Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Behold the most exquisitely self-defeating tweet in the history of Unionist Twitter (yes, it's "The Majority")

He obviously thought (rather optimistically) that he'd rescued the situation with that follow-up, although I'm still imagining him sitting with his laptop in a Winchester wine bar carping about the politics of a country that he can only dimly remember from forty years ago.  But even assuming he's telling the truth about having returned to Scotland, let's just think through the implications of his original tweet.  

First of all, he suggests (or at least strongly implies) that Scots have left their country for centuries because of higher taxes.  That might make sense if Scotland had been a self-governing country for the last few centuries with the ability to set its own taxes.  But in fact Scotland has been part of the United Kingdom for the last 315 years.  Between 1707 and 1999, there were no autonomous tax-raising powers in Scotland at all, and even when the very limited tax-varying power on the basic rate was introduced in 1999 (Michael Forsyth's beloved "Tartan Tax"), it went wholly unused by successive Labour-Lib Dem and SNP governments.  It's only been very recently, with the introduction of the post-indyref powers, that the Scottish Government has had a meaningful ability to raise taxes and has actually used it.  So if Scots have been leaving for "centuries" because of tax, the responsibility lies squarely at the door of the UK Government which actually set the tax rates in Scotland for the vast majority of that period.  The obvious conclusion to draw is that it was a huge mistake for Scotland to ever become part of the UK.

Of course, if you were to challenge him on that point, he would claim that he wasn't talking about taxes at all, but just about the lack of opportunities in Scotland in general.  But again, who can possibly be responsible for that lack of opportunities over centuries if not the UK Government, which was in sole charge of Scotland for centuries until 1999, and has continued to be in partial control even since then?

I can only guess as to what the hell he thinks he's wittering about, but my suspicion is that he reckons that Scottish culture is so ghastly that we're essentially not savable by our benefactors in London.  They try our very best for us, God love them, but there's just a general malaise in these parts that stifles enterprise and ambition.  So by insisting that Scotland must remain in the UK, "The Majority" is not actually offering greater opportunities to Scots, but rather more of the same.  He's not really an advocate of the benefits of Union at all - his basic proposition is "Scotland is a disaster area and I hate it but please continue to colonise it so it doesn't get even worse."

And I must note once again the glorious irony of him doggedly sticking to calling himself "The Majority" during a period in which a sizeable number of polls have shown his views to be in the minority.  It's a bit like Lenin's mob calling themselves "Bolsheviks" (the majority) when in fact the "Mensheviks" (the minority) were in the clear majority in the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party.  Lost in the mists of time, the reason for the names was the outcome of a single vote in 1903 on an obscure matter of internal party organisation.

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Monday, September 26, 2022

Early polling evidence suggests Truss has dug herself deeper into the hole with her mini-budget - this could be a Black Wednesday / 'winter of discontent' type event that guarantees Tory defeat at the general election

It now seems like a statement of the bleedin' obvious that the gamble from Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng in the mini-budget has not paid off, given the firm thumbs-down from the markets and the slippage of the pound to bargain basement levels not seen since the 1980s.  However it's still a landmark moment to have opinion poll confirmation of the Tories falling further behind after the mini-budget, because many right-wing commentators and a large chunk of the mainstream media clearly felt that voters would be delighted to have more money in their pockets as a result of tax cuts, and would happily vote Tory in gratitude.  Indeed, Scottish journalists were queueing up to claim that the real story here was "intense pressure on Nicola Sturgeon" to replicate the tax cuts in Scotland, which now looks like a hapless misreading of the room from well-off individuals with very narrow horizons.  What it seemed to boil down to was that they just couldn't bear the thought that their counterparts down south might soon be slightly better off than them.  The true 'politics of envy'.

GB-wide voting intentions for the next general election (Redfield & Wilton Strategies, 25th September 2022):

Labour 44% (+2) 
Conservatives 31% (-1) 
Liberal Democrats 11% (-1) 
Greens 6% (+1) 
SNP 4% (-) 
Reform UK 2% (-1)

Scottish subsample: SNP 38%, Conservatives 28%, Liberal Democrats 15%, Labour 14%, Greens 2%, Reform UK 2%

Crucially, the percentage changes are measured from a poll on 22nd September, before the mini-budget but well after Liz Truss becoming Prime Minister and the death of the Queen.  So, assuming the change is real and not an illusion caused by margin of error, the extension of the Labour lead can only really have been caused by the mini-budget itself.  

It's sometimes argued that there's an iron law in British politics that the initial reaction to a Budget will eventually prove to be the opposite of the longer term verdict, but it's very hard to see why the public would change their minds this time given that Kwarteng's misjudgement seems to be spiralling into one of those rare events of economic calamity that pass into folklore and thus fundamentally change the political weather - with other examples being devaluation in 1967, the various crises of the late 1970s, and Black Wednesday in 1992.  And all of those examples have one thing in common - they all consigned the government of the day to a whopping defeat at the following general election by destroying its reputation for economic competence.

If we're moving into a period where a post-2024 Labour government looks like a near-certainty, it's fair to say that will probably be sub-optimal from the point of view of the Scottish independence movement, especially if the Supreme Court verdict goes the wrong way and we start to look towards a plebiscite election.  Our best chance of success would be a general election in which there is no hope of change at Westminster, allowing the SNP and others to argue that we must take our destiny in our own hands.  Instead, there's now a danger of voters having their heads turned by the false prospect of change from Labour, who in fact have reinvented themselves as old-school One Nation Tories. 

But there are a couple of caveats to add.  Quite a few commentators have pointed out that Liz Truss is as far to the right as Jeremy Corbyn is to the left, and it would never have been possible for her to become Prime Minister if it hadn't been for the weird political leanings of the London media.  I remember when Corbyn first became Labour leader, Matthew Parris predicted that it "could be all over far quicker than anyone expects, possibly by Christmas".  That didn't happen, but it's not hard to see how it could have done if Corbyn hadn't proved as tenacious as he did.  So I wouldn't totally rule out the radicalism / extremism (take your pick) of Truss proving to be her downfall within a few months, in which case the Tories could get themselves back into the game under a more moderate leader.

And secondly, what is happening now could be a game-changer in terms of the debate over the currency that an independent Scotland would use.  Arguably the biggest weakness of the Yes campaign in 2014 was the perception that Scotland might not be "allowed" to use the pound - but it could be getting to the point now where nobody will be that bothered about losing such a discredited currency.  The euro or an independent Scottish currency could start to look like a much safer bet.

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Saturday, September 24, 2022

Sensational Social Attitudes Survey suggests that independence support has soared by almost TWENTY percentage points since the 2014 indyref - does this suggest that conventional polling has been underestimating Yes support for years?

I've finally had a chance to catch up with the independence numbers from the Social Attitudes Survey that caused so much excitement a couple of days ago.  What strikes me most is that the survey seems to exist in a slightly different universe from the more conventional polling we're used to seeing.  We thought we knew that 2020 was (by far) the high watermark for independence support to date, and that 2021 was a step backwards, but this new survey suggests that support actually reached a fresh peak in 2021 - albeit there was no Social Attitudes Survey in 2020 itself for obvious reasons, so it's possible an even bigger number was missed during the gap.  Nevertheless, an outright majority for independence on a multi-option question is a startling finding given the pattern of polls in 2021.  It could perhaps be more easily explained if the fieldwork had been conducted at the start of the year, because the unbroken sequence of Yes majority polls carried on into January 2021 (as I remember extremely well, because I commissioned a Survation poll myself that month which showed Yes on 51%).  But in fact the Social Attitudes Survey was conducted in the autumn, and was thus contemporaneous with a series of eight polls in a row which showed a No lead, albeit mostly a fairly modest No lead.

