Wednesday, October 27, 2021

VIDEO PREVIEW of new Scot Goes Pop polling on GRA reform: do the people of Scotland support gender self-ID?


FUNDRAISER: If you think it's a good thing that not all public opinion polls are commissioned by anti-independence clients, please consider donating to the new Scot Goes Pop polling fundraiser - that will ensure that I'm not out of pocket for running this new poll, and will also allow me to commission another poll over the coming months.  To donate, please click HERE, or to read about why it's so important for the pro-independence movement to occasionally crowdfund our own polls, click HERE.

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

EXCLUSIVE SCOT GOES POP / PANELBASE POLL: The three pro-independence parties are on course to take 51% of the local election vote between them, with the SNP set for a record-breaking landslide

Earlier this evening I received the results of the new crowdfunded Scot Goes Pop poll, which has once again been conducted by Panelbase, a firm which is a member of (and follows the rules of) the British Polling Council.  As time is a bit short to get very much out tonight, I'm just going to give you a little appetiser for now, and I thought I'd begin with first preference voting intentions for next year's local council elections.  Correct me if I'm wrong, but as far as I'm aware this is the first proper voting intention poll for that set of elections from any polling firm, which makes the results particularly interesting.

Scot Goes Pop / Panelbase poll (a representative sample of 1001 over-16s in Scotland was interviewed by Panelbase between 20th and 26th October 2021)

Scottish local council elections first preference voting intentions:

SNP 45%
Conservatives 22%
Labour 21%
Liberal Democrats 6%
Greens 4%
Alba 2%

Based on what has happened in previous years, the SNP's high vote share should perhaps be treated with caution - they often tend to do a bit less well than expected in local elections.  Presumably that's partly because of the widespread intervention of independent candidates, and partly because of local factors, including the personal popularity of individual Tory and Labour councillors.  I seem to recall John Curtice confidently predicting, at a very late stage, that the SNP would take around 40% of the vote in the 2017 local elections, which he thought would be a somewhat underwhelming result.  In fact they only took 32%, which was unchanged from five years previously.  So, yes, if this new poll can be taken at face value, the SNP would be making an enormous 13% jump, which would undoubtedly win them a huge number of new councillors, and would probably see them seize outright majority control of certain councils - in spite of the STV voting system making that incredibly hard to achieve.

The Tories' share of the vote is three points down on what they achieved in 2017, while Labour are a trivial one point up, and the Lib Dems an equally trivial one point down.  The health warning that has to be put on the Greens' 4% share is that they traditionally haven't stood in all that many wards, so a significant proportion of the electorate may not even have the chance to vote for them.

As for Alba's 2% showing, that can be viewed in a glass-half-full or glass-half-empty sort of way. (Of course I have to declare a special interest at this point, because I'm an Alba member and was recently elected to the party's National Executive Committee.) As a completely 'new entry' Alba may be satisfied that they're actually registering support and are not all that far behind longer established parties like the Greens and the Lib Dems.  On 2% there clearly needs to be a degree of realism about their prospects next May, but they start with the big advantage of already having a significant number of incumbent councillors.  Capitalising on those people's personal vote and getting some or all of them re-elected is far from an impossible goal, even on a relatively modest share of the national vote.  And if that's achieved, priceless electoral credibility will follow.

It's worth noting, incidentally, that the three pro-independence parties in combination have 51% of the popular vote.

The poll also asked a second voting intention question about the local elections.  Because a preferential voting system will be used, in which voters can rank as many or as few candidates as they like, the poll asked respondents to list all of the parties they will be giving a preference to.  The results on that question will be of particular interest to Alba, who have never stood in an STV election before, and therefore have no idea how many transfers they can expect from other pro-indy parties.  I'll be releasing those results in a future blogpost.

FUNDRAISER: If you think it's a good thing that not all public opinion polls are commissioned by anti-independence clients, please consider donating to the new Scot Goes Pop polling fundraiser - that will ensure that I'm not out of pocket for running this new poll, and will also allow me to commission another poll over the coming months.  To donate, please click HERE, or to read about why it's so important for the pro-independence movement to occasionally crowdfund our own polls, click HERE.

CROWDFUNDER: Scot Goes Pop independence polling 2021-22

Click here to go straight to the fundraising page.

So as I said in my post earlier today, I think the time has now come to launch the new Scot Goes Pop fundraiser with a bit more 'fanfare' - because almost a week after I set it up, it's so far only reached around 18% of its target figure.  And when a crowdfunder is intended for the commissioning of opinion polls, the absolute worst thing of all to do is to leave it half-finished.  However, if you're one of the several dozen people who have already donated, please accept my grateful thanks and ignore the rest of this post!

The great news is that I'll be releasing the first results from the new Scot Goes Pop poll within the next two or three days, and it may well be as soon as tomorrow (Tuesday). I've already seen some of the provisional results and they look absolutely fascinating - there are four different sets of voting intention numbers, a few topical questions of interest to the whole independence movement, and a significant number of questions about GRA reform - which seek to authoritatively establish once and for all where the public stand on this thorniest of issues, and hopefully point the way towards a much-needed resolution.  But as I explained in a recent blogpost, the fundraising for the poll back in the summer turned into a bit of a nightmare - for complicated reasons I was going back and forth between trying to raise funds for two different polls, and I was having to keep the funds separate.  Neither set of funds really reached a sufficient level, although one came much closer than the other.  To cut a very long story short, I eventually decided to break the logjam by commissioning the first poll and covering the shortfall with my own money.

However, I'd obviously prefer to only lose that money temporarily, and more importantly I also need to complete the funding for the second poll - which, if we raise enough, will be a full-scale poll about independence and related matters, to be conducted at the optimum time for maximum impact at some point over the coming weeks or months.

Why is it so important to crowdfund our own polls now and again? The reality is that if we don't, there will still be polls published and they'll still be very influential - but all of the questions will be framed by people who are hostile to independence.  How frequently do you read it being stated as a fact that there is no public appetite for an independence referendum? Very often that's simply because of the way the poll question was worded, or because of the menu of options that was provided to respondents.  It's extremely valuable if, at least occasionally, the questions are asked from a slightly different angle, offering us an insight into the other side of the coin as far as public opinion is concerned.

Polls are extremely expensive, but I do believe that the ones commissioned by Scot Goes Pop so far have proved to be excellent value for money.  They've established again and again that there is majority support for pursuing a 'Plan B' on an independence mandate if the UK government remains intransigent.  They've shown that the public think that Brexit is sufficient justification to revisit the issue of independence.  They've demonstrated that the Scottish Government's handling of the pandemic has increased public confidence that an independent Scotland would be better governed than the United Kingdom. They've revealed that Scotland wants its own Olympic team - something that will have been a shock to Brit Nats who believe that "Team GB" is wildly popular throughout Our Precious Union.  And of course on the majority of occasions they've also shown majority support for independence itself.

But at the end of the day, I can only continue commissioning polls if the funding is there in full.  So if you'd like to ensure a future for polling commissioned by pro-independence clients, please do consider making a donation, whether large or small.  I know times are very tough, but thousands of people read Scot Goes Pop every week, and if just 10% of them were to donate just £10 each, the target figure would be reached straight away and the next poll would be guaranteed.

Of course not everyone will be able to donate, for very good reasons, but there's another really important thing you can do - which is to share the fundraiser page on social media and spread the word to your family and friends.  Hopefully as I release the results from the new poll over the coming days, it will be a very practical demonstration of the value and benefits of crowdfunding our own polling.

Thank you for taking the time to read this, and thank you for your continued support.


For anyone who prefers an alternative to GoFundMe, my Paypal email address is:

jkellysta@yahoo.co.uk

VIDEO PREVIEW: First results from exclusive Scot Goes Pop opinion poll incoming TONIGHT


FUNDRAISER: If you think it's a good thing that not all public opinion polls are commissioned by anti-independence clients, please consider donating to the new Scot Goes Pop polling fundraiser - that will ensure that I'm not out of pocket for running this poll, and will also allow me to commission another poll over the coming months.  To donate, please click HERE, or to read about why it's so important for the pro-independence movement to occasionally crowdfund our own polls, click HERE.

Monday, October 25, 2021

YouGov average suggests SNP would make big gains - and win 93% of Scottish seats - in a new Westminster election

Click here for the Scot Goes Pop polling fundraiser (17% funded as of 2.30pm on Monday) - see bottom of blogpost for more details...

