Saturday, April 3, 2021


It may be a surprise to you to learn that Newsnet Scotland still exists - the site had certainly fallen off my radar for a few years, presumably because it wasn't being updated.  However, it's back up and running, but in a very different form to before - which leaves little room for doubt that there's been a change of ownership, although they're very cagey about that when asked.  It's basically morphed into a tabloid-style attack dog, anti-Alba, anti-Salmond propaganda outfit, with quite a nasty streak - there was a tweet about Alex Salmond's supposed 'instability', for example. They did respond to my question, but only with the non-answers of "it means what it says James" and "aye whatever", which is not surprising because their claim was complete gibberish. The Brexit party fought two elections in Scotland - the 2019 Euro election and the 2019 general election.  In the former, they took well over 3% of the vote but most certainly were not "thumped" - they were in second place on 15% and won one of the six Scottish seats.  In the latter, they were indeed thumped - but took well under 3%.  So whichever way you look at it, the point simply doesn't make any logical sense and doesn't have any particular relevance to a poll showing Alba on 3%.

*  *  *

As you may have spotted, I turned pre-moderation of comments on yesterday because I'd reached saturation point with the abuse, trolling and astroturfing.  In particular, there was a chap called Alexander who had started to repeatedly repost comments that had already been deleted - and when that happens, the situation has clearly spiralled out of all control and a spell of pre-moderation is the only answer.  The results were quite comical - one person assumed he'd been "blocked" when he discovered that his comment hadn't been auto-published, and had an almighty hissy fit about it.  To reiterate for the millionth time, it is not (unfortunately) possible to "block" or "ban" people on the Blogger platform.

It's not just Alba supporters who are having to deal with this nonsense, incidentally.  I spoke to Paul Kavanagh a few days ago (he's continuing to back the SNP on both ballots), and he's been receiving a tonne of abuse in the opposite direction.  It would help if we all just calmed down and got on with making the case for our own preferred pro-indy party.

As the ground rules for commenting the other day failed to make any impression at all, let's see if I can make things even simpler.  I am under no obligation to allow trolling, astroturfing or propagandising in the comments section.  If you post that sort of comment, it's entirely at my discretion whether it stays up.  The lazy reply is always "oh well if you're not going to allow any anti-Alba comments" or "oh well if you want to be an echo chamber", but people can see with their own eyes that a great many anti-Alba comments have stayed up.  If someone is camped on this blog for hours on end, reacting to every tiny piece of news with "this shows Alba are dead on arrival and that Alex Salmond is toxic", I'm entitled to conclude that what is going on is a little bit more than an interested individual trying to contribute to the debate.

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Drama as Yes storms back into the lead in Survation poll

"Do I contradict myself?  Very well then I contradict myself.  I am large, I contain multitudes." - Walt Whitman

As I've pointed out many times in recent weeks, the headline numbers in independence polls are the ones with Don't Knows excluded.  On those, the new Survation poll shows Yes drawing level.

Should Scotland be an independent country? (Survation / Courier)

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

However, the unionist media have shown that, when it suits them (ie. to claim there is a No lead), they'll dispense with those numbers and use the ones with Don't Knows included.  We might as well follow their example tonight, because in this poll there's a slight Yes lead - Yes 45% (+2), No 44% (-1).

These numbers have to be seen in the context of Survation being a relatively No-friendly pollster in recent times.  They showed figures like these (a two-point Yes lead) in the late autumn, at a time when other firms were reporting a huge pro-independence majority.  It would be interesting to see what a ComRes or Ipsos-Mori poll shows right now.

*  *  *

You can catch up with Episode 5 of the Scot Goes Popcast, with special guest Len Pennie (Miss PunnyPennie) HERE.

*  *  *

If you find Scot Goes Pop's coverage of polls helpful and would like it to continue, I'm currently running a fundraiser HERE.