2021 Scottish Social Attitudes Survey constitutional preferences (with changes from 2019):

Independence: 52% (+1)
Devolution: 38% (+2)
No Scottish Parliament: 8% (+1)
Don't Know: 1% (-4)

The main difference of format between this survey and conventional polls is that respondents weren't asked to give a binary Yes/No answer to independence, but instead to choose between multiple options, including more than one option for expressing support for the union.  You would normally expect such a format to produce less support for independence than the conventional polls, and yet for some reason it's produced more.  

But, actually, I would tend to suspect that if a binary question had been asked in the survey, it might have resulted in an even bigger Yes vote.  I think there's something going on here that isn't about the question format - I think it might be about the data collection method.  The Social Attitudes Survey has traditionally been conducted face-to-face, which makes it very different from the online polls we're used to seeing.  If the 2021 survey had been face-to-face as usual, that would be a very obvious potential explanation for the divergence with conventional polls, and might call into question whether online polls have been systemically underestimating the Yes vote for some time - especially bearing in mind that the only telephone poll conducted in autumn 2021 (by Ipsos-Mori) also contradicted the online polls by showing a very handsome Yes lead.

But just to muddy the waters, the pandemic meant that the Social Attitudes Survey wasn't conducted face-to-face last year - the What Scotland Thinks website suggests it was a hybrid telephone/online panel survey.  Nevertheless, I do still wonder if the telephone element, and perhaps a different approach to online fieldwork (particularly random participant selection), may have been factors in producing such a strikingly different result from conventional polls.

The other sense in which the Social Attitudes Survey seems to exist in a different universe is the longer term trend.  It suggests that support for independence has more than doubled since 2012, has increased by almost twenty percentage points since the indyref year of 2014, and has increased by thirteen points even since the SNP's golden year of 2015.  There's no sign in conventional polling of quite such a dramatic transformation, and Stuart Campbell must be looking on in horror, because it's a trend that's utterly impossible to reconcile with his repeated claims of flatlining Yes support since 2014.  The question format probably is the explanation here, because it looks as if a lot of people who said they supported devolution in past surveys nevertheless voted for full independence when presented with a binary choice in a referendum.  But their increasing readiness to actually identify as independence supporters rather than devolution supporters suggests that their position has hardened considerably as the years have progressed.

And just a final thought.  Renowned Liberal Democrat "fast bowler" Alex Cole-Hamilton tried to mock The National for reporting a survey with fieldwork that was a year old.  "Whatever this is, it's not journalism" he sneered.  But hang on.  Isn't it his own side that claims that the state of public opinion eight years ago is more important than the state of public opinion now?  Even though in 2014 nobody knew Brexit was coming, and even though some people who are now eligible to vote were only eight years old back then?

*  *  *

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How English voters react to the new Thatcherism over coming days could be decisive for the Scottish independence project

One type of context we sometimes lose when we think about political history is the sense of shock in the moment about certain developments.  People didn't know Churchill would be proved right about Germany in the 1930s - they thought the opposite.  People didn't know the communist bloc would fall in the 1980s - in fact they expected it to persist indefinitely, albeit perhaps in a reformed state.  And people in Scotland did not see Thatcherism coming in the late 1970s.  The 1979 Tory manifesto was far from the first post-war Tory manifesto to promise wide-scale privatisation or other right-wing measures, but once in office Conservative governments had always tended to chart a more moderate course.  If you look back at the coverage of the 1979 election, there was no real sense that Mrs Thatcher's win would represent a decisive break from the past - except in the obvious sense that she herself would be Britain's first female Prime Minister.

So when Scots experienced the effects of Thatcherism, they didn't just think to themselves "well, this is what we expect from Westminster".  In fact, what they had come to expect from Westminster over decades was effectively social democracy, a large public sector and a healthy welfare state - and when they started getting the total opposite, with no prospect of any respite, it was a bewildering shock that fundamentally changed Scottish attitudes to the United Kingdom.  The modest majority for devolution in the 1979 referendum (disregarded by our Westminster masters) quickly became a massive majority or "settled will" as John Smith put it.  Although support for full independence remained in the minority, it pretty much doubled from where it had languished in the 1970s - meaning that the Thatcher period marked the moment when independence went from being a fringe pursuit to something that people could just about imagine actually happening.

But there was an additional necessary ingredient for this transformation, and that was the fact that Thatcherism was for a long time popular in England.  The Tories introduced a type of simplistic transactional electoral politics that really seemed to work for them - give us your vote and you'll get 1p off the basic rate of income tax in return.  The 1983 and 1987 landslides increased the sense of Scottish despair that change could ever come from Westminster, and in turn stiffened the resolve to seek a solution in the form of self-government.

Yesterday marked one of those historical moments of shock and rupture when we realised that after twelve years of Tory rule, we suddenly have a full-fat Thatcherite Restoration that we didn't really see coming.  We know how Scots tend to react to Thatcherism, so we already know what the effect of that psychological jolt is likely to be in these parts.  All of the optimistic noises from the mainstream media about how Nicola Sturgeon is "under intense pressure" to replicate the Tory tax cuts will cut very little ice with most Scottish voters.  But what we don't yet know is whether the return to transactional electoral offers will open up a 1980s-style schism between Scottish and English voters, with the latter eagerly re-electing the Tory government to bag their tax cuts.  If that does happen, independence could become near-enough inevitable.

However, I'm a bit sceptical as to whether English voters will actually react in the way Truss and Kwarteng appear to expect.  Remember that even Mrs Thatcher eventually over-reached herself on tax.  The whole point of the poll tax was to export transactional politics to local elections, with Tory councils offering a low and very specific flat tax rate that could be easily compared by voters to a higher 'bid' from Labour.  But instead English voters focused on the injustice of the whole principle of a flat-rate tax which took no account of people's ability to pay, and they concluded in many cases that Tory rule would actually leave them worse off.  It's quite possible that yesterday's mini-budget will generate a similar perception in England due to the emphasis on tax cuts for the wealthiest.  There's also the problem that the mini-budget is being blasted by experts as fiscally irresponsible and potentially even crisis-inducing, which is not the sort of critique that Mrs Thatcher's chancellors ever had to face.  If Kwarteng's gamble backfires, it could destroy the Tories' most potent line of attack against Labour - ie. that only the Tories can be trusted to manage the economy responsibly.

It could well be that the 2024 general election will come round with Scottish voters in a mood to escape this new Thatcherism, but with English voters in a very similar mood, which would not quite be the perfect storm that the independence movement is looking for.  But, there again, it wouldn't totally surprise me if the next batch of opinion polls shows a swing at GB level to the Tories, and then we'd be able to credibly portray independence as the only way out of this nightmare. So the next few days could be crucial.

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POLL FUNDRAISING FOR SCOT GOES POP

The incident with The Sun makes the case eloquently for crowdfunded opinion polls commissioned by pro-indy alternative media outlets like Scot Goes Pop.  Not only did The Sun get their pollster to ask truly ridiculous questions (like "did you CRY after the Queen died?") to try to artificially generate a picture of Scotland being at one with the rest of the UK, they also then brazenly lied about the poll's results.  Because the data tables hadn't been published at that point, it took a long time for us to discover we were being lied to about the supposedly "plummeting Yes vote", and by that point some of the damage was already done in terms of public perception.  But with crowdfunded polls for a pro-indy outlet, we get to choose which questions are asked, and we can also make very sure the results are reported accurately right from the start.  I'm continuing to fundraise for a seventh Scot Goes Pop poll, and also more generally to help keep Scot Goes Pop going - it's been slow progress this time (totally understandable given the cost of living crisis) but we're gradually getting there.  If you'd like to donate, here are the various options...

Direct payments via Paypal - my Paypal email address is:   jkellysta@yahoo.co.uk

(Paypal payments are the best method because they're direct and eliminate all fees as long as you choose the "paying a friend" option.  However, please take great care to spell the above email address correctly.  Also, if you wish you can add a note saying something like "for the fundraiser", but rest assured it'll be obvious what the payment is for anyway.)