We're getting closer to the publication of the new full-scale Scot Goes Pop poll - I was given advance sight of some preliminary numbers this morning, and it's possible I may be able to release the first set of results tomorrow or Wednesday.  However, I haven't seen the voting intention numbers yet, which will be interesting, because unless another poll appears over the next 24-48 hours, it'll be the first full-scale Scottish voting intention poll for a good few weeks.  To whet your appetite, here is the next best thing - an average of the Scottish subsamples from the last four GB-wide YouGov polls.  YouGov, unlike other firms, appear to structure and weight their Scottish subsamples separately, so an average over time should produce figures at least in the same ball-park as a full-scale Scottish poll.

SNP 47.0%
Conservatives 22.8%
Labour 17.5%
Liberal Democrats 6.3%
Greens 4.3%

Seats projection (based on proposed new boundaries with a reduced number of Scottish seats): SNP 53 (+5), Conservatives 3 (-3), Labour 1 (-), Liberal Democrats 0 (-4)

So this is basically good news - the SNP's lead isn't quite as mind-bogglingly massive as it's been at certain times during the pandemic, but nevertheless there still appears to have been a clear swing from Tory to SNP since the December 2019 general election.  Although the effect on seats seems exaggerated given that the swing is a relatively modest 2%, it's worth noting that the new constituency map is actually working against the SNP on these numbers - based on the current boundaries they'd be grabbing an additional two seats, and would be essentially back to where they were in the 2015 super-landslide.

Labour, meanwhile, are actually slightly down on their historic low under Jeremy Corbyn at the 2019 election.  Luckily for us, they'll remain firmly in denial about their predicament and will continue to tell themselves that it's the voters who need to change, not Labour.

Scot Goes Pop polling fundraiser update (as of 2.30pm on Monday): £1086 raised out of £6500 target figure (17% funded).  The Scot Goes Pop poll you'll be seeing over the coming days is a relatively rare example of a credible full-scale opinion poll commissioned by a pro-independence client, with some questions that unionist parties would probably prefer had never been asked.  If you'd like to see me continue to commission these polls now and again, thus ensuring that it's not only anti-independence newspapers and pressure groups who frame the questions in the very influential polls that are published, your continued support will be absolutely vital - because polls are very expensive.  So please forgive me as I continue to heavily promote the current fundraiser, which as you can see has only reached 17% of its target so far.  I know from past experience that crowdfunders can very easily grind to a complete halt if a sense of momentum isn't kept up, and there really is very little point in a half-finished crowdfunder for an opinion poll. So I might publish a dedicated fundraiser blogpost later tonight, before I become too busy with publishing the results of the new poll.  A million thanks to everyone who has donated so far - I really appreciate it.  You can find the fundraiser page HERE, or if you'd rather not donate via GoFundMe, you can find an alternative HERE (scroll down the page after following the link).

Sunday, October 24, 2021

The Scottish Government has a well-earned reputation for interacting like real people with the general public - it shouldn't throw that away now by being aloof and dogmatic on gender issues

People have been telling me for ages to listen to the series of Stephen Nolan podcasts about the highly unusual relationship that various public bodies have with the lobbying group Stonewall.  Ironically I haven't really had the time to do that until now because I've been so tied up over the last month with exploring options for getting the Scot Goes Pop poll on GRA reform off the ground - which, for reasons I'll never be able to publicly explain, has been one of the most stressful things I've done in a long time (although those reasons do relate to some of the issues covered by the podcasts). Anyway, I've finally had a chance to draw breath, and I listened in full to the episode about Stonewall's dealings with the various governments of the UK.  Roughly half of the episode is about the Scottish Government, and in particular its decision -  at Stonewall's urging - to stop using the word "mother" in documents relating to maternity and replace it with "pregnant person". The original replacement term was "pregnant woman", but even that wasn't satisfactory enough for Stonewall, who insisted on a gender-neutral term instead.

My first reaction was that this is all a bit comical and trivial, because it's merely about words (albeit slightly ludicrous words) rather than about substantive policy changes that affect people's lives.  But as anyone who has read Orwell knows, language shapes our experience of the world around us, particularly the way we categorise people and things.  A useful example that is sometimes cited is how the English and Welsh languages encode different perceptions of where one colour ends and another colour begins - with an equivalent Welsh word for 'green' encompassing what we as native English speakers would regard as shades of grey.  In a sense the word in each language actually creates the colour, at least as a broad category, rather than the other way around.  By the same token, if we become compelled to use the "cis" prefix before "man" or "woman" (another issue touched on by the Nolan episode), reality will become encoded by the words, and what we previously thought of as men and women will come to be understood instead as merely sub-categories of each gender.  That will affect people's real life behaviour and the way we interact with each other - which of course is the whole point of trying to reshape our language in the first place.

On the subject of Orwellian language, it was incredibly dispiriting to hear in the podcast that the Scottish Government had refused to be interviewed or to answer detailed questions, and instead simply sent the producers a very brief written statement full of ultra-politically correct buzz-phrases that bore only a tenuous relation to what was being asked.  This is obviously in keeping with the militant "it's not up for debate" stance on gender issues, but I think the Scottish Government would be well-advised to consider how they're suddenly putting up walls between themselves and the people they serve and represent.  Previously they've always been noted for breaking those barriers down, with Nicola Sturgeon being much-praised for being informal and accessible, and interacting like a real person on social media.  Much of that good work is now being put to the sword in the service of a dogma that most people simply cannot understand.  There was a golden opportunity for Christina McKelvie to go on the podcast as Equalities Minister and to have a real conversation, using plain language, to demystify what the Scottish Government is doing.  Instead, the government did the complete opposite and made itself look remote and aloof.

As for the BBC, which is also one of the public bodies that has a weird relationship with Stonewall, Stephen Nolan has made the point that it funded, supported and published the podcasts.  But this just makes me think about what a deeply peculiar organisation the BBC is.  It's somehow been subject to institutional capture from two groups that have nothing in common with each other - gender identity activists on the one hand, and Brexit hardliners on the other.  The BBC self-censors on gender to please one particular part of the trendy liberal left, but it also self-censors to please populist right-wingers by failing to report on Brexit as the root cause of many of the challenges the UK currently faces.  Shortages of goods and petrol are presented as bafflingly random acts of God, rather than events with a very simple cause-and-effect explanation.

And, yes, the BBC's all-time favourite subject is itself and it does very often engage in self-analysis and self-scrutiny.  But it's nevertheless curious how there is an unspoken understanding of the acceptable boundaries of that self-scrutiny.  It remains utterly unthinkable for there to be a BBC documentary or podcast series exploring the reasons behind the BBC's extraordinary behaviour in the crucial penultimate week of the independence referendum campaign.

Funding for Scot Goes Pop polling: During the summer, I crowdfunded for two polls - one on GRA reform and related gender issues, and one on independence and related issues.  Neither set of funding raised enough for the type of full-scale poll I ideally wanted to commission, although a substantial amount was raised for the GRA poll, and I was initially confident that it would be enough as long as I shopped around and limited the number of questions.  Unfortunately I was wrong, and it proved to be impossible to commission a more limited poll with a questionnaire that resembled the one I had intended.  In order to break the logjam, I've gone ahead and commissioned a comprehensive GRA poll from my first-choice firm (with a few topical political questions added on).  The results are anticipated over the coming week.  This is a much better option, but it's also more expensive, and I'm covering the shortfall from the crowdfunding with my own money.  Obviously I'd prefer to only lose that money temporarily, though, and I also still need to complete the funding for the independence poll, which I hope to run over the coming months.  In an effort to solve both problems, I've set up a new dedicated polling fundraiser which you can find HERE.  Many thanks to everyone who has donated so far. Running total as of lunchtime on Sunday: £875 raised out of £6500 target figure (13% funded).  You can also find an alternative payment method HERE (scroll down the post).

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

An important update on forthcoming Scot Goes Pop polling on GRA reform and independence

With grateful thanks for your patience, I'm pleased to be able to tell you that I've finally commissioned the comprehensive poll on reform of the Gender Recognition Act and related gender issues that I crowdfunded for in the summer.  However, this has been a much more challenging and stressful process than previous Scot Goes Pop polls, so I'll need to briefly explain how we've ended up where we are.

