a bit of passion, a bit of authenticity, a bit of free-thinking, and a bit of risk-taking - even if that means the odd mistake here and there. Why do they want that? Because that's the sort of party they can imagine delivering independence, rather than settling in and enjoying the next thirty years of devolution (or however long is left before the Tories abolish the Scottish Parliament). So, no, yesterday's events will not have put anyone off. Indeed for a new party trying to get noticed, there's a case to be made that there's no such thing as bad publicity. 

I blogged yesterday about the theoretical danger that Alba's intervention could backfire and cost us the pro-indy majority. But supposing that doesn't happen. Suppose we get the majority and the remaining obstacle to independence is that the SNP government continue with the excessive caution that has blighted the last four years. Imagine what a difference it will make if Alex Salmond gets to stand up every week at FMQs as the leader of the third, fourth or fifth largest party and demand a progress report from Nicola Sturgeon on independence. It would literally be possible to shame the SNP into action.

Incidentally, I received yet another email from someone a few minutes ago saying that they had been planning to spoil their constituency ballot, but will now be voting SNP because Alex Salmond and the Alba Party have urged them to. So instead of spluttering in rage, perhaps the SNP's message to Alba should be a simple "merci beaucoup".

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You can catch up with Episode 5 of the Scot Goes Popcast, with special guest Len Pennie (Miss PunnyPennie) HERE.

I also have two more constituency profiles in today's edition of The National - Coatbridge & Chryston and Cumbernauld & Kilsyth.

Monday, March 29, 2021

When you're in danger of falling between two stools, do you jump up, or down?

I've been totally honest from the outset about this: it's not impossible that the Alba Party intervention in this election could backfire. They could, say, take 2-3% of the vote, which probably wouldn't be enough to win any seats, but could gift SNP list seats to unionist parties.  If we're really unlucky that could swing the balance and deprive us of a pro-indy majority at Holyrood.  That's exactly the same risk that I identified when RISE were pushing the tactical voting idea in 2016, or when the Wings party idea was being floated in 2019.

But here's the thing.  If we're in danger of falling between two stools, ie. with the Alba party strong enough to damage the SNP but not strong enough to win any seats itself, there are TWO ways to avert that danger.  Either we can encourage people to abandon the Alba party and go back to the SNP on the list, or we can decide that the Alba party is too important to fail and make damn sure that it gets over the 6% de facto threshold in each region.

I don't have much doubt that the latter course of action is more viable in this particular case, although it remains to be seen whether we collectively pull it off.

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You can catch up with Episode 5 of the Scot Goes Popcast, with special guest Len Pennie (Miss PunnyPennie) HERE.

Don't let the Greens airbrush history: it was they (and RISE) who first pushed the supermajority idea

Although I and Allan Faulds of Ballot Box Scotland post about a lot of the same topics, I don't think I'd ever interacted with him before today, so I didn't fully appreciate that he and his fans expect his holy "project" to be treated with the kind of reverence that one might otherwise associate with Jesus Christ or the Bible. I think he doth protest too much, quite honestly. I hadn't actually accused him of bias - that was a straw man designed to deflect from the substance of my point, and nor had I suggested that a partisan stance would tarnish the reputation of his blessed "project". However, bias can come in the form of omission - if other parties are criticised but the Greens are not, that's a subtle form of bias.  That's exactly the point that is sometimes made about RT, for example - that Russia is the only country they'll never criticise.

Eventually (but only at someone else's urging), Allan did defend the Greens against the charge that they had tried to game the system in exactly the same way that Alba are now attempting.  But what he didn't address was the #SecondVoteGreen slogan used in repeated elections, which was explicitly intended to persuade people that they could maximise the impact of their votes by going for different parties on the two ballots.  Nor did he mention the pleading from leading Green supporters in 2011 and 2016 that SNP voters should switch tactically to the Greens on the list to artificially increase the number of pro-indy MSPs.  All of that is airbrushed from history, it seems.