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Friday, September 23, 2022

It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for control over stamp duty, which (checks notes) it appears we already have

Gordon Brown's constitutional review was supposed to be the massive wild card, the potential game-changing moment that could transform Scottish politics and see voters switch back en masse from the SNP to Labour, at least in Westminster elections.  And, in fairness, it was semi-plausible that it could have worked out that way.  Imagine that, as now seems conceivable or even likely, Labour go into the 2024 general election on the brink of finally bringing to an end fourteen years of unbroken Tory rule.  And suppose they were also going into that election making Scottish voters a credible offer of significantly enhanced devolution.  Wouldn't a lot of Scottish voters be tempted to do what might look to them (wrongly) as the pragmatic thing and get behind a party that has the capacity to actually replace the Tory government and then quickly deliver more powers for Holyrood?  Such an electoral strategy could potentially have the same effect as the New Democratic Party's "French kiss" to Quebec voters in the 2011 Canadian federal election, which saw the pro-independence Bloc Québécois lose majority status in the province for the first time in almost two decades.

But there's a bit of a snag.  The broad thrust of Brown's review has now been "leaked" (ie. announced unofficially to the Guardian) and it looks as if it doesn't offer any significant new powers to the Scottish Parliament at all.  The biggest devolution-related promise is: "New tax powers for some devolved governments, which could include stamp duty".  A quick Google search confirms that stamp duty is already devolved to Scotland as a result of the post-indyref changes, which means the "some devolved governments" which will receive new tax powers does not include the Scottish Government.  The 'making excuses' tone of Blair McDougall's tweet strongly suggests that he's seen the report and knows there isn't any enhanced devolution for Scotland, but only for the rest of the UK.  He still wants us to believe that Scottish voters are being offered a "reformed UK", but it's hard to see how that's much use when the only parts of the UK being reformed are the parts Scottish voters don't actually live in.  It's a bit like responding to the aspirations of French voters by saying "we are offering you a reformed Paraguay!"

McDougall might retort that the replacement of the House of Lords would directly benefit Scotland.  Well...maybe to a very limited extent, but I'd want to see the details.  In Germany, for example, members of the upper chamber (the Bundesrat) vote as a bloc as directed by their provincial government.  That might be a moderately useful power for the Scottish Government to have, because it would give them direct control of 8% of the seats in the UK upper house, which might lead to them holding the balance of power on some issues, which in turn could generate some wider bargaining leverage.  But I've just given the exact reason why a German-style system is very unlikely to be adopted in the UK.  More probable is a system of indirect election which gives representation to parties in proportion to the number of seats they hold at Holyrood.  That would mean Scottish members of the upper house wouldn't vote as a bloc, and there would be an effective replication of the way Scotland is currently represented in the lower house, but without direct election.  What that's got to do with federalism, or with near-federalism, or even with devolution, is far from clear.

It can't be overstated how vital it is that the independence movement gets the message out to voters that this is a massive con-trick that is being portrayed as a historic reform but without offering Scotland a damn thing.  And that's before we even come to the elephant in the room: that UK parties have been promising House of Lords reform for over a century, but have always failed to deliver it once in power.  To this day we have several dozen hereditary peers in the Lords, which is a reminder that Labour backtracked on even the absurdly modest reform they promised in the 1997 election - ie. to scrap all hereditary peers and leave us with an all-appointed House.  The bottom line is that it suits every government that draws its power from an elected majority in the Commons to have an upper house that lacks the democratic legitimacy to be any kind of threat.  And pretty much any reform you can think of would make the Lords at least marginally more democratic and legitimate.

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POLL FUNDRAISING FOR SCOT GOES POP

The recent incident with The Sun makes the case eloquently for crowdfunded opinion polls commissioned by pro-indy alternative media outlets like Scot Goes Pop.  Not only did The Sun get their pollster to ask truly ridiculous questions (like "did you CRY after the Queen died?") to try to artificially generate a picture of Scotland being at one with the rest of the UK, they also then brazenly lied about the poll's results.  Because the data tables hadn't been published at that point, it took a long time for us to discover we were being lied to about the supposedly "plummeting Yes vote", and by that point some of the damage was already done in terms of public perception.  But with crowdfunded polls for a pro-indy outlet, we get to choose which questions are asked, and we can also make very sure the results are reported accurately right from the start.  I'm continuing to fundraise for a seventh Scot Goes Pop poll, and also more generally to help keep Scot Goes Pop going - it's been slow progress this time (totally understandable given the cost of living crisis) but we're gradually getting there.  If you'd like to donate, here are the various options...

Direct payments via Paypal - my Paypal email address is:   jkellysta@yahoo.co.uk

(Paypal payments are the best method because they're direct and eliminate all fees as long as you choose the "paying a friend" option.  However, please take great care to spell the above email address correctly.  Also, if you wish you can add a note saying something like "for the fundraiser", but rest assured it'll be obvious what the payment is for anyway.)

Scot Goes Pop General Fundraiser 

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If you prefer a bank transfer, please message me for details using the contact email address which can be found in the sidebar of the blog (desktop version only), or on my Twitter profile.

Thursday, September 22, 2022

The Sun's lies about their independence poll: an update for anyone pursuing a complaint to the press regulator

A couple of people have been in touch with me after making complaints to the press regulator IPSO about The Sun's notorious article in which they misrepresented the results of their own poll on independence.  It seems IPSO's initial response to anyone complaining has been to ask "how do you know" that The Sun were making a (bogus) comparison with last month's Panelbase poll, and also to ask to see details of that poll.

That reply could be seen as slightly vexatious, because it would take IPSO's staff all of ten seconds to do a Google search and find the datasets from the Panelbase poll.  They also undoubtedly have a channel of communication with The Sun and could very quickly check with the horse's mouth to find out which poll was being used as the basis for comparison.  However, I suppose as a complainant you just have to play the game to some extent, so this is what I would suggest saying.  

First of all, there's no room for ambiguity about the fact that The Sun were using the Panelbase poll for the comparison, because the wording in the article as it currently stands is "compared to one poll last month".  There was in fact only one published poll on independence last month, and that was the Panelbase poll.  So there's nothing else they can possibly be referring to - unless they're going to pretend that it's some mysterious private poll that no-one's allowed to see, in which case they could just make up any old cobblers and how could anyone ever verify whether it was true or not?

Secondly, there was an article in the Herald which explicitly stated that the comparison was with the Panelbase poll.  As the datasets for The Sun's poll had not yet been published at that point, it seems highly likely that the Herald were taking their cue in some form or another from people at The Sun itself.

Finally, here is the URL for the data tables from the Panelbase poll, as requested by IPSO - 

https://drg.global/wp-content/uploads/ST-Tables-for-publication-220822.pdf

*  *  *

POLL FUNDRAISING FOR SCOT GOES POP

The incident with The Sun makes the case eloquently for crowdfunded opinion polls commissioned by pro-indy alternative media outlets like Scot Goes Pop.  Not only did The Sun get their pollster to ask truly ridiculous questions (like "did you CRY after the Queen died?") to try to artificially generate a picture of Scotland being at one with the rest of the UK, they also then brazenly lied about the poll's results.  Because the data tables hadn't been published at that point, it took a long time for us to discover we were being lied to about the supposedly "plummeting Yes vote", and by that point some of the damage was already done in terms of public perception.  But with crowdfunded polls for a pro-indy outlet, we get to choose which questions are asked, and we can also make very sure the results are reported accurately right from the start.  I'm continuing to fundraise for a seventh Scot Goes Pop poll, and also more generally to help keep Scot Goes Pop going - it's been slow progress this time (totally understandable given the cost of living crisis) but we're gradually getting there.  If you'd like to donate, here are the various options...

Direct payments via Paypal - my Paypal email address is:   jkellysta@yahoo.co.uk

(Paypal payments are the best method because they're direct and eliminate all fees as long as you choose the "paying a friend" option.  However, please take great care to spell the above email address correctly.  Also, if you wish you can add a note saying something like "for the fundraiser", but rest assured it'll be obvious what the payment is for anyway.)