First opinion poll since Alba Party launch keeps Alex Salmond in contention for a dramatic return to the Scottish Parliament

What seemed like the endless wait for the first opinion poll to include Alba as an option is now over, but what most certainly isn't over - despite what the Courier would like you to believe in their spin on the Survation poll they've commissioned - is Alex Salmond's hopes of winning seats in this election.

Scottish Parliament constituency ballot voting intentions (Survation / Courier):

SNP: 49% (-1)
Conservatives: 21% (-)
Labour 20% (-)
Liberal Democrats 9% (+1)

Scottish Parliament regional list ballot voting intentions:

SNP 37% (-2)
Labour 19% (-1)
Conservatives 18% (-1)
Greens 11% (-)
Liberal Democrats 8% (+1)
Alba 3% (+3)

Scottish Skier and I had an exchange the other day about the sort of level at which Alba might poll if they were below 5%.  I said 3-4% was realistic, but Scottish Skier thought 0-1% was just as likely.  Well, if I may say so, I've been proved right, at least in the first poll.  3% puts the party in contention for seats - although 5-6% is required to win a seat, remember that's in each individual region, so if support varies across the country, a 3% national vote could be enough for one or two seats overall.  It's probably reasonable to assume that Mr Salmond himself is the candidate most likely to be elected.

Nevertheless, the danger of falling between two stools is clearly there, ie. Alba taking votes from other pro-indy parties without winning many seats itself.  It's unlikely that Alba's passionate converts will go back to the SNP, so if Alba votes aren't going to be wasted (thus potentially harming the independence cause), the challenge for the party's supporters is to double the current level of support, and then we could potentially be looking at eight seats, rather than wondering if it'll be zero or one or two.

Although Survation tend to report lower SNP list vote shares than other firms (and higher Green vote shares), 37% is the lowest they've reported for two years.  That would suggest, as you'd expect, that most of Alba's 3% support has come direct from the SNP.

I think I can reasonably claim vindication from this poll in another sense as well - I've been saying for years that Alex Salmond is the one and only person who has a chance of making a list-only pro-indy party work, and these numbers bear witness to that.  If even Mr Salmond can only manage 3% in the first poll, it's highly likely that a Wings party, or ISP, or AFI, wouldn't be troubling the scorer at this stage.

As for the Courier's hysterical spin of "it's all over for Alex Salmond", the last time I checked the paper was edited by David Clegg of "The Vow" fame, who clearly has 'issues' with Mr Salmond dating back many years.  So not only is the reporting clueless from a psephological point of view, there are also many other reasons to take it with a hefty dose of salt.

*  *  *

You can catch up with Episode 5 of the Scot Goes Popcast, with special guest Len Pennie (Miss PunnyPennie) HERE.

*  *  *

If you find Scot Goes Pop's coverage of polls helpful and would like it to continue, I'm currently running a fundraiser HERE.

The politics of non-withdrawal

There has been an Alba-bashing troll on this blog over the last few days who has made dozens of attempts to post the claim that Alex Salmond is costing us the pro-indy majority because the Tories are withdrawing candidates in response to the new party.  Every time I deleted the claim, he triumphantly insisted that I didn't like him telling the truth.  Er, no.  There were two reasons for the deletions, and the first was that the story self-evidently wasn't true.  There was never a cat in hell's chance of the Tories withdrawing candidates without a reciprocal arrangement with Labour and the Lib Dems, because it would have had too big an effect on their national vote share.  The second reason is that even if the story had been true, there's no conceivable way that Alex Salmond or the Alba party would have been responsible for it.  The Conservative party could have theoretically withdrawn candidates with or without Alba standing on the list - it was entirely a decision for the Tories and for no-one else.

I appreciate that feelings are running high as a result of the large number of defections from the SNP to Alba, but the trolling has now got completely out of hand (and there was more nastiness in my inbox this morning).  People are welcome to post comments either in support or opposition to Alba, but there does need to be some ground rules.  Please note that the following types of comment are likely to be deleted - 

* Misrepresentations of my own position or attempts to put words in my mouth.