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You can catch up with Episode 5 of the Scot Goes Popcast, with special guest Len Pennie (Miss PunnyPennie) HERE.

I also have two more constituency profiles in today's edition of The National - Cunninghame North and Cunninghame South.

On the BBC's decision to exclude the Alba Party from the TV debate

As has been demonstrated again and again, there are no "rules" governing admission to televised leaders' debates - the broadcasters just choose whatever line-up suits their own agenda, and then dream up a justification after the fact (for example, the BBC's absurd 'Prime Ministerial Debate' wheeze, which ignored the inconvenient fact that Prime Minister is not an elected office, and there are therefore no candidates for it).  There was a small part of me that wondered if they'd be tempted to include Alex Salmond in the Scottish election debates due to the box office/ratings potential of Salmond v Sturgeon, but a much bigger part of me always knew that it was highly unlikely due to the unionist bias (whether conscious or unconscious) of the decision-makers.  If Mr Salmond had been included, his personal poll ratings would probably have recovered, and the idea of voting SNP on the constituency ballot and Alba on the list for a pro-independence supermajority might have built up a head of steam.  That's not the story the mainstream media want to be reporting on in this campaign - they want "plucky underdog Douglas Ross and/or Anas Sarwar threatens to scupper Nicola Sturgeon's hopes of an indepedence referendum".

I'm not particularly convinced by the justifications offered for the BBC's decision, because they're not really supported by precedent.  UKIP was once represented in a Holyrood debate despite never having had an MSP - the argument being that having a representative in another parliament qualified them.  Broadcasters have also relied on opinion poll evidence, not just past election results, when justifying the inclusion of certain parties - but they're in no position to say that Alba aren't doing well enough in the polls, because there haven't been any polls since the party was created.

I can't help feeling that if we were talking about a Nigel Farage vehicle for a Westminster election, and if he'd managed to get MPs and councillors to defect, that would have been enough to get him into the debate.  It really is no more complicated than the broadcasters making up the rules to please themselves.

Is there any upside?  Well, in an ideal world we'll now have Nicola Sturgeon successfully taking the fight to the unionists in the debate without any distractions - which is in all our interests, because we need the SNP to be dominant in the constituency ballot.  However, if there are large segments of the debate devoted to Salmond-bashing, without the man himself being there to answer back, the BBC's decision will look ever more outrageous.

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You can catch up with Episode 5 of the Scot Goes Popcast, with special guest Len Pennie (Miss PunnyPennie) HERE.

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Scot Goes Popcast with guest Len Pennie (aka Miss PunnyPennie)

For Episode 5 of the Scot Goes Popcast, I was joined by the poet Len Pennie - who you might know better as Miss PunnyPennie, or by her Twitter handle Lenniesaurus.  She's a social media sensation who has attracted admiration from the likes of Hollywood actor Michael Sheen, and some would say that her Scots Word of the Day videos have done more for the Scots language in the last six months than elected governments have managed to do in the last hundred years.  Topics we discussed include -

* How her passion for Scots started.

* Why Scots is definitely a fully legitimate language in its own right.

* Why she doesn't think Scots should become a fully standardised language (ie. with 'right' and 'wrong' spelling) like Gaelic.

* How her videos have been used by teachers in schools during lessons.

* The possible reasons for the irrational hatred her videos attract in some quarters.

* Her response when people say "I've never heard anyone actually using these words".

* Whether there's any prospect of a TV or radio series based on Scots Word of the Day. 

* Her verdict on 'Alba-gate', ie. the mispronunciation of the new political party's Gaelic name.

* Her verdict on 'Scots-Wikipedia-gate', ie. the revelation last summer that the vast majority of the thousands of articles on the Scots Wikipedia had been written by a well-meaning American teenager who doesn't actually speak Scots.

* Most importantly of all, I ask her the question on everyone's lips: is Moira a real person?

And much, much more besides.  If you have any problems with the embedded player below, the direct link to the podcast is HERE.