Scot Goes Pop General Fundraiser 

Scot Goes Pop Polling Fundraiser 

If you prefer a bank transfer, please message me for details using the contact email address which can be found in the sidebar of the blog (desktop version only), or on my Twitter profile.

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Two quick plugs

Just a couple of little plugs while I'm thinking of them.  First of all, it looks like there are still delegate passes available for the Alba Party conference in Stirling next month.  Any Alba member can purchase a pass on a first come, first served basis via the link HERE.  For an emerging party like Alba that is still starved of mainstream media attention, video clips of the party conference - and especially of the leader's speech - are an incredibly valuable 'shop window', and obviously in an ideal world we want those clips to show a well-attended venue cheering Mr Salmond to the rafters.  Conference is of course the supreme decision-making body of the party, and attendees will have the opportunity to vote and to speak on a variety of motions.  And I'm sure there'll also be a chance to hear speeches from a star-studded line-up including Kenny MacAskill (Depute Leader), Neale Hanvey (Westminster group leader), Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh (party chair) and Chris McEleny (General Secretary).  

It also looks very much like registering for conference will actually be the only way to vote in Alba's internal elections this year.  In theory, the whole membership can vote in the elections for office bearers - however, on this occasion there's only one nomination for each office bearer position, meaning those elections will be uncontested.  So unless there are multiple nominations for Leader or Depute Leader (which seems highly unlikely), the only contested elections will be for ordinary members of the National Executive Committee, and those votes are only open to those who have purchased a conference delegate pass.  I'm one of the twelve candidates chasing the four male spots available on the NEC (hint, hint, cough, splutter, violent sneeze), and there are a further eight candidates chasing the four female spots.

Although only Alba members are eligible to buy a delegate pass, I presume people instantly become eligible as soon as they join the party, so if it feels like the right time for you to come on board, please click HERE.  You'll be more than welcome.  Very few people who have joined Alba have ended up regretting it, because there's far more room to breathe and just be yourself than there is within the SNP at present.

The second plug is for the wonderful iScot magazine, for which I've now been a columnist for exactly five years.  In fact the latest issue is only the second time in those five years that my column hasn't appeared, because publication was delayed for a few months and thus the piece I had sent in ended up being out of date (I think it was about the local election results in May).  As you may know, iScot's editor Ken McDonald has been going through multiple health issues, but I spoke to him on the phone recently and he was in excellent spirits and absolutely determined to keep the magazine going.  There are, however, a number of significant challenges - not only his health, but also rising printing costs and the fact that some previous subscribers have fallen away.  A high-quality pro-independence print magazine is a vital asset for our movement and it's well worth supporting.  I've said it before but it really is true - every single issue is a collector's item and it's a genuine treat when it arrives each month.  If you're interested in becoming a subscriber or even just checking the magazine out, please click HERE.

Fresh revelation from that notorious Sun / Deltapoll survey on independence: they didn't bother interviewing 16 and 17 year olds

Every time there's a poll on independence that shows a No lead, there's always a minor chorus of people asking me "did they interview 16 and 17 year olds?"  And it's been getting to the point where I just roll my eyes to the heavens, because the answer is almost always "yes" - it's become completely standard to include over-16s in Scottish indy polls.  But, I'm afraid, the now-notorious Deltapoll survey for The Sun is a shocking exception to that general rule.  Marcia pointed me in the direction of the newly-published datasets this morning, and if they're accurate they show only over-18s were polled.  There's no way of knowing whether that made any difference to the headline results, but it could conceivably have cut the Yes vote by 1% - in other words if 16 and 17 year olds had been there (as they certainly should have been), it could have been a 52-48 lead for No, rather than 53-47.

I suspect the reason for this breach of good practice is simply that Deltapoll are not experienced in running Scottish-only polls - it may not have occurred to them that 16 and 17 year olds needed to be there, or they may not have had any 16 or 17 year olds on their panel.  The explanation for the small sample size may also be that they don't have enough Scots on the panel - it seems unlikely The Sun didn't have the cash to pay for a full-scale sample of 1000.  

There are a few other points of interest.  The poll shows that only 47% of the sample (before Don't Knows are excluded) are opposed to an independence referendum.  This will come as a massive surprise to anyone who read the Sun's write-up of the poll, which claimed that 55% were opposed to a referendum.  They can only have reached that figure by excluding Don't Knows - but if that's what they did, why did they quote a Yes figure of 42% which they arrived at by not excluding Don't Knows?  It's just the most appallingly deceitful and cynical article you'll ever see - it leaves Don't Knows in when it's convenient, excludes them when it's not, and never even bothers to mention that different numbers are being calculated in a completely different way.  (And frankly, I suspect the 55% figure must be yet another outright lie.  The figures with Don't Knows excluded aren't available on the data tables, but I can't see any arithmetical way in which 55% is even possible.  The real figure is probably around 51%.)

There were only ten Green voting respondents in the sample, and they had to be massively upweighted to count as 36 people.  That's magnified a peculiar (and almost certainly inaccurate) pattern - 71% of Green voters are counted as Yes supporters, zero as No supporters, and an unusually high 29% as Don't Knows.

There's also a finding in the poll that shows the Queen's death has made 17% of people more likely to vote for an independent Scotland, compared to only 12% of people who are less likely to vote for independence.  Mysteriously, this result is totally absent from the Sun's report, and I'm sure that's got nothing whatever to do with the fact that it drives a coach and horses through the "independence support plummets due to Queen's death" angle they wished to take.  

Incidentally, the Sun article has now been quietly modified.  The word "plummets" has been replaced by "falls", and the claim of a "seven-point drop" in Yes support has been replaced by "four-point drop".  (In reality, it's a mere two-point drop on the headline numbers, and it's a comparison they shouldn't even be making because the polls were conducted by different firms, but they can justify the claim of four points by leaving Don't Knows in.)  This almost certainly means they knew they were on a sticky wicket with the press regulator IPSO.  If anyone is proceeding with an IPSO complaint, my strong advice would be to not accept this furtive change as sufficient and to push instead for a clear correction and apology.  And please note that the Express article about the poll has not yet been changed to remove the false claim about a seven-point drop in Yes support.

You might like to know there's an article in today's edition of The National, which quotes me at length about The Sun's lies - you can read it HERE.

*  *  *

We've already seen since Nicola Sturgeon's announcement that the overwhelmingly unionist mainstream media are attempting a 'shock and awe' campaign to try to kill off independence - and the misuse of polling is playing a key part in that.  If you'd like to balance things out with polling commissioned by a pro-independence outlet and which asks the questions we want to see asked, one way of doing that would be to help Scot Goes Pop's fundraising drive - see details below.

Scot Goes Pop General Fundraiser 

Scot Goes Pop Polling Fundraiser 

If you prefer another method, such as Paypal or bank transfer, please message me for details using the contact email address which can be found in the sidebar of the blog (desktop version only), or on my Twitter profile.

Feel free to follow me on Twitter or to join our sister group on Facebook.

Monday, September 19, 2022

This one reason is enough to make a referendum on the future of the monarchy worthwhile

So here's a polling observation of a very different sort from the ones I normally make on this blog.  If a pollster asks people how many sexual partners they've had in their lives, heterosexual men will on average give a much higher number than heterosexual women, which on the face of it doesn't make any sense.  There are potential statistical explanations that would square the circle, but it's generally accepted that the real explanation - or the main one - is fibbing.  Men tend to exaggerate their number of sexual partners and women tend to understate their number.  Men are either boasting or are too embarrassed to admit to a low number, while women tend to give an 'edited' version of their past, and justify that by thinking to themselves "that one doesn't really count because it wasn't a relationship".