First of all, the fundraising process during the summer proved to be extraordinarily messy.  I already had a general fundraiser underway to support the blog itself, and I was reluctant to have two fundraisers running at the same time.  So when the GRA poll idea came up, I tried to use the general fundraiser to crowdfund for the poll - but that was clearly a mistake, because it made it too hard for people to visualise what the target figure was.  What complicated it further was that The National got in touch and kindly reported on my fundraising for further independence polling - but that meant I effectively had to stop crowdfunding for the GRA poll, because obviously independence polling and GRA polling are different things, and not everyone who helps to fund one will be interested in helping to fund the other.

Neither set of fundraising produced enough on its own for the type of full-scale poll I ideally wanted to run - although the two in combination did raise just about enough.  Nevertheless, I've felt honour-bound to keep the two sets of funds separate.  The GRA funding was the more successful of the two, and enough money was raised for me to be reasonably confident I could still commission a GRA poll if I shopped around for the most competitive rates and limited the number of questions.  However, having looked into that possibility and given it my very best shot (I put in an enormous amount of work over the last few weeks and was almost in despair at times), I'm afraid it just wasn't a runner.  There's very little point in spending thousands of pounds on a poll where the questions aren't the ones we actually want to ask, and don't even resemble the ones we want to ask.

So in order to break the logjam, I've gone ahead and commissioned a full-scale GRA poll from my first-choice firm.  That's a much better option anyway, because it's the comprehensive poll we had originally intended, rather than a half-hearted or slimmed-down effort.  However, it's also more expensive, and I'm going to cover the shortfall with my own money - I can't see any other way of getting the poll done in a timely manner, and it's important it's done soon because Holyrood may not be far away from making some fateful decisions.  

Obviously I'd rather only be losing that money temporarily, though, so to solve the problem I've set up a new dedicated polling fundraiser, which you can find HERE and which I will be promoting heavily as the results of the new poll are published.  The funds raised will compensate me for what I'm spending on the current poll, but mostly it will complete the funding for the next Scot Goes Pop independence poll (I'll keep my options open on the timing of that one but I hope it'll be within the next few months).

Just so you're aware, I've also added voting intention questions and a couple of topical political questions to the GRA poll - it would have seemed a wasted opportunity not to do that.

If you prefer Paypal to GoFundMe, my Paypal email address is:

jkellysta@yahoo.co.uk

And a reminder that the fundraiser page can be found HERE.

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Some concrete suggestions of how to achieve Yes unity

I gather that Ruth Wishart has issued a call for an end to "internecine warfare" in the Yes movement, although ironically I can't see what she said because she blocked me in the summer after I sent her a couple of polite replies.  Nevertheless, unity is obviously a desirable objective, and here are my own concrete suggestions about how it can be achieved.

1) Set a date for a referendum, and immediately start the process of a) requesting a Section 30 order and b) legislating for the referendum after the Section 30 order is refused.  This would end the deep suspicions on the leadership-sceptic side of the movement that the SNP are stringing us along, and are more interested in reaping the career benefits of what Wings called "the independence industry" than they are in delivering independence itself.  The stock objection of "but we're still in a pandemic" is bogus, because it would be perfectly possible to choose a date some time in 2023, by which time the pandemic will either be over or there'll be sufficient normality to hold a referendum.  As soon as we have a fixed date to build towards, we'll all start moving forward together with a common purpose.

2) Find a genuine compromise on GRA reform.  In saying this, I'll infuriate some of my fellow Alba members just as much as SNP leadership loyalists, because both sides of the debate believe there is no room for compromise due to the fundamental principles at stake.  Nevertheless, the only apparent alternative to compromise at the moment is an imminent total victory for the trans rights lobby, which will poison relationships in the independence movement for years to come.  The likes of John Nicolson and Mhairi Black may not want to hear or admit this, but a very substantial proportion of the movement is made up of what they describe as "transphobes", without whom there's unlikely to be any victory for Yes in a referendum.  The two sides will somehow have to learn to co-exist under the same umbrella.

3) Establish normalised relations with Alba.  Parties in electoral competition with each other don't have to be in a state of all-out war, especially if they agree on the same flagship policy.  The SNP regard the Greens as friendly rivals, not enemies, and there's no reason why the SNP and Alba can't develop a similar relationship.  At the very least, stop treating Alba like a terrorist organisation.

4) And Alba should do its bit in return.  As I've said before, it's important that Alba's electoral strategy is soberly calculated to maximise the chances of independence, rather than to maximise the chances of revenge against the Sturgeon leadership of the SNP.  We must be incredibly cautious about the risk of splitting the pro-indy vote by putting up candidates in first-past-the-post elections, and we should show generosity of spirit in the local elections next year by urging Alba voters to give their lower preferences to the SNP, the Greens, and any other pro-indy parties or candidates.

Friday, October 15, 2021

Big drop in Labour vote as SNP win Falkirk by-election

As you may have seen, the SNP won a local council by-election in Falkirk overnight.  It's being reported as an 'SNP gain from Labour', although as is often the case with STV by-elections, things are not quite as they seem - the SNP won the popular vote in the ward last time around, and the real battle was with the Tories, who came very close to topping the first preference vote.  Nevertheless, there has been a very real and substantial swing from Labour to SNP.

Falkirk South by-election result (first preference votes):

SNP 39.2% (+3.5) 
Conservatives 38.9% (+6.8) 
Labour 15.7% (-11.4) 
Greens 6.2% (+1.1)

Our regular commenter 'Independence for Scotland' made an intelligent point about the reaction of SNP leadership loyalists to this result - they've said Alba have demonstrated themselves to be an irrelevance because they didn't stand a candidate.  But the same people would undoubtedly have slammed Alba for splitting the vote if they had stood a candidate, which suggests that somewhere along the line the criticisms are intellectually dishonest.

The reality is, of course, that local elections (including by-elections) are conducted by a preferential voting system, which means Alba can stand without doing any harm whatsoever to other pro-independence parties, as long as they urge their voters to give lower preferences to the SNP and the Greens.  The much trickier issue is first-past-the-post contests - ie. Westminster general elections, Westminster by-elections and Holyrood by-elections.  In those cases, the vote can genuinely be split and in the worst-case scenario a unionist might end up winning unnecessarily.  My own personal view is that Alba should sit out first-past-the-post elections unless there's an exceptionally good reason - with an example of an exceptionally good reason being that there are sitting Alba MPs in two Westminster constituencies.  If there's a snap general election at any point, I think it would make strategic sense for Alba to pour all its resources into defending East Lothian and Kirkcaldy & Cowdenbeath, and not actually stand anywhere else (unless there are other defectors, of course).

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

The curious Britishness of the pro-independence Scottish Government

Reading through the account in the Guardian of the report into the UK's catastrophic failings in the early weeks of the pandemic, I initially got the impression that the ludicrous fiction that there was never any herd immunity policy was being maintained.  But thankfully no.  The distinction being drawn is simply that the authorities didn't necessarily believe that mass infection was desirable, but thought that any other outcome was impossible and so 'fatalistically' decided to give up on trying to stop the virus and instead merely managed the supposedly 'inevitable' herd immunity process.  The report makes clear that all the governments of the four nations of the UK wholeheartedly adopted this approach in the early stages, leading to a large number of wholly avoidable deaths.  This won't be news to those of us who followed the antics of the Scottish Government's National Clinical Director Jason Leitch during his Grand Complacency Tour of the TV and radio studios in February and March 2020.  Instead of offering much-needed information about how the public could play their part in stopping the virus in its tracks, he was propagandising for total and abject surrender.  All that was left for us, he explained, was to form an orderly queue and wait patiently for our turn to catch the virus, so that mass infection happened slowly enough to ensure the NHS wasn't overwhelmed - a contradiction in terms, as it turned out.

The fact that the Scottish Government got it so badly wrong during those crucial weeks is an uncomfortable truth for the independence movement, which explains why many Yes supporters are still in denial about it.  Some still defend the indefensible by suggesting that Leitch and co were simply following the science as it was then, and that the science subsequently changed.  Frankly, that is complete rubbish.  Leitch was explicitly rejecting the clear advice of the world-leading WHO experts, which was to test every suspected case, to trace the contacts of anyone who tested positive and to isolate them.  Crucially, the WHO had established that coronavirus did not behave like flu - the speed of transmission was not rapid enough to make suppression through contact tracing impossible, as the experience in both China and South Korea was demonstrating before our eyes.  The British scientific advisers, though, were in love with their own sense of resignation, and simply refused to believe this growing body of evidence.  Newspapers were briefed with gibberish about how the virus was supposedly just 'hiding away' in South Korea, implying that the country's apparent success in suppressing the virus was illusory.

