Saturday, December 31, 2022

Is this controversial journalist David Leask's most cowardly article to date?

As I sit down to write this, there are just two hours and ten minutes of 2022 to go, so I'm not going to attempt a lengthy blogpost, but I don't think it should go completely unmentioned that the controversial journalist David Leask has sunk to yet another new low today by penning an article in the Herald which attempts in a deniable way to link Alex Salmond (and George Galloway for that matter) with anti-Semitism and Nazi sympathies, something he would find impossible to justify if he said it more directly.  The implied logic goes like this - a) there is a history of anti-Semitic Nazi sympathisers in Scotland, albeit mostly in Tory ranks, b) weasel words such as "globalist" are now used as a cover for anti-Semitism, c) "globalist" is also a word used by people who support Putin, d) unnamed politicians who we all know to be Mr Salmond and Mr Galloway presented shows on RT before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and e) this is all somehow connected.

You are a pathetic coward, Mr Leask.  If you want, without a shred of evidence, to call Mr Salmond a Nazi sympathiser, an anti-Semite, or even one of the Scottish apologists for the invasion of Ukraine, by all means have the guts to try it and see how you get on in court.

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I'd just like to thank Scot Goes Pop readers for your continued support during 2022.  November and December in particular have seen the highest monthly levels of traffic to the blog since the Holyrood election in spring 2021, probably due to the flurry of dramatic opinion polls we've had recently.  I'll see you in 2023, and until then I'll just leave you with a crafty selfie I took at the door of Bute House last night.  Who said we Alba folk would never reach The Gates Of Power?

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Tuesday, December 27, 2022

England and the other islands, starring Ian Botham

I'm still feeling a bit lazy after Christmas, but in the meantime here's a thought from a Scot Goes Pop reader about Ian Botham - a man who earned his permanent unelected spot in the UK Parliament through sheer merit, because after all he can bat and bowl.  And making laws we have to obey isn't enough - it was only right and proper that the BBC handed over editorial control of the Today programme to him as well.

"Dear James, 

I don't have any online presence, but I do follow a lot of good folk, and so far I have seen no-one comment on the fact that in the oleaginously obsequious 'interview' with the stomach-churning bigot Botham at the end of that broadcast he edited, in the discussion of Brexit, Botham said straight out that 'England' would be fine, and the BBC interviewer did not pick him up on 'England' at all. It was a gift to an interviewer, and it was completely ignored. I once wrote to Radio 3 about such a mistake made by a Danish presenter of an archaeological documentary ('and England became an island') and goodness me, they wrote back very quickly and most apologetically; for as you know, BBC policy is push 'Britain' and GB and UK 113.0573 % round the clock. But for Bottom in Midwinter's Night Dwam, no rules apply. 

I cannot remember the exact words of the sentence, but it could doubtless be found on the i-player. I am not signed up, however."

This isn't the first time, of course - a few years ago, Botham famously said "remember, England is an island and we should be proud".  Really quite impressive stupidity from a man who once did a high-profile walk (not swim) from John O'Groats to Land's End, and who has a grandson who plays rugby for Wales.

Saturday, December 24, 2022

Could a Westminster veto of the GRR Bill cause the SNP and Green leaderships to be suddenly radicalised on independence?

Almost as soon as I'd posted the above tweet, a couple of people partially corrected me by pointing out that the UK Government also have the option of invoking Section 35 of the Scotland Act, which until now has never been used.  Here is the key part of the text:

"Power to intervene in certain cases. 

(1) If a Bill contains provisions— (a) which the Secretary of State has reasonable grounds to believe would be incompatible with any international obligations or the interests of defence or national security, or (b) which make modifications of the law as it applies to reserved matters and which the Secretary of State has reasonable grounds to believe would have an adverse effect on the operation of the law as it applies to reserved matters, he may make an order prohibiting the Presiding Officer from submitting the Bill for Royal Assent. 

(2) The order must identify the Bill and the provisions in question and state the reasons for making the order. 

(3) The order may be made at any time during— (a) the period of four weeks beginning with the passing of the Bill, (b) any period of four weeks beginning with any approval of the Bill in accordance with standing orders made by virtue of section 36 (5), (c) if a reference is made in relation to the Bill under section 33, the period of four weeks beginning with the reference being decided or otherwise disposed of by the Supreme Court."

Surprisingly, then, no discretion at all appears to be given to the Presiding Officer - she seems to be obliged to simply follow the 'instruction' given to her by Alister Jack.  This harks back to the controversial "Governor-General" (or more accurately colonial Governor) role given to the Secretary of State for Scotland in the original 1978 devolution legislation that never actually took effect.  Crucially, though, this is still not a God-like power that can be exercised on a whim - it's potentially open to the courts to make a ruling on whether Jack has interpreted the Scotland Act correctly.  And ultimately whether a devolved law ends up before the courts because of a UK Government challenge, or because of a Scottish Government challenge to a Jack veto, may be a distinction without a difference.  The bottom line is that judges would decide whether the GRR Bill gains Royal Assent.

And if the courts rule against the Scottish Government, as they have a noticeable tendency to do in these cases?  It would either stop or pause a very bad law, to be sure, but I'm a bit disturbed by the number of independence supporters (perhaps I should call them 'former' or 'nominal' independence supporters by this point) who seem all too keen to achieve their objective of stopping the GRR Bill by such an obviously colonial mechanism.

That said, even I can see that there might be a side-benefit to a Westminster veto if that unfortunate event should actually arise.  Many of us worry that the SNP and Green leaderships are somewhat tepid in their support for independence - as if it's something they believe in as a distant ideal, but aren't that bothered about in the here and now.  But nobody could accuse them of feeling that way about gender self-ID - the circus of this week has been caused by them apparently regarding it as utterly unthinkable for this calendar year to pass without the GRR Bill being approved by Holyrood.

So how would they react if they discover that gender recognition reform isn't actually achievable under devolution?  We might suddenly find that independence is an absolute and urgent imperative for them after all - because they'd see it as the only way of getting the GRR Bill onto the statute book.  The only caveat is that they might have the thought at the back of their minds that a Starmer government in 2024 will remove the roadblock - but, there again, if they have sufficient patience to wait for Starmer, why the undue haste we've seen thus far?

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Friday, December 23, 2022

New Panelbase poll finds Alba are not the toxic entity that the likes of John Nicolson want to portray them as

A few people wrote to me almost simultaneously this morning to ask if the new poll results on the Alba website were real.  The answer is yes, its a perfectly real poll - it's one of the Alba-related questions I mentioned a few days ago from the recent multi-client Panelbase survey.  Here are the key findings:

Would you vote for the pro-independence Alba Party with your Scottish Parliament Regional List vote if you thought it would help elect a higher amount of pro-independence MSPs to the Scottish Parliament?