And that's a rather useful analogy for the BBC at the moment, because they have a self-image of being impeccably impartial, the envy of the world in that respect, and regard anyone who questions their objectivity in even the remotest way as a tinfoil hat nutter.  And yet they've spent the last ten days churning out propaganda on behalf of the state in quantities that would make the North Korean state broadcaster blush.  How on earth are they going to reconcile what they've just done with their self-image of impartiality?  Simple: they're going to say "it doesn't count".  As far as they're concerned, anything to do with the monarchy is somehow totally different.  It's sealed off from the rest of their political output and no-one should judge them by it or even take it into account.

I'm not sure that's going to wash anymore.  Anecdotally, a lot of people who have given the BBC the benefit of the doubt until now have finally seen them for what they are.  But, as we discovered in Scotland eight years ago, an erosion of public trust doesn't mean the BBC will suddenly reflect or change.

Perhaps the only thing that would force them into a different approach is a referendum on the monarchy.  Until now, I've always thought a referendum would be a pointless exercise because there's at least a 3-1 majority in Britain for retaining the monarchy, and that's been very stable over time, so the outcome would be virtually a foregone conclusion.  But sometimes the journey is more important than the destination, and it may well be that a referendum campaign would in itself have a transformative effect on Britain.  For the first time ever, the BBC would be forced to treat the monarchy as an issue of political controversy just like any other, and to give parity of esteem to the arguments in favour and against.  Once that precedent has been set, it would be very difficult to go back to the sort of absurd adulatory output we've seen in recent days.

For clarity, I'm talking specifically about a Britain-wide referendum here.  If Scotland became independent, it would be a very different situation because I think a Scottish referendum on the monarchy would actually be inevitable sooner or later.  As Commonwealth Realms like Jamaica and Australia queue up to give their citizens the choice of a homegrown Head of State, it's unthinkable we wouldn't follow suit eventually.  And what's more, such a vote would be perfectly winnable for the republican side.

Sunday, September 18, 2022

A few pointers for any readers thinking of reporting the Sun's lies about their independence poll to the press regulator IPSO

Duncanio asked me a question on the previous thread - 

"James - do you intend to report this to the Press Complaints Commission and/or Independent Press Standards Organisation as well as Deltapoll and possibly the British Poling Council?"

As I said in my blogpost, I don't think there's any real doubt that The Sun's brazenly inaccurate report on their own poll breaches the 'accuracy' clause in the IPSO code.  However, what there is considerable doubt over is whether IPSO are remotely interested in enforcing their own code.  In spite of the 'I' in IPSO standing for 'Independent', it's anything but - it's a self-regulator which allows the press to police itself, and naturally it grabs hold of any flimsy excuse available to find itself innocent as much as possible.  You may remember there was a previous occasion when I suggested to readers that it might be worth reporting the Daily Record for falsely claiming that a poll showed a drop in support for Yes - there was no doubt that the claim was false, because there was no drop for Yes since the previous poll from the same firm, and there was no drop since the most recent poll from any other firm.  At least one reader did lodge a complaint with IPSO, and showed me the correspondence.  Ludicrously, IPSO said there wasn't even a case to answer - essentially because polls can be "interpreted" in a variety of ways and the Daily Record were entitled to their own opinion.  Well, I suppose truth is one "interpretation" of reality and lies are another "interpretation" - but if that's IPSO's philosophy it's hard to understand why they bother with a code of accuracy at all, especially one that explicitly forbids "misleading and distorted information".

Does that precedent mean it's a complete waste of time reporting The Sun to IPSO in this case?  Not necessarily, because The Sun's transgression of the IPSO code is significantly worse than what the Daily Record did.  The Record merely cherry-picked a poll from the past as a conveniently unflattering point of comparison for Yes, but The Sun are going further and making an objectively bogus comparison between a Yes figure of 49% that excludes Don't Knows and a Yes figure of 42% that doesn't exclude Don't Knows.  On that basis, they're making the objectively false claim that the Yes vote has "plummeted" by seven points as a result of the Queen's death. 

So if you have the time, I do think there's some merit in putting IPSO to the test on this, because quite honestly if they're not prepared to enforce their own code in this case, it can be safely assumed they'll always allow any newspaper completely free licence to tell whatever outright lies about polling it wishes to tell.

The clearest breach of the IPSO code in the Sun article relates to the following two sentences: 

"In an exclusive poll, we found a seven per cent drop in those wanting a breakaway.  Just 42 per cent of Scots would vote for independence if there was a referendum tomorrow, compared to one poll last month that found 49 per cent were in favour of a vote."

If you're lodging a complaint with IPSO, I would clearly explain to them that the comparison being made is between the Sun's new Deltapoll survey, and the Panelbase poll carried out between the 17th and 19th August.  There are two ways in which the two polls can be compared - if you leave in the Don't Knows in both polls, the Deltapoll survey suggests a drop in Yes support from 46% to 42%.  If you strip Don't Knows out from both polls, Deltapoll suggests a drop in Yes support from 49% to 47%.  So it's either a two-point drop or a four-point drop, but either way The Sun's claim of a seven-point drop is a flat-out lie and thus a breach of the IPSO code.

That's the central issue, and I would advise not complicating your complaint with other points that IPSO can latch on to as an excuse for muddying the waters and 'overlooking' The Sun's main lie.  In particular, I would advise you not to suggest to IPSO that the unusually small sample size of 659 respondents somehow invalidates the poll's results altogether, because that's not actually the case - even a sample size of 500 can be adequate, although obviously it does increase the margin of error a bit.  

Although in principle it's worth making the point that a poll from one firm cannot be meaningfully compared to a poll from a different firm using different methodology (meaning there's nothing in the Deltapoll results to suggest that Yes support has even fallen at all), we already know from the previous complaint about the Daily Record that IPSO will simply refuse to acknowledge this widely-accepted truth.  So, as frustrating as it is to have to do this, it might be best to implicitly concede in your complaint that The Sun have the right to compare the two polls - but stress that they have blatantly lied in the way they have done so.

As for whether I'll lodge a complaint myself, I'd just note that the experience of Wings Over Scotland suggests there may be downsides to bloggers firing off complaints to IPSO.  It's probably better if readers do it independently, although I'd be grateful if you'd let me know if you do.  If after a few days I get the impression that no-one else has done it, I might grit my teeth and do it myself.

IPSO's complaints form can be found HERE.  Don't forget, incidentally, that there's a near-identical article on the Express website which can also be reported.

BREAKING: The Sun quite simply LIED about their new independence poll. It does NOT show Yes on 42%. It does NOT show a 7% drop in Yes support. It does NOT suggest support for independence has fallen - let alone "plummeted" - after the Queen's death. Outright lies like this are why journalists are not respected, and they have no-one to blame but themselves.

As soon as I have time, I'm going to update this blogpost with full analysis of this shocking development (albeit a shocking development I had a sneaking suspicion might occur).  In the meantime, here are the real results from the poll that the Sun tried to conceal.  They will come as a tremendous relief to the independence movement, because they show that - far from "plummeting" - support for independence has held up remarkably well during the period of mourning for the Queen and the related wall-to-wall state propaganda from the BBC and others.

Should Scotland be an independent country?* (Deltapoll / The Sun)

Yes 47%
No 53%

* It has yet to be confirmed whether Deltapoll used the standard independence question.  There are no percentage changes listed because as far as I can see there is no remotely recent Deltapoll survey about independence on which a comparison can be based.

UPDATE: My suspicions about the reporting of the poll were first aroused because The Sun quoted a Yes figure of 42% without giving any hint or trace of the corresponding No figure.  If 42% had been accurate, the No figure would have been 58%, and it would have been entirely normal to simply report that.  When something that would normally be there is absent, there'll generally turn out to be a reason for that, and we now know what that reason is: The Sun deceitfully wanted to give a false impression that the Yes vote had "plummeted" as a result of the Queen's death, even though the results of their poll simply didn't show that.  To pull off that stunt, they gave the Yes figure from before Don't Knows had been excluded without bothering to mention that's what they were doing, and took multiple steps to ensure people would wrongly assume they were doing the opposite.  They didn't give the No figure, thus allowing people to infer that it must be 58%, even though it was actually much lower than that.  They suggested that the 42% figure for Yes was directly comparable to 49% for Yes in a recent poll from another firm - but in reality the latter figure was from after the exclusion of Don't Knows, not before.  Thus, the comparison was a deliberate distortion intended to leave people wrongly thinking that the Yes vote had dropped 7% after the Queen's death, when in fact the actual drop for Yes from one poll to the other was a statistically insignificant 2%.  (And that's leaving aside the fact that polls from different firms with different methodologies can't be directly compared anyway.)