In a nutshell, then, there was world science and there was British science, and the Scottish Government plumped for British science without a moment's hesitation.  That perhaps isn't a surprise as far as the civil service aspect is concerned, because ultimately people who work for the Scottish Government are part of the UK civil service and have to serve two masters.  But as for ministers themselves? Why would the leading members of the Scottish National Party "think British, not global" at the most critical moment of government decision-making since the Second World War? Ultimately, that is why this episode is even more uncomfortable for unionism than it is for the independence movement, because the only possible lesson to draw is that the Scottish Government did make a terrible error, and that error was to be too slavishly loyal to the British state, to the British system, and to the myth of British exceptionalism.  As soon as we departed from UK government policy, the situation improved markedly.

Curiously, though, I'm not sure even the SNP leadership themselves have fully learned that lesson.  They still seem to instinctively prefer a Westminster-led 'Four Nations' approach wherever possible, including on oil, of all things.  There are also some symbolic giveaways of the underlying attitudes behind all this, for example the comments from Nicola Sturgeon about how it was so exciting to have Emma Raducanu to support in the way that we've always supported Andy Murray.  Now, I totally understand being excited by Emma Raducanu as an individual player - she's a sensation who may well go on to dominate women's tennis for the next decade.  But if you bracket her with Andy Murray, and say those are the two players who excite you, and imply that it's because of something they have in common, then that something can only really be that they're both...British.  Which implies that you regard yourself as British and feel a strong loyalty to Britain as a country.  Maybe I'm missing something here, but I'm not sure what that could be.

Saturday, October 9, 2021

Independence will not be won by drifting through time and waiting for Alister Jack's dismal vision of restoring "a YouGov democracy by 2039"

With the normal caveat that I'm not a legal expert, it seems to me to be utter nonsense to claim that the Supreme Court ruling a few days ago scuppers hopes that a legal referendum can be held without a Section 30 order.  The issues involved are very different.  The crux of the ruling was that the Scottish Parliament cannot constrain the UK Parliament's unlimited powers to legislate for Scotland, even on devolved matters.  But as far as a referendum is concerned, the argument of the legal experts who believe Holyrood already has the powers to hold a vote is that the UK Parliament's right to legislate would not be constrained in any way, because they would not be bound by the outcome of a purely consultative referendum.  (Of course they'd be bound in a moral rather than a legal sense, which is why they're so terrified of a consultative referendum).

A slightly more convincing argument is that, although the ruling is not directly relevant to the legality of a referendum, it nevertheless reveals the Supreme Court to be a deeply conservative and instinctively British Nationalist body which is highly likely to dream up a legal argument for striking down a referendum, even if we have no idea yet what that argument will be.  Well, that may or may not be the case, but it strikes me that the amateur psychoanalysing of judges is not the most sensible or reliable way of forecasting the outcome of complex legal cases.  We need to concentrate on the things we can control, and stop worrying about the things we can't.  What we can control (and by "we" I mean the pro-independence side under the leadership of the Scottish Government) is legislating for a referendum - something that frankly we should already be doing or already have done.  What we cannot control is whether that legislation is then challenged by the UK Government or by a private citizen used by the UK Government as a proxy, or whether any such challenge is successful.  In a sense that doesn't really matter, because this is a process that has to be gone through.  If a legal challenge fails, the problem is solved - we won't need a Section 30 order and a referendum will go ahead.  But if the challenge is upheld, we'll still be further forward because we'll have demonstrated to the Scottish people that the referendum route is totally closed off and that the UK Government's pigheaded intransigence has left us with only one reasonable option for pursuing a democratic mandate for independence - namely via a parliamentary election.  That will be a moment of liberation, because it will break us out of the "No to Indyref2", "now is not the time", "once in a generation" paradigm.  Parliamentary elections take place at least once every five years, and there's not much the UK Government can do about that, short of a Nazi-style Enabling Act.

As ever, though, the real problem is that the ruling may encourage the Scottish Government's ongoing passivity.  Let's be honest, pretty much everything encourages the Scottish Government's ongoing passivity.  "We might fail so it's really important we don't even try" has been the guiding principle since the catastrophic loss of nerve in 2017, and that shows no sign of changing.  Anyone who seriously wants independence should be terrified by Nicola Sturgeon's admission that she doesn't know how the impasse will be broken, but that she thinks it somehow will be, one way or another, because "time is on her side". Decoded, that means the SNP leadership's solution is to do absolutely nothing with even more studied determination and wait for something to turn up.  Spoiler alert: nothing will turn up, even if we wait decades, because the British constitution does not change and the British state's vested interest in keeping Scotland prisoner does not change.  If we want the weather to change, we have to change it ourselves.

And there's another way in which a truly radical and daring pro-independence government might have reacted to the Supreme Court ruling.  Aileen McHarg pointed out that there's now a clear incentive for the Scottish Parliament to refuse to agree to Sewel motions giving the UK Parliament consent to legislate on a specified devolved matter, because the court has created a novel distinction between laws on devolved matters passed by each parliament - Holyrood can only control/influence the interpretation and implementation of legislation it has passed itself.  But that also, I would suggest, means there's an incentive for Holyrood to "re-legislate" on swathes of laws passed after previous Sewel motions, so that the new Holyrood laws replace the Westminster laws, thus rendering the ruling largely redundant.  That would be roughly analogous to what the Parti Québécois administration used to do when it invoked the "notwithstanding clause" (allowing Canadian provincial legislatures to override court rulings of unconstitutionality) on every single piece of legislation it introduced, even when there was no particular reason to think that was actually necessary.

In other news over the past week, Alister Jack has revealed that Scotland will only be held as a prisoner against its will for another eighteen years. In the year 2039, dictatorship will be replaced by a "YouGov democracy", ie. we can have the things we want as long as YouGov say we want them (supermajority requirements apply, naturally).  So that's exciting.   Only six thousand, five hundred and seventy-four more sleeps to go.

*  *  * 

Whatever the rights and wrongs of the Supreme Court ruling (and it's interesting that many eminent experts believe the judges erred in law), it's worth remembering that the Scottish people were firmly opposed to the UK Government taking the matter to court in the first place.  Here is the result of a Scot Goes Pop / Panelbase poll conducted in April - 

The Scottish Parliament recently passed legislation that incorporates the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child into Scots Law. The law seeks to protect children's rights by forbidding public authorities from acting in a way that is incompatible with the UN Convention. However, the UK Government are challenging the law in the Supreme Court on the basis that it would interfere with the UK Parliament's right to make laws for Scotland. Although the UK Government are allowed to challenge laws that they think may exceed the Scottish Parliament's powers, they are under no obligation to do so.  Do you think the UK Government are right or wrong to challenge the new Scottish law on children's rights? 

Right: 33% 
Wrong: 42% 

With Don't Knows excluded - 

Right: 44% 
Wrong: 56% 

*  *  * 

Courtesy of the fatalistic rabbit in Watership Down, here is the Scottish Government's current strategy for securing independence -

Where are you going, wind? 
Far, far away 
Over the hills, over the edge of the world. 
Take me with you, wind, high over the sky. 
I will go with you, I will be rabbit-of-the-wind.

Where are you going, stream? 
Far, far away 
Beyond the heather, sliding away all night. 
Take me with you, stream, away in the starlight. 
I will go with you, I will be rabbit-of-the-stream. 

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Questions for Kirsty Blackman

As you can see, Kirsty Blackman's eventual attempt to draw a line under this episode did not involve an apology - it was simply an announcement of a deletion without any explanation of either the original retweet or of the deletion itself.  That being the case, I don't think it's unreasonable that she should be invited to answer the following questions to clear the matter up rather more satisfactorily...

* Did you not read the tweet properly before retweeting it?  All of us have been guilty of that sort of carelessness at some point in time, but is that what you're claiming happened in this case?

* If you did read the tweet properly, why did you knowingly retweet a call for one of your MP colleagues to be expelled from the SNP?

* Do you, in fact, believe Joanna Cherry should be expelled?

* If you do believe Joanna Cherry should be expelled, why did you delete the retweet?

