Friday, December 31, 2021

Time for the Bells?

Peter A Bell is justly recognised as a national treasure - and a firm favourite with the kids, as you can see from the classic poster above.  It's always a very special treat when he sends me a novel-length diatribe and then "warns" me that he will be publishing it on Facebook or on his blog as a "precaution" just in case I "censor" him.  That's the type of fearsome threat that makes empires shudder.  Let's face it: the union is as good as dissolved.

I don't know if anyone else has this problem with Peter, but I find his prose very difficult to read.  That's not a problem I've ever had in the disputes with Jeggit or Stuart Campbell, both of whom are very readable even when they're saying things that don't really stack up.  But with Peter, it's often so hard to work out what he's actually angry about, or why anyone should care that he's angry, that I end up having to take a rest every couple of sentences, which means that I sometimes don't even finish reading his comment or post.  In all honesty, that was something I was conscious of even when I was still on good terms with him a few years ago.

So instead of torturing myself by attempting a line by line response to his latest "constructive contribution to the debate", I'll just make a few general remarks about Peter's current idiosyncratic positioning in opposition to both the SNP and Alba, which drives pretty much all of his furious missives these days.  The problem in a nutshell is this: he imagines himself as somehow equidistant between the SNP and Alba, and thinks he can act as a 'bridge' between members of the two parties, but in reality he's significantly further away from the SNP than Alba are.  Alba's route-map to independence is much more radical than what the SNP propose, but Peter's belief in a unilateral declaration of independence is much more radical still.  And yet he thinks the problem can all be sorted out by Alba accepting that the SNP are the only possible vehicle for achieving independence, and the SNP leadership in turn accepting that Peter has been right all along about UDI - something which is of course light-years away from what they would ever accept.  As with the embarrassing #Referendum2018 episode, he feels sure that the SNP could be just a little push away from seeing the light, whereas they actually look upon him and his views as totally batty, and would be far less likely to listen to him than they would to even Alba politicians.

It's precisely because the SNP are not open to alternative ideas on achieving an independence mandate that Alba was formed - and yes, because of the party's current position in the polls, it's going to take an awful lot of hard work to gain traction and achieve our objectives.  But the solution is to get stuck in and actually do that hard work.  It's not to delude ourselves into believing that there's an easy silver bullet available if Peter A Bell can just have a stern word with Nicola Sturgeon.

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Barring something unexpected, this will be the last Scot Goes Pop blogpost of 2021. It's been another epic year for the blog: we've commissioned no fewer than three full-scale opinion polls, and produced fourteen podcasts with well-known guests such as Alex Salmond, Chris McEleny and Yvonne Ridley.  If you'd like more of the same in 2022, donations are still very much welcome at the fundraiser page HERE.  Or, if you prefer, you can donate direct via Paypal.  My Paypal email address is:

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Scot Goes Pop proudly presents a festive Pete Wishart word-search puzzle

It's somehow been forgotten in the mists of time that Scot Goes Pop once had a regular 'Word-Search Wednesday' puzzle feature.  (The Denis MacShane word-search was my all-time favourite, although the Councillor Terry Kelly word-search was a close second.)  As it's the festive period, and as it's ACTUALLY WEDNESDAY, I thought I'd revive the tradition for one night only with a word-search in fond tribute to all things Pete Wishart.

And here are the words you're looking for (the ones in bold only)...

"They have some sort of obsession with carrots.  I simply can't understand it."

"If I wasn't gagging for independence so I can get away from this ghastly job at Westminster at maximum speed, people might start imagining something utterly ludicrous like me wearing slippers."

"My Westminster pension is the last thing I'm thinking about, believe me."

"Bloggers!  Urgh!  Yuck!"

"Having said that, and please rest assured there's no contradiction here at all, I'm a rather accomplished blogger myself and I write the blog that everyone's talking about!"

"Alba! Tut! Harrumph! Absolute menaces!"

"And this particular absolute menace is just soooooooo immature for taking a selfie of himself with TWO carrots."

"These absolute menaces will learn one day that you win nothing with hate.  You know, hateful behaviour like taking a selfie of yourself with TWO carrots."

"You can't win independence with a plebiscite.  In other news, I also believe the only route to independence is a referendum, which may or may not be an alternative word for a plebiscite."

"Mr Speaker sir, oh how I wish I was addressing myself with those words."

"Order!  Order!  AW-DAAAAAAH!"

"As a tireless worker for the cause of independence, what could be more natural than for me to be promoting a recruitment drive for careers at Westminster?"

"Your claim that I am an incredibly sensitive chairman of this committee - HOW DARE YOU CALL ME INEPT - is erroneous."

"Hold!  Hold!  Hold!  Hold!  Hold!  Hold!  Hold!  Hooold!  HOOOOOOOOLD!!!!!!!"

Astonishingly, Toni Giugliano doesn't understand how the STV voting system works

Toni Giugliano, the SNP's unsuccessful constituency candidate in Dumbarton, posted three rather unwise tweets about the Alba party yesterday - including one in which he unwittingly gave the game away about his own lack of knowledge about Scotland's electoral systems.

"Imagine running a council election campaign against one of the most marginalised groups in society. WTF is wrong with these people?"

"Aren’t these the same people who pontificate about Indy being their top priority? Well here’s a wee problem for Abla (sic). This is an STV election. Every vote taken away from the SNP lets pro-union parties in. No gains in this elections and it’s all over."

"What might seem insignificant or “fringe” today could easily become mainstream tomorrow. Always challenge injustice. Never ignore."

Of course I have to start by briefly challenging Toni's appalling cynicism in lying - and it is, without question, an intentional lie - that Alba's campaign against legally-recognised gender self-ID somehow constitutes a campaign against trans people.  Alba fully respects the rights of trans people - and that includes, incidentally, their right to identify as they wish in their day-to-day lives.  It's the way that the legal enforcement of gender self-identification could infringe the rights of others, especially of women and girls, that Alba are quite rightly concerned about. It also has to be said that if Toni really believes that people who wish to self-ID are "one of the most marginalised groups in society", he ought to be questioning why the apparatus of the state is so full-bloodedly behind them (as indeed are four of Scotland's six largest political parties).  Other marginalised communities don't enjoy anything like that kind of protection or support - consider, for example, Scotland's small and vulnerable Russian community, who regularly have to endure dreadful Russophobic comments from senior politicians such as Stewart McDonald.  I haven't noticed Fiona Robertson rushing to get round the table with representatives of the Russian community to draw up a working definition of Russophobia that could be used to discipline McDonald if he refuses to reflect on his conduct.

But Toni's quite right about one thing - the fact that Alba are being dismissed as "fringe" today doesn't mean that the party won't be mainstream tomorrow.

This is primarily a blogpost about Toni's quite astonishing ignorance of the STV voting system used for the local council elections, though.  We've seen similarly ill-informed tweets from Peter Grant MP a few months ago.  Both men have clearly suggested that there is somehow a danger of Alba splitting the pro-independence vote in an STV election in a way that there wasn't in the Scottish Parliament election a few months ago, which was conducted by AMS (the Additional Member System). In fact, the polar opposite is true.  Anyone who voted Alba on the Holyrood list ballot in May was voting against the SNP.  You could only vote for one party on the list, and whichever party you chose, you were rejecting all of the others and harming their chances of winning list seats.  There may have been a strategy behind it, you may have thought with some justification that SNP list votes were highly likely to be wasted, but neverthless there were undoubtedly scenarios in which voting Alba could theoretically have reduced the number of SNP seats.

There is no such scenario in local elections under STV, because STV is a preferential voting system, which means you don't have to reject the SNP to vote Alba.  If the Alba candidate is eliminated, your vote will simply transfer to your second preference candidate, and if that person is an SNP candidate, your vote will have exactly the same effect as it would have done if you'd given your first preference vote to the SNP.  That's not in any way a figure of speech, it's quite literally true.  Votes are not 'diluted' when they're transferred from a first preference candidate to a second preference candidate.