Yes 19%
No 63%

Among current supporters of independence:

Yes 37%
No 41%

Among those who plan to vote SNP with their list vote at the next Holyrood election:

Yes 31%
No 46%

Among those who plan to vote Labour with their list vote at the next Holyrood election:

Yes 12%
No 78%

Among those who plan to vote Green with their list vote at the next Holyrood election:

Yes 27%
No 57%

I've thought long and hard about how to cover this poll, because on the one hand I'm an Alba member and am keen to see evidence of the party making strides forward, but on the other hand, long-term readers will spot instantly that this poll is very similar to the type of "Archie Stirling" poll that I heavily criticised Stuart Campbell for running a few years ago to try to get the idea of a Wings Party off the ground.  I wouldn't have much credibility if I didn't point out that some of the exact same flaws apply here.  The operative word, though, is "some", because if I recall correctly the Wings poll used the phrase "would you consider voting for..." in order to maximise the positive result.  The Alba poll is a bit more direct because it asks "would you vote for..."

Let's start by looking at the positives.  The poll undoubtedly shows that Alba are not the toxic entity that some SNP politicians (for example John Nicolson) would fondly like to believe.  The mention of the name Alba was not enough to send voters scurrying for the hills - if the circumstances are right, well over a third of current Yes supporters are open to voting Alba.  Even a non-trivial minority of Labour voters are open to the idea - which is potential gold dust for the Yes movement, because to state the obvious those people are not doing the independence cause much good by voting Labour.

However, Alba are claiming the poll shows them winning more than twenty list seats at Holyrood.  That's obviously a bit far-fetched.  To remind you of what an "Archie Stirling" poll is, in the run-up to the 2007 Holyrood election, the wealthy theatre producer Archie Stirling (father of the actress Rachael Stirling and ex-husband of Diana Rigg) commissioned YouGov to ask respondents if they would consider voting for his new Scottish Voice party.  Around 20% said they would.  He then put out a press release which convinced several newspapers to breathlessly report that Scottish Voice was on course to win dozens of list seats.  But when the election came around, Scottish Voice took just 0.2% of the list vote, and weren't even within light-years of winning any seats.

The point, of course, is that if you single out just one small party and ask poll respondents if they would consider voting for that party, or would vote for that party if certain circumstances apply, a lot of people will answer "yes" because they're trying to be reasonable and can't find any fault with the proposition being put to them.  It's a very different matter if that party is instead presented - as it will be on the ballot paper - as just one of a menu of parties all in competition with each other, and from which only one option can be selected.  What would have been a more meaningful question to ask would have been something along the lines of -

"If you thought voting for the pro-independence Alba Party on the Scottish Parliament Regional List would help elect a higher amount of  pro-independence MSPs, how would you vote with your Regional List vote at the next Scottish Parliament election?

Liberal Democrats

Even that would have been a highly leading question wording, but it would have produced a better indication of Alba's potential vote (or perhaps a better way of putting it is their potential maximum vote).  You can only really know if voters are willing to switch from SNP to Alba if you give them an SNP option and they select Alba instead.

The other thing I would say is that the breakthrough Alba are claiming from the Panelbase poll entirely hinges on the premise set out in the question wording that a list vote for Alba would increase the overall number of seats held by pro-indy parties.  That points to a repeat of the 2021 "supermajority" strategy, which was dependent on urging people to vote SNP on the constituency ballot and Alba on the list.  If so, I'd gently suggest there needs to be some joined-up thinking here, because I saw very senior Alba people on social media last night saying that nobody should vote for the SNP ever again because of the GRR Bill, and even equating a vote for the SNP as a vote for Jimmy Savile.  That kind of rhetoric is going to have to be toned down massively if we don't want voters to perceive the idea of Alba working with the SNP to produce a supermajority as an obvious confidence trick.  Furthermore, Alba will have to be very careful not to split the pro-indy vote in a Westminster general election conducted under first-past-the-post, because if it's seen that Alba are happy enough to reduce the number of pro-indy seats in one election, few voters will believe that Alba are motivated by a desire to increase the number of pro-indy seats at the following election.

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Thursday, December 22, 2022

Yes vote steady at 49% in new Savanta poll

I missed this Savanta poll yesterday, which (albeit narrowly) breaks the run of seven successive polls with a pro-independence majority.

Should Scotland be an independent country?  (Savanta / The Scotsman, 16th-21st December 2022)

Yes 49% (-)
No 51% (-)

The reaction to this poll in unionist quarters is to suggest that a transitory Yes surge is now easing off due to memories of the Supreme Court ruling fading, and that we can now go back to sleep because it's business as usual and nothing has actually changed.  And they may yet turn out to have a point, but it's far, far too premature to say that just now, for one obvious reason - the margin of error.  If the true Yes vote is in the low 50s, as Panelbase and Redfield & Wilton recently suggested, you'd expect an occasional poll like this with Yes in the high 40s due to a slight underestimate.  It'll only become clear that the Yes surge has genuinely eased off if we get at least two or three polls in a row with a small No lead.

I'm also a bit sceptical about Savanta's independence polls given the extraordinary events of early 2021.  First, there was the #Matchettgate fake poll scandal, when Savanta effectively disowned (albeit using diplomatic language) bogus independence numbers published in their name by their client Scotland on Sunday.  Then Savanta retrospectively changed the results of their previous independence polls due to a counting error being pointed out to them - and in the blink of an eye they had changed from being one of the most Yes-friendly firms to being one of the most No-friendly.  It's not exactly a track record that inspires total confidence.

Also bear in mind the fact that Ipsos polls, and Ipsos telephone polls in particular, persistently show better results for Yes than other firms - meaning that when a firm like Savanta reports a slim No lead, it's fairly likely that an Ipsos poll conducted at the same time would produce a Yes lead.  It's easy to lose track of the importance of that fact, given that Ipsos polls are obviously much rarer than non-Ipsos polls, but it's perfectly conceivable that Ipsos are getting it right and others are getting it wrong for two key reasons - a) only Ipsos use telephone fieldwork, and b) Ipsos are virtually the only firm to refrain from weighting by recalled 2014 indyref vote.  The other firms' adherence to 2014 weighting is a very dubious practice after eight-and-a-bit long years.

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Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Rishi Sunak is absolutely right: British nationalism is simply Greater England nationalism by another name, and the census results bear that out

Issue a gentle reminder that Scotland exists and London politicians will look at you in total bafflement as if you're speaking a foreign language.  And if you need any evidence of that, check out the extraordinary exchange between Joanna Cherry and Rishi Sunak in a Commons committee.  Mr Sunak responds to Ms Cherry in a perfectly good-natured manner, but repeatedly fails to grasp the elementary point she's making - that you can't call something a "British Baccalaureate" when Scotland and England have always had entirely separate education systems.  To add insult to injury, the committee chairman appears to cut Ms Cherry off by saying "she has made her point" - well, personally I'd have said her point would only have been made when Mr Sunak showed the slightest glimmer of actually understanding it.