You can also catch up with past episodes of the podcast -

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In today's Sunday National, I have an extended preview of the electoral battle in the North-East region - you can read it HERE.

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Find Out Now that yet another poll shows a majority for independence

Thanks to Marcia for pointing me in the direction of the latest independence poll, which appears on the Express website.  She billed it as "not by a traditional firm", which is true, but I've just checked and incredibly it turns out that Find Out Now are members of the British Polling Council.  God-awful name, but who are we to quibble when the numbers are as good as these?

Should Scotland be an independent country?  (Find Out Now / Express)

Yes 48%
No 44%

Obviously the above figures are before Don't Knows are stripped out.  I can't find the numbers without the Don't Knows, but a crude recalculation suggests they'll be roughly Yes 52%, No 48%.

In trying to kill the Alba Party, the SNP are actually demonstrating its value

The SNP essentially had two options in responding to the creation of the Alba Party yesterday.  They could have more or less ignored it and just carried on serenely towards their own electoral objectives.  Or they could have flapped around, tried to strangle the new party at birth, and thus sent a signal to the world and his uncle that they regard this as a crisis.  They've taken the latter course, and I really do have to question the wisdom of that, both from their own point of view and that of the movement.

However, the paradox is that by trying to kill the Alba Party, they're already demonstrating the value of the Alba Party, because they're having to put themselves in the mind of a potential Alba voter and work out what could deter that person - and of course the answer to that will always be bound up with prioritising independence and making an independence referendum happen.  The SNP having to compete for votes with a credible party that is actually stronger on independence than they are themselves changes the dynamic completely.  It's sometimes said that Labour turned itself into the SDP to defeat the SDP, and if the same effect happens in this case, the SNP will have recovered its soul and its core purpose.

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I was quoted about the new party yesterday in an article for Al Jazeera by Alasdair Soussi - you can read it HERE.  I've also written two more constituency previews for today's edition of The National - Edinburgh Northern & Leith and Edinburgh Pentlands.  (I can't find an online link for the latter, but it's in the print/digital edition.)

Friday, March 26, 2021

Alba Party FAQs

So I'm not in any way setting myself up as a spokesperson for the Alba Party, but as people have been firing questions at me (some genuine, some vexatious) all afternoon about my own tentative declaration of support, I can at least answer those.

Are you certain this party will do good to the pro-independence cause rather than harm?

No, I'm not 100% sure of that, it's a calculated risk - but it's not the first time in his career that Alex Salmond has taken one of those.  For example, standing in a Liberal Democrat-held seat in 2007 was a gamble, and it paid off handsomely.  Unlike previous proposed or actual list-only parties like RISE, AFI or ISP, the balance of probabilities is in favour of this one succeeding in winning seats, simply because of Mr Salmond's personal profile and following.  However, very well-known and popular politicians have failed to make an impact with new parties before - two examples are Robert Kilroy-Silk and Tommy Sheridan.  So there are no guarantees, and yes, it's possible I'll look back on this in a few weeks and say it was all a terrible mistake.  However, in this life you sometimes have to jump one way or the other, and my considered judgement at present is that the Alba Party is more likely than not to at least win some seats, and that it would be a good thing for the independence movement if it did.

But don't Mr Salmond's personal poll ratings prove that the party is doomed?

No, that's a common misconception.  In a proportional respresentation system, it doesn't particularly matter if the majority of people don't like you, as long as a big enough minority like you enough to come out and vote for you.  Mr Salmond's ratings are sometimes compared with Boris Johnson's - well, do you think the Tories aren't going to win any seats in May?  Of course they are.  I suspect those numbers may recover somewhat as the campaign progresses in any case.

Aren't you contradicting your previous belief that you can't game the system?

No.  The fundamental point I've always made about the Additional Member System is that the list vote is the more important vote, it's the banker vote, and you should vote for your first-choice party on it.  That's exactly what I will be doing.

But even if you personally aren't trying to game the system, is it possible the Alba Party could succeed in doing that?