So a few obvious questions for Toni Giugliano and Peter Grant.  Why don't you understand all of this?  Don't you think senior politicians should educate themselves about a voting system before pontificating on it? And once you do understand the significance of STV being a preferential voting system, will you be urging SNP voters to give their lower preferences to other pro-indy parties, including Alba? If not, do you understand that you will be needlessly reducing the number of pro-indy councillors across Scotland, and increasing the number of unionist councillors? Doesn't that suggest that whatever your agenda is, it's not one that prioritises independence?

Incidentally, just in case anyone wrongly assumes that I've changed my own tune on STV elections since joining Alba, here is the video I made for the 2017 local elections with Phantom Power, in which I explain in detail how the system works, and make precisely the same point that I've made above - that SNP voters should give their lower preferences to other pro-indy parties and candidates (which back then mostly meant the Greens).

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

What Would Jeggit Do?

For those of you who still wear your WWJD bracelets, you need wonder no longer, because the great man's latest blogpost leaves little doubt that the answer to the question is: give up, throw in the towel.  In fact, Jeggit isn't just giving up on independence for the fabled "generation", but for two generations, judging from his comment about how our grandchildren might yet get it right.

Does Jeggit have a point? Short answer: no.  If the independence cause was as dead as he seems to believe, Scotland would look very different from how it does today.  It would look, in short, like the Scotland of twenty years ago.  There would be a unionist coalition government at Holyrood, with no indication in the opinion polls of a pro-independence alternative being viable.  The SNP would have only a tiny handful of seats in the House of Commons.  Support for independence would be in the doldrums.  All of those things could very well happen again at some point in the future, but for the time being there's absolutely no sign of it.

Instead, what do we have? A majority pro-independence SNP-Green government, which would almost certainly be re-elected if there was an election tomorrow.  Pro-independence parties (the SNP, Alba and Margaret Ferrier) have over 80% of the Scottish seats in the Commons, and that situation might actually improve if there was a fresh election.  And support for independence stands at either 50% or 55%, depending on which of the two most recent polls you believe.  We are, in a nutshell, in a phenomenally strong position.  We have the means to bring about a vote on independence, and we have a realistic chance of winning that vote if it occurs.

There is, admittedly, a practical problem.  Our pro-independence government has been hijacked by an SNP leadership faction that probably still believes in independence in principle, but is far more preoccupied with sustaining itself in power.  If, as a by-product of staying in power, independence was somehow to magically fall into these people's laps, they would be happy enough about it.  But they're certainly not going to take any risks to make it happen.  And in the real world, independence can't and won't happen without risks being taken.

But this is a practical problem with a practical solution.  A useful comparison is the ban on fox-hunting in England, which was brought in under the Blair government.  Labour were elected on a commitment to legislate for a ban, but the leadership had no intention of actually doing anything about it because they didn't want to offend small 'c' conservatives in the countryside.  In the end, though, the Labour grass-roots and backbench MPs piled on enough pressure that the leadership realised they would pay too high a price by failing to act.

So the task for all of us is to make the SNP leadership realise that they will pay heavily if they fail to honour their promise of holding a referendum in 2023.  That pressure can come from within the SNP, or from outside via support for Alba.  Jeggit, however, insists that Alba will never command majority support in Scotland for as long as it holds its current position on the trans issue.  That's odd on two counts: firstly, opinion polls convincingly show that Alba's position on the trans issue is shared by the majority of the population, while Jeggit's position is shared by a relatively modest minority.  And secondly, Alba don't actually need to command a majority anyway - they just need 5-10% of the vote to force the SNP to think about what it would take to win those voters back.  And we all know what it would take - genuine action on independence.

Sunday, December 26, 2021

Boxing Day drama as new Opinium poll is first online poll since early September to show support for independence at 50% or higher

So I've got my wish - the Opinium poll for the Sunday Mail contains independence referendum voting intention numbers, so at last we have an opportunity to judge the impact of the Downing Street party on the state of play.  But actually the results have ended up muddying the waters somewhat.

Should Scotland be an independent country? (Opinium, 15th-22nd December 2021)

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

There are two completely different ways of interpreting this.  There's a small (and statistically insignificant) 1% swing to No since the last poll conducted by Opinium in early September.  However, that September poll was an oasis in the desert - of the twelve online polls conducted by all firms since mid-May, it was the only one that didn't show a No lead.  So it just depends on how you interpret the September poll - was it an outlier caused by sampling variation? If so, the salient point about the new poll is that it's the first online poll since September to show Yes breaking the 50% barrier, and thus could indicate that the Downing Street party scandal has caused a modest pro-Yes swing.

On the other hand, the Yes lead in the September poll could indicate that Opinium have a slightly Yes-friendly methodology compared to other online firms, in which case the new poll could suggest that nothing much has changed.  As ever, we'll have to wait for a couple more polls from a couple more firms to find out which interpretation is the correct one.

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You can catch up with my Scot Goes Popcast interview with iScot editor Ken McDonald HERE (on video) or HERE (audio only). 

Boxing Day poll shows Scottish Tories on course for a 1997-style total wipeout at Westminster

Bizarrely, given that it's currently either Christmas Day or Boxing Day (depending on your point of view on the significance of midnight), there's a poll out.  It's in the Sunday Mail, and so far all I know is what's contained on the front page of the paper, which is very little.  No indication of which polling company was used (although I suspect it might have been Survation, because the Sunday Mail have used them before), and there's no sign of the full voting intention numbers.  The only thing that's revealed is that the Scottish Tories are projected to be on course for a 1997-style total wipeout at Westminster, which is suggested to be as a result of the fallout from the Downing Street party scandal.  Hopefully there might be independence numbers in the poll, because I'd like to know if the scandal has had any effect on those.  But the Tory vote share must be low by recent standards, because a seats projection of zero is a long way from the norm.

I'll update this post with the poll results as and when they emerge.

UPDATE: It's turned out to be an Opinium poll, not Survation.

Scottish voting intentions for the next UK general election (Opinium / Sunday Mail, 15th-22nd December 2021):

SNP 48% (-3)
Labour 22% (+5)
Conservatives 17% (-4)
Liberal Democrats 7% (+2)

The percentage changes are measured from the last Opinium poll, which was commissioned by Sky News in September.

Seats projection (with changes from 2019 election): SNP 56 (+8), Liberal Democrats 2 (-2), Labour 1 (-), Conservatives 0 (-6)

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Neale Hanvey, the Alba Party MP for Kirkcaldy & Cowdenbeath, has an extended opinion piece in Lesbian and Gay News about the three recent opinion polls on GRA reform - namely the Scot Goes Pop / Panelbase poll from October, the Murray Blackburn Mackenzie / Survation poll from November, and the very recent For Women Scotland / Panelbase poll, all of which showed overwhelming public opposition to legally-recognised gender self-identification.  You can read Neale's piece HERE.

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You can catch up with my Scot Goes Popcast interview with iScot editor Ken McDonald HERE (on video) or HERE (audio only). 

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

The troubling side of public opinion: one-quarter of Scottish voters think defendants should be regarded as guilty until proved innocent

Because Wings Over Scotland has theoretically shut up shop, I haven't been keeping an eye on the site, and I was surprised to discover today that there have been a couple of brief updates since I last checked.  One of them is a thoroughly disturbing result from a Panelbase poll commissioned by Wings.  It found that 26% of Scottish voters want the presumption of innocence to be abolished for men accused of rape, with the accusation regarded as true unless the defendant can disprove it.  A further 22% want jury trials to be abolished for rape cases, in order to address what the poll question implies is an abysmally low conviction rate.

What I find curious is that Stuart uses the title "Believing Her", which - unless it's meant ironically - might give the impression of approving of the poll results, something which would be totally at odds with his views on a high-profile court case last year.  He did not believe the complainers in that case, and based on the verdict he was entirely right not to do so.  So would he really be keen on a system that would have required the court and the jury to start with the assumption that those complainers were telling the truth? 

It's sometimes said that false allegations of sexual assault are exceptionally rare - but a) that claim is not uncontested, and b) even if it's right, nobody seriously argues that false complaints are totally non-existent.  Reversing the burden of proof would almost certainly see men go to prison for sex crimes they did not commit - the only question is how many.  There are good reasons for suspecting that the amount of false complaints would skyrocket once people realise that they can easily destroy someone they have a grudge against, and without any particularly high risk of repercussions.