Some of Mr Sunak's replies were truly baffling, but he's been interpreted in some quarters as meaning that the use of "British" should be considered innocent in this case because it's a word that is routinely used in England as shorthand for "English".  And if that is what he meant, let's be fair - there is fresh statistical evidence to demonstrate that he is quite right.  Here is what the 2021 census found were the top national identities in England and Wales - 

British only: 54.8%

English only: 14.9%

Which is quite a turnaround from the previous census only a decade earlier, which showed - 

English only: 57.7%

British only: 19.1%

This apparently total transformation over ten years in how the people of England see themselves is plainly not credible.  If there had been substantial movement from "English only" to "both English and British", that might have been a tad more believable, but you don't go from one exclusive identity to another exclusive identity in such a short space of time - unless of course the original identity was extremely shallow in the first place.  But nobody who has just watched the bizarre spectacle of the BBC Sports Personality of the Year show could ever accuse our friends down south of having a shallow national identity.

And sure enough, even the Office for National Statistics felt they had no option but to sheepishly admit when they published the results that the trend was not real, but was instead an artefact of methodological change in the census.  In 2011, the English-only option had been presented first, and in 2021 the British-only option had been presented first.  That seemingly minor change was enough to produce a 43 percentage point drop in the number of people calling themselves English.  There are very few examples in polling where the sequence in which possible responses are presented to respondents has such a dramatic effect, and frankly the only logical conclusion to be drawn is that people in England think the words 'English' and 'British' mean literally the same thing - and therefore they simply chose the first version that they saw of that same thing.

I don't think I ever caused more outrage among the Tories on Political Betting (better known as Stormfront Lite) than when I described the UK as "Greater England".  There is no English empire!, they said.  England didn't absorb Scotland!, they said.  Britain is a genuine and voluntary union state of equals!, they said.  In which case they'll have to explain why their own countrymen and countrywomen plainly see Britain as nothing more than England in expanded form.  I really struggle to think of a better way of characterising that state of affairs than "Greater England".

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Monday, December 19, 2022

WINGS-WATCH: Fact-checking the bogus claim that the new Panelbase poll shows "SNP voters hate women"

So as Magnus Magnusson used to say back in the day, there's "just the one" factual inaccuracy to be corrected from today's Wings output - but, alas, it's an absolute whopper.

Mr Campbell claims that the majority of SNP voters who replied to Panelbase's latest poll think that the Scottish Government's planned gender recognition reforms pose a threat to women's safety, and that the majority of SNP voters in the poll also say that the reforms would make them even more likely to vote SNP.  He then goes full Sherlock, dons a deerstalker hat, puts two and two together and makes twenty-two, and declares that this combination of alleged results means that SNP voters hate women because they must be positively enthused about a policy that they think will put women at risk.  To emphasise that he means this absolutely literally, he sums up as follows...

"SNP voters say they’re MORE likely to vote for the SNP specifically because of a policy that they themselves think puts women in danger."

VERDICT: Lie.  There is, in fact, not a scrap of evidence in the poll that SNP voters support the idea of women being put at risk, and every reason to believe that the polar opposite is true.  Although a plurality of SNP voters say that the gender recognition reforms would put women at risk, this in fact amounts to only 39% of SNP voters in the sample (31% take the opposite view and the remaining 30% don't know).  Similarly, it's only a plurality of SNP voters who say that the reforms would make them even more likely to vote SNP, and it's a smaller plurality at that - just 28%.

To state what ought to be the bleedin' obvious, it is eminently possible that the 28% of SNP voters who say the reforms make them more likely to vote SNP, and the 39% of SNP voters who say that the reforms will put women at risk, are not actually the same people.  Indeed, it's overwhelmingly likely that they are not.  If there's any overlap at all between the two groups, it's likely to be extremely minor.

From listening to Mr Campbell you'd be forgiven for thinking that SNP-voting respondents to opinion polls all get together in a room and decide what the collective line is by majority vote.  "Right, chaps, we've decided that the reforms put women at risk, so all further questions must be answered in that light."  Er, no, Stu.  Each SNP-voting respondent in an opinion poll is an individual, answering individually, from their own individual perspective.  The question on whether the reforms make people more likely to vote SNP is not a proxy for whether SNP voters hate women or are excited about putting women at risk, because 61% of SNP voters do not buy into that premise and are therefore not answering the question with that premise in mind.

But that doesn't stop Mr Campbell piling bogus assumption upon bogus assumption and wandering deeper into Narnia with this ludicrous statement:

"Indeed, less than one in five of the party’s supporters are troubled by the fact. 53% of them merely don’t care that women will be put in danger, while 28% of them are actively enthused by the idea. (And of that 28%, two-thirds say they’re MUCH more likely, not just a bit more likely, to vote SNP as a result.)"

Back in the real world, it can be safely assumed that most of those "two-thirds of the 28%" come from the substantial minority of SNP voters who DON'T think the reforms will put women at risk.

One thing I will say about the Panelbase poll is that it's a tremendous relief to discover that the gender recognition questions appear to have been commissioned by the Sunday Times and not by Wings.  That means the wording of the questions is much more neutral and the findings therefore have far more credibility.  They add to the vast weight of polling evidence we already have - including from the earlier Panelbase poll commissioned by Scot Goes Pop - that the public are opposed to the reforms which are expected to be passed by the Scottish Parliament this week.  As I've said before, it's not illegitimate in a parliamentary democracy for MSPs to legislate in defiance of public opinion.  But what is absolutely not OK is for them to gaslight us into thinking that they are acting with the support of the public when they are doing the reverse.  Thankfully, we now have enough polls with a clear enough message to make it very hard for them to get away with that.

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Sunday, December 18, 2022

Momentous Panelbase poll is SEVENTH in a row to show a pro-independence majority

Should Scotland be an independent country? (Panelbase / Sunday Times, 12th-16th December 2022)

Yes 52% (+3)
No 48% (-3)

So at least part of my guess from a few days ago turned out to be correct - the voting intention questions from the Panelbase poll that's been in the field were indeed commissioned by the Sunday Times.  I think, as it turns out, the trans and gender related questions were also for the Sunday Times (I had initially thought it might be Stuart Campbell), but presumably the questions about Alba were for another client - possibly Alba itself.  Anyway, what matters most is that the independence results are broadly in line with what we've been seeing from every other firm since the UK Supreme Court ruled that Scotland is a prisoner in a non-voluntary union.  Once again, there's a clear Yes majority.

As soon as I mentioned this poll on Twitter, someone replied to say they were actually disappointed, because they had been hoping that Yes would now push on to 60%. That gave me a sense of déjà vu from the last Yes surge a couple of years ago, and I'd suggest it offers an insight into where parts of the independence movement, including people very close to the top of the SNP, have been going wrong for years. There are twin assumptions: a) that once independence support starts rising, it ought to be expected to keep rising, and b) that 60% is both attainable and necessary.  Neither assumption is true.  We might eventually see 60% Yes support in the odd isolated poll, but I don't expect it to ever happen on a sustained basis.  But luckily, in a democracy, 50% + 1 is enough.

Ian McGeechan (a staunch unionist like so many rugby people) used to say when he was Scotland coach that you don't need to "beat" bigger countries like England or South Africa - you just need to contrive a way to be one or two points ahead when the referee blows the final whistle.  It doesn't matter if the other team has been ahead for most of the game and has dominated territory and possession.  I think that's how it will be for the independence campaign - we'll squeeze out a tightly fought 52% or 53% victory at the crucial moment, and we won't need to worry about whether that lead would have been sustained.  