* Claims that I have failed to answer questions that I have, in fact, answered.  (For instance, someone is repeatedly trying to make out that I evaded a question about whether I want a minority government.)

* Bogus claims that my support for Alba makes me a "bigot", a "transphobe", a "conservative", "far right", etc, etc.

* Potentially defamatory claims about Alba politicians.  I am aware of no evidence to support claims that Alex Salmond is a "sex pest" or that Neale Hanvey is an "anti-Semite", so if you want to say that sort of thing, try your luck elsewhere.

* Attempts to lecture me on what I can and can't blog about, for example the old favourite "stick to the polling James".

* Misrepresentations of how the voting system works.  (And although I'm not deleting comments simply for using the "1&2" shorthand, I wish to God people would stop doing that, because it could inadvertantly cause spoilt ballots.)

* Any variant on "why was my comment deleted?" or "have the decency to explain why my comment was deleted James".

* Any other miscellaneous attempt to waste my time.

*  *  *

I have two more constituency previews in today's edition of The National - Glasgow Southside and Glasgow Maryhill & Springburn.

The Bairns of Boris Bridge

People have complained that I've been spending too much time promoting the Alba Party and not enough time attacking unionists, so I'll just take a brief interlude to nod towards the barking mad story in the Telegraph suggesting that there might be a 'Union Island' midway across any bridge or tunnel connecting Scotland with Northern Ireland.  The idea is that a small maternity unit will be constructed on the "island" to give patriotic expectant mums the opportunity to give birth to babies who are "not Scottish, not Northern Irish, not English, not Welsh, but quite simply British".

You really have to worry about people who think it's normal to say that sort of thing out loud.  Years of talking to themselves about "Our Precious Union" have caused them to lose touch with reality.  Rory Stewart's madcap "let's link hands on top of Hadrian's Wall to raise Union awareness" plan suddenly looks quite sane and restrained in retrospect.

*  *  *

You can catch up with Episode 5 of the Scot Goes Popcast, with special guest Len Pennie (Miss PunnyPennie) HERE.

*  *  *

If you find Scot Goes Pop's coverage of polls helpful and would like it to continue, I'm currently running a fundraiser HERE.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Enough of the hate mail, thanks

Since I declared my support for the Alba party, I've been receiving hate mail from SNP members - in particular, repeated emails from two individuals.  I've ignored them until now, but come on, chaps, enough is enough.  You know perfectly well that what you're doing is inappropriate, and that this isn't what the contact address is there for.  Just pack it in.

Perhaps disappointed that screaming blue murder at me hasn't affected my choice of party, one of the two correspondents has recently changed tack and started messaging me with rants about my constituency profiles in The National.  Anyone who has read those profiles will know that they're not influenced in any way by my own party preferences - I've just been giving my honest assessment of the knowns and the unknowns.  However, even if they were influenced by partisan considerations, they most certainly wouldn't be anti-SNP in nature, because I'll be voting SNP on the constituency ballot, and the whole independence movement will be praying that the SNP win as many constituencies as possible.  The idea that I'm in any way trying to undermine the SNP is, frankly, idiotic.

The specific complaint today is about the profile of Caithness, Sutherland & Ross, which I quite reasonably stated is a Lib Dem target seat in which the SNP remain slight favourites.  Apparently that's not good enough - in this era of "you're either with us, or you're with the terrorists" I was supposed to demonstrate my loyalty by saying that the SNP victory is beyond all question and that Maree Todd will be pelted with flowers by the adoring crowds on her way to the declaration (although that would breach the pandemic restrictions, of course).

Here are some responses to the specific points that are raised in the email - 

'Gail Ross won the seat with a comfortable majority last time' - Yes, she did, and at that point the equivalent Westminster seat was also held by the SNP with a similar majority.  It's since been won twice by the Liberal Democrats - in spite of the fact that on one of those occasions the SNP won the wider national election by a landslide.