Of course in the real world, no government in a liberal democracy would introduce a presumption of guilt, regardless of public opinion on the matter. However, the fact that so many people hold such an extreme view means that the government could be pushing at an open door if they opt to erode the safeguards for defendants in more limited ways.  This is the end result of an ideology that would have us believe that the role of the courts is to provide a service for complainers by securing a conviction, rather than to test the allegations and establish whether or not they are true. 

In fairness, people who took part in the poll were probably heavily influenced by the claims made in the question wording about the conviction rate for rape and how it is supposedly much worse than for other crimes. That made it very hard for respondents not to say that "something drastic must be done". But there is an alternative point of view - this blogpost (written, I believe, by a Liberal Democrat) compellingly advances the view that an apples and oranges comparison may be creating a very misleading impression of the statistics.

34% of respondents in the Wings poll take a relatively moderate stance by saying that the conviction rate should be boosted by abolishing the Scots law requirement for corroborating evidence.  This wouldn't drive a coach and horses through the principles of justice in quite the same way as a presumption of guilt or the abolition of jury trials.  Nevertheless, my recollection is that corroboration is regarded by legal experts as balancing out other disadvantages that defendants have under Scots law - for example the fact that they can be found guilty of serious crimes on the basis of just eight votes on a fifteen-strong jury.  That is not the case in England, and it may be that we'd need to reconsider the question of a threshold for majority verdicts if the need for corroboration was to be discarded.

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You can catch up with my Scot Goes Popcast interview with iScot editor Ken McDonald HERE (on video) or HERE (audio only). 

Sunday, December 19, 2021

A third poll in quick succession shows Scottish voters are overwhelmingly opposed to legally-recognised gender self-ID

So make that a hat-trick.  The Scot Goes Pop / Panelbase poll on GRA reform in October showed a massive majority against legally-recognised gender self-ID, as did a Survation poll a few days ago for the policy analysis organisation Murray Blackburn Mackenzie.  Now there's also a brand new multi-question Panelbase poll commissioned by For Women Scotland which has produced the same outcome.

The format of the main self-ID question is closer to the Survation poll than to the Scot Goes Pop / Panelbase poll, because it's binary-choice and asks whether people wishing to change their legal gender should need to be assessed by medical experts, or whether they should be able to self-identify.  71% think medical approval should be required, with only 29% in favour of self-ID.  Without having seen the datasets yet, I'm not sure whether those are the figures after Don't Knows were removed, or whether there wasn't a Don't Know option on this occasion.  The equivalent figures in the Survation poll were 53% for a doctor's approval being required, and 27% in favour of self-ID, with the remainder saying 'Don't Know'.  The Scot Goes Pop / Panelbase poll had a four-option format, with 20% of respondents favouring self-ID, compared with a combined 58% for the three options which excluded the possibility of self-ID.

The results of two other questions from the For Women Scotland poll have been released so far.  33% of respondents think trans women who have male genitalia should be allowed to access women's changing rooms, hospital wards and refuges, with 67% saying they should be excluded.  That's substantively the same as one of the questions from the Scot Goes Pop poll (with a very similar result), but I would guess the reason it was asked was that my own question wasn't so specific about "male genitalia", and For Women Scotland probably wanted to see what effect a more direct question wording would have.

Just 27% of respondents think under-18s should be able to change their name and sex in school records without parental consent, while 73% think they should not.

My observation is once again the same.  In a parliamentary democracy, it is entirely legitimate for MSPs to decide that they know better than the public, and to legislate in defiance of public opinion if they genuinely think it is the right thing to do.  But what we do have a right to expect is that MSPs acknowledge that they are indeed disregarding the public's wishes, rather than pretending that the sky is green and that the public are right behind them. The polling evidence is absolutely crystal-clear: Scottish voters overwhelmingly oppose legally-recognised gender self-ID and want the Scottish Government's proposed change to the law to be rejected.

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You can catch up with my Scot Goes Popcast interview with iScot editor Ken McDonald HERE (on video) or HERE (audio only). 

Saturday, December 18, 2021

Why are the BBC allowing their news website to be used for propaganda against the introduction of Covid safety restrictions?

It's been a long time since I've written a blogpost specifically about the pandemic, but there's something that's been bothering me over the last couple of days, and it would probably take more than a tweet or two to make the point properly.  The BBC have a "health correspondent" called Nick Triggle - essentially he's a pro-virus propagandist who since early 2020 has pumped out article after article calling on governments to do nothing to tackle the virus, or to do as little as he can plausibly get away with arguing for.  "We must learn to live with the virus, it's not so bad, you know" has been his basic position throughout.  He's actually wholly typical of the type of people who have been jumping ship in recent months to GB News, but in his own case there's been no need for him to go anywhere, because for some inexplicable reason the BBC are content to indulge him and allow him to be a one-man GB News within their own walls.

Triggle has consistently been wrong on all of the major calls, every step of the way, but he never acknowledges his errors - he just reframes his argument as "there may have been good reasons for taking action at past stages of the pandemic, but this time it's totally different, this time we really must do nothing".  A couple of days ago he tried the same stunt again, suggesting that a new lockdown would be harmful and pointless.  It wouldn't, he said, serve the same purpose as earlier lockdowns, which were about buying time until the bulk of the population could be vaccinated - something which has now occurred.  He also claimed that restrictions weren't necessary to prevent the NHS from being overwhelmed, because "just" 8% of NHS beds are occupied by Covid patients, compared to one-third of beds at one point last winter.

An intelligent hamster could spot the flaws in those arguments.  What matters is not how many beds are currently occupied, but how many will  be occupied within two or three weeks if Omicron is allowed to spread unchecked.  Given the very high R number of Omicron, the answer to that question could be mind-boggling.  And it also doesn't particularly matter that the majority of the population are nominally vaccinated, because we now have credible evidence - including from Professor Neil Ferguson's group - that a single or double dose of the vaccine offers very little protection against Omicron, but that those who have been triple-vaccinated (ie. with a booster jag) are significantly less likely to suffer a symptomatic infection.  So it's not at all hard to see what new restrictions could buy us time to do - governments are trying to complete the booster programme within a month, and if we can just slow the spread of Omicron for that relatively short period of time, a large part of the problem could be solved.

It's probably the case that the type of very literal 'lockdown' we've had before isn't necessary - for example, it's hard to see how preventing people from travelling between local authority areas would make much difference, as long as they're not engaging in risky activities.  And that's the key - we need large gatherings (including concerts) to be stopped, pubs and clubs to be shut, and severe restrictions on other types of indoor socialising.  Lives genuinely depend on it - and it's deeply irresponsible for the BBC to allow their website to be used for nonsensical propagandising against much-needed safety measures. 

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You can catch up with my Scot Goes Popcast interview with iScot editor Ken McDonald HERE (on video) or HERE (audio only). 

Friday, December 17, 2021

North Shropshire: the Scottish impact

I was asked what impact the sensational North Shropshire by-election result might have on Scottish politics.  I think that's quite difficult to tell at the moment because there are too many variables.  We were told that a gain for the Liberal Democrats might trigger Boris Johnson's downfall, but now that it's actually come to pass, the consequences have been predictably downgraded to "he's in the last chance saloon".  The comparison that some people are making is with the Eastbourne by-election of 1990 which set in motion a chain of events that led to Margaret Thatcher's ousting as Prime Minister a few weeks later.  But an equally valid comparison is with the Newbury and Christchurch by-elections of 1993, which the Lib Dems won on massive swings, leaving the Tories in little doubt that John Major couldn't lead them to victory in 1997 - but they did nothing much about that for four years.

The conventional wisdom is that it would be Christmas for the Yes movement if Boris Johnson is still Prime Minister when a referendum or plebiscitary election is held - but the one possible caveat would be if Johnson becomes damaged to the point where it's obvious that Labour are likely to win the next general election, which would make it harder for us to portray the choice as being between independence and Tory rule.  There might yet be a strategic advantage in Johnson being replaced with another leader like Michael Gove or Priti Patel who would still be deeply unpopular in Scotland, but who might look like having a more plausible chance of winning the 2024 election.