That path to independence can hardly be further removed from the belief of the likes of Andrew Wilson that it'll just fall into our laps after we patiently wait for a "settled will" of 60% to be established.  My view is that if we're overly squeamish about winning independence by a narrow margin among a divided electorate, then we'll never reach our goal.  The good news is that history strongly suggests that a consensus that independence is a good thing will quickly develop after independence has actually happened.  Very few countries or territories that were previously ruled by London want to turn the clock back.  There's the odd exception like Hong Kong - but it's no coincidence that Hong Kong is also one of the few former colonies that are not actually independent.  Nostalgia for colonial rule in Hong Kong is really just a proxy for a desire to restore personal liberties and the rule of law.

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Red lines for the SNP's special conference in March

I have a lot of concerns about what might emerge from the SNP's special conference, which we learned today will be held on 19th March.  I'm worried about the vague language being used by senior SNP people to characterise the purpose of the event, which leaves open the possibility of it being used as part of the choreography for yet another climbdown.  I'm troubled by the way in which comments made in recent months by the likes of Angus Robertson, Toni Giugliano and Mhairi Hunter are not even consistent with a plan for a de facto referendum, thus making the whole concept sound like a ruse.  

However, I can't see the point of screaming blue murder about a betrayal that hasn't actually happened yet, and that may never happen.  The conference itself will be the moment of truth.  If whatever is decided ticks the boxes of a genuine plebiscite election, all of us need to get off the fence and get full-bloodedly behind the endeavour - and that includes the Alba Party, because we'll never forgive ourselves if we self-sabotage a golden opportunity to win our country's independence.  If, on the other hand, there's another climbdown, we'll have no choice but to start looking ahead to doing independence the hard, slow way by challenging the SNP in 2026 and beyond.  Make no mistake, that would be very much the second-best outcome, but we'd have nowhere else to go.

So what should be our red lines for the March conference?  I know many people will be prioritising the replacement of a Westminster plebiscite election in 2024 with a snap Holyrood plebiscite election in 2023.  I agree that would be overwhelmingly sensible, but it's not absolutely essential.  The true bottom line is that the plebiscite election must happen, it must genuinely be a plebiscite election and not a con-trick, and it must happen within the timescale we've been led to expect.  So in more concrete terms...

* The de facto referendum, regardless of whether it's Westminster or Holyrood, must take place by the end of 2024.  There must be no delay until 2026 - which would be a whole decade after we learned Scotland was to be dragged out of the EU against its will.

* It must be absolutely crystal-clear that the mandate being sought in the election is for independence itself, not for an independence referendum.

* It must be crystal-clear that if a mandate for independence is secured, the UK government will be expected to negotiate an independence settlement without any need for a further referendum.

* There must be no repeat of the mistake of using language like "once in a generation" - in other words, we mustn't bind our own hands by saying there could be no repeat of a plebiscite election for a long period if we don't win on this attempt.  That's not to say that we'd necessarily use every single scheduled election in the future as a plebiscite, but we must absolutely reserve the right to use whichever election we may deem appropriate.  The whole beauty of switching back to using elections as the means of seeking independence is that no British Prime Minister can say at the end of a five-year term "now is not the time for an election", and it would thus be very stupid of us not to leave our options wide open.

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Friday, December 16, 2022

What will happen to Labour's GB-wide poll lead if the bafflingly strong Reform UK vote starts to return to the Tories?

I was beginning to wonder a couple of days ago if Labour's GB-wide lead was melting away. A survey from Deltapoll stood out in particular...

GB-wide voting intentions for the next UK general election (Deltapoll, 9th-12th December 2022):

Labour 45% (-3)
Conservatives 32% (+4)
Liberal Democrats 8% (-2)
Greens 6% (+2)
Reform UK 4% (-)
SNP 3% (-1)
UKIP 1% (-)

Scottish subsample: SNP 40%, Labour 36%, Liberal Democrats 12%, Conservatives 12%

(Note: Unusually, the Wikipedia list of polls seems to have the result of this poll wrong, at least in part - the above numbers are taken direct from the Deltapoll data tables.)

That certainly does not look like a decisive Labour lead with eighteen months or longer still to go until a general election, bearing in mind that an unpopular government will often enjoy a swing back in its favour as polling day approaches.  At around the same time as the Deltapoll survey, there were also polls from Kantar, Savanta, Omnisis and Redfield & Wilton which showed Labour leads that were a bit less commanding than we were seeing a few weeks ago.

But now we're suddenly seeing more polls with really awful numbers for the Tories - for example, the following from YouGov...

GB-wide voting intentions for the next UK general election (YouGov, 14th-15th December 2022):

Labour 48% (-)
Conservatives 23% (-1)
Reform UK 9% (+1)
Liberal Democrats 8% (-1)
SNP 5% (+1)
Greens 5% (-1)
Plaid Cymru 1% (-1)

Scottish subsample: SNP 46%, Labour 27%, Conservatives 12%, Liberal Democrats 7%, Reform UK 5%, Plaid Cymru 1%

(Before anyone asks, no I don't know why Plaid Cymru have 1% of the Scottish vote.  Possibly a Welsh person on holiday.)

Perhaps the new Tory dip is caused by minds being concentrated by the nurses' strike in England, or perhaps the appearance of ebbs and flows is just an illusion caused by sampling variation.  Either way, what does occur to me is that the hole the Tories are in is only as deep as it is because of the current baffling strength of the Reform UK vote.  We have to assume that most Reform UK voters would still choose the Tories over Labour, so if those voters 'go home' in the same way that Brexit Party voters returned to the Tories as the 2019 election approached, the Labour lead could be cut quite drastically.

I know some people will argue that any such effect could be offset by Green voters drifting to Labour, which is true to an extent, but the difference is that the Greens are a much more established and familiar part of the political furniture.  I do wonder just how committed some of these supposed Reform UK voters truly are.  Is it really credible to think a relatively new party led by Richard "who?" Tice is ahead of the Liberal Democrats?

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The latest issue of iScot arrived through my letterbox today - as always, it's absolutely beautiful, and it contains a column from me about the royals' supposed lives of "duty and service".  A pro-independence print magazine is a fantastic asset for our movement - if you'd like to subscribe, or just to find out more, please click HERE.

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Thursday, December 15, 2022

To put it in the style of a Daily Mail headline: "So why WAS Stuart Campbell so eager to give Brit Nat newspapers a helpful story?"

The story of the apparently missing £600,000 from the earmarked fund for an independence referendum campaign was obviously damaging for the SNP and its leadership, but it was nevertheless in the interests of Yes supporters to pursue, because it was about ensuring that money intended to help win independence is actually spent on that purpose, rather than on any unrelated purpose.  But the story about Peter Murrell personally lending a large sum of money to the SNP, which has dominated the headlines of several media outlets and seems to have been completely generated from scratch by Stuart Campbell, is in a wholly different category because as things stand there's no particular reason to assume anything untoward has happened - it's all just innuendo, a "questions are being asked" story.  There was no noble journalistic intent in Campbell setting this story in train - it was just a malicious attempt to damage the SNP and the Sturgeon leadership for its own sake.