Maybe.  And that doesn't actually contradict what I've said in the past, because I've gone out of my way on a number of occasions to say that Alex Salmond is the one and only person who might just about be able to pull it off.  The reason is that he's so synonymous with the SNP brand - he'll be able to persuade significant numbers of people that voting SNP in the constituencies and Alba on the list is a natural extension of their normal party choice of the SNP.  

Are there any potential downsides that could occur even if the Alba Party succeeds?

Yes, one theoretical possibility is that it could increase the overall number of pro-indy seats while denying the SNP a single-party majority.  That does worry me, but sometimes it's not possible to get absolutely everything you want, and you have to decide what is most important.  If I had total faith that the SNP would deliver an independence referendum over the next couple of years, the calculation might be different, but as things stand, if you forced me to choose between a) 65 SNP seats and no Alba seats, and b) 64 SNP seats and 5 Alba seats, I'd be inclined to say that b) would be a better outcome for independence.

What challenges will the Alba Party face?

Lack of airtime is probably the most significant.  The broadcasters will use the lack of previously established support as an excuse to give the party far less coverage than the five major parties, and if it fails to win seats, we may look back on that as the reason why.

Should AFI and ISP stand aside in Alba's favour?

Yes. They'll actually harm their own stated objectives if they don't.

"But what about the company you'll be keeping, James?  Sheesh!"

Actually only one person has said that and she's a troll.  (She used almost identical language when I committed the unspeakable crime of - gasp - having Denise Findlay as a guest on the podcast!)  But the bottom line is that any party worth its salt is a broad church.  In supporting Alba on the list I'll be a co-belligerent of Stuart Campbell, in supporting the SNP on the constituency ballot I'll be a co-belligerent of Fiona Robertson.  In both cases all I can say is "it's a funny old world".

Should all independence supporters vote SNP on the constituency ballot?

Yes, without exception or hesitation.  If you don't, you're helping the unionists to win.

Who should I vote for tactically in Region X or Y?

I don't personally believe in tactical voting on the list.  Alba may well make that case, but that's not the reason I'm supporting them.  I think you should vote for your first-choice pro-indy party on the list, and the only thing that should give you any pause for thought about that is if you think the party in question is too small to win any seats in your region at all.  Whether the SNP has "too many constituency seats" in a region is always a red herring, because you don't actually know how many constituency seats they'll win until after you cast your vote.

Are you SNP 1, Alba 2?

I beg people: please, please, please stop using that shorthand.  AMS is not a preferential voting system, and if people write numbers (as they do with STV) they'll risk spoiling their ballot.

How should the SNP react to today's news, if they're sensible and if they care about independence?

Stop wasting time and energy trying to destroy Alex Salmond, and get on with making the positive case for an SNP vote.

*  *  *

I have two more constituency previews in The National today - Perthshire North and Perthshire South and Kinross-shire.

It 'as to be Alba

I've been in quite a tricky position, because I've known for months from what I've been told privately that a new credible list-only party was a real possibility, but not a certainty - which meant as a long-standing SNP member and supporter, and as someone who also thinks Alex Salmond has the right strategic prescription for delivering independence, I had no idea until a few minutes ago whether or not I was going to be backing the SNP on the list as usual in this election.   That was starting to make me feel slightly queasy.  I still want to know a few more details before making a final decision, but based on what I heard of Mr Salmond's statement, my gut feeling is that it 'as to be Alba.  Ironically, that will put me on the same side as Stuart Campbell, but that's actually a good thing - we desperately need all Yes supporters to be building a pro-independence party up at this election, not spending every minute trying to destructively tear the SNP down.  

I'm not saying there are no dangers at all in this development, but if Mr Salmond continues to strike the right tone, and if the SNP keep the heid by training their fire on unionists rather than fellow independence supporters, we could now have the recipe for a genuine Independence Parliament after May.