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You can catch up with my Scot Goes Popcast interview with iScot editor Ken McDonald HERE (on video) or HERE (audio only).

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Carrot and stick: The Wishous Circle

"We cannot risk calling a referendum unless we are 100% certain of victory.  To lose again would be catastrophic, there would be no possibility of a third referendum."

"Your premise that there can't possibly be a third referendum seems a bit dubious, but if you really think you're right about that, clearly it's always going to be far too risky to hold a second referendum, because referendums are fundamentally unpredictable things and there would never be a 100% chance of victory.  So it looks like the onus is on you to come up with an alternative to a referendum.  What do you propose?"

"A referendum is the ONLY conceivable route to independence! It's the gold standard!  It's the only mandate the international community would ever regard as valid!  To depart from the one true golden path is deeply irresponsible!"

"Well, departing from it wasn't my idea, but it seemed to be the inescapable logic of your own position.  OK, so you're now saying a referendum is our path to independence.  When are we going to hold one?"

"We cannot risk calling a referendum!"

"OK, so what's your alternative to a referendum?"

"A referendum is the ONLY conceivable route to independence!"

"This sounds like a vicious circle."

"You're only saying that because you're a BLOGGER.  Urgh.  Shudder."

"You seem pretty disgusted about me being a blogger."

"I am.  In fact I'm going to write a blogpost about how disgusted I am and call it The Blog That Everyone's Talking About."

"Doesn't that make you a blogger too?"


"Would you like a carrot?"

"Oh yes, I'd love one, thanks so much."

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You can catch up with my Scot Goes Popcast interview with iScot editor Ken McDonald HERE (on video) or HERE (audio only).

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Another poll, this time conducted by Survation, confirms the Scottish public are strongly opposed to legally-recognised gender self-ID

Trying to commission Scot Goes Pop's comprehensive poll on GRA reform and related issues a couple of months ago was an extremely stressful and bruising process, and by the time I finally got it done I did genuinely wonder whether Panelbase were the only polling firm in the UK that would actually have been willing to conduct the poll with balanced questions that hadn't been converted into incomprehensible Stonewall-speak.  So it's heartening to see that Survation agreed to carry out a Scottish poll in November on the principle of legally-recognised gender self-identification on behalf of policy analysts Murray Blackburn Mackenzie, and that the question asked was reasonably straightforward.  It was a binary-choice question on whether a doctor's approval should be required for a legal change of gender.

The results are broadly in line with the Scot Goes Pop / Panelbase poll from October, with only 27% of respondents indicating support for self-ID by saying a doctor's approval shouldn't be needed.  53% take the opposite view, and the remainder don't know.  As a reminder, the Scot Goes Pop poll had a four-option format, and found 20% support for self-ID, and a combined 58% support for the other options which all precluded self-ID.

So we have a clear division between the views of the voters, and the views of the parliamentarians those voters elected.  On paper at least, there is an overwhelming majority in the Scottish Parliament for self-ID, due to the SNP, Labour, the Greens and the Liberal Democrats all being in favour.  And in a parliamentary democracy, it's the verdict of parliament that matters.  However, what I would urge of MSPs is this: if you do decide to push through self-ID, at least be clear-sighted about the fact that you'll be doing so against the wishes of the public, and that the evidence for that is now compelling. People who tell you otherwise are, to be blunt, trying to con you.  The only real polling counterweight to the Panelbase and Survation results is a Savanta ComRes poll from the start of this year which asked a deeply flawed and leading question.  It studiously downplayed self-ID as merely an administrative tidying-up exercise to make life easier for people, and although it mentioned that there were objections from certain quarters, it was weirdly vague about what those objections were.

Ipsos-Mori's in-house identity politics extremist Mark McGeoghegan wrote a breathless analysis piece after the ComRes poll presenting the results as unquestionable gospel - and yet, without a trace of irony or self-awareness, he posted a series of tweets a few months later dismissing the carefully balanced questions in the Scot Goes Pop / Panelbase poll as completely invalid.  He was mysteriously unable or unwilling to specify what he thought was actually wrong with the wording of eight of the nine questions, including the main self-ID question.  (He did make a more specific complaint about the ninth question - but what he said didn't actually make any sense.)

The reality is that the polls that show big majorities against self-ID are the ones that use plain language and allow respondents to understand what they're being asked.  The poll that purported to show support for self-ID used vague and obfuscatory language.  That tells its own story.

*  *  *

You can catch up with my Scot Goes Popcast interview with iScot editor Ken McDonald HERE (on video) or HERE (audio only).

Monday, December 13, 2021

Ken McDonald, editor of iScot magazine, is the special guest on Episode 14 of the Scot Goes Popcast

For Episode 14 of the Scot Goes Popcast I was joined by Ken McDonald, the editor of iScot magazine, which I've written a monthly column for since 2017.  It's a unique publication, because it's a high-quality print magazine in wide circulation that is explicitly pro-independence and run by grass-roots Yes supporters. Many people have probably heard of iScot without having taken a look for themselves yet, and if that describes you, this podcast is a golden opportunity to find out what you're missing.  Ken explains...

* How he started the magazine as an alternative to shouting at the TV when "Jackanory" Jim Murphy was being interviewed.

* The vital importance of having a pro-Yes print publication, given that many older people can't really be reached by online New Media.

* How iScot's readership demographics very closely mirror the demographics of No voters in the 2014 referendum, leaving the magazine ideally placed to reach the people whose minds need to be changed.

* Why only a relatively small proportion of the magazine's articles are directly about politics and independence, with the others showcasing what a capable country Scotland is.

* Why he's confident that iScot will still be around in seven or eight years' time.

* How iScot is a platform for all shades of opinion within the independence movement, including the SNP, Alba and IFS.

* What happened when iScot thought it had arranged an interview with Peter Murrell.

You can listen to the episode as a traditional podcast via the embedded Soundcloud player below, or via the direct Soundcloud link, or you can watch it in video form via the embedded YouTube player.  The Popcast is also available on Stitcher and Spotify.

To find out the various ways of purchasing iScot, either in print or as a digital download, please click HERE.

Friday, December 10, 2021

The fury over the Downing Street party could be a Cummings-style game-changer triggering a big resurgence in the pro-independence vote

One thing I'm quite proud of (although obviously there was a high degree of luck involved) is that I commissioned the opinion poll in June 2020 that turned out to be the first in the historic unbroken sequence of twenty Yes-majority polls, which continued all the way into the first few weeks of this year.  The reason I decided to commission a poll at that particular time was that there had been dismay in the independence movement about how the Yes lead that was established in the immediate aftermath of the 2019 general election had quickly vanished in the early days of the pandemic, and there was a theory that Dominic Cummings' escapades in Barnard Castle may have reversed that trend - if only we had a poll to find out.  It turned out there had indeed been a Yes resurgence - although of course it was impossible to be 100% sure that Cummings had caused it.

My guess is that the recent revelations about the Downing Street party have similar game-changing potential, and may actually be of an even greater magnitude.  After Allegra Stratton's video was leaked, non-political friends started messaging me about it, which is always a strong clue that an event has really cut through.  The first batch of GB-wide polls since the news broke has shown a sharp swing from Tory to Labour - which is also exactly what happened after the Cummings episode.  There's no guarantee that a poll now would show a corresponding swing from No to Yes, but I personally think there's quite a high probability that it would.  On this occasion, there's no need to commission a poll for psychological reasons, because as it happens the most recent poll showed a huge Yes majority anyway.  (That's a relief for me, because I'm too mentally exhausted from our October poll to even contemplate doing another one until a reasonable amount of time has elapsed.) But nevertheless this turn of events could muddy the waters somewhat, because my own suspicion was that the main reason for Ipsos-Mori showing a Yes lead was the poll's telephone methodology - I thought it was likely that an online poll conducted at the same time would continue to show a modest No advantage.  If an online poll does turn up before Christmas and shows a Yes lead, people will inevitably say "this confirms the Ipsos-Mori trend" - but it'll be equally possible that the swing to Yes has occurred since the Ipsos-Mori poll was conducted, and that it's mostly caused by the fallout from the party.