'Maree Todd is better known than the Liberal Democrat candidate Molly Nolan' - That'll probably be why I said so in the article.

'The Westminster constituency has different boundaries' - Yes, it does, but on absolutely any boundaries this is a seat with a strong Liberal Democrat tradition.

'The popular and much-loved Jamie Stone almost lost the Westminster seat to a complete unknown from the SNP' - In that case, why are you placing so much emphasis on Molly Nolan being an unknown?

Today's other constituency profile is Orkney.

*  *  *

You can catch up with Episode 5 of the Scot Goes Popcast, with special guest Len Pennie (Miss PunnyPennie) HERE.

*  *  *

If you find Scot Goes Pop's coverage of polls helpful and would like it to continue, I'm currently running a fundraiser HERE.

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

More Alba Party FAQs

There have been more questions for me in the last couple of threads, although I deleted one of them because it was in a comment full of potentially defamatory allegations about Alba politicians.

If the Alba Party are below 5% support in the polls, would you tell people that voting Alba is a wasted vote, and that they should go back to the SNP?

That might make sense if Alba are on zero or 1% in the polls, but if - in a more plausible scenario - they're on 3% or 4%, a more viable course of action would be to prevent those votes being wasted by building on them and pushing the party to the 5-6% they would need to take seats across Scotland.  The people who have already moved over to Alba are quite passionate, so in most cases asking them to go back to the SNP would not be realistic unless Alba literally had no chance whatever of winning seats.

Would you still support Alba if Stuart Campbell was a candidate?

Yes, I would, not because I'm a huge fan of the guy, but because my objective is independence and I think the Alba party is the best vehicle on the list to achieve that.  I presume he would take the same view if I was a candidate.  (Spoiler alert: don't hold your breath.)  In practice I don't see how he can stand, because he's indicating that he'd like people to vote for Anas Sarwar against Nicola Sturgeon in Glasgow Southside, which is contrary to Alba's position that everyone should vote SNP on the constituency ballot.

Aren't the MP defectors to the Alba Party causing harm?

This is a really tricky one, because normally if you support a party that's just been set up, you'd welcome absolutely every defection to it.  But if the Alba experiment is going to work, there has to be limitations on it.  The new party can never stand on the Holyrood constituency ballot, and it can never stand for Westminster unless there is some sort of electoral pact with the SNP, which seems unlikely.  So MPs who defect have to be sure that they won't want to stand again for Westminster in 2024 if Scotland isn't independent by then.  The local elections next year are a borderline case - although those will take place under proportional representation, the de facto threshold for getting elected is much higher than on the Holyrood list.  So vote-splitting would potentially be more of a problem, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Incidentally, I've noticed a peculiar tendency among Alba's critics to read words and sentences as if they say the polar opposite of what they actually say.  So, for example, in my last post I wrote that I had no intention of defending Alex Arthur's comments about Romanians and the vaccine, and for some reason people seemed to think I meant "I wholeheartedly support Alex Arthur's comments about Romanians and the vaccine".

*  *  *

You can catch up with Episode 5 of the Scot Goes Popcast, with special guest Len Pennie (Miss PunnyPennie) HERE.

SNP are fundamentally misreading the nature of Alba's appeal to voters

I'm not in any way going to defend Alex Arthur's past views on Romanians and the vaccine (I was vaccinated last week, incidentally). But the jubilation in some quarters yesterday about a supposed failure of "vetting" brought home to me just how fundamentally the SNP are misreading the nature of potential Alba Party voters. Anyone looking for a safety-first party with bland candidates who have never gone off-script in their lives would be sticking with the SNP anyway. The real attraction of a new party is for people who want a bit of fire, a bit of passion, a bit of authenticity, a bit of free-thinking, and a bit of risk-taking - even if that means the odd mistake here and there. Why do they want that? Because that's the sort of party they can imagine delivering independence, rather than settling in and enjoying the next thirty years of devolution (or however long is left before the Tories abolish the Scottish Parliament). So, no, yesterday's events will not have put anyone off. Indeed for a new party trying to get noticed, there's a case to be made that there's no such thing as bad publicity. 