Technically The Sun can claim that the 42% figure isn't a direct lie, even though they were undoubtedly misleading readers deliberately, and even though it's highly unusual to headline figures that don't exclude Don't Knows, especially when it's done so wildly out of context.  However, what pushes the article into outright lie territory is the suggestion of a 7% drop in Yes support by excluding Don't Knows from one poll and not from the other.  The Sun is affiliated to the press regulator IPSO, and is thus bound by the following code on accuracy - 

"i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information or images, including headlines not supported by the text. 

ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and — where appropriate — an apology published."

With the best will in the world, it's impossible to see how The Sun's article doesn't constitute a breach of the requirement to avoid misleading or distorted information.  The same can be said about a near-identical article about the poll on the Express website.

If you're thinking of lodging a complaint with IPSO, you can find a few pointers HERE.

Saturday, September 17, 2022

Here's why the Sun's claims of "plummeting independence support" should be taken with a heavy dose of salt

Someone asked me on the previous thread if I had any analysis of the new poll in the "Scottish" Sun.  I hadn't heard about it, so I looked it up and found the headline "UNION POLL BOOST: Support for Scottish independence plummets since Queen's death".  Now, I must admit that for a second or two my heart sank, because we're living through an unprecedented period of BBC-led state propaganda seeking to ruthlessly exploit the Queen's death in order to weaken the independence cause, and it's far from implausible that would have had some effect, at least in the short term.  However, you won't be surprised to hear that all may not be quite as it appears.

The "exclusive" poll was conducted by Deltapoll, and supposedly finds 42% would currently vote in favour of independence.  So the first issue here is that the Sun are weirdly vague on whether that number is before or after Don't Knows are stripped out.  It's probably the latter, in which case 42% would indeed be unusually low for recent times, but I'm certainly not going to take that as read until we have confirmation - it wouldn't be the first time a newspaper has cynically led us up the garden path about an independence poll.  (Never forget Scotland on Sunday and #Matchettgate.)

Even odder, though, is the Sun's claim that 42% represents a 7% drop in the Yes vote.  I don't see how that can possibly be true, because there's no sign of Deltapoll having previously conducted an independence poll for many years.  Presumably the Sun must be making an apples-and-oranges bogus comparison with a poll conducted by a different firm using different methodology.

The reality is that major events such as the one we're currently living through can often produce unusual polling figures that are reversed within a few weeks.  Even if the Sun's claims turn out to have a partial grain of truth in them, what will matter far more is what the polls show once the BBC hysteria has died away.

UPDATE: Here's another gem from the Sun's appallingly-written report on the poll... 

"Close to two thirds of respondents in our poll, 57 per cent, said they expect to watch the Queen’s funeral on Monday."

Er, I don't know how to break the news to you guys, but 57% is closer to one-half (7% away) than it is to two-thirds (9.7% away).

*  *  *

We've already seen since Nicola Sturgeon's announcement that the overwhelmingly unionist mainstream media are attempting a 'shock and awe' campaign to try to kill off independence - and the misuse of polling is playing a key part in that.  If you'd like to balance things out with polling commissioned by a pro-independence outlet and which asks the questions we want to see asked, one way of doing that would be to help Scot Goes Pop's fundraising drive - see details below.

Scot Goes Pop General Fundraiser 

Scot Goes Pop Polling Fundraiser 

If you prefer another method, such as Paypal or bank transfer, please message me for details using the contact email address which can be found in the sidebar of the blog (desktop version only), or on my Twitter profile.

Thursday, September 15, 2022

A genuine suggestion for the BBC: why not introduce a daily, half-hour Republican Round-up from now until Monday (or however long you plan to keep this up for) to provide a small semblance of balance?

For clarity, the programme wouldn't be 30 minutes of people slagging off the royals for the sake of it.  It would be respectful and in keeping with the solemnity of the moment, but would simply look at the current events through an alternative lens.  It would, in a nutshell, be what is known as journalism.  And thirty minutes a day of that really isn't too much to ask, given that the monarchists would still have the remaining twenty-three-and-a-half hours of each day set aside for unchallenged propaganda.  

The BBC could bring in one of their in-house republican presenters to front the show - it would presumably be OK for that person to 'come out' with their views, given that other presenters have had free licence to espouse monarchist views live on air since last Thursday.  But in a way it might actually be interesting to have one of the monarchist presenters (like Huw Edwards) front the republican programme, just to see if they're journalistically dexterous enough to carry it off with the same level of enthusiasm.

Items for the show could include...

* What would be happening right now if Andrew had happened to be the eldest son, rather than Charles?  Don't the implications of that question suggest that it's far too dangerous to leave it solely to accident of birth to find a suitable (or even semi-adequate) person to be Head of State?  And could the monarchy actually survive the introduction of a legal mechanism to filter out undesirables, or would that be an "emperor has no clothes" moment?

* Has a terrible misjudgement been made in allowing Andrew to be one of the Counsellors of State, who take over the functions of the King when he is incapacitated or out of the country?  Is that decision a giveaway that the monarchy is primarily motivated by family interest, rather than the interests of the country?

* Should the King have spoken out against the arrest of protestors?  OK, such an intervention would have been highly unusual, but past monarchs have spoken out about issues that they found particularly important, and can there be anything more important than ensuring that a system of installing unelected Heads of State is consistent with the upholding of free speech?

* Should the cost of the funeral be sharply reduced?  The Royal Family take pride in what their admirers describe as lives of "sacrifice" and "selflessness", so shouldn't that entail the dispensing with unnecessary frills in the middle of a cost of living crisis?

* How do particularly selfless members of the public, for example those who give up their homes for others or work in soup kitchens, compare to the "sacrifice" of the Royal Family?  Do they live out their lives in greater or lesser luxury, and which sacrifice should we celebrate more?

* This is the first time that a new Head of State has assumed office since we moved into a less deferential age.  Would this be an appropriate moment to have a referendum just to check the public are willing to give their considered consent to the system of non-election?

* Are the 'marks of respect' proposed for the day of the funeral causing an unnecessary and unwanted disruption to people's daily lives?  Was the semi-lockdown that occurred when the Queen died an act of self-harm that may have needlessly made a recession more likely?

* How does the media coverage of the Queen's death and a new Head of State compare with the North Korean media?  Are there obvious parallels in the attribution of almost superhuman qualities to a 'dear leader' who is supposedly admired more than any other person in the whole world?  Are the sometimes rather absurd examples given of the leader's greatness (see the satirical pigeon video below) comparable to examples that the North Korean media regularly offer? 

* Will the replacement of a popular monarch with a less popular one hasten the break-up of the United Kingdom?

* Should the King pay inheritance tax in the way that any other person would be obliged to?

* Are there at least ten news stories happening in the world right now that are more important than a long queue?

*  *  *

We've already seen since Nicola Sturgeon's announcement that the overwhelmingly unionist mainstream media are attempting a 'shock and awe' campaign to try to kill off independence - and the misuse of polling is playing a key part in that.  If you'd like to balance things out with polling commissioned by a pro-independence outlet and which asks the questions we want to see asked, one way of doing that would be to help Scot Goes Pop's fundraising drive - see details below.

Scot Goes Pop General Fundraiser 

Scot Goes Pop Polling Fundraiser 

If you prefer another method, such as Paypal or bank transfer, please message me for details using the contact email address which can be found in the sidebar of the blog (desktop version only), or on my Twitter profile.