*  *  *

Any Wikipedia editors around?  As I've pointed out before, the Wikipedia entry for the Alba Party is in an absolutely indefensible state, and was clearly written to a large extent by editors with an anti-Alba agenda.  It's entirely normal for any Wiki piece on a political party to have a section that summarises criticisms of the party - but what is totally abnormal is the proportion of the article which is taken up by the criticisms section, the scathing tone of that section which veers into outright bias at one or two points, and its 'everything including the kitchen sink' approach.  Compare it to the almost reverential tone of the Wiki entry for the Scottish Green Party and you'll see what I mean.

I do edit Wikipedia occasionally, but as I'm on the Alba NEC, I have a feeling someone would cry foul if I touched the Alba entry, and would probably start quoting some obscure Wikipedia rule at me (there's one for every occasion).  But I do think that article needs to be sorted out by other editors - just to normalise it and make it comparable to the equivalent articles for other political parties.

Sunday, December 5, 2021

An offer to my keyboard warrior critics: step out of the shadows and debate me openly on the next Scot Goes Popcast

There are a number of keyboard warriors on the Wee Ginger Dug blog, the vast majority hiding behind a username that does not reveal their identity, who seem absolutely obsessed with me.  They regularly make passive-aggressive comments, some of which refer to me by name, others that don't but leave little doubt that I'm the target.  I made one of these individuals an offer earlier this evening - come out of the shadows and actually debate with me properly on the next edition of the Scot Goes Popcast.  Let's see if your claims about me, or about the Alba Party, or your absolute faith in the SNP leadership to deliver an independence referendum in the absence of external pressure, can withstand scrutiny or cross-examination.

So far I haven't heard back from him, so I'm now going to extend that offer to any of the regular tag-team on Wee Ginger Dug, or indeed to anyone who participated in the extended and often abusive Twitter pile-on as I was publishing the results of our comprehensive poll on GRA reform and related gender issues.  The deadline to email me and accept the offer is tomorrow night - the reason for that is simply that I'm keen to record one more podcast of some description before the end of the year, and if no-one comes forward I'll need time to contact potential guests.

This is not in any way a trap - if you listen to the previous Popcast episodes you'll find that I don't hog the discussion and that guests are always given space to develop their points.  I won't edit the recording in any way unless there's an exceptionally good reason (for example a legal issue or something like that).

If you'd like to volunteer before the deadline, my email address is:

On past form, this will be the moment when a large number of very noisy people suddenly fall totally silent.  But go on - prove me wrong.

Saturday, December 4, 2021

Give me an effective tyrant?

For anyone who still doesn't understand - or pretends not to understand - why the Alba Party needs to exist, I can recommend Robin McAlpine's article from around a week ago that summarises the campaign of dirty tricks that the SNP leadership indulged in to essentially overturn the results of the democratic internal elections in November 2020 that saw candidates from the Common Weal slate and the Women's Pledge slate do exceptionally well.  As Robin notes, the end result of that campaign was that the victorious candidates were largely replaced by the very people they had been elected to replace, and without any further vote.  There can be no greater perversion of the democratic process than that.  Of course the leadership loyalist version of what happened is that some of the winners randomly took a huff and decided to leave the party, and that the runners-up valiantly stepped up to keep the show on the road.  The reality is more like the equivalent of constructive dismissal - if it's made impossible for you to fulfil the obligations of your elected role or of your mandate, departure is not really a voluntary choice.  Remember that not all of the people who resigned from the positions they had been elected to ended up joining Alba - some simply resigned and remained within the SNP.  If you genuinely have power and influence within a party of government, you're highly unlikely to relinquish that power to languish on the fringes of the party, and you're equally unlikely to give up that power to join a much smaller party.  The fact that so many people did resign is entirely consistent with Robin's account of a leadership that refused to accept the results of the vote.  The victorious candidates had been left, to coin a phrase, "in office but not in power", and they had nowhere left to go but the exit gate.

But this raises another question. However maddening and unacceptable these events were, are we missing a bigger picture? Some would phrase it this way: is taking a stand against the arrogance and entitlement of the likes of Alyn Smith and Fiona Robertson really more important than securing independence for this country?  If that was truly the choice, I would say no.  There has been many a tyrant down the ages who has nevertheless been an effective leader capable of guiding his followers to the promised land. (To take perhaps the most extreme example, it was the mass-murdering despot Stalin who was more responsible than any other leader for rescuing Europe from the Nazis.)  If I felt that the SNP leadership were serious about delivering an independence referendum and had a viable strategy to achieve that, I would say "let's ignore every provocation and maintain iron discipline behind that leadership". As much as almost everyone who has joined Alba feels far happier in their new political home and are now free to just be themselves, it would be much better being miserable within the SNP for a couple more years and actually getting our independence.  That's realpolitik.  Sadly, however, what we seem to be dealing with in this particular case is an ineffective tyranny, or a tyranny that doesn't even want to be effective.  The determination to achieve independence in the real world, not just as a nice theory, appears to be entirely absent - as does any credible thinking about how that might actually be done.  In the scenario we're actually living in, then, the natural human response to the leadership's outrageous "counter-revolution" a year ago does not in any way conflict with strategic good sense about how to achieve independence.  If the SNP's strategic vacuum can't be changed from within, external pressure from another party will have to bring about that change.

There is one big caveat, though.  If an independence referendum does actually take place in the next two or three years, either because pressure from Alba has paid off or because the SNP leadership's resolve suddenly stiffens for some other reason, it will at that point become counterproductive for Alba to keep harrying Nicola Sturgeon - the only opponents we'll need to be fighting are unionists.  A lot of self-discipline will be required, because the SNP are unlikely to reciprocate with magnanimity towards Alba. Given one or two depressing precedents in recent weeks, I can well imagine that an umbrella Yes campaign will be set up that includes the SNP and the Greens but excludes "the Alba bigots".  If so, that will be an act of monumental stupidity and self-harm, reminiscent of Labour's catastrophic decision to exclude "the filthy SNP separatists" from the main Yes campaign in the 1979 devolution referendum.  But nevertheless, we in Alba will just have to turn the other cheek and get on with our own positive Yes campaign - because independence comes before everything.

Friday, December 3, 2021

Massive 21% increase in vote share for pro-independence parties in the Fort William & Ardnamurchan by-election

So I'm quite excited to be able to report on a local by-election result from a ward I spent a couple of nights in during the summer, although it's so geographically enormous that probably quite a lot of us have been there recently! While the Westminster village was preoccupied with a routine Tory hold in Sir Edward Heath's former constituency, for Scottish politics-watchers yesterday was all about Fort William & Ardnamurchan.

Fort William & Ardnamurchan by-election result (2nd December 2021):

SNP: 39.6% (+6.7)
Conservatives: 21.2% (+8.5) 
Greens: 14.3% (+14.3) 
Liberal Democrats: 10.1% (+5.5) 
Independent - McKenna: 8.5% (+8.5) 
Independent - Matheson: 3.8% (-0.5) 
Independent - Drayton: 2.4% (+2.4)

Almost every time I report on an STV by-election result, I have to explain that things are not quite as they seem - the result might be billed as a "hold" for a party that has jumped from second place to first in the popular vote, or as a "gain" for a party that has merely remained in first place in the popular vote.  Our old friend Mike Smithson was left red-faced after misunderstanding that point on one celebrated occasion - and he's a renowned letter-writing totally objective Liberal Democrat election expert, so it's very easily done.

Fort William & Ardnamurchan is a particularly complicated example, though, because yesterday's result is technically an SNP gain from the Conservatives - in spite of the fact that a) neither party topped the poll last time around (an independent candidate did), b) the SNP were well ahead of the Tories last time around, and c) there was actually a small swing from SNP to Tory yesterday.

The percentage increases that all of the parties enjoyed can be mostly explained by a large number of votes that went to the victorious independent candidate in 2017 being up for grabs this time, and splitting multiple ways.  That said, the SNP are still entitled to regard their own increase as impressive, if only because it was achieved in spite of a Green intervention - in other words they didn't face competition for the pro-indy vote in 2017, but this time there was competition and it was remarkably stiff.  The combined vote share for the pro-indy parties is actually a whopping 21 points higher than it was four years ago.