I blogged yesterday about the theoretical danger that Alba's intervention could backfire and cost us the pro-indy majority. But supposing that doesn't happen. Suppose we get the majority and the remaining obstacle to independence is that the SNP government continue with the excessive caution that has blighted the last four years. Imagine what a difference it will make if Alex Salmond gets to stand up every week at FMQs as the leader of the third, fourth or fifth largest party and demand a progress report from Nicola Sturgeon on independence. It would literally be possible to shame the SNP into action.

Incidentally, I received yet another email from someone a few minutes ago saying that they had been planning to spoil their constituency ballot, but will now be voting SNP because Alex Salmond and the Alba Party have urged them to. So instead of spluttering in rage, perhaps the SNP's message to Alba should be a simple "merci beaucoup".

*  *  *

You can catch up with Episode 5 of the Scot Goes Popcast, with special guest Len Pennie (Miss PunnyPennie) HERE.

I also have two more constituency profiles in today's edition of The National - Coatbridge & Chryston and Cumbernauld & Kilsyth.

Monday, March 29, 2021

When you're in danger of falling between two stools, do you jump up, or down?

I've been totally honest from the outset about this: it's not impossible that the Alba Party intervention in this election could backfire. They could, say, take 2-3% of the vote, which probably wouldn't be enough to win any seats, but could gift SNP list seats to unionist parties.  If we're really unlucky that could swing the balance and deprive us of a pro-indy majority at Holyrood.  That's exactly the same risk that I identified when RISE were pushing the tactical voting idea in 2016, or when the Wings party idea was being floated in 2019.

But here's the thing.  If we're in danger of falling between two stools, ie. with the Alba party strong enough to damage the SNP but not strong enough to win any seats itself, there are TWO ways to avert that danger.  Either we can encourage people to abandon the Alba party and go back to the SNP on the list, or we can decide that the Alba party is too important to fail and make damn sure that it gets over the 6% de facto threshold in each region.

I don't have much doubt that the latter course of action is more viable in this particular case, although it remains to be seen whether we collectively pull it off.

*  *  *

You can catch up with Episode 5 of the Scot Goes Popcast, with special guest Len Pennie (Miss PunnyPennie) HERE.

Don't let the Greens airbrush history: it was they (and RISE) who first pushed the supermajority idea

Although I and Allan Faulds of Ballot Box Scotland post about a lot of the same topics, I don't think I'd ever interacted with him before today, so I didn't fully appreciate that he and his fans expect his holy "project" to be treated with the kind of reverence that one might otherwise associate with Jesus Christ or the Bible. I think he doth protest too much, quite honestly. I hadn't actually accused him of bias - that was a straw man designed to deflect from the substance of my point, and nor had I suggested that a partisan stance would tarnish the reputation of his blessed "project". However, bias can come in the form of omission - if other parties are criticised but the Greens are not, that's a subtle form of bias.  That's exactly the point that is sometimes made about RT, for example - that Russia is the only country they'll never criticise.

Eventually (but only at someone else's urging), Allan did defend the Greens against the charge that they had tried to game the system in exactly the same way that Alba are now attempting.  But what he didn't address was the #SecondVoteGreen slogan used in repeated elections, which was explicitly intended to persuade people that they could maximise the impact of their votes by going for different parties on the two ballots.  Nor did he mention the pleading from leading Green supporters in 2011 and 2016 that SNP voters should switch tactically to the Greens on the list to artificially increase the number of pro-indy MSPs.  All of that is airbrushed from history, it seems.

*  *  *

You can catch up with Episode 5 of the Scot Goes Popcast, with special guest Len Pennie (Miss PunnyPennie) HERE.

I also have two more constituency profiles in today's edition of The National - Cunninghame North and Cunninghame South.