When I ask the people who still earnestly claim that Campbell is some sort of "independence supporter" how on earth this sort of stunt is supposed to help the cause of independence, they tell me it's very simple.  Ms Sturgeon is a hindrance not a help to independence, they say, and therefore anything that harms her is good for independence.  To which I don't know whether to laugh or cry.  Unless you actually have the means to bring Ms Sturgeon down and get her replaced as SNP leader very speedily, then all you're doing is chipping away at the credibility of the independence movement and the independence campaign as currently constituted - and indeed as it will probably still be constituted if and when a plebiscite election occurs.  Is there the remotest prospect of Campbell's stunt removing Ms Sturgeon from office?  No of course there isn't.  Is it particularly likely that anything at all Campbell can do will contribute to her stepping down earlier than she wishes?  No of course it isn't.  He's been chucking everything he can think of at the head of the independence movement for several years now, and it's all been completely ineffective.  Therefore, by definition, he's harming the cause he nominally claims to still support.  All he's doing is throwing unionists a lifeline at the precise moment we should be keeping them on the ropes and pressing home the Yes majority in all recent polls.

A commenter said on the previous thread (and I paraphrase) that he doesn't think Campbell is actively opposed to independence - it's simply that Campbell is single-mindedly driven by his anti-SNP agenda and is past the point of caring what effect his attempts to harm the SNP will have on the prospects for independence.  I think that's about right.  The front page of the Mail today is the grotesque but entirely natural end point for a man who, due to his own vanity and petty grudges, has in effect become an enemy of independence. It's hard to see any way back for him from this.

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Beware the Herald's reporting of a "new" independence poll - the fieldwork is actually several weeks out of date (although it still shows a small Yes lead)

A Scot Goes Pop reader has alerted me to the fact that the Herald is reporting a "new" YouGov poll on independence.  I'll give you the results for the sake of completeness, but the crucial point here is that the fieldwork took place weeks ago, between the 22nd and 25th of November, which means it predates the run of four polls since the Supreme Court ruling showing a clear pro-independence majority.  The Herald's report says that the fieldwork "took in" the moment of the Supreme Court ruling on the 23rd, which is true, but it must always be remembered that most respondents to online polls reply to the interview request as soon as they receive it.  So the bulk of this poll is likely to have been carried out on the 22nd, before anyone knew that the Supreme Court was going to rule that Scotland is a prisoner in a non-voluntary union.

Should Scotland be an independent country? (YouGov / Scottish Election Survey, 22nd-25th November 2022)

Yes 50.2%
No 49.8%

It's extremely unusual in this day and age for polls to be rounded to one decimal place, but I'm just giving you the results exactly as the Herald have published them.  They even give percentage changes rounded to one decimal place from the previous poll for the Scottish Election Study, showing a 2.6% boost for Yes since August.

Obviously rounded to whole numbers this is a 50/50 result, but before Don't Knows are excluded, Yes have a slim lead of 43% to 42%.  So it's in the eye of the beholder whether this is a Yes-majority poll or not.   If you take the view that it is, it means we now have six polls in a row, with fieldwork stretching all the way back to mid-October, showing a pro-independence majority.

The emphasis the Herald are placing on supposedly poor voting intention results from the poll for the SNP really is a complete red herring, given we have a much more up-to-date poll from YouGov that is more favourable to the SNP.

UPDATE: Having done some more checking, it turns out to my surprise that only around one-third of the fieldwork for the poll was completed before the Supreme Court ruling.  However, there are two caveats to put on that.  Firstly, some of the respondents who took part after the ruling will have done so just afterwards and may not have caught up with the news yet.  And secondly, the 'before and after' results have been published from the poll, which show - as expected - that the Yes vote did indeed rise immediately after the ruling.  Among the one-third of respondents who took part before the ruling, there was a No lead of three points (after weighting but before the exclusion of Don't Knows), compared to a Yes lead of two points among the two-thirds of respondents who took part after the ruling.  There's an astoundingly biased and disingenuous write-up of the poll on the Scottish Election Study website which dismisses the difference between the two sections of the sample as statistically insignificant, and concludes that any impact from the court judgement on public opinion must have been extremely minor.  This conveniently ignores the elephant in the room - namely that we've had another four polls since this one, all of which pretty conclusively confirm that Yes has received a significant boost as a result of the ruling.

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Tuesday, December 13, 2022

The media have been fibbing to us again over the last 24 hours: in fact, the YouGov poll does NOT show the public oppose a de facto referendum - it was instead a ridiculous question about Rhodesian-style UDI

On the previous thread, a commenter said that every time he'd heard a media outlet mention the new YouGov poll today, they had been at pains to downplay the headline result on independence (showing a 53% Yes vote) and had instead tried to divert our focus towards the alleged finding that the Scottish public "oppose" the de facto referendum plan.  But as far as I can see, no such finding exists.  There doesn't seem to be any sign of the YouGov data tables yet, but the What Scotland Thinks website does have an extensive list of results from the poll, and the only one that relates to a de facto referendum is in response to a question worded as follows:

"Would you support or oppose the Scottish Government declaring Scotland independent without a referendum if the SNP – and other parties supporting Independence – gain more than 50% of the vote at the next General Election?"

That's a question about Rhodesian-style UDI, not about the principle of a de facto referendum.  There is not even a shred of a suggestion from the SNP that they would declare independence unilaterally if they won 50%+ of the popular vote in a de facto referendum - instead they would use the mandate as leverage to pressurise the UK government into negotiating an agreed independence settlement.  (Some cynics think they wouldn't even go that far, and instead would revert to the broken record of begging for a Section 30 order that everyone knows will never be granted.)

It's difficult not to reach the conclusion that either YouGov or their client (more likely the latter in this case) deliberately asked a leading question about UDI to obtain a negative result, and did so with the full intention of misrepresenting that negative result as being about the principle of using an election as a de facto referendum.  It really is a pretty brazen stunt, even by the normal standards of the Brit Nat propagandists in the media.

What they're rather less keen to mention is that the poll shows that a clear majority (51% to 38%) want an indyref within the next five years, and that an almost identical majority (51% to 39%) think the Scottish Parliament should have the power to call an indyref without the consent of Westminster.