Monday, September 12, 2022

The BBC are practically treating anti-monarchists like terrorists. The only tinfoil hat brigade these days are the people still ludicrously trying to pretend the BBC are impartial.

I've almost been dreading attempting to write this blogpost, because I feel it may expose my inadequacy.  I'm not sure I actually have the words to sufficiently convey how angry I am right now and how angry I think everyone else should be.  Over the last few days we have come face to face with how power is derived and exercised in this country, and it bears little resemblance to the pretty story of freedom and democracy we've been told all our lives.  Complicit in it are the monarchy itself, the politicians, the police, and a media committed to the industrial-scale dissemination of state propaganda.  Consider what we've seen...

* An unelected Head of State assumed office on Thursday.  When people peacefully protested against this and argued in favour of a democratic system for electing our Head of State, they were arrested and even charged.  How does that look?  How is that even intended to look?  In a free country, the logic for police intervention in protests is generally that it's necessary to uphold liberties and democracy - but this is the polar opposite.  This is the forces of anti-democracy using the raw power of the state to suppress anyone calling for a democratic system.   It's just like the communists in the old Eastern Bloc telling the ordinary people that they're snookered - not only do you not get to choose the person who reigns over you, you don't get to even say that you should be allowed to choose, or to explain why.

* It's a very similar story over at the state broadcaster.  We can all understand the BBC giving only a one-sided, rose-tinted perspective on an individual who has just died and is being mourned, but when they blur the distinction between that person and the institution of the monarchy and use that as an excuse to give only one side of the story on a matter of legitimate political debate, they are betraying their nominal duty of impartiality (which we can now see has always been a fiction).  Either they should be restricting themselves to celebrating the life of an individual, or they should bring in anti-monarchy voices to robustly contradict BBC presenters who apparently are now de facto politicians and are allowed to give monologues on the virtues of an unelected Head of State.   As Emily Maitlis pointed out recently, the BBC moved heaven and earth to find pro-Brexit economists to artificially balance out the 99% of economists who are anti-Brexit.  By contrast, they wouldn't need to look further than the broom cupboard to find anti-monarchy commentators.  So why aren't those people on TV every day?  You don't achieve impartiality as a broadcaster with a tokenistic disclaimer that "not everyone in this country supports the monarchy but the vast majority do and let's face it those who don't are a bit weird and out of step".  In a functioning democracy, dissenting voices are actually heard, not swept under the carpet and pathologised.

* Even worse than a blurring of the distinction between the virtues of the Queen as a person and the virtues of the institution of monarchy is the blurring of the distinction between the virtues of the Queen and the virtues of a "united UK" as she supposedly stood for (even though, paradoxically, she was betraying her duty to be non-political by taking any sort of stand at all against Scottish independence).  The broadcasters have given themselves free licence to openly campaign against independence over the last few days, with their implicit justification being that to allow the other side of the argument would be disrespectful towards what the Queen was all about.  The generally very good BBC contributor Allan Little made a catastrophic error of judgement the other night when he said in a voiceover: "A small group of protestors booed and called for an independent Scottish republic, but this was not the prevailing mood."  He said this in the same tone of voice that a journalist might say "a small minority support terrorism, but the vast majority of people are decent and oppose violence". But what is the word Little finds so troubling here? "Independent", "Scottish" or "republic"? As far as I can see, all three words encapsulate beliefs that are entirely moderate and mainstream.  And remember that what Little calls "the prevailing view" is, in this instance, the anti-democratic view.  It's the protestors who believe in a democratic system for choosing the Head of State.

* I gather Jeremy Vine eagerly grabbed the opportunity to host a phone-in asking whether the death of a Queen so "devoted to Scotland" (where's my violin?) would help save the Union.  But can you imagine any broadcaster having a phone-in at the present time to ask the equally logical question: "will the replacement of a popular British monarch with an unpopular one hasten the break-up of the UK?"  Well, no, of course you can't imagine it, because that would be "disrespectful to the memory of the Queen".  Do you see how this works?

* Quite possibly the most barking mad thing I've heard about the BBC doing is Martin Geissler trying to explain away the muted reaction on the streets of Scotland by saying "we Scots don't show our emotions".  That's the kind of propaganda strength you'd expect from the state broadcaster in a totalitarian state.  If people don't show the emotions you insist they must have, it's not because they're not feeling those emotions, oh no perish the thought.  It's because those emotions are so intense that they have to be hidden by a cunning outward show of not actually giving a monkey's.

In 2014, I agreed with the strategic logic of the Yes campaign saying the monarchy would be retained in an independent Scotland.  Supporters of a republic were mostly voting Yes anyway, so what was the point of alienating the monarchists?  I would grudgingly still take that view, although we in the Alba Party have the luxury of being pro-cake and pro-eating it, because we can take a republican stance without that being portrayed as the official position of the Yes campaign.  But what I would say is this: if independence wasn't my over-riding priority, the experience of the last few days would have led me to throw caution to the wind and decide that we must do all we can to build as much support as possible for the end of this corrupt system of monarchy. If there's one thing that the state won't let you say, and won't let you be heard saying, that in itself makes it vitally important to say it, over and over and over again.

 *  *  *

We've already seen since Nicola Sturgeon's announcement that the overwhelmingly unionist mainstream media are attempting a 'shock and awe' campaign to try to kill off independence - and the misuse of polling is playing a key part in that.  If you'd like to balance things out with polling commissioned by a pro-independence outlet and which asks the questions we want to see asked, one way of doing that would be to help Scot Goes Pop's fundraising drive - see details below.

Scot Goes Pop General Fundraiser 

Scot Goes Pop Polling Fundraiser 

If you prefer another method, such as Paypal or bank transfer, please message me for details using the contact email address which can be found in the sidebar of the blog (desktop version only), or on my Twitter profile.

Thursday, September 8, 2022

What lies ahead in this post-Elizabethan era?

I was planning to blog today about Liz Truss' surprisingly assured performance at her first PMQs, and how in a perverse way it gave me heart for the cause of independence.  But I suspect it will now be practically illegal to talk about anything that doesn't involve the Royal Family for at least the next six months.  That being the case, let's briefly consider what the political implications of today's events could be.  (And if you think it's too soon for that, remember we live in a choice-rich multi-media environment and the BBC is there for those who prefer 12,748 uninterrupted hours of state-directed mass grief.)

The future of the monarchy: It's long been speculated that the accession to the throne of King Charles could be the natural moment for some of the remaining Commonwealth Realms to replace the monarchy with a homegrown Head of State, as Barbados did very recently.  The monarchy is much more firmly entrenched in the UK itself, although it's conceivable that a less popular Head of State and a relatively unpopular Queen Consort could increase the size of the minority who favour a republic, and that could prove to be of some significance in the very long term.  But on the other hand, Charles as King brings the undoubted glamour of William and Kate one step closer to the throne.

Liz Truss: If the new Prime Minister has some hardbitten and cynical advisers (as all Prime Ministers seem to), they're bound to be telling themselves that this is the most extraordinary, unique opportunity for Truss to connect immediately with the British public and to establish herself on the world stage, if she can just find the right words.  The obvious comparison is with Tony Blair, who eulogised Princess Diana as "the People's Princess" just a few months after taking office.  (The Quintessential Queen?  The Most Matriarchal of Monarchs?  Legendary Lillibet?)

Independence for Scotland: We always knew this moment would arrive, and we always knew it would be challenging for the independence movement, because events like this push Britishness to the fore.  However, the death of Princess Diana in 1997 was an event of almost the same magnitude as far as the public were concerned, and it didn't stop Scotland voting overwhelmingly in favour of having its own parliament in a referendum held just ten days later.  The difference here may be that there isn't going to be any natural closure after the funeral is over - there'll still be a sense of transition until the Coronation, which I presume could be a whole year away and will be the focal point for unprecedented media hysteria that will surpass any Royal Wedding.  (And will there also be an investiture ceremony for William as Prince of Wales at Caernarfon Castle?)  In the long run, though, an unappealing King Charles and Queen Camilla could diminish the value of the UK 'brand' and make independence seem less unthinkable for some.