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Pro-independence parties on course to win combined 56% share of the vote on the Holyrood list ballot - and Alba are still registering

Today's astonishing Ipsos-Mori / STV poll, which showed 55% support for independence, also had encouraging news for all three of the major pro-independence parties in the Holyrood voting intention numbers...

Scottish Parliament constituency voting intentions:

SNP 52%
Conservatives 19%
Labour 17%
Liberal Democrats 5%
Greens 3%

Scottish Parliament regional list voting intentions:

SNP 43%
Conservatives 20%
Labour 15%
Greens 12%
Liberal Democrats 6%
Alba 1%

Seats projection (with changes from May 2021): SNP 68 (+4), Conservatives 24 (-7), Labour 20 (-2), Greens 12 (+4), Liberal Democrats 5 (+1)

So Alba continue to register in the polls - and it can't be underestimated how important it is for the party to retain that toehold of credibility when it's trying to establish itself and is being starved of media publicity.  The fact that the Greens are so close to matching Labour on the list vote would have been a matter of huge concern for unionists if it had happened five or ten years ago, because it would have opened up the possibility of the main left-of-centre opposition to the SNP being a pro-independence party in the future.  However, that *ought* to be an academic consideration now, assuming the promise of a referendum by the end of 2023 is honoured.

As for the SNP, these numbers suggest they'd improve on May's result markedly in any new election and win an overall majority.  However, as mentioned in the previous post, Ipsos-Mori don't weight by recalled vote, and also overestimated the SNP's support back in the spring.  So it could be that a systemic error simply hasn't been corrected yet.

This rips up everything we thought we knew: Ipsos-Mori TELEPHONE poll shows massive majority support for Scottish independence

Before today, there had been eleven polls since the Holyrood election showing a No lead (albeit for the most part a slim No lead), one showing a tie, and just one showing a slim Yes lead.  The big majorities for independence that we got so used to in 2020 had begun to look, at least for the time being, like a thing of the past.  And yet, all of a sudden, today brought word of a poll that wouldn't have looked at all out of place one year ago.

Should Scotland be an independent country? (Ipsos-Mori / STV, 22nd-29th November 2021)

Yes 55% (+5)
No 45% (-5)

Can one extremely good opinion poll negate the previous thirteen? (Or, to be more precise, eleven of the previous thirteen?)  In usual circumstances, the answer would be no - the suspicion would be that this is probably an outlier result caused by random sampling variation.  At the very least, we'd be cautiously waiting for one or two more polls before jumping to the conclusion that the new trend is real.  But with Ipsos-Mori, in general the only firm to conduct Scottish polls by telephone, it's a different story.  There's still no consensus on whether telephone polls are superior to online polls, or vice versa, and the only reason the vast majority of polls are conducted online is to sharply reduce costs.  If the only telephone poll you have shows a picture that is wildly out of line with the sea of online polls, there are very good reasons for seriously considering the possibility that the telephone poll is actually the accurate one - or closest to being the accurate one.

To be clear, there's no great surprise in Ipsos-Mori showing a Yes lead - in recent years they've been on the Yes-friendly end of the spectrum, so a slim No lead with Panelbase or YouGov might be expected to translate into a slim Yes lead with Ipsos-Mori.  But what is genuinely startling is that Ipsos-Mori are showing a completely different trend from the online firms.  The No leads in the online polls have generally represented little or no change since the latter stages of the Holyrood campaign, whereas today's poll suggests there has been a massive Yes resurgence since the election.  That seriously calls into question the story we have been telling ourselves, and more importantly the story the media have been telling us, about the state of public opinion over the last few months.

Having said all that, the slight health warning that needs to be added is that data collection by telephone is not the only thing that sets Ipsos-Mori apart from other polling companies - they also have a different attitude to weighting by recalled vote.  So in theory that could be an alternative explanation for the disparity.

As Marcia has pointed out in the comments section below, there is a clear Yes majority in today's poll even if Don't Knows are left in: Yes 52%, No 43%, Don't Know 4%.  It's to be hoped that the SNP leadership don't repeat the mistake of last year by treating this Yes lead as a precious piece of china that might break if anyone so much as sneezes, and instead use it to loudly demonstrate that there is a strong appetite for a choice on independence in the near future.

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

This must be the line in the sand - Nicola Sturgeon's promise of a referendum by the end of 2023 must be honoured to the letter

Nicola Sturgeon: "In the course of next year, I will initiate the process necessary to enable a referendum before the end of 2023."

In fairness to Ms Sturgeon and the rest of the SNP leadership, that's a reasonably clear and specific promise compared to some we've heard in the recent past - which means it will be possible to objectively determine on certain cut-off dates whether the promise has been kept or broken.  If, by 31st December 2022, action has not been "initiated" that would "enable" a referendum to take place, then the promise will have been reneged upon - and that initiated action will clearly have to go significantly further than simply sending another letter requesting a Section 30 order, because it's abundantly clear by now that would only result in a firm "no" from London and a dead end.  Realistically, the minimum required for the promise to have been kept will be the tabling of referendum legislation in the absence of a Section 30.

If you read carefully, the promise does not, strictly speaking, require a referendum to have been actually held by 31st December 2023, but from Ms Sturgeon's other comments it's clear that the only reason envisaged for delay beyond 2023 would be the continuation of the pandemic.  So if normal life has more or less resumed by 2023 but no referendum occurs by the end of that year, it'll also be reasonable to conclude the promise has been broken.

If words and promises were enough to get the job done, we'd all be able to relax on the basis of what Ms Sturgeon has now said.  But unfortunately, there have been very similar promises made in the past about the dates by which action would be taken, and those were not honoured.  Even after we were marched back down from the top of the hill in the wake of - ironically - the SNP's landslide victory in the 2017 general election, we were still being told that there would be a referendum once the terms of Brexit became clear, but before Brexit actually occurred.  That simply did not materialise, and no, Covid is not an alibi for that.  Brexit Day was at the end of January 2020, and the threat of Covid was not being taken seriously in this country until late February 2020.

I totally understand the desire to give Ms Sturgeon the benefit of the doubt and assume she means what she says, because I fully shared that desire myself in 2017.  There are still hardcore Wings devotees who excoriate me for my supposed "naivety" back then, but I would strongly argue that it was rational to cut the SNP leadership a little slack at that point.  Less than three years had passed since the first indyref and there was not yet any track record of broken promises.  It would have been wildly premature to assume bad faith - but it's certainly not premature now.

Some people retrospectively justify the lack of a referendum before Brexit by saying "it would have been suicidal to hold one" - well, I'm sorry, but that's just nonsense. The results of referendums are decided during referendum campaigns, not before, and the idea that Yes in the mid-to-high 40s was not a good enough starting position to make victory a possibility is just so ludicrous as to be, frankly, not even worthy of serious consideration.  In any case, there were no conditions attached to the promise of a pre-Brexit referendum.

So I really urge people who have remained loyal to the SNP leadership to make this latest promise your line in the sand.  Believe it to be genuine, by all means, but if it turns out not to be, admit to yourself what has happened.  Don't pretend to yourself that the promise was never really made or that it somehow didn't really count, or that the next promise to hold a referendum in 2030 or 2035 or whenever is somehow the 'real' promise.

This is it.  A referendum by the end of 2023, and certainly the start of a referendum process by the end of next year - or it'll be time for the current SNP leadership to make way for people who are actually serious about independence.

Saturday, November 27, 2021

IPSO is a sham regulator which knowingly issues rulings that endorse lies as the truth - and THIS is the press regulation system that Lady Dorrian thinks justifies bloggers not enjoying equality before the law with journalists? Seriously?!

