Thursday, January 28, 2021

Independence Live interview

Just a quick note to let you know I was interviewed earlier this evening by Dr Mark McNaught on Independence Live. Topics included opinion polls, media attitudes to independence, and whether it's realistic to expect Boris Johnson to grant a Section 30 order. You can watch the interview via the tweet below.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Panelbase poll is better for Yes than it appeared at first glance

So just to tie up some loose ends from the weekend - the Panelbase datasets have been published, and contrary to some previous suggestions it turns out that the standard independence question was asked after all.  So the question wording isn't an alibi for the slight drop in the Yes vote, but what is a partial alibi is the rounding of the results.  The raw numbers show Yes on around 52.4% and No on 47.6%, so they were within a smidgeon of being rounded up to 53-47 rather than down to 52-48.  In the overall scheme of things it's not really that far away from the two Panelbase polls in the summer showing Yes on 54%, which at the time was a record high for the firm.

With Don't Knows left in, Yes leads by five percentage points even on the rounded numbers (Yes 49%, No 44%). That contrasts with last week's Survation poll for this blog, in which the equivalent gap was just two points (Yes 45%, No 43%). I'd suggest, then, that the Panelbase poll is somewhat better for Yes than it may have looked at first glance.  It also contained a multi-option question about the various constitutional options, and incredibly, independence is more popular than the two other options (the status quo and greater devolution).  Gone are the days when we knew that a multi-option referendum would kill independence off by making a win for Devo More inevitable.

Andy Wightman's independent future

The Lothian MSP Andy Wightman, who resigned from the Green group in the Scottish Parliament a few weeks ago over the trans issue, is running a Twitter poll asking whether he should stand as an independent candidate in Lothian at the forthcoming election (by which he presumably means the Lothian list). Although Twitter polls are unscientific and self-selecting, it's not an irrational thing to do, because probably what he wants to know first and foremost is whether his keenest supporters are behind him and would campaign for him.  At time of writing, the poll is running at 3-1 in favour of his candidacy, so I would imagine he'll press ahead.

Is this a good thing or a bad thing for the independence movement?  Mr Wightman is one of a relatively small number of people with enough of a personal following to have a realistic chance of being elected as an independent - but he doesn't quite have the profile of a Margo MacDonald or a Dennis Canavan.  If I was going to hazard a guess, I'd say the odds are maybe slightly against him.  I could imagine him perhaps getting between about 2% and 6% of the vote, and he'd need to be at the upper end of that scale to be elected.

At the last election, he was one of two Green MSPs elected in Lothian on 10.6% of the list vote.  If that vote is split this time, it would need to be virtually split down the middle to maintain the status quo with one Green MSP and Mr Wightman as an independent MSP.  If, on the other hand, it splits 3% for Mr Wightman and 7% for the Greens, Mr Wightman would miss out and there would be only one Green MSP - which would probably cost us one pro-indy seat.

But of course it's not as simple as that, because Mr Wightman has admirers from outside his former party who would consider voting for him as an independent even though they would never have voted Green.  So it's possible that the combined pool of potential Wightman and Green voters is wider than the pool of potential Green voters alone.

In any case, this is about more than just crude considerations of electoral advantage.  Mr Wightman is by general consensus one of the most impressive MSPs, and the parliament would be of poorer quality without him.  While other parties (most obviously the SNP) have suffered terrible public divisions over the trans issue, the Greens have maintained a fiction of unity and seemingly imagined that there would never be any political cost to painting anyone who disagrees with the official party line as a transphobe, a bigot, and unfit for civilised society.  It may be no bad thing if they belatedly learn the hard way that such an intolerant stance does, indeed, carry a cost.

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Why Boris is extremely welcome in Scotland

Just a quick note to let you know that I've written today's online-only National Extra piece - it's about Boris Johnson's apparent belief that visiting Scotland this week will "save the Union", and what past precedents tell us about how likely that is.  You can read it HERE.  

I also had a piece in The National the other day about the Olymipc question in the Scot Goes Pop / Survation poll - you can read that one HERE.  

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Memo to the Sunday Times: a legal referendum is not a "Catalan-style wildcat vote"

The Sunday Times also used the above language in its front page today, and added for good measure that the so-called "wildcat vote" would be akin to the one held in Catalonia - thus implying it would be illegal and presumably that its instigators could end up in jail.  All of that is completely and utterly untrue.  I've no idea whether it would be best characterised as a lie, or as utter cluelessness.

In reality, the plan Mike Russell set out the other day was to hold a legal referendum on independence, and to do it without Westminster's permission if necessary.  That is not a contradiction in terms.  "Westminster doesn't like it" is not synonymous with "illegal".  Any referendum would be held under the terms of an Act of the Scottish Parliament - which by definition means it would be the opposite of illegal or "wildcat".  If the UK Government feel that the Act in question exceeds Holyrood's powers, there is a well-established procedure for putting that to the test and obtaining a legal ruling.  There are three possible outcomes -

1) No legal challenge occurs, in which case an independence referendum is the law of the land.

2) The UK Government mount a legal challenge, but it is rejected by the Supreme Court, in which case an independence referendum is the law of the land.

3) The UK Government mount a legal challenge and the Supreme Court uphold it, in which case no referendum takes place.  (Although in a rational world the SNP would then move on to using a scheduled election as a de facto referendum.)

As you'll have noted, in none of those scenarios does an illegal or 'wildcat' referendum occur.  If anyone can face being royally mucked around and fobbed off with technicalities, there is - on paper at least - a strong case for complaining to the press regulator IPSO on the grounds that the Sunday Times' reporting is straightforwardly, demonstrably and verifiably inaccurate.