I also see from the What Scotland Thinks site that there are Holyrood voting intention numbers in the YouGov poll, which are markedly better for the SNP than the Westminster numbers -

Scottish Parliament constituency ballot:

SNP 50% (+1)
Labour 25% (-1)
Conservatives 13% (-)
Liberal Democrats 7% (-1)

Scottish Parliament regional list ballot:

SNP 40% (+2)
Labour 24% (-)
Conservatives 13% (-1)
Greens 11% (-1)
Liberal Democrats 6% (-2)

Seats projection: SNP 67 (+3), Labour 31 (+9), Conservatives 15 (-16), Greens 11 (+3), Liberal Democrats 5 (+1)


So a clear majority for pro-indy parties on the popular vote for the list ballot, and probably on the constituency ballot too once we discover the breakdown for "other parties".  It looks like Labour's surge may have stalled before they even came close to seriously threatening the SNP in the Holyrood arena. Incidentally, there's 8% support for "other parties" on the Westminster ballot, so it's possible that pro-indy parties are closer to 50% for a Westminster plebiscite election than we initially assumed.  In theory they could even be on 51% if the Greens have all 8% for the "others", but obviously that's very unlikely.

I hear on the grapevine that Panelbase currently have a Scottish poll in the field, so as long as it's not a private poll (always a real possibility) we may have at least one more independence poll before the end of the year.  That keeps open the scenario that the average Yes vote in this calendar year may yet exceed 50%.  The poll apparently has a lot of questions about the trans issue and about Alba, and yet I'm told Alba are not offered as an option on the main voting intention questions.  If I was going to hazard a guess, I would say that this is perhaps a multi-client survey with the questions about gender and Alba coming from Stuart Campbell and/or Alba itself, and with the voting intention questions coming from another client, possibly the Sunday Times.

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The earth shakes as support for independence rockets to 53% with traditionally No-friendly pollster YouGov - the FIFTH poll in a row to show a pro-indy majority

The situation is becoming increasingly desperate for the unionist ultras who have been frantically trying to hold the line that there has been no backlash in Scotland against the Supreme Court ruling, that there isn't a very clear pro-independence majority as a result, and that any polls that might suggest otherwise can be safely disregarded.  The problem with dismissing the recent Ipsos poll as an outlier caused by bias or a conspiracy is that you then need every other poll from every other firm to show something totally different.  Instead, the opposite has happened - every other firm has corroborated Ipsos' findings.  We now have four polls from four different firms since the Supreme Court ruling, and all four show a Yes majority.  Not one even has the Yes vote below 52%.  OK, it was possible to raise one or two question marks about Find Out Now given their lack of a track record in Scotland - but how do you dismiss this new Yes majority from YouGov, a traditionally No-friendly firm that has been regularly polling in Scotland for a couple of decades?

Should Scotland be an independent country? (YouGov, 6th-9th December 2022)

Yes 53% (+4)
No 47% (-4)

By the way, just to clear up any potential confusion - there have been four consecutive Yes-majority polls since the court judgement, but the final poll before that landmark event also showed a pro-indy majority (albeit that poll used a non-standard question).  So that's why the title of this blogpost refers to a fifth poll in a row.  

Particularly encouraging here are the fieldwork dates - respondents were interviewed entirely after the Ipsos poll closed, and well after the Redfield & Wilton poll ended. There was some overlap with the fieldwork for Find Out Now, but YouGov didn't start their interviews until Find Out Now had been underway for some five days.  So although it's still far too premature to say the Yes bounce won't turn out to be temporary, it's certainly proving to be more than a one-week wonder.

As I predicted at the time of the Ipsos poll, it looks like online firms will only corroborate the Ipsos independence findings, and not the Ipsos finding that the SNP are on course for an absolute majority of the popular vote at the Westminster general election - which of course is crucial, because it's the general election that the SNP are planning to use as a de facto independence referendum.  If headline Yes support doesn't translate to the vote that is actually going to be used, it won't do us much good.

Scottish voting intentions for the next UK general election:

SNP 43% (-2)
Labour 29% (-2)
Conservatives 14% (+2)

So far I can't find the numbers for the smaller parties, and obviously if there's a Green percentage that will be critical, because Green votes would also count as pro-indy votes.  However it does look unlikely that there is a majority for pro-indy parties in Westminster voting intentions as of this moment - if YouGov's methodology is correct and Ipsos' methodology is wrong, which are two big ifs.  In normal circumstances, though, I would say these figures are extremely heartening, because they may indicate that the SNP have come through the worst of the Labour surge with a substantial lead intact, which puts them on course for another landslide in terms of seats.  It's certainly a lot healthier a lead than some of the polling subsamples have been suggesting of late.

The Times' write-up of the poll predictably places a lot of emphasis on the findings of supplementary questions which supposedly show a lack of enthusiasm for an early referendum within Nicola Sturgeon's preferred timescale, and for a de facto referendum.  I'd advise taking those results with a heavy dose of salt, because for reasons that are not entirely clear, YouGov always seem to show markedly lower support for a referendum than other firms.  It must be some sort of YouGov 'house effect', but whether it's mostly to do with question wording, or with the composition of the YouGov panel, is hard to say.

And now, drumroll please, here's the moment you've all been waiting for.  What does a fifth consecutive pro-indy majority mean for the average Yes vote across all polls in 2022?  The latest update is below.

Average yearly support for independence in conventional opinion polling:

2016:  47.7%

2017:  45.3%

2018:  45.5%
2019:  47.6%

2020:  53.0%

2021:  49.6%

2022:  49.7%

So 2022 now shows the second highest pro-independence support of any calendar year in history, and is genuinely within touching distance of joining 2020 as one of only two years in which there has been an outright pro-independence majority.  It just depends on whether there are more polls to come over the final three weeks of the year, and obviously also on whether the trend of Yes-majority polls continues.

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Sunday, December 11, 2022

Make no mistake: if the SNP leadership do not use an election as a de facto referendum by the end of 2024, they will be guilty of a screeching U-turn and of a betrayal of promises to the independence movement

In the hours after I posted the above tweet, a few people claimed that Stephen Flynn's words had been misconstrued, but I've read the interview and unfortunately that's not the case at all.  He's clearly suggesting there might be alternatives to the plan of using the next Westminster election as a de facto independence referendum - which would be fine if he was referring to the overwhelmingly sensible alternative option of using an early Holyrood election at some point in 2023, but that's the one option he explicitly rules out.  He pejoratively dismisses the idea as "collapsing Holyrood in a cost of living crisis which I think would be utterly absurd".  That's a complete nonsense, by the way - if there was a Holyrood election scheduled for next year, nobody would describe that as "the scheduled collapse of Holyrood" and nobody would suggest that democracy should be suspended just because we're in the middle of a cost of living crisis.

But nevertheless, that's the daft spin he's putting on it, which logically means the alternatives he's referring to are reduced to just two: a) abandoning the idea of a de facto referendum altogether, which in the light of the Supreme Court ruling is tantamount to abandoning support for independence itself, or b) twiddling our thumbs for the next three and a half years until the next scheduled Holyrood election comes around in May 2026.  Either of those would be a total betrayal of solemn commitments made by Nicola Sturgeon to SNP members and to the wider independence movement.  Using the 2024 Westminster election as a de facto referendum is sub-optimal for reasons that have been well-rehearsed, but if for self-interested reasons the SNP are determined to rule out an early Holyrood election, then Westminster 2024 it will have to be.  Apart from the breach of faith that waiting any longer would entail, the idea that we would wait an entire decade after the 2016 EU referendum to give people a choice on independence is self-evidently crazy and strategically inept.