The BBC: I just have this very slight feeling the BBC may over-reach themselves over the coming weeks, because their protocols for royal deaths seem to be permanently stuck in the 1950s.  I believe comedy and light entertainment programmes will be completely dropped for a prolonged period.  The BBC may be capturing the mood of Britain tonight, but after a few weeks of this will people start saying "yeah, Nick Witchell is great, but could we watch Mock the Week now?"

Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Martin Kettle is wrong to suggest the manner in which Truss has come to power makes an early election inevitable

Conservative leadership election, result of final round:

Liz Truss: 81,326 votes (57.4%)
Rishi Sunak: 60,399 votes (42.6%)

I was asked a couple of weeks ago to give a view on Martin Kettle's article claiming that Liz Truss would have to call a snap election because of the allegedly unusual way that she was coming to power.  Now that she's actually in office as Tory leader (although as I write this she's still an hour or two away from becoming Prime Minister), it might be a good time to do that.  I have to say I think Kettle's logic is atrocious.  Basically he's arguing that something truly out of the ordinary is happening because, in the past, any mid-term change of Prime Minister has been decided by the governing party's MPs, or where it's been decided by party members, their choice has happened to coincide with the MPs' wishes.  He thinks that's as it should be in a parliamentary democracy.  But this time, the elected MPs appeared to want Rishi Sunak and the members have chosen Liz Truss - so, supposedly, to have any legitimacy, she'll have to get a mandate from the country at large.

There are a number of problems with this theory:

* There's no clear evidence that Sunak is the choice of Tory MPs.  He won a plurality on every round of MPs' ballots but was always well short of an absolute majority.  Under the old rules where MPs had the only say, the ballots would have continued until one candidate had 50% + 1.  That candidate might have been Sunak or it might not have been.  (James Callaghan, for example, trailed Michael Foot in the first ballot in 1976 but eventually won a majority.)  So nothing has been "overturned" by Tory members because there was no clear decision to overturn.

* A majority of the governing party's MPs categorically does not constitute the will of parliament in a parliamentary democracy.  For example, John Major was elected in 1990 with the votes of 185 Tory MPs - which constituted just 28.5% of the overall House of Commons.  The reason Major could be said to "command the confidence of the House" (a prerequisite for being appointed PM) was not that he finished in first place in an internal Tory ballot, but instead that he had 'losers' consent' from the Tory MPs who didn't vote for him and therefore was able to command an overall Commons majority.  Losers' consent is just as possible in a system which gives party members the final choice - it really just boils down to whether MPs accept the rules and constitution of their own party.

* And, actually, the Tory party has a system which allows MPs to effectively withhold losers' consent even without breaking the rules.  They can submit letters of no confidence in their leader to the chairman of the 1922 Committee at any time.  Presumably, that hasn't happened so far, or the threshold for a no confidence vote hasn't been reached.

* Last but not least, parliament can at any time bring down a sitting PM by a vote of no confidence in the government.  Any failure to do that is the true mechanism by which a Prime Minister secures legitimacy in a parliamentary democracy.  For that reason, Truss will have exactly the same constitutional legitimacy as any of her predecessors.

I think a much better argument for why Truss should be honour-bound to call an early election is the extent to which her plans diverge from the manifesto that the Conservative government was elected on in December 2019.  That's what perhaps does set her out from previous Prime Ministers who have taken office midway through a parliament.
*  *  *

We've already seen since Nicola Sturgeon's announcement that the overwhelmingly unionist mainstream media are attempting a 'shock and awe' campaign to try to kill off independence - and the misuse of polling is playing a key part in that.  If you'd like to balance things out with polling commissioned by a pro-independence outlet and which asks the questions we want to see asked, one way of doing that would be to help Scot Goes Pop's fundraising drive - see details below.

Scot Goes Pop General Fundraiser 

Scot Goes Pop Polling Fundraiser 

If you prefer another method, such as Paypal or bank transfer, please message me for details using the contact email address which can be found in the sidebar of the blog (desktop version only), or on my Twitter profile.

Sunday, September 4, 2022

The surprise challenge for Truss on day one: delivering the REAL result of the 2016 Brexit referendum and getting Britain back in the EU

Over the last 36 hours, Team Truss have fundamentally changed our understanding of how constitutional referendums work.  Gone is the outdated concept of "the winner is the side which wins the most votes".  It turns out that instead the proponents of the status quo needn't turn out to vote at all, unless they just happen to fancy a stroll.  If you don't vote, you've in fact voted against change.  Might be news to you, but that's what you've done.

So far, most of the commentary on this startling new rule has focused on the potential impact on any Scottish independence referendum next year.  But in reality, a much more immediate concern is the fact that the result of the 2016 EU referendum has just been automatically reversed.  Here is the new result...

Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?  (23rd June 2016)

Remain / Abstain: 62.5%
Leave: 37.5%

So, contrary to our previous erroneous belief, the UK in fact voted by a landslide margin to remain a member of the EU in 2016, and all the tortuous negotiations over withdrawal arrangements since then have just been a very, very silly misunderstanding.  Doh! Doubtless Liz Truss will waste little time in correcting the error and implementing the real result, although it's going to be a bit awkward for her given that a) she'll need Macron's permission to rejoin the EU and she's just insulted him, and b) many of her supporters have been labouring under the misapprehension that her "I accepted the result" comment referred to the previous false assumption that Leave had somehow "won".  But it's just got to be done - people have got to be given what they voted for, even if they didn't actually know they voted, and even if they didn't know how they voted.

*  *  *
Tomorrow afternoon, unless all the polls, bookies and pundits are completely wrong, Liz Truss will be declared the new leader of the Conservative party.  On Tuesday, much to the horror of the absurd Nicholas Witchell, she will have to travel to Scotland - bloody SCOTLAND - to be appointed Prime Minister by the Queen.

This is obviously a completely ludicrous situation.  We're talking about an individual who is hopelessly unsuited to high office, let alone the highest office in the land.  But if we can bring ourselves to temporarily take this development seriously, there are two interesting implications.  There's been very minimal mention of the fact that Truss will be Britain's third female Prime Minister, which in itself is a psychological breakthrough, because it means that having a woman in the role has been comprehensively normalised and is now deemed barely worthy of comment.  I'm just about old enough to remember Mrs Thatcher bequeathing an all-male Cabinet to John Major, which made the first female PM look like a freakish historical aberration that was very unlikely to be repeated in our lifetimes.  For many years afterwards, when discussion turned to who might be the next leader of the two largest parties, women barely featured as possibilities, or if they did feature it always seemed like a bit of a long shot.  So we've come a long way in a very short space of time.  It must be hoped that from now on parties will always just choose the best leader available, rather than worrying about whether it "should be a woman this time" - although in Labour's case that's extremely unlikely.  They're going to be incredibly embarrassed about the Tories producing three female PMs before Labour have even managed to produce one.

Secondly, it does appear very likely that Truss will be an extremely unpopular leader, both in Scotland and south of the border.  That's obviously good for keeping support for independence high, but it could also lead to complications if the SNP end up using the next Westminster election as a de facto plebiscite.  If Labour appear on the brink of deposing Truss, could some independence supporters have their heads turned by Starmer?

*  *  *

We've already seen since Nicola Sturgeon's announcement that the overwhelmingly unionist mainstream media are attempting a 'shock and awe' campaign to try to kill off independence - and the misuse of polling is playing a key part in that.  If you'd like to balance things out with polling commissioned by a pro-independence outlet and which asks the questions we want to see asked, one way of doing that would be to help Scot Goes Pop's fundraising drive - see details below.

Scot Goes Pop General Fundraiser 

Scot Goes Pop Polling Fundraiser 

If you prefer another method, such as Paypal or bank transfer, please message me for details using the contact email address which can be found in the sidebar of the blog (desktop version only), or on my Twitter profile.