Wednesday, April 14, 2021
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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
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Monday, April 12, 2021
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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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)
More signs of the Yes bounceback: support for independence is back up to 50% in new Savanta ComRes poll
Conservatives 23% (-)
Labour 18% (-2)
Liberal Democrats 6% (-2)
SNP 40% (-)
Conservatives 21% (-3)
Labour 18% (-)
Greens 9% (-1)
Liberal Democrats 7% (+1)
Alba 3% (+3)
Wednesday, April 7, 2021
Tuesday, April 6, 2021
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.
Monday, April 5, 2021
Sunday, April 4, 2021
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):
Saturday, April 3, 2021
Well beginning to look like he has even less appeal than Farage. Brexit party managed more than 3% in Scotland but still got thumped https://t.co/YaMfOCNfAT— Newsnet.Scot (@NewsnetScotland) April 1, 2021
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%.
What the hell does this even mean? Does it mean the Brexit Party got more than 3% in Scotland in the Euro elections when it won one of the six seats under the PR system? If so, what point is being made here? Newsnet is turning into a parody of itself.https://t.co/lVrqFQXHsW— James Kelly (@JamesKelly) April 1, 2021
Thursday, April 1, 2021
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First opinion poll since Alba Party launch keeps Alex Salmond in contention for a dramatic return to the Scottish Parliament
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)
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Wednesday, March 31, 2021
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Tuesday, March 30, 2021
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".
POLL: Not anything scientific, just curiosity to see how my followers are voting on the list.— James Kelly (@JamesKelly) March 30, 2021
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Monday, March 29, 2021
Don't let the Greens airbrush history: it was they (and RISE) who first pushed the supermajority idea
Just a gentle reminder that Ballot Box Scotland is run by a (very talented) member of the Green party, which in previous elections has been a list-only party and has touted for the list votes of SNP supporters in much the same way that Alba are doing now.https://t.co/Qhe6PjxjQC— James Kelly (@JamesKelly) March 29, 2021
I'm not that fussed about the whole 'supermajority' thing, but if it was successful it's pushing a bit to say that it wouldn't have any psychological impact at all. People look at both seats and the popular vote.— James Kelly (@JamesKelly) March 29, 2021
I think if I was genuinely going to be risking the reputation of my project in the name of boosting my own party's chances I'd be rather less transparent about it than this, but it's good to hear that people can read my about page.— Ballot Box Scotland (@BallotBoxScot) March 29, 2021
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.
OK, all you've got is a snide answer. Disappointing, but suit yourself. I was actually making a serious point.— James Kelly (@JamesKelly) March 29, 2021
Sunday, March 28, 2021
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.
Saturday, March 27, 2021
Friday, March 26, 2021
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.