* Does your clarification imply that you want transphobes to be expelled, but that you accept that this principle does not apply to Joanna Cherry because she is plainly not transphobic?  If so, have you apologised to her for the confusion?

* Do you accept that calling for a colleague to be expelled, when that colleague is in fact in good standing, should in itself be a disciplinary offence?  If not, why not?

When Ms Cherry was sacked from the frontbench, I said that one of my big concerns was that it might prove to be merely a staging post, and that the next step would be to make it a little less unthinkable for spurious disciplinary action to be taken against her, with a view to eventually having her suspended or expelled.  That may have seemed a tad outlandish when I said it.  It looks a hell of a lot less outlandish now, and we're only a few short months further on.  The many decent people who decided to stay in the SNP after Alba broke away in the spring now need to stand up and be counted.  They don't need to lose their party - there's nothing inevitable about it.  But time may be running short.

Monday, October 4, 2021

"Name one country that allows FOREIGNERS to vote in constitutional referendums. Go on, James, name just ONE!"

Naming no names, but someone has been challenging me today to...well, to do what you can see above in the title of this blogpost.  Where on earth is this nonsense coming from all of a sudden? Brexit has given EU citizens an enormous incentive to vote Yes in any future independence referendum, and anecdotally that does seem to be exactly what the majority of them plan to do.  This is absolutely the last moment to be retreating into 'blood and soil' nationalism and trying to strip 'non-natives' of their right to vote - it makes no strategic sense, even leaving aside the profoundly anti-democratic nature of the proposal.

I am, however, going to answer the challenge directly.  Before I do, though, I'll explain why the question would still be a monumental red herring even if it could not be answered.  It wouldn't actually matter if there was no country in the world that allowed foreign nationals to vote on constitutional matters, because excluding foreign nationals is not actually what is being proposed here, or at the very least it's not the main thrust of the proposalThe suggestion is that some English people who hold both residency and citizenship in Scotland, in other words people who are not foreign nationals, should be stripped of their right to vote.  You only have to think of it in those terms to realise what a total non-starter this proposal is - even if it was remotely desirable, which it is not.

But my answer to the challenge is very simple, and it's the United Kingdom, which allowed non-British Commonwealth citizens to vote in the referendums on European membership if they were resident in the UK.  That includes, for example, citizens of India, a country that contains eighteen per cent of the entire population of the world.  As I was only asked to provide one country that allows foreign nationals to vote in constitutional referendums, I don't need to go any further than that, but there will almost certainly be other examples if anyone wants to trawl through the electoral rules of other countries.  One possibility is New Zealand, which allows all resident non-citizens to vote.  If there's any exception to that general rule for constitutional referendums, I haven't been able to find any sign of it yet.

Sunday, October 3, 2021

Sunday Miscellany

So a few miscellaneous things while I'm thinking of them.  First of all, I meant to mention last week that I was quoted in Alasdair Soussi's latest piece for the Al Jazeera website, about the UK Government's attempts to turn COP26 in Glasgow into a Union Jack fest.  You can read it HERE.

Secondly, I promised our regular commenter 'Independence for Scotland' that I'd let him know if I heard anything about how to buy Alba Party merchandise in a way that ensures the funds go to the right place.  The latest email update from the party reveals an online Alba shop is on its way, and that in the meantime merchandise can be bought by emailing:  merchandise@albaparty.org

And lastly, there's an uncharacteristically helpful headline in the Herald on Sunday suggesting that a Tory-funded poll has backfired by showing a majority of the Scottish public think "the Union is bad for the environment".  Skimming through the article, though, I get the impression this may just be a Scottish subsample from a GB-wide Opinium poll (albeit one with an unusually large sample size).

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

The problem with trying to graft the politics of one country onto another country

Many thanks to the Twitter user Alba Loun for alerting me to a lengthy and bitter hit-piece that Jeggit wrote about me on his blog Random Public Journal a couple of days ago.  The fact that I was oblivious to the article's existence until today may indicate that it didn't have quite the impact hoped for, and it's certainly the case that Jeggit has been making determined efforts in recent weeks to alienate practically all of his previous allies with gratuitously nasty attacks on Marion Millar and the Women Won't Wheesht movement more broadly.  Many people will therefore think I should regard his rant about me as a veritable badge of honour, and at the very least it's unlikely to do me any harm.  Nevertheless, just as I said a few weeks ago when Ross Anderson was using the Wee Ginger Dug blog as a platform to publicly attack me, it's important as a matter of principle to have the right to reply to personal attacks and to be able to set the record straight.

Basically what has upset Jeggit so much are three tweets I wrote about him several weeks ago.  Why he's suddenly decided to react after so long is a bit of a mystery - maybe he just didn't notice at the time.  But given that he thinks "the knives are out for Jeggit", all I can say is they must be bloody slow knives if they've taken this long to reach him.  This is what I tweeted - 

"A theory about Jeggit (and it's only a theory). His real loyalty is to Sinn Fein and the cause of Irish unification and sovereignty. Nothing wrong with that, but he's unusual in that he's decided his main contribution to the cause will be via the Scottish independence movement. This has led to him tying himself up in knots, because he's trying very hard to stay faithful to the Sinn Fein stance on trans rights - which puts him firmly on the side of SNP centrists, and against the more radical elements of the indy movement, who he otherwise sees as allies. This is the problem with trying to graft the politics of one country onto another country."

Anyone who was aware of the context of those remarks will know that I was actually trying to defend him, at least up to a point, but is he intelligent enough to spot that?  A great many people were accusing him of being a woman-hater due to his declaration of all-out war on Ms Millar and gender critical feminists, and I was simply pointing out that there was a plausible alternative explanation - one that potentially reflected less badly on him.  Some of you may also remember that I stood up for Jeggit several years ago when the SNP tried to paint him as a monster due to comments that were, to put it mildly, ambiguous and open to more than one interpretation.  But "no good deed goes unpunished", as the saying goes.

His article is quite astoundingly dishonest and packed full of toddler-tantrum insults ("Kelly is a moral coward", "Kelly is an intellectual lightweight" and the like), but what is most remarkable about it is that he claims to be setting out to prove my theory wrong, but ends up unwittingly proving it right in most respects.  I did emphasise it was only a theory (ie. I was acknowledging it could be totally wrong), and while it may not have been bang-on accurate, it appears to have been very, very close to the mark.  Consider the following -

* At the top of the article is a selfie of Jeggit with Sinn Fein President Mary Lou McDonald.  (Even though I was a long-term supporter of the SNP until very recently, I can't retaliate with a selfie of me and Nicola Sturgeon, because I must be just about the only person in Scotland who doesn't have one.) 

* He goes on to say he is "fiercely" loyal to Sinn Fein, and thirty-two county Irish sovereignty.

* He then indignantly asserts that it is entirely natural for a Scot living in Dublin who supports Irish unity to also support Scottish independence.  In other words his belief in Scottish independence is subsidiary to his loyalty to Sinn Fein and Irish unity, precisely as I suspected and suggested.

* He explains that the reason his support for Scottish indy is such a natural extension for him is that it flows from opposition to "British imperialism".  That's a very telling use of language, which suggests he is viewing the subject entirely through an Irish republican prism.  Not everyone in the Scottish independence movement regards this country as a victim of imperialism or colonialism, but those that do would generally refer to it as "English imperialism" or "London imperialism".  Scotland can scarcely be the victim of British imperialism given that we are part of the island of Great Britain and always will be.  There is, quite simply, no British state without us - which explains why an Irish republican like Jeggit might happily be a co-belligerent of the Yes campaign for reasons that have little to do with Scotland's own future.

* He really gives the game away when he contrasts the supposedly relaxed attitude of the Irish population to self-ID for trans people (recent polling tells a radically different story, incidentally) with the British "fixation" with debating the subject.  What does he mean by "British"?  We know what he means.  He's talking about the Scots, about Marion Millar et al.  We're just "Brits" to him.  This isn't unusual in the Irish nationalist worldview, I've found over the years.  The perception is that these islands consist of just two nations - Ireland and Britain, with the words "England" and "Britain" used interchangeably.  No real harm is meant by that, and if you point out the existence of Scotland and Wales, people will generally smile and apologise.  But nevertheless the basic worldview is that there are essentially two countries, with Britain the oppressor and Ireland the oppressed.  Jeggit seems to instinctively buy into that.