As mentioned in my previous post, Craig Murray is expected to finally be released from prison on Tuesday morning. One of Lady Dorrian's eyebrow-raising justifications for incarcerating him was a novel principle that mere bloggers should not enjoy equality before the law with mainstream journalists - and her excuse for that was the observation that mainstream journalism, unlike blogging, is "regulated". That means she was according a tremendous amount of significance to the jurisdiction of the press regulator IPSO - an entirely voluntary body which "enforces" an entirely voluntary code. For the new Dorrian Doctrine to have any credibility, then, and certainly for it to have sufficient credibility to even begin to justify imprisoning someone for writing internet articles, it would have to be assumed that the voluntary IPSO system is working exceptionally well. 

Just by complete chance, a truly dreadful example of Scottish political journalism came along recently to give us a golden opportunity to assess whether IPSO is regulating the press as effectively as Dorrian would have us believe - or indeed whether it is regulating the press in any real sense at all. On 20th September 2021, the Daily Record published an article entitled "Scottish independence support drops in new opinion poll on constitution". Both the headline and the main thrust of the article was a downright, deliberate lie. The opinion poll being referred to was a Redfield & Wilton survey showing Yes on 44% and No on 47%, which represented no change whatsoever from the firm's previous poll which also showed Yes on 44% and No on 47%. As a technical justification for the lie, presumably intended as a shield against any complaint to IPSO, the eighth paragraph of the Record article hinted (but didn't state directly) that the claim of a drop in support for independence was based on a comparison with an Opinium poll which had showed a slim Yes lead - but any such implied comparison was an utter nonsense and an insult to the intelligence of every reader. Not only was the Opinium poll conducted by a completely different firm with a completely different methodology (thus meaning that the numbers from the two polls cannot be directly compared), it wasn't even the most recent poll by any firm. Nor was it the second most recent poll by any firm. There were in fact two polls prior to the Redfield & Wilton poll that had fresher fieldwork than the Opinium poll - one conducted by Savanta ComRes and one conducted by Panelbase. The Record had essentially delved back into history with the intention of cherry-picking any poll they could find that would artificially produce the "drop in support for Yes" they wanted to report, but that inconveniently didn't actually exist. 

If it's journalistically acceptable for a newspaper to behave in that way, the reporting of polls becomes an anything goes funfair. Any poll can be reported as showing any trend the journalist wants. A pro-independence journalist, for example, could claim that absolutely any poll shows an increase in support for Yes, as long as they chuck in the disclaimer "oh and by the way I'm making the comparison with a System Three poll published in 1994". Fortunately, however, the IPSO code makes clear that sleights of hand of that sort are not a valid excuse - not only are outright inaccuracies forbidden, but so are "distortions". There was therefore no doubt whatsoever that the Record article was in breach of the code - it was a cynical attempt to hoodwink readers into falsely believing that independence support had fallen. 

But do IPSO actually enforce their own code? You probably won't faint with amazement at the revelation that they don't. A Scot Goes Pop reader lodged a complaint with IPSO, and it was summarily dismissed without even being considered by the Complaints Committee. What was truly staggering, though, was not so much the dismissal itself but the stated reasons for dismissal, which read like the judgement from a show trial in an authoritarian state. They brazenly turned reality on its head by accusing the complainant of doing the exact thing that the Record had done in the offending article - ie. of cherry-picking a poll for comparison.

"While we understand that you considered this inaccurate, as you had found another poll with identical figures preceding the one reported on by the article, where the article made clear on what basis it reported that “independence support drop[ped]”, we found no possible ground to investigate a possible breach of Clause 1."

"As you had found"?  "As you had FOUND"? What?!  What in the name of mercy do these people even think they are talking about?  The complainant hadn't "found" anything - he was simply making a statement of indisputable fact that the poll showed no change from the previous poll conducted by the same firm, which is the universally accepted way of accurately reporting opinion poll trends.  It was the Daily Record that had gone on a mission to "find" a poll that they could use to make the new poll show something it did not show.  What IPSO did was the rough equivalent of playing a piece of CCTV footage backwards to make it look like the victim of theft was the perpetrator.  "Cynical" doesn't even begin to cover it.

On the basis of IPSO's rules, the complainant had a right to appeal, which he naturally did, just on the off-chance that IPSO somehow didn't understand any of the above and had made a catastrophic mistake in good faith.  But no go.  The appeal was summarily rejected as well, and this time they didn't even bother offering reasons, beyond the generic and content-free "your complaint did not raise a possible breach of the Code".

Make no mistake - IPSO is a sham regulator conducting sham investigations. The intent is not to correct lies and to punish journalists who are guilty of them, but instead to buttress lies and glorify them, and effectively provide lying journalists with "truth-teller of outstanding integrity" certificates.  This is the sort of thing you'd expect to happen in a cultish one-party state, not in an allegedly mature western democracy.

Perhaps none of it would matter if we all just pointed and laughed at IPSO as a joke regulator run by the press for its own self-interested purposes.  But once you have a High Court judge praying in aid this nonsense as part of her reasoning for sending a writer to jail, we are into very sinister and dangerous territory.

Friday, November 26, 2021

News on Craig Murray's release, plus a weary reply to Ipsos-Mori's in-house identity politics extremist

I've been meaning to post this since an email I received about it four days ago, so I hope the information isn't out of date by now!  Craig Murray is expected to be released from prison on St Andrew's Day (next Tuesday) at around 10am.  There's an open invitation for all independence supporters to attend a rally at that time outside Saughton.  Craig will hopefully get an opportunity to make a statement for the media.

It'll be a tremendous relief if Craig gets back home more or less in one piece.  The big concern was always that he has several health conditions and that he might not make it through a few months in prison, particularly in the context of a pandemic - and some would argue that was the whole purpose of inappropriately incarcerating him in the first place.

Yes vote holds up in new YouGov poll

As you may have seen, YouGov's first full-scale Scottish poll for six months was published yesterday, and it showed no change on the independence question.

Should Scotland be an independent country? (YouGov, 18th-22nd November 2021)

Yes 47% (-)
No 53% (-)

There's no cause for concern that Yes are holding steady at 47% rather than the 48% or 49% that has been typical of other firms, because YouGov have consistently been on the No-friendly end of the spectrum in recent times.  In fact, the last three YouGov polls, in April, May and November respectively, have all shown an identical 53-47 lead for No, and you have to go back to March for the last narrower No lead of 51-49. That gives the impression that Yes slipped back a bit in the run-up to the Holyrood election but have since held totally steady.  The pattern shown by other pollsters is for the most part consistent with that, even if they show Yes holding steady at a slightly higher level.

Although it's frustrating to be talking about a no-change scenario which maintains a slim No lead, especially after the giddy heights that Yes hit last year, the current position of a persistently even divide in public opinion is actually an excellent starting position for any referendum campaign, and a good platform on which to build a Yes victory if that campaign is well-judged.  The real problem is that we appear to have an SNP leadership that is privately opposed to holding an indyref in anything like the foreseeable future, so an ongoing modest No lead may be eagerly seized upon as a bogus excuse for further inaction.  That said, they weren't exactly short of excuses even when there was a huge Yes lead, so perhaps it doesn't make all that much difference.

Scottish voting intentions for the next UK general election:

SNP 48% (-)
Conservatives 20% (-2)
Labour 18% (-1)
Liberal Democrats 6% (+1)
Greens 3% (-1)
Reform UK 2% (+1)

Scottish Parliament constituency voting intentions:

SNP 48%
Conservatives 21%
Labour 19%
Liberal Democrats 7%
Greens 2%

Scottish Parliament regional list voting intentions:

SNP 38%
Labour 19%
Conservatives 19%
Greens 11%
Liberal Democrats 7%
Reform UK 2%
Alba 1%
All for Unity 1%

David Clark said the other day that the only way for unionist politicians to get their way by having us "move on from the independence debate" would be for Scotland to actually become independent.  And on these numbers you can see what he means - after a decade and a half the SNP's 'honeymoon' is still ongoing, and they're on course to actually gain yet more seats at Westminster.  For as long as that's the case, simply remaining in the UK will not make the issue of independence disappear in a puff of smoke.

