Friday, July 2, 2021

Funding for future Scot Goes Pop polling

Last Sunday, I was very, very close to trying to raise funds for a snap opinion poll, because there had been no independence polling for well over a month, which seemed crazy given that the SNP and Greens have only just won a resounding mandate to hold an independence referendum.  In theory there could have been a marked swing to Yes and we'd have been totally oblivious to it.  Literally a couple of hours after I had that thought, the Panelbase poll for the Sunday Times appeared right on cue, so there's no longer any great urgency.  However, it looks like the monthly ComRes polls for the Scotsman have been discontinued now the election is over, and with the SNP leadership and the mainstream media seemingly reaching an unspoken agreement to jointly take independence off the agenda for the foreseeable future, we may well find that polls are few and far between during the rest of the year.  I think it might be an idea to try to have some funding ready to go so I can fill at least one of the long gaps.  I'll keep an open mind about the exact timing - just the most suitable moment that crops up over the next few months.

Apart from the independence question, there are quite a few other subjects that I think should be asked about - for example, attitudes to the renewed mandate to hold a referendum and whether people think it covers all Plan B options, voting intentions for the local elections next year, the issue of the Royal family's interference in Scottish politics, and perhaps also the devolution of broadcasting to tie in with our petition.  And if any or all of these subjects are adequately covered by other polls before I run mine, there are plenty of other questions worth asking.

Because the Scot Goes Pop general fundraiser for 2021 hasn't reached its target yet (I stopped promoting it before the election so as not to distract from fundraising by pro-indy parties), I don't think it would be a good idea to have two fundraisers underway at the same time, so I've once again done what I did earlier in the year - I've increased the target figure of the general fundraiser by a few thousand pounds, and any money that is donated within the next couple of weeks, up to a total of £5000, will be set aside specifically for the next poll.

Part of the reason I've decided to get the ball rolling is that Scottish Skier has been trying to blackmail me with the notion that donations will dry up now that I'm no longer running the blog in a way that he approves of.  (He in all apparent seriousness believes that Scot Goes Pop is now an "anti-Yes blog" run by either Stuart Campbell or the British government.)  He might well be right for all I know, so let's find out!  Seriously, though, I'm sure you all know me well enough by now to realise that I try to handle these polls responsibly, and that I always ask questions that will be of interest to the whole pro-indy movement.

If you'd like to donate, please click HERE.  (Or an alternative payment method can be found HERE.)

Surprise Batley & Spen result boosts independence movement by keeping hopeless Starmer in harness

I've compared by-elections to the 1983 Darlington contest several times in the past, but the surprise Labour hold in Batley & Spen is perhaps the closest comparison of all.  Just as in 1983, it was expected that a Labour defeat might help to finish off a weak and unelectable Labour leader, but just as in 1983, a Labour win against the odds has instead shored up that weak and unelectable leader.  Ultimately that's bad for Labour and good for Labour's opponents, including the SNP and the whole independence movement.  Even those who have a favourable view of Anas Sarwar must accept that Sarwar is not the leader of the Labour party, Keir Starmer is. The public have made up their minds about Starmer, and yet Labour now seem to be stuck with him.

You also have to give George Galloway some credit - although he's failed in his main objective of bringing down Starmer,  his 8000 votes were vastly in excess of the derisory support I expected him to get.  Clearly he's still taken seriously in some quarters.  Perhaps the lesson is that he should stick to posing as a socialist, rather than the de facto Tory he's become in Scotland.

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Here's the red line: an independence referendum must take place by the end of 2023 *at the latest*

Thank you for the kind words about the previous blogpost, which suggested that the SNP leadership have become an obstacle to independence.  It was bound to polarise opinion, but I would say around 80% of the reaction was positive and only around 15% was negative.  (The remaining 5% was a niche group who wanted to know when I was going to apologise to Stuart Campbell, but God alone knows what I'm supposed to be apologising to him for.  For not reacting with a cheery smile when he emailed to call me a "c**t", or when he got his solicitor to threaten me at the dead of night, presumably.)

