Wednesday, May 12, 2021

How do voters read the SNP's motivations?

So just to return briefly to the subject of this morning's post - whether or not the SNP are primarily motivated by independence or by a desire to stay in power. It's quite a difficult one to read, because there's a small, closed group of advisers around Nicola Sturgeon and unless you're on the inside of that group you'd never know for sure. Indeed, it's possible they don't entirely know themselves. I don't think there's much doubt that they're genuinely committed to independence as an ideal, but the impression that's given is that they'd only want to push for it in practice if they can do so in a reasonably risk-free way, which is not realistic. 

But what is the assessment of voters? There's some interesting data from a pre-election YouGov survey that asked about this very subject. Most people who were planning to vote SNP on the list understandably gave their party the benefit of the doubt - around 63% disagreed (including 28.5% who strongly disagreed) with the notion that the SNP care more about staying in power than about achieving independence. But around 12% did agree, and a more substantial minority of 25% neither agreed nor disagreed. So those are the doubters who the SNP theoretically might risk losing to a more radical pro-indy party if they drag their feet for too long. 

Pluralities of Labour and Liberal Democrat voters also think the SNP are genuinely more motivated by independence, and an outright majority of Green voters take the same view. But Tory voters think the SNP are more motivated by staying in power. There's an obvious paradox there, because the Tory campaign pitch was based around the idea that the SNP are hellbent on indy and that the Tories are the thin blue line that stands in their way. It appears that only the Tories' own voters don't actually believe that!


  1. The reason Scotland isn't independent is because Scots have not as yet wanted it. They voted against it in 2014 by a reasonable margin after a very extended debate. The brexit vote didn't have the impact folk hope for reasons Curtice and others have talked about at length. It's not a simple Yes = Remain / No = leave thing.

    In 2011, a minority voted for Yes parties. Yes was always, in all probability, going to lose. It's why Cameron so happily facilitated the vote. We had a forlorn hope, and gave it all we could, but it was a seriously outside chance.

    In 2016, the same again, only a minority voted for Yes parties, albeit a slightly larger minority and increasingly approaching 50%. But another referendum so soon after the previous was again a pretty forlorn hope short of some massive swing in public opinion. Something the brexit vote did not deliver. Yes in fact fell back to 2014 levels for a time.

    In 2021, for the first time ever, a majority of Scots voted for pro-independence parties. Now I'd say we have crossed the event horizon.

    Of course there is crossover, with some Labour voters Yes, some green and SNP No etc, but the correlation is very much there.

    It is not a shock that with the Yes baseline now seemingly >50%, that suddenly, around that votes for Yes parties.

    So people need to stop blaming the SNP for Scots not wanting indy.

    It's ridiculous to suggest a short campaign is all you need to win independence. It's a fundament existential constitutional question that will affect the country for centuries to come. It's not a regular election.

    Support builds slowly, but when it become established, it doesn't go away, precisely because it is such a fundamental, existential issue.

    The SNP are now busy trying to work out if baseline Yes is really 51% or maybe still 49.5%. When they are as sure as possible that it's more than 50%, then they will push, and the campaign will be aimed at trying to get a few % on top for good measure, not winning, which will be already guaranteed. The polls of late suggest another 5% on top of baseline is eminently possible.

    And it is essential that baseline is >50% who will not regret their vote (as many have done with brexit in the UK), otherwise you face the possibility of a reversal / stalemate at the next election, and the grand f'n mess that would be. Scots must be glad they chose indy, and not feel bounced into it, for that will likely lead to trouble. Nope, they must be firm in their convictions with no going back.

    1. All very true.

      The indy curious voters I know really want answers on currency and the border. Without those, they consider the leap just too risky. I think they have a solid point. As a life long Yesser myself, I think it's nutty we still have the crucial matter of our future currency completely undefined.

      No answer is going to please everyone. But when your answer itself is "no answer" you've got a lot of work ahead! We need this resolved, pronto, in preparation for indyref2.

    2. Had the SNP spent the time from 2016 to 2020 making a concerted case for independence (preferably without the deadweight of the "Sustainable" Growth Commission around its neck) instead of campaigning furiously to overturn the Brexit vote, I think things would look very different now. The SNP seems to have assumed that Brexit would cause a big swing without any actual campaigning, or that demographic shifts would somehow win the day (they NEVER do.)

      There has been no real independence campaigning since 18/9/14. Meanwhile, as incoherent as it is, there has been a concerted ANTI-indy campaign. The fact that indy numbers have held up so well and even risen slightly during that time suggests to me that had there been a real sense of urgency and a reasonable plan presented to people, we'd be comfortably over the line by now and independence would be inevitable within this term of the Scottish Parliament.

      At the moment, it looks like the plan is to be the only country in the world ever to win its independence without ever actually fighting for it.

    3. In 2021, for the first time ever, a majority of Scots voted for pro-independence parties. Now I'd say we have crossed the event horizon.

      This wasn't the first time. Pro-independence parties got a majority of the vote in 2015, and this time the margin was actually less emphatic.

    4. Only marginally less emphatic, though.

    5. This wasn't the first time. Pro-independence parties got a majority of the vote in 2015, and this time the margin was actually less emphatic.

      2015 was not a national election, it was a British union election.

