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.

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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).

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.