Jeggit of course regards me pointing all of this out as an indication that I am an "anti-Irish bigot" with an aversion to "the stink of Fenian", and a "unionist" (!) whose mind has been "penetrated" by the "Orange sash".  (The article really is every bit as hysterically funny as it sounds.)  As I said in my tweets above, these claims are bordering on defamatory.  Either he's intentionally lying, or he's making a wild guess about my attitudes to Ireland that can only be regarded as somewhat "brave" given that my surname is Kelly.  I and hundreds of thousands like me in west-central Scotland are exactly what Rangers fans mean when they sing about "Fenians".  You'll find no self-loathing here - I know what community I come from, I'm proud of that community, and my political views are entirely typical of that community.  Where I part company from Jeggit is that I believe the statelet of Northern Ireland has existed for long enough that it's simply not realistic any longer to deny the people of NI the right to self-determination within the borders of that statelet, as artificial as they may be.  I therefore accept that the future of Northern Ireland must be determined by the people of Northern Ireland, and if they choose to remain in the United Kingdom, they may be misguided but they are entirely within their rights.  Be under no illusions, though - if I lived in NI myself, I'd be voting for a nationalist party.  Sinn Fein are a bit rich for my blood given their historical baggage, and the SDLP are perhaps not rich enough, so I'd have a difficult choice between the two, but it would be one or the other.  All of this poses something of a problem for Jeggit's barking mad thesis, which rests on the assumption that I am somehow the reincarnation of Lord Carson.

But Jeggit's most dishonest claim of all is that he is "almost entirely unaware" of Sinn Fein's position on trans rights, and therefore cannot possibly be influenced by it in the way I suggested.  Pull the other one, Jegsy.  You expect us to believe that you've written multiple detailed articles on this topic without even bothering to check what the party you give your "fierce" loyalty to thinks about it?  Aye, whatever.

I also couldn't help but raise a smile at Jeggit's implication that I am an "ethno-nationalist".  Given that the root cause of his antipathy towards me is his stated view that I am not "revolutionary" enough, and given my own long history of moderate civic nationalism, I'm quite content for others to judge which of the two of us is the ethno-nationalist.

Last but not least, we have the rabbit from the hat - Jeggit claims he can't possibly be slavishly loyal to Sinn Fein policy positions because he strongly disagrees with the party's support for abortion rights.  He makes reference to the existence of the small breakaway Aontu party, which is essentially a socially conservative, anti-abortion version of Sinn Fein.  Jeggit states that he decided against leaving Sinn Fein for strategic reasons - he thinks the national struggle is more important than the abortion issue due to the fact that the latter has already been "settled".  

So essentially all that was wrong with my theory is that his heart lies midway between the ideals and values of Aontu, and Sinn Fein's.  Wasn't out by much, was I?

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

No matter how much time passes, we always seem to be "just one more election victory away" from holding an independence referendum

Do you remember back in 2018 or early 2019, when the bulk of us in the independence movement were still giving the SNP leadership the benefit of the doubt in relation to their assurances that an independence referendum had merely been delayed slightly and would still take place before Brexit? Journalists and certain academics used to treat us as hopelessly naive, and would say that "everyone knows privately" ("everyone" being code for the political elite and their journalistic chums) that talk of a referendum in the foreseeable future was just for show, and that the real battle to decide whether a referendum took place would come in the form of the 2021 Holyrood election.

Now, it's easy to say in retrospect that those people were right about our naivety in taking the SNP leadership at their word, but here's the thing: if they had also been right about the 2021 election being the true moment of reckoning, they would now be saying "the SNP won decisively, it's over, a referendum is happening".  But they're not doing that, are they?  Take a look at this quote from a new newspaper article (it appears to be from The Times) which is suddenly talking about the 2024 Westminster general election in exactly the same way that the 2021 Holyrood election was previously talked about - as the decisive electoral event.

"The next general election is seen as key to the prospects of a second referendum.  If the SNP increases its number of MPs, which at present stands at 45...further pressure would be placed on the prime minister to agree to re-run the 2014 vote."

Are you beginning to see how this works?  Every time an election billed as "the big one" takes place, it magically turns out afterwards not to have been particularly important after all, but oh my God, the next election, just you wait, that'll be the one to make civilisations tremble.  

If by some miracle we actually improve on the 81% of Scottish seats we won in the 2019 general election - a ridiculously tough target that we shouldn't be setting for ourselves, and that nobody should be setting for us if they have a democratic bone in their body - we'll then be told that the SNP need to win an overall majority in the 2026 Holyrood election, and Boris Johnson will be sure to buckle under the pressure at that point.  And then if the SNP win that majority, hey presto, it'll turn out that they also need to make yet more gains in the 2029 Westminster election - which by that point may mean winning more constituencies than actually exist.

I've no idea if this is an intentional con-trick on the part of the SNP leadership to keep us distracted while they get on with staying in power and delivering the stuff they really care about (like GRA reform), or whether it's a sign that they lack confidence in themselves and are too nervous to bring matters to a head.  But either way, we need to break out of this endless cycle of passivity.  We have an immaculate mandate to hold a referendum, and we must use that mandate before the next general election even takes place.  It's as simple as that.

Monday, September 20, 2021

Update for anyone lodging a complaint about the Daily Record's lies

A reader has just emailed me.  He had complained to the press regulator IPSO this morning about the Daily Record's blatant lie that the new Redfield & Wilton poll shows a "drop in support for independence" (in fact the result is literally identical to the previous poll).  IPSO wrote back to him requesting supporting evidence within seven days about the results of the poll and how they show no change.  Just in case anyone else finds themselves in the same position, I'll copy and paste my reply - 

Hi ******,

Thanks for your message.  I presume that in order to have made the complaint, you must have provided the link to the Daily Record article, which itself includes the figures IPSO are requesting.  However, just in case, here is the Record link -


The poll was commissioned by Politico, whose write-up also includes the figures - 


And here is the link to the previous Redfield & Wilton poll from last month, showing identical numbers of Yes 44%, No 47% - 

https://redfieldandwiltonstrategies.com/scottish-independence-referendum-voting-intention-4-5-august/

As further supporting evidence, you could also provide IPSO with the list of polls on the What Scotland Thinks website - which is run either by John Curtice or by his close colleagues. Since Professor Curtice is President of the British Polling Council, that should be considered a reliable source. It clearly shows that both the new and previous Redfield & Wilton polls had identical results -


Cheers,

James 

When I checked the Record link, I was half-expecting it to have already been taken down or corrected - they've had several hours to get it sorted, and umpteen people have pointed out the inaccuracy to them.  But nope, they're just sticking their fingers in their ears as usual.

Daily Record's credibility lies in TATTERS this morning as it falsely claims that a no change poll shows a "drop in support for independence"

Answers on a postcard, folks.  The new Redfield & Wilton poll on independence shows a literally identical result to the last one, with 44% saying they would vote Yes and 47% saying they would vote No.  (Those figures do not exclude Don't Knows.)  And yet for some inexplicable reason that is probably a mystery even to themselves, the Daily Record have decided to report the poll as a "drop in support for independence". Paul Hutcheon himself has cluelessly tweeted the inaccurate headline.

Back in the real world, the poll adds to the weight of evidence suggesting that public opinion has remained fairly static of late.  Politico, who commissioned the poll, place greatest emphasis on the finding that a narrow plurality of respondents think that a referendum shouldn't take place unless Westminster agree to it.  We seem to be caught in a vicious circle - the more the Scottish Government talk up the need for an agreed referendum, the more the public buy into that concept themselves.  That does not actually increase the likelihood of an agreed referendum, but instead produces opinion poll results that simply strengthen Westminster's hand in saying no.

This strategic naivety must be swept away.  The message must be that a referendum is taking place - it would be great to have Westminster on board, but it's taking place anyway. And the word "legal" should be expunged from the Scottish Government's lexicon.

*  *  *

If you'd like to make a complaint to the press regulator IPSO over the Daily Record's blatant breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors' Code, the online form you'll need is HERE.