On the BBC's decision to exclude the Alba Party from the TV debate

As has been demonstrated again and again, there are no "rules" governing admission to televised leaders' debates - the broadcasters just choose whatever line-up suits their own agenda, and then dream up a justification after the fact (for example, the BBC's absurd 'Prime Ministerial Debate' wheeze, which ignored the inconvenient fact that Prime Minister is not an elected office, and there are therefore no candidates for it).  There was a small part of me that wondered if they'd be tempted to include Alex Salmond in the Scottish election debates due to the box office/ratings potential of Salmond v Sturgeon, but a much bigger part of me always knew that it was highly unlikely due to the unionist bias (whether conscious or unconscious) of the decision-makers.  If Mr Salmond had been included, his personal poll ratings would probably have recovered, and the idea of voting SNP on the constituency ballot and Alba on the list for a pro-independence supermajority might have built up a head of steam.  That's not the story the mainstream media want to be reporting on in this campaign - they want "plucky underdog Douglas Ross and/or Anas Sarwar threatens to scupper Nicola Sturgeon's hopes of an indepedence referendum".

I'm not particularly convinced by the justifications offered for the BBC's decision, because they're not really supported by precedent.  UKIP was once represented in a Holyrood debate despite never having had an MSP - the argument being that having a representative in another parliament qualified them.  Broadcasters have also relied on opinion poll evidence, not just past election results, when justifying the inclusion of certain parties - but they're in no position to say that Alba aren't doing well enough in the polls, because there haven't been any polls since the party was created.

I can't help feeling that if we were talking about a Nigel Farage vehicle for a Westminster election, and if he'd managed to get MPs and councillors to defect, that would have been enough to get him into the debate.  It really is no more complicated than the broadcasters making up the rules to please themselves.

Is there any upside?  Well, in an ideal world we'll now have Nicola Sturgeon successfully taking the fight to the unionists in the debate without any distractions - which is in all our interests, because we need the SNP to be dominant in the constituency ballot.  However, if there are large segments of the debate devoted to Salmond-bashing, without the man himself being there to answer back, the BBC's decision will look ever more outrageous.

*  *  *

You can catch up with Episode 5 of the Scot Goes Popcast, with special guest Len Pennie (Miss PunnyPennie) HERE.

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Scot Goes Popcast with guest Len Pennie (aka Miss PunnyPennie)

For Episode 5 of the Scot Goes Popcast, I was joined by the poet Len Pennie - who you might know better as Miss PunnyPennie, or by her Twitter handle Lenniesaurus.  She's a social media sensation who has attracted admiration from the likes of Hollywood actor Michael Sheen, and some would say that her Scots Word of the Day videos have done more for the Scots language in the last six months than elected governments have managed to do in the last hundred years.  Topics we discussed include -

* How her passion for Scots started.

* Why Scots is definitely a fully legitimate language in its own right.

* Why she doesn't think Scots should become a fully standardised language (ie. with 'right' and 'wrong' spelling) like Gaelic.

* How her videos have been used by teachers in schools during lessons.

* The possible reasons for the irrational hatred her videos attract in some quarters.

* Her response when people say "I've never heard anyone actually using these words".

* Whether there's any prospect of a TV or radio series based on Scots Word of the Day. 

* Her verdict on 'Alba-gate', ie. the mispronunciation of the new political party's Gaelic name.

* Her verdict on 'Scots-Wikipedia-gate', ie. the revelation last summer that the vast majority of the thousands of articles on the Scots Wikipedia had been written by a well-meaning American teenager who doesn't actually speak Scots.

* Most importantly of all, I ask her the question on everyone's lips: is Moira a real person?

And much, much more besides.  If you have any problems with the embedded player below, the direct link to the podcast is HERE.

You can also catch up with past episodes of the podcast -

*  *  *

In today's Sunday National, I have an extended preview of the electoral battle in the North-East region - you can read it HERE.