One common theme of the negative comments was that instead of urging people to pile on the pressure for an independence referendum to actually be held, I should instead be encouraging them to "prepare for the referendum".  It's difficult to know whether to laugh or cry at that sort of comment.  Nobody could accuse me of not assuming good faith on the part of the SNP leadership for many, many, many years.  When Nicola Sturgeon "called an independence referendum" in 2017, I took that at face value and I encouraged people to donate to the "ring-fenced referendum campaign fund". That referendum, let me gently remind people, never took place.  After well over four years, I think we're entitled to say that definitively.  It was a fantasy, a mirage, a work of fiction.  The money in the ring-fenced fund was cynically spent on other things.  This time around, I have no intention of wasting my life "preparing" for a vote that is not being held, or of deceiving other people into doing so.  Having breached the faith of their members and voters once, the onus is now on the SNP leadership to prove that they are not pulling the same trick twice - and brazenly briefing the Sunday Times that there won't be a referendum this side of the 2024 general election is, to put it mildly, not the way to do that.

Incidentally, my trust in the SNP leadership did not even end in the summer of 2017 when they broke their word that a majority of Scottish seats in that year's general election would constitute a "triple lock" mandate for the referendum they had already "called" (they won 35 out of 59 seats - that's roughly 60%).  You can check the archives of this blog if you don't believe me - I spent the first couple of weeks after the election urging the SNP leadership not to backtrack (I remember being interviewed in the Financial Times about that), but as soon as Nicola Sturgeon made her statement about deferring, not cancelling, the referendum until the end of the Brexit process, I took her at her word and urged people to unite behind the strategy.  I continued to urge trust and patience when the timetable slipped well beyond Brexit day, and then when coronavirus struck I naturally accepted that a referendum couldn't be held in the middle of the biggest international crisis since the Second World War.  But Brexit is the casus belli for an independence referendum, and Brexit occurred eighteen months ago.  If the pandemic is the genuine and only reason for the further delay in holding the vote, it's logical to expect that there will be a referendum as soon as practically possible after the crisis eases.  Although it's not possible to pinpoint exactly when that moment will arrive, it's likely to be some time next year.  At the very latest, the year after.  When we instead hear that a referendum is unlikely to be held until after the 2024 election, any reasonable person has little choice but to conclude that this is a leadership that is completely taking the mick, and that the priority for the Yes movement has to be to do something about that.  As I pointed out in my previous post, a referendum 'delayed' beyond the UK general election is unlikely to take place at all, because any SNP seat losses at that election will once again be used as an excuse for shelving the whole idea, just as it was in 2017.

But even if there's a genuine intention to hold a referendum in 2025 or whenever, the reality is that will be five years after Brexit, which makes a mockery of the idea that we're holding the vote because it's intolerable for Scotland to have been dragged out of the European Union against its will.  It must be fairly tolerable if we're content to live that way for five long years.  Essentially we're chucking the material change of circumstances out of the window, in which case we might just as well go back to waiting for the fabled "generation" to pass.  I'm beginning to suspect that was the idea all along.  The people I feel sorriest for are the EU citizens who were persuaded to stay in Scotland on a bogus promise from the SNP leadership that the Scottish vote for Remain would be upheld.

I want my faith in the SNP leadership to be restored.  Until very recently, I had a reputation as a leadership loyalist and I would be delighted to become one again.  But enough is enough.  No more words, it's time for action.  We need two things: the date for the referendum needs to be set, and that date needs to be before 31st December 2023.  

From my perspective, there can be no further compromise.  We've waited far, far, far too long already.

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You can catch up with the latest episode of the Scot Goes Popcast HERE.

Monday, June 28, 2021

I'm finally compelled to admit it: the SNP leadership have become the biggest obstacle to independence

A couple of weeks ago, an SNP leadership loyalist on Twitter (I think it was Marcus Carslaw) framed the debate on indyref timing as supposedly being between the official SNP position of holding a referendum in 2023, and the preference of Alba and people like Joanna Cherry for an earlier vote.  That was completely bogus, because there is no official SNP commitment to a referendum in 2023, and if there was, most people in Alba would be reasonably happy with that - our actual fear is that there won't be a referendum at all over the coming five years, and that the mandate will be allowed to expire yet again.  That concern has, to put it mildly, not been allayed by a comment in the Sunday Times' write-up of their new Panelbase poll, which states that people in SNP leadership circles are privately going around saying that there isn't going to be a referendum this side of the next UK general election, which isn't due until 2024.  