It's impossible to escape the conclusion that career interests are distorting the SNP's decision-making at every turn.  SNP Westminster MPs are worried that unionist tactical voting in a 2024 plebiscite election could cost them their seats, while SNP Holyrood MSPs who thought they were safe in office until 2026 are horrified by the thought of "unnecessarily" facing election before then.  Guys, it's supposed to be independence before personal interests, not the other way around.  Maybe that should be number one in any AIM indy pledge, ahead of all the "transphobia" stuff.

Incidentally, as far as I can see the Herald are just plain wrong in claiming that the Alba Party want the 2026 Holyrood election to be used as a plebiscite. I'm no longer on the Alba NEC, so I can't tell you definitively what the position is, but everything I've heard suggests that Alba are calling for an early Holyrood election well before 2026.

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Yet more very serious lies about Scottish independence polling - and they really are flat-out lies - have been printed in the Express today

Eighteen months ago, the Scottish media was not as bad as it is now. I know some of you will be itching to take issue with that claim, but let me give you one killer fact that puts the matter beyond all dispute: eighteen months ago, the "Scottish" Daily Express website did not yet exist.  People on the unionist side sometimes accuse The National of being a "comic" or a "fanzine" but they must know that the Express abomination is the Brit Nat version of everything they accuse The National of being, multiplied by about forty-three thousand.  

The website insists on never referring to independence as anything other than "Scexit" - and if that's supposed to be pejorative it's somewhat ironic, given the key role of the Express and other like-minded anti-EU newspapers in bringing Brexit about.  But rather like Mrs Thatcher's determination to get the term "Community Charge" off the ground through sheer repetition, it's doomed to failure. The site also pumps out almost daily misinformation about opinion polls, and treats random ultra-unionist trolls on Twitter as if they were Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporters.

The latter two practices have come together today in an article that is almost exquisitely excruciating - it's like the pinnacle of a new art-form.  It reports breathlessly on an "Ipsos Mori bias accusation row", which actually amounts to nothing more than a prolonged temper tantrum on Twitter from Brit Nat uber-zoomer "The Majority", who is grandiosely referred to as a "group".  In an attempt to lend credibility to The Majority as a non-idiot, it suggests Ben Page of Ipsos had "agreed to investigate" his accusations of bias - although in reality all Page was actually doing was humouring the guy and using a polite form of words to indicate that he needed a moment to draw breath before explaining why the claims were garbage.  

Embarrassingly, the final 40% or so of the Express article gives over the floor entirely to an extended, unchallenged rant-quote from The Majority, which contains multiple factual inaccuracies. The most grievous falsehood is this: 

"Combined with the fact that NO OTHER POLLSTER has ever polled Scottish independence greater than 50% AND that Ipsos polls have the highest of all polling results on Scottish 'independence, we can, with no margin of error, confidently say that their credibility is ZERO."

You might be puzzled as to how he thinks he can get away with the claim that no pollster other than Ipsos has ever reported a pro-indy figure of higher than 50%, given that we can all remember Yes-majority polls from the likes of Panelbase and Survation (and indeed from Find Out Now only yesterday!).  I personally have commissioned no fewer than four non-Ipsos polls with Yes majorities - three from Panelbase and one from Survation.

What he's actually talking about is the Yes figure before Don't Knows are excluded, but even on that basis his claim is indisputably false.  Here are a few examples of Yes having more than 50% in non-Ipsos polls with Don't Knows left in -  

Find Out Now, 1st-8th December 2022: Yes 51%, No 43%, Don't Know 6%

Hanbury Strategy, 12th February-1st March 2021: Yes 52%, No 41%, Don't Know 7%

Panelbase, 5th-11th November 2020: Yes 51%, No 40%, Don't Know 8%

JL Partners, 17th-21st September 2020: Yes 51%, No 40%, Don't Know 7%

Panelbase, 12th-18th August 2020: Yes 51%, No 42%, Don't Know 7%

Additionally, the Express allows The Majority to make this claim unchallenged - 

"[The Ipsos poll is] based on a sample that uses 50% SNP + 4% Greens + 1% Alba = 55% when, combined, those parties have never had over 50% of the vote."

You're way ahead of me here - in the 2015 Westminster general election, the combined SNP + Green vote was 51.3%, and in the 2021 Scottish Parliament list ballot, the combined SNP + Green + Alba vote was 50.1%.  So another flat-out lie from The Majority.

A few days ago, in relation to another Express article, I suggested that readers might want to consider lodging a complaint with the press regulator.  In this case, it's debatable whether there's any point, given the use of quote marks as an alibi.  But you may still wish to ponder whether that's a sufficient excuse, given that there's no disclaimer that the claims being made are untrue or at least haven't been fact-checked, which will leave most readers with the impression that they are both true and unanswerable.

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Saturday, December 10, 2022

Find Out Now that a FOURTH poll in a row is reporting a pro-independence majority - and it's a big one

Thanks to Marcia for alerting me to yet another new independence poll, which shows much the same pattern as the recent ones from Redfield & Wilton and Ipsos UK.

Should Scotland be an independent country? (Find Out Now, 1st-8th December 2022)

Yes 54% (+2) 
No 46% (-2)

The percentage change required for Yes to jump to 54% may look surprisingly low in this case, but there's nothing suspicious about that - it's simply caused by the fact that Find Out Now's previous independence poll was way back in the spring of 2021, at the tail end of the prolonged good spell for Yes caused (to a large extent, anyway) by Nicola Sturgeon's popularity during the worst part of the pandemic.  So there's no particular evidence that Find Out Now are on the Yes-friendly end of the spectrum, and thus no easy way for the unionist nutters on social media to attempt to discredit the poll - although after their extraordinary behaviour over the last 48 hours, we can rest assured that they'll give it a go anyway.

Because Find Out Now do not frequently conduct full-scale polls in Scotland, I'm not very familiar with their website, and I'm not entirely sure where to look for any data tables - I presume they're not out yet.  However, I did manage to find the tables for their spring 2021 poll, which reveal it was an online poll and was weighted by past vote recall.  So presumably the new poll will be the same - which is important, because that makes it very different from the Ipsos poll, which used telephone fieldwork and was not weighted by past vote recall.  And yet the results are extremely similar.  The trolls have fastened on to the past vote issue in particular as an excuse for dismissing the Ipsos results - well, it looks like they might have to come up with something else, because past vote weighting by Find Out Now doesn't seem to be making the Yes majority go away.

We now have three polls from three different firms since the Supreme Court ruled that Scotland is a prisoner in a non-voluntary union, and all three have shown Yes majorities.   If we only had one poll to go on, it would be possible that the trend was an illusion caused by sampling variation, but that now looks incredibly unlikely.  Of course this doesn't necessarily mean that the Yes vote will hold up at its newly elevated level - we could in theory be seeing a temporary surge that will shortly subside, as we did in the early days after the Brexit referendum in 2016.  But it's nevertheless encouraging that the fieldwork dates for Find Out Now are a bit later than those for Redfield & Wilton and Ipsos (although admittedly there's some overlap with the Ipsos dates).