Thursday, November 25, 2021

My all-time favourite thing on the internet has finally arrived: a Medium article about the dateability of Scot Goes Pop blogger James Kelly

Yeah. I know. This is the sort of thing that normally happens to Selena Gomez. The author of the world's unlikeliest internet article is someone called Katy Montgomerie, who - entirely uncoincidentally - also appeared to be the instigator of the Twitter pile-on that led to me suffering 24 hours of sustained abuse and harassment on Tuesday and yesterday (at least two people were suspended from Twitter as a result).  I know very little about her other than that she has just over 50,000 followers on Twitter and is a keen participant in the ongoing trans debate.  Her Medium profile identifies her as a trans woman herself, and she appears to be based somewhere Daan Saaf, judging both from her accent on her YouTube videos and the hesitant way she refers to the Scottish political scene as if the words she's using are unfamiliar and foreign. 

Basically Katy was livid about the wording of one of the questions in the Scot Goes Pop / Panelbase poll on GRA reform and related gender matters, claiming that it portrayed trans women as sexual predators.  She's wrong about that, but judge for yourself...

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

Some people argue that it is bigoted or transphobic for lesbian women or heterosexual men to refuse to consider dating individuals who have changed their gender from male to female.  Others argue that being attracted only to individuals who have been biologically female since birth is a normal part of how sexual attraction works for many lesbian women and heterosexual men, and that it is wrong to pressurise people into dating individuals they are not attracted to.  Which point of view do you find more persuasive?

It is wrong for lesbian women or heterosexual men to refuse to consider dating individuals who have changed their gender from male to female: 7%

It is wrong to pressurise lesbian women and heterosexual men to consider dating transgender people they are not attracted to: 65%

Don't Know / Prefer not to answer: 28%

It's difficult to get into an in-depth discussion about the reasons for choosing a certain wording when you're faced with a 280-character limit on Twitter, and especially when the people you're speaking to are not engaging in good faith.  However, the point they're missing (almost certainly intentionally) is that the reference in the poll question to people being pressurised is not some gratuitous add-on extra, it's actually the logical, utterly inescapable flip-side of the suggestion that it is bigoted or transphobic to refuse to consider dating trans women (for the avoidance of doubt, that was a suggestion that several of Katy's fan club explicitly made during the pile-on).   Telling someone they're transphobic, which in the current climate carries similar gravity to allegations of anti-Semitism, is a very dramatic thing to say, and self-evidently constitutes very considerable pressure for that individual to change their position and to consider dating trans women in the future.  If you want to say that nobody is under any pressure to date trans women, that's fine, but in order to make that claim with any credibility, you first have to remove the pressure that is in itself being caused by the unambiguous statements that some people's sexual orientations are "transphobic".  You really can't have it both ways.

A common refrain during the pile-on was that I had been "transphobic" myself by singling out trans women in the poll wording - "why not ask whether it's wrong for fat people or Asian women or whoever to pressurise people into dating them?"  And the answer to that is straightforward - it's because there is simply no equivalent to the allegation of transphobia that would apply to other types of sexual preferences. Women don't usually accuse gay men of misogyny for refusing to date them, and men don't usually accuse lesbians of misandry for refusing to date them.  (I say "usually" because some do, but the point is that nobody takes them remotely seriously when they do it.)  If Asian women occasionally feel that men refuse to date them because of racism, that's a very different sort of issue, because - and I can speak with some authority here - Asian women are just as attractive to heterosexual men as any other women.  If racism does sometimes get in the way, there will always be any number of other men out there who will be interested.  There's no natural barrier that requires people's entire sexual orientation to be reinvented or restructured.

Heterosexual men and lesbian women are, at least in certain circumstances, attracted to women of all ethnicities and of all body shapes and sizes.  In most cases, however, they are not attracted to people who are physically or biologically male.  That's a feature, not a bug - it's at the very core of heterosexual male / gay female sexual orientation.  The discriminating factor in that orientation is not personal identity or 'spirit' - as a heterosexual male I might very well be attracted to a woman with a 'masculine spirit' but I wouldn't be attracted to a man with a 'feminine spirit'. Label that as transphobia if you want to, but it's just who I am and how I was born. In the same way, lesbian women are who they are. Telling lesbians that they must consider dating trans women is in many cases tantamount to telling them they must renounce their sexual orientation - and if you also say they'll be branded as bigots if they don't do that, then yes, that undoubtedly constitutes pressure.  

A possible alternative version of the poll question, which might have attracted less ire from the Katy Montgomerie Fan Club, would have been "is it bigoted or transphobic to refuse to consider dating trans women?" with simple "yes" or "no" answers.  But that would have been a cop-out, because it quite simply wouldn't have been a balanced question.  There are two very robust stances taken by each side of this debate - one side says "you won't consider dating trans women and that makes you transphobic bigots" while the other side says "you're calling us transphobic bigots and that's putting intense and unreasonable pressure on us to widen our dating pool to include people we'll never actually be attracted to".  The softer question would have offered respondents the opportunity to give direct backing to the robust stance taken by one side of the debate, but not to the equally robust stance taken by the other side.  Essentially what we're being told is that only one half of the debate can be referred to in poll questions - well, that type of censorship and self-censorship might be the way we're headed, but don't try to tell me it's the way to poll public opinion fairly and accurately.

Katy's Medium article is about a joke Twitter poll she ran on Tuesday, asking "is it wrong for James Kelly to pressure people into dating him?"  She imagined this would goad me into "admitting" that her question portrayed me as a predator, and therefore by extension that my own poll question had done the same to trans women.  To her dismay, though, I was far more concerned about her cavalier approach to polling methodology.  She announced that if her self-selecting poll exceeded 1000 votes, it would be just as "representative" as mine - whereas of course it would still have been infinitely less representative than a properly-conducted poll even if it had hit 100,000 votes.  Some of the usual suspect "trendies" from Scottish political Twitter then thought they could rescue her by dipping into the lengthy dossier they keep on me, and produced a screenshot to support their claim that I "had changed my tune about the validity of self-selecting Twitter polls" .  I warned Katy that she wouldn't exactly be dispelling the impression that she's clueless about polling if she placed too much reliance on that - but, alas, that warning has gone unheeded. 

Unfortunately for her, I was making a very different point in the screenshotted tweet - which was about the absolute numbers who said they were planning to vote Alba in the Holyrood election.  Although Twitter polls are self-selecting, they nevertheless restrict people to one vote per account. As we knew that roughly 100,000 votes would probably be enough to win Alba list seats, the fact that Alba could attract, say, 1000 votes in a Twitter poll did tell us something interesting - it suggested they had at least 1% of the necessary total and that there were probably more votes out there.  (In the event, Alba took around 45,000 votes and thus fell short.)  That perfectly valid point bears no resemblance whatever to suggestions that the percentage results in self-selecting polls are in any way meaningful or reliable.  They are not.  Never have been, never will be.

As for the question wording, the equivalence that Katy was inferring simply wasn't there.  It would only have been there if I had ever claimed that "people who refuse to consider dating James Kelly are Kelly-phobic, and are therefore required to change their attitude immediately".  

To deal with a couple of other miscellaneous points from Katy's piece -

"Kelly said that he spent “thousands of pounds” on this poll."

Yes, Kelly did say that.  And you'll find, Katy, that properly-conducted, full-scale polls do tend to cost thousands of pounds. But it was probably a sensible precaution to put that bit in inverted commas - I mean, it might turn out that they only cost 40p or something.  Who knows.

"If it’s not f****** obvious there is absolutely no evidence that James Kelly is pressuring people to date him, just like there is no evidence at all that there is an issue with trans people pressuring people to date them. The original question he asked was a classic example of a “have you stopped hitting your wife?” question based around one of the most popular anti-trans propaganda topics at the moment. My poll and the part of this article about him is satire of his."

Katy goes all serious and angry in her final paragraph.  Just a thought, but I can't help feeling that if you need to specify "this is a satire" in your very last sentence, it might just possibly betray a slight concern that your satire has spectacularly failed.

UPDATE: Due to her special interest in the subject, the individual formerly known as "The Random Totty From Freedom Square" has been contacted for comment on the shock revelation that a Medium article has been published about my dateability.  While we're waiting, here are her suggested "improvements" to the photo I used in the Scot Goes Pop poll fundraiser...

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Via the embedded player below, you can watch my discussion last week with Denise Findlay about the issues raised by the Scot Goes Pop GRA poll.