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Scot Goes Popcast: You can watch the full videos of my recent interviews with Yvonne Ridley and William Duguid HERE and HERE

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Savanta ComRes poll suggests the rumours of the Alba Party's demise have been greatly exaggerated

A few years ago, I had a brief discussion on Twitter with the pollster Keiran Pedley (then with GfK NOP, now with Ipsos-Mori) about what I believed to be the unfair practice of polling firms failing to include one particular political party in the main menu of options that respondents are provided with, even though other parties of similar size are included.  He made the point that it wasn't about 'fairness' as such, but instead about what experience had shown to be the most accurate approach - if including that party in the main menu consistently led to an overestimate of their support, it was absolutely justified to exclude them. I'm not convinced it's quite as simple as that, because polls (absurdly) have a quasi-constitutional role these days - they're factored in to decisions about the airtime each party is entitled to, and they supposedly will determine whether or not Northern Ireland is allowed a referendum on its constitutional future.  When poll results are an integral part of the democratic process, it's arguable that poll methodology needs to be fair and even-handed as much as it needs to be accurate.

However, at least in the example I discussed with Mr Pedley, the pollsters were actually attempting to estimate support for the party in question.  If respondents indicated that they were planning to vote for "some other party", they were taken to a second menu of options in which the party was included.  A much greater problem occurs if respondents have no means at all of indicating their preference for a party - when all they can do is say "some other party" and it goes no further than that.  If decisions about airtime are made on the basis of such a poll, there's a gross unfairness, because no effort was made to measure the party's support.  And that, unfortunately, is the point we've reached with Panelbase polls of Holyrood voting intentions - the two that have been conducted since the election in May have not allowed respondents to express support for Alba in any form.  

I can't understand the rationale for that.  Although Alba didn't meet its own targets in May, it did secure 2% of the list vote, and for as long as any party is "troubling the scorer", so to speak, you'd think it's important to continue to know how well or badly it's doing.  Alba also of course has two Members of Parliament and a significant number of local councillors, which makes it of greater interest than most parties that receive 2% of the vote on their first outing.

All of this presents me with a bit of a dilemma, because I'm hoping to commission another Scot Goes Pop poll reasonably soon (funding permitting) and Panelbase would usually be my first choice - but I have a feeling they would want to maintain consistency by using the same question/answer format for Holyrood voting intentions in every poll they conduct, regardless of client.  However, I'll cross that bridge if and when I come to it.

On a more positive note, the Savanta ComRes poll published last Friday did include Alba as an option on the Holyrood list ballot, and 2% of respondents said they would vote for the party.  That will be a great disappointment to the Alba-haters who gloated at considerable length about the Opinium poll published the previous day which showed Alba on zero for the very first time - a result that was taken to mean that "the monster had been slayed" and that Alba could expect to receive negligible support from that point on.  The difference between the two polls is actually quite striking and hard to explain - in absolute terms, Opinium found only two Alba voters among their sample, while Savanta ComRes found seventeen.  Here are the full ComRes results...

Scottish Parliament constituency ballot:

SNP 48%
Conservatives 22%
Labour 20%
Liberal Democrats 7%

Scottish Parliament regional list ballot:

SNP 36%
Conservatives 23%
Labour 18%
Greens 13%
Liberal Democrats 7%
Alba 2%

Although that's very much in line with the results Alba were receiving during the election campaign, it's arguably a more credible finding now.  There was always a suspicion in the spring that Alba were being overestimated due to being a completely 'new entry', but now it's possible to weight respondents by their past history of actually voting for Alba.

There was also a Stack Data poll on independence last week, which seems to be the propaganda poll Gordon Brown has been wittering about.  Looking through the datasets, I'm struck by how the framers of the questions struggled to get the results they were hoping for.  In total, 53% of respondents want an independence referendum to be held by the end of 2024, and just 25% of respondents think that the passing of a decade since 2014 should be a "condition that has to be met" before holding a new referendum.  In fact, none of the proposed "conditions" managed to attract majority support.  The one that came closest was that the Scottish Government should be required to make clear which currency an independent Scotland would use - but even that was only backed by 45%. 

The most laughable "condition" suggested (which a mere 30% of respondents found reasonable) was that there should be no referendum until the UK has "had a chance to reform its own constitution to change how Westminster works and give Scotland more powers".  Forgive me for being harsh here, Gordon, but just how much more of "a chance" do you guys need?  Westminster has been in control of Scotland for the last three hundred and fourteen years, and could have reformed the constitution at any time.  You yourself, Gordon, were Prime Minister for three years between 2007 and 2010, and did practically nothing to boost devolution.

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Scot Goes Popcast: You can watch the full videos of my recent interviews with Yvonne Ridley and William Duguid HERE and HERE

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Alba NEC election outcome

I'm really honoured to say that I've been elected as one of the eight ordinary members of the Alba Party's National Executive Committee.  The successful candidates are:

Female ballot: Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh, Michelle Ferns, Denise Findlay, Suzanne Blackley

Male ballot: Roddy MacLeod, Josh Robertson, James Kelly, Hamish Vernal

Congratulations to all of the above, and commiserations to the many excellent candidates who weren't elected on this occasion.  I'd like to also thank the Alba members who nominated me, and the conference delegates who voted for me at the weekend.  I really appreciate it.  

I'll do my best to be one of the voices of the rank and file membership on the NEC.  On that subject, I noticed earlier today that two people had emailed me on Saturday with specific questions, but both messages ended up in my spam folder.  I'll try to reply later tonight (although in one case the answer may not be very helpful, because I'm a bit hazy on the subject matter).

*  *  *

Scot Goes Popcast: You can watch the full videos of my recent interviews with Yvonne Ridley and William Duguid HERE and HERE

Fancy putting the Express in the dock for lying about Scottish independence polling? Here's your chance...

In order to justify throwing the book at Craig Murray, the presiding judge notoriously dreamed up the novel principle that us mere bloggers must be held to a different legal standard than 'proper' journalists, on the dubious grounds that the latter are bound by codes such as the IPSO Editors' Code of Practice - a voluntary set of rules that to the best of my knowledge has no legal underpinning whatsoever.  If that's the brave new world we're now living in, it's perhaps not too much to ask that the 'proper' journalists - even ones as controversial as David Leask - should be rigorously held to the code, Clause 1 of which states "the Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information or images...a significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and — where appropriate — an apology published".

On Friday 10th September 2021, the Express website published an article by Dan Falvey entitled 'SNP President drops huge hint Sturgeon could backtrack on plan for referendum in two years'.  I have no idea whether it also appeared in the Express print edition, which you won't be surprised to hear I don't subscribe to - but that makes no difference because online articles also fall under the jurisdiction of both IPSO and the Editors' Code.  The article contained a blatantly inaccurate claim about Scottish independence polling, and yet four days later it still has not been corrected and no apology has been issued.  

Falvey ludicrously ignored the genuine polling evidence that had been published on Thursday and Friday by Opinium and ComRes showing a very even split in public opinion - Opinium had Yes ahead by 51-49, while ComRes had No ahead by 52-48.  Instead, he treated the propaganda poll commissioned by Scotland in Union, complete with its dodgy question about "leaving the United Kingdom", as if it was the only one that mattered.

Now, to be clear, there's no question that IPSO would let the Express get away with that part of the article - they would just mark it down as a form of "editorialising" that may have been selective with its facts, but was not strictly inaccurate.  However, there's one particular sentence in which the Express strayed into outright falsehood, and it's this: "Polls have shown a drop in support for independence over the past six months, with a "No" vote consistently now in the lead".  The words 'consistently' and 'now' preclude the possibility of a Yes lead in any current poll - and yet the Opinium poll published just one day before the article had Yes ahead.

If you have the time and patience to take on the Express through the IPSO complaints process, here's the online form you need.

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Scot Goes Popcast: You can watch the full videos of my recent interviews with Yvonne Ridley and William Duguid HERE and HERE

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Independence polling update

A couple of people asked what happened to my blogpost from last night. I realised when I woke up that it (unwittingly) contained misleading information, and I didn't have enough time to edit it, so I just took it down. Alas, the Stack Data poll turned out to show the complete opposite of what I thought - I was led astray by the unconventional way it was presented in a tweet. It in fact showed a 52-48 lead for No, which is a 2% swing to No since the last poll from the same firm. Today's new Panelbase poll also seems to show a 52-48 No advantage, which is unchanged from the previous Panelbase poll. 

Bear in mind that both the ComRes poll and the Opinium poll showed a 1% swing to Yes, so put all of the information from the last few days together and it looks essentially like a no change picture. 