      Unless of course someone is a unionist of course. ;-)

      The same processes facilitated UKIP doing well in (EU) union elections, but much less so (FPTP aside) in UK national elections.

      When you vote for the national parliament, domestic policy also looms large.

      But now Scotland has, in majority, voted for pro-independence parties in a national election as noted. The event horizon has likely been crossed.

    6. @John Muir
      Currency, Scottish Pound backed by Scottish Assets. Exchange rate can be 1Eng to 1Sco to start then diverge if needed down the track. Likely result is that the Sco will appreciate against the Eng.
      Border, NS has already indicated that the pre EU Common Travel area would continue unless England decided against. Customs Officials would b3 required on both sides of the border to determine compliance with Tarrifs and compliance with safety/market requirements. We can only determine our Import Tarrifs as each Country determines their own.

    7. I very much agree with your comments. I would add that it is critically important that the constitutional question regarding the calling of a referendum be resolved. The next referendum may not go our way and so we need to have established that the right to call one lies with the Scottish Parliament. I think this is the game the SNP leadership are playing, its a longer term strategy, yes, but I think they are playing it quite effectively.

      Westminster is being dared to challenge the referendum bill in the Courts. There are four obvious outcomes:

      1 - Ignore it, don't grant a S30 = path to constitutional crisis, democracy denied.
      2 - Grant a S30 = confirms that authority to call a referendum sits with the Scottish Parliament
      3 - Challenge in court an lose = confirms authority sits with the Scottish Parliament.
      4 - Challenge in court and win = path to constitutional crisis, democracy denied.

      The constitutional crisis would, I believe, be resolved politically, something akin to Schedule 1 of the Northern Ireland Act which sets out the process for the calling of a border poll.

      It's a risky strategy but less so, I think, than rushing into an "all or nothing" referendum too early.

    8. 2015 was not a national election, it was a British union election.

      Unless of course someone is a unionist of course. ;-)

      Not sure what you're on about. You stated without caveat that pro-independence parties have only once received a majority of Scottish votes. That isn't the case.

  2. Thanks ScSk. (SS is a bit off!) That is pretty much how I see it. To lose next time, even by a whisker condemns Indy to the wall for decades.

  3. 'But Tory voters think the SNP are more motivated by staying in power.

    You don't need a Yougov poll to see this; just to look at posts on here, right-wing English blogs and elsewhere, repetitively saying the 'the SNP are only interested in power'.

  4. Ok folks, we can now be pretty damn sure Westminster will reluctantly agree to facilitate iref2. To not do so would make the UK a new USSR. Europe'a last colonial dictatorship. Would make Lukashenko blush (and the people would likewise ultimately take to the streets). After all, Scotland is not a region, but a country in the eyes of the world, and always has been. We even made the Euro finals this time!

    And you can't tell British people and the wider world that 'N. Ireland should remain part of the UK because it's what people there want!' while saying 'Ah, but Scotland, that's different....'. Even Wales is saying 'Erm, WTF, are you saying we are English prisoners?'.

    He [Stuart Campbell] says that expecting Boris Johnson to grant a section 30 allowing Holyrood to legislate for indyref2 is a “mad fantasy” and that the next Scottish parliamentary term will be only “deja vu”.

    On this topic:

    Scottish independence: Tories admit there's an indyref2 mandate, says ex spin chief

    The British establishment will be desperately trying to work out the best way to save face here, and how to deal with what cannot be stopped, even with force. After all, the empire has kissed goodbye to pretty much every other country that used to be part of it.

    My guess is that Wings has failed to stop a Yes party majority, so his current contract has come to an end. It might be renewed ahead of iref2.

  5. You can tell real indy supporters, the don't relentlessly attack Yes parties from the south of England, then quit the moment that Scots actually vote for a new iref, giving said Yes parties a majority share of the vote for the first time ever in a national election.

  6. People knew what they were voting for last week. Quite amusing still to see the Tory posters in the Angus fields telling voters to stop IndyRef2 by voting Tories on the list. They failed.

    From our friend Oldnat on a post he did on UK Polling Report which summerises last week's vote shares nicely. I am sure John Curtice would shake his head in agreement.

    "Electoral statistics are widely misused (or at least selectively quoted) by political parties for propaganda purposes.

    In the AMS system in Scotland, it is the List vote that determines (approximately) the distribution of the seats at Holyrood. It is a “compensatory” system, not fully proportional, but much better than FPTP!

    There were many issues that voters may have chosen to prioritise, but few would doubt that indy was the most salient issue.

    6 parties and 2 independent candidates took a pro-indy stance.

    10 parties took an anti indy position.

    7 parties took a neutral position and (AFAIK) 10 independent candidates also did not declare for one side or the other.

    Then there is IGV. It is impossible to tell how many of their 9,756 votes were from fascists and how many were pro-indy Greens confused by the name (though one can guess). I have, therefore, placed those votes into the “neutral” camp.

    Of the neutral parties, 2 were the Animal Welfare Party (2392 votes), and the Women’s Equality Party (1124 votes). I don’t suggest that this has any significance, but may be a good example of how selective quotation of numbers might be used!

    Pro indy parties received 1,370,728 votes (50.7%)
    Anti indy parties received 1,301,115 votes (48.1%)
    Neutral parties received 30,804 votes (1.1%)"