Student politics on the NEC comes back to haunt the SNP leadership

So I've been catching up with the news that the Airdrie and Shotts by-election for the newly vacant Westminster seat will apparently take place the week after the Holyrood election because of safety concerns.  This is potentially the nightmare scenario.  The reason this needless by-election is happening at all is of course student politics on the SNP's NEC, designed to scupper Joanna Cherry's hopes of switching to the Scottish Parliament by creating an artificial rule that would have required her to prematurely abandon her Westminster seat and trigger a by-election.  Ms Cherry was successfully deterred, but the rule applied to other MPs too, and here we are, staring down the barrel of losing one of the seats that was so hard-won in the 2019 general election.  It might not have been so bad if the vote had taken place on the same day as the Holyrood election, because it wouldn't have been a by-election in any real sense - it would have been subsumed into the national election, probably with very similar trends.  But a week later the dynamics will be totally different.  Firstly the turnout will be much lower, and in a North Lanarkshire seat there's a fair chance that'll favour Labour.  And secondly momentum will play a part.  If the SNP perform more poorly than expected in the Holyrood election, their supporters will be demotivated a week later, which could magnify any swing against them.  

If the SNP have pointlessly thrown a seat away and allowed Scottish Labour back into the game at Westminster, some individuals may want to take a long hard look at themselves.

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Back The Backstabbers

I'm not entirely sure whether Stuart Campbell is morphing into David Koresh or Erich Ludendorff.  Yesterday, he was using doomsday cult language about how we must all "pray for fire" to come and cleanse the world - which I take to mean that he wants the SNP to lose the election so he can have his revenge against Nicola Sturgeon, even if that means there is a unionist majority for the next five years, thus killing any hope of independence in the near-term.  Today he's nursing a deranged Ludendorff-style 'stab in the back' theory by publishing a long list of people who he's supported in the past and have supposedly joined a "lynch-mob" against him (I'm one of them, needless to say).  Well, it cuts both ways, doesn't it?  Scot Goes Pop is actually several years older than Wings Over Scotland, and I remember being quite supportive of Stuart in the very early days and sending traffic his way - I certainly wouldn't have foreseen at that point that he'd be emailing me out of the blue to call me a "c***" or getting his solicitor to send me legal threats in the dead of night as an intimidatory tactic.

As for his point that he's backed my fundraisers in the past - yes, he has, and that did make a significant difference on occasions, although he's exaggerating the extent of that.  I would imagine perhaps 5-10% of the funds I've raised over the years can be attributed to Wings' support, and I was very grateful for that, and I said so at the time.  But the idea that nobody can do it without him doesn't stack up, as can be seen from the fact that I've successfully run fundraisers since I was officially designated a "c***", as have so many others.

I must admit there's one thing that really does anger me about Stuart's post, and that's the way he's continuing to pursue a vendetta against iScot magazine for something that doesn't really have anything to do with iScot magazine.  As a freelancer, I've written a monthly column for iScot since 2017, and I choose my own topics - Ken, the editor, has never told me what I can and can't write about, and other columnists are given exactly the same freedom.  Around a year ago I wrote a piece that did not personally attack Stuart, but did express scepticism about the wisdom of setting up a Wings party.  Because that bruised his ego, Stuart whipped his fans up into a hate campaign against iScot for the terrible crime of not censoring me, and as a result a small number of people cancelled their subscriptions.  Stuart is, I think, familiar with the words "chilling effect", and that's what he's trying to achieve with these bully-boy tactics.  He wants people to self-censor (or be censored) on the basis that they know the penalty they'll incur if they don't.

I gather that since Stuart published his post, Paul Kavanagh has received several hundred pounds in donations from people showing solidarity in the face of an unwarranted attack - not quite the effect that was intended.  I can't afford to miss such a golden promotional opportunity, so if you want to #BackTheBackstabbers, don't forget that Scot Goes Pop is currently running its own fundraiser HERE.

But above all else, you might want to consider taking out a subscription to iScot.  Believe me, you won't regret it - it's a beautiful publication, and it's a real treat when it arrives in the post each month. A quality pro-independence magazine is a vital asset for the movement, and it deserves our support.