There's a stock line in many a courtroom drama where the defence attorney says "do I have the court's permission to treat this witness as hostile?", and I think I've finally reached that point with the SNP leadership.  Until very recently I was genuinely unsure whether they were serious about holding a referendum or whether they were just stringing indy supporters along, but I'm now forced to conclude that it's the latter.  If they were intending to use the mandate for an indyref, they would be doing it before the UK general election. Waiting until afterwards means in practice that yet another mandate would be required, because we know from the experience of the 2017 general election that any seat losses for the SNP will lead to a consensus between the media and the 'caution' wing of the SNP that an indyref is unthinkable for the foreseeable future, which would push it back to beyond the 2026 Holyrood election.  And the balance of probability points towards seat losses, because the SNP won an exceptionally high 48 seats out of 59 at the last general election.  No-one should expect electoral gravity to be defied forever.  Besides which, waiting until 2024 carries the strong whiff of "hoping for something to turn up" that might bring about a Section 30 order - perhaps the SNP holding the balance of power in a hung parliament, which is a 5% chance at best.  (And even if by some miracle it did happen, the SNP's caution faction would then be telling us that "now is not the time" to press home that advantage, because the voters would never forgive us for "playing games".)  We've got to have a more credible plan for bringing about independence than this.

The term "neverendum" was coined in Quebec, and even though it originally meant the repeated holding of referendums on the same subject, what it's instead come to mean in both Quebec and Scotland is endless debate about a referendum that somehow never actually takes place.  The SNP leadership and the Tories are colluding in the neverendum process - they have a shared self-interest in an indyref remaining an apparent prospect, but perpetually just over the horizon. The election that will supposedly determine whether an indyref takes place is always the next election, and when the SNP win each successive election we somehow find out the next day that another election two or three years down the road will need to be won - and that all "grown-ups" and "realists" understand this to be true. 

Here's a thought we need to consider.   Perhaps what "grown-ups" and "realists" think they know most of all is that Scotland cannot and will not leave the United Kingdom.  After all, no integral part of a stable democratic state anywhere in western Europe or North America has become independent since the Second World War.  (Even going a little further back, the only example I can really think of is Iceland's independence from Denmark, and that's a special case given the physical distance between the two countries.) Secession is not part of the 'normal', 'safe' political process as it's practised by statesmen and stateswomen across the democratic world.  We should never forget that our political goal is an intensely radical one - bordering on revolutionary. To bring it about will require equally radical thinking about process and strategy.  Staying within the normal 'safe', 'mature' parameters means staying within the United Kingdom - it's as simple as that.

This is not, incidentally, a call for Nicola Sturgeon to stand down or to be replaced.  Apart from anything else, my guess is that her successor would probably be equally cautious about strategy.  But I do think we now need to be hardheaded about the fact that the SNP leadership have become the biggest obstacle to progress, and if it's pointless to change that leadership, what we'll need to do instead is change the leadership's thinking.  That will require the building up of tremendous external political pressure - both from direct electoral opponents like Alba, and also from non-party organisations like Now Scotland.

Just a word on the Panelbase poll itself - it shows Yes on 48% and No on 52%.  The Sunday Times are portraying this as a significant drop in independence support, which on paper they're entitled to do because the last Panelbase poll had Yes on 52% - but the snag is that previous poll was an outlier.  A week before it was published, another Panelbase poll (commissioned by this very blog) had Yes on 49%, which was much more in line with what other firms were showing at the time.  So it looks to me like nothing much has changed since the election - either Yes are holding steady, or any drop has been very minimal.  There is, frankly, no evidence yet to justify John Curtice's rather odd claim in the Sunday Times piece that there has been a post-election "cooling" of public attitudes towards independence.

Prior to the election, Mark McGeoghegan doused himself in parfum d'obsession and insisted that although he could not prove that the bastards in Alba were to blame for the fact that Yes no longer had a clear lead, anyone who didn't believe that to be the case was a zoomer.  Well, let's be blunt - anyone who still holds McGeoghegan's view is the real zoomer, because Alba have had practically no coverage in recent weeks.  The explanation for the small No lead must therefore lie elsewhere.  Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP leadership quite rightly expected their fair share of credit for building up a sustained Yes lead last year - and it would be equally fair for them to accept the lion's share of the blame for any slight reversal of fortunes that has occurred since.  The most plausible explanation is the complete failure to make the case for independence.

I'll leave you, though, with one piece of very good news from the Panelbase poll: 54% of respondents want a referendum in the next five years, and only 46% don't.

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You can catch up with the latest episode of the Scot Goes Popcast HERE.