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The most significant part of Alex Salmond's widely-acclaimed speech at the Alba conference was the announcement that Robin McAlpine will be penning the 'Wee Alba Book'. That's a huge coup that will surely win the party some new-found credibility with at least parts of the radical left. The oft-heard charge from the SNP and Green trendies that Alba is "conservative" or "right-wing" looks ever more absurd. In fact it looks barking mad.

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Scot Goes Popcast: You can watch the full videos of my recent interviews with Yvonne Ridley and William Duguid HERE and HERE

Friday, September 10, 2021

Vote James Kelly #1 for the Alba Party's NEC this weekend: here's my mini-manifesto

If you're an Alba member and have registered for the inaugural annual conference, which takes place tomorrow and Sunday, you'll be able to vote online in the ballots for the female and male ordinary members of the National Executive Committee.  I'll be a candidate on the male ballot, along with fifteen other excellent candidates, so welcome along to my little pitch for you to give me, James Kelly, your first preference vote.  (The ballot is being conducted by Single Transferable Vote, which means you'll be ranking the candidates in order of preference.  If for some inexplicable reason you decide not to give me your first preference, I'd be equally grateful for your second preference, or your third preference, or any preference at all, really.)


A lot of the things I believe in would be quite radical and daring if I was standing for the SNP's NEC, but are very much mainstream views within Alba.  Nevertheless, they're still worth emphasising because we've all seen how quickly parties can lose touch with their founding values if members are not vigilant.  I support maximum internal democracy within the Alba Party, and transparency of all decision-making processes.  Alba is already superior to the SNP in that the main office bearer positions are directly elected by the whole membership.  When the NEC nominations began, a couple of people wrote to me to express their disquiet that this election was only open to conference delegates and not to all members, and I do have sympathy with that view - I see no reason why all positions shouldn't be elected by the members.  However, at this stage we probably should look at where we are in a glass half full sort of way.

Freedom of speech and freedom to dissent are also vitally important.  Every political party, large or small, is a coalition of views - we'll all agree on most things, but I doubt if there's anyone who will agree with absolutely every dot and comma of the policy programme decided by the majority.  I never, ever want to see a Joanna Cherry-style scenario arise within Alba whereby someone is sidelined, ostracised or treated as a "bigot" simply because they have a principled disagreement with one particular policy.

Which brings me onto the subject of disciplinary proceedings.  Every party needs to have rules and to enforce them, but that enforcement must be fair.  I would always err on the side of giving people the benefit of the doubt if the alleged wrongdoing is open to differing interpretations (as it was, for example, in the case of Neale Hanvey when he was suspended by the SNP). Nobody should be bounced into enforced "resignations".  And certainly if there's to be any question of expulsions, there should be genuine, objective proof of wrongdoing. My concern is that it's far too easy for the disciplinary process to be used as a weapon by one faction of a party against another faction - something that has undoubtedly been happening in both the SNP and Labour.

I believe that Alba is a different sort of political party in that it exists to bring about the sovereign independence of Scotland at the earliest possible opportunity and date.  You have my assurance that if I'm elected to the NEC, and if there's ever any conflict between what might be perceived as the interests of the party and the interests of the wider cause of independence, I would always choose the latter.  To give an example, it's vitally important that Alba candidates at next year's local elections urge voters to give their lower preferences to other pro-independence parties.  That will perhaps be a painful thing to do given how disparaging and often downright abusive many within the SNP and Greens have been towards Alba, but we're here to win our country's independence, not to settle old scores.

In my view there is no future for Alba as an "ethnic" Scottish party, a kind of tartan UKIP.  We must hold true to the progressive ideal of what it means to be Scottish - namely that if you choose to make this country your home, no matter where you come from or when you arrived, you belong here and you have the same rights as any other citizen, including the right to vote in a second independence referendum.  That's strategically wise as well as morally right, because many EU citizens have swung behind Yes as a result of Brexit.

I know some Alba members believe that independence will only come about if and when Alba does to the SNP what Sinn Féin did to the Irish Parliamentary Party in the 1918 general election, by taking over as the majority party. It may yet come to that, but the irony is that if it does, it'll be a sign of our own failure - because Plan A has to be to win independence before there is even any opportunity for the SNP to be displaced, in other words before the 2026 Holyrood election.  That means independence will have to be delivered by an SNP-led government, and Alba's role will be to challenge and harry the SNP into keeping their promises.  I think a good benchmark of whether we're doing that job well enough will be if Alba looks like a credible home for any SNP MSP who might be tempted to defect next year or the year after - because above all else, it's the threat of defections that may help to keep the SNP leadership honest.  To do that, we don't need to be at 40% in the polls, but we may need to be at 5% in the polls and to have some council candidates elected next year.  That may sound like a modest target, but it's actually an ambitious target that will require a great deal of work to achieve.

The fact that we're initially aiming for a relatively small share of the vote, though, has certain side-benefits  - it means we can be more daring in policy terms, because we're trying to win over a niche group of radical independence supporters, rather than trying to reassure vast swathes of Middle Scotland in the way that the SNP or the next Yes campaign will have to do.  When the SNP finally turned its back on its long-standing opposition to NATO membership, it did so partly because Alyn Smith claimed that the policy was making us look a bit "odd" (ahem).  Alba need have no such concerns, because principled opposition to NATO will differentiate us from the SNP and help to win new converts.  We may also be able to take a more radical stance on the monarchy.  I've actually always been - theoretically - in favour of an elected Head of State, but until now I've regarded that as a matter that can wait until after independence.

One thing I feel very strongly about is that nuclear weapons will have to be removed from an independent Scotland as soon as practicably possible.  They're not a bargaining chip, they simply have to go.

I share the concerns about the threat to women-only spaces and services, and indeed to women's sport, caused by the ideologically-driven rush to reform the GRA.  As many of you know, I fundraised during the summer to commission a Scot Goes Pop poll to discover how the Scottish public really feel about GRA reform and related matters.  Although not as much has been raised so far as would be needed to commission the ideal type of poll, I'll make sure it happens one way or another.

I strongly agree that Alba should be at the forefront of pressing the Scottish Government to make a decisive break from the Westminster-led 'Four Nations' approach to tackling Covid, which has led this country into calamity again and again and again.

And now a little bit about me, for those of you who don't know...

I've been writing Scot Goes Pop since 2008, and by 2013 it had become one of Scotland's most popular pro-independence blogs.  In 2012 I became a columnist for the International Business Times, and in the run-up to the independence referendum many of my columns were syndicated on Yahoo, reaching a huge audience - meaning that I may well have been, almost by accident, the most-read pro-indy blogger during the indyref period.  Later on, I was for a time a columnist on the TalkRadio website, and since 2017 I've been a regular columnist for iScot magazine.  I've also provided occasional election and poll analysis for The National since early 2015.

I've made numerous appearances on TV and radio, including BBC Breakfast, BBC Radio Five Live, the Bauer radio network, Al Jazeera, Radio Sputnik and most recently the Alex Salmond Show on RT.  I've also taken part in a huge number of New Media podcasts, films and live-streams.  Perhaps most significantly, though, I've commissioned no fewer than five full-scale Scottish opinion polls - something that is usually the preserve of the mainstream media.  Some of the polls have been genuine landmarks - for example, the poll in June 2020 that marked the start of the long unbroken series of Yes-majority polls was a Scot Goes Pop / Panelbase poll.

I'm not, however, a political insider.  I've never been particularly active within a political party, and that, I think, may mean I'd bring a different sort of perspective to the NEC than someone who is steeped in SNP internal politics. (Don't get me wrong, though - there's also plenty of room for that kind of experience on the NEC.)

I'd suggest a possible advantage of electing me is that there aren't going to be any surprises about my political views.  Over the years, I must have blogged about practically every political topic under the sun, so my opinions are all out there.  Most of you know me well and you know exactly what you'd be getting.  I'm also easy to reach - I'm very active on social media.  (That mostly means Twitter rather than Facebook, for the avoidance of doubt - it's not unusual for me not to check my Facebook account for weeks, which has led now and again to sheepish apologies to people who have messaged me in the interim.)

If any or all of this strikes a chord, and if you're eligible to vote, please do consider giving your first preference vote to James Kelly (that's me!) on the male ballot for ordinary members of the Alba Party NEC.  The voting hours will, as far as I know, be between 12pm on Saturday and 5pm on Sunday.  Thank you.

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Scot Goes Popcast: You can watch the full videos of my recent interviews with Yvonne Ridley and William Duguid HERE and HERE