I pointed out the other night that there was a very real chance that the average Yes vote in all polls in 2022 would overtake the 2021 average and become the second highest Yes average in any calendar year - and also an outside chance that 2022 would join 2020 as one of only two years in which the polling average has shown an outright pro-independence majority.  Well, the latter is more than an outside chance now.  Here are the updated figures, with three weeks of the year still to go in which more Yes-majority polls might appear...

Average yearly support for independence in conventional opinion polling:

2016:  47.7%

2017:  45.3%

2018:  45.5%
2019:  47.6%

2020:  53.0%

2021:  49.6%

2022:  49.6%

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Friday, December 9, 2022

This is the corner unionist politicians have ludicrously backed themselves into with their anti-referendum extremism - they've left themselves with no option but to argue that opinion polls have more constitutional legitimacy than real elections, and are then going into complete meltdown when opinion polls show a pro-independence majority

Immediately after the Supreme Court verdict, I predicted that it would be unionist politicians who would try to resurrect the prospect of an independence referendum.  That seems paradoxical, but in winning the court case they've killed something that was actually far more valuable to them than it was to us.  They needed the bogeyman of a referendum to motivate their base through fear, and they also needed it because it gave them power - the power to say "no", or "not yet", or "we'll set the conditions".  If the independence movement's attention now shifts to a scheduled election, there's nothing unionists can do to stop the vote taking place - all they can do is try to prevent us winning the vote, which understandably they find a much scarier task.  Of course they can still refuse to recognise the outcome of any democratic vote (as Keir Starmer has threatened to do), but in that case they're tacitly admitting that the UK is indeed a prison and Scotland has no democratic means of choosing to leave, which as we've seen in recent days is likely to thoroughly rile up the Scottish electorate.

My prediction came true much earlier than I expected it to, because within around 24 hours of the ruling, the former Tory MSP Adam Tomkins seemed to suddenly realise the self-made trap he and his fellow travellers had just blundered into.  He quietly deleted an earlier triumphalist tweet in which he had declared a "5-0 victory" for the Supreme Court justices over independence - as I pointed out, that had seemed to suggest that judges were more important than voters, and that persuading judges to prevent people from voting was an equivalent achievement to actually winning a referendum.  It was very easy to predict how the public were likely to view that kind of astounding arrogance.  After the deletion, Tomkins hastily tried to repair the damage by seeking to bring back the prospect of a referendum from the dead, but having already dismissed any idea that the Scottish electorate could simply use the ballot box to trigger a referendum, he had to come up with an alternative mechanism.  And literally the only place he'd left himself to go was opinion polling.  He absurdly suggested that the UK government could be trusted to monitor the polls and grant a referendum out of the goodness of their hearts once it was clear that there was sufficient demand in Scotland for independence.

This means that Tomkins is saying that an opinion poll of 1000 people from a volunteer online panel has greater democratic legitimacy, and should carry more constitutional weight, than elections in which the entire adult population of Scotland can vote.  That is a barking mad position for any politician to adhere to, let alone a Professor of Public Law at Glasgow University.  It means, of course, that polling methodology can no longer be considered a private matter for private polling firms, because sleights of hand like YouGov's infamous "Kellner Correction" (which artificially reduced the reported Yes vote in the indyref campaign due to Peter Kellner's entirely subjective opinion that Yes couldn't possibly be doing so well) could end up determining the destiny of a whole nation.

And then of course there's the question of what unionists do when the polls actually start showing a pro-indy majority.  In the last 48 hours, we've seen them running around like headless chickens trying to discredit Ipsos UK's polling methodology, because they simply can't cope with the reality of a credible poll showing 56% support for independence - on the terms Tomkins has set down, that's literally enough to call into question the legitimacy of London rule in Scotland, so Ipsos apparently now have to be destroyed or brought to heel.

In the old days, when Stephen Flynn did what he did on Wednesday and mentioned the results of the Ipsos poll in parliament, it would have been easy to shut him down by saying "the honourable gentleman may be obsessed with polls, I'm more interested in how millions of people vote for real on the day". But if there is no "day" on which real votes can be cast, if opinion polls are literally the only way Scotland can express its democratic will, it's entirely legitimate for Flynn to say to Rishi Sunak: "Ipsos / Redfield & Wilton say we want out, so what are you going to do about it?"
That response from Ipsos is incredibly important, by the way, because it explains why the real problem may not be Ipsos overestimating the Yes vote - it may be other pollsters overestimating the No vote due to the increasingly dubious practice of relying on respondents to accurately recall and report how they voted more than eight years ago.

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Thursday, December 8, 2022

There's now a real chance that the polling average for 2022 will show the second highest pro-independence vote in any calendar year - and an outside chance it will show an outright Yes majority for only the second time ever

One of the side-benefits of the (failed) attempts by Stuart Campbell and his most fanatical followers to bully me into silence a few weeks ago was that I ended up calculating the average Yes support in every calendar year since 2016.  It took me forever, but the advantage is that I now have those figures if I need them in future, and I'll never have to calculate them again - except, of course, for the 2022 figure, which was provisional.  Since I made the calculation, there have been two more polls, both showing an outright Yes majority, which means the 2022 average for Yes has nudged up slightly.  Here is the updated list of averages...

Average yearly support for independence in conventional opinion polling:

2016:  47.7%

2017:  45.3%

2018:  45.5%
2019:  47.6%

2020:  53.0%

2021:  49.6%

2022:  49.3%

So it really just depends on whether we see any more independence polls over the remaining three-and-a-bit weeks of the year, and also whether the Yes majority we've seen in the last three polls holds up.  Two or three more polls with a Yes lead could see the 2022 average overtaking 2021, and a proper flurry of polls all showing the same thing could mean 2022 joining 2020 as one of two calendar years in which the polling average has shown an outright pro-indy majority.

Usually Christmas is a quiet time for polls, but I distinctly remember blogging about a new poll late at night on Christmas Day last year (it was in one of the Boxing Day papers).  So who knows.  The bombshell Ipsos poll might yet motivate one or two newspapers to see if another firm would replicate the result over the next few weeks.

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Wednesday, December 7, 2022

"Our Precious Union" lies in TATTERS as historic Ipsos TELEPHONE poll shows support for independence has soared to 56% after the Supreme Court ruling - with the SNP on course for an absolute majority of the popular vote at a plebiscite election

Never underestimate the importance of the battle of the narratives after a landmark event like the Supreme Court ruling.  The dearth of independence polls in the immediate aftermath gave the unionist parties the opportunity to fill up the space with - frankly - lies about what they were finding on the doorsteps, with voters supposedly reacting like obedient slaves to the discovery that their country does not have the legal ability to decide its own future, and saying that their government should just accept that Scotland is in a prison and get on with serving the sentence.  Even the appearance of the Redfield & Wilton poll showing outright majority support for independence didn't thwart the unionist propaganda plan too much, because Labour in particular just studiously ignored the independence numbers and concentrated instead on the finding that the SNP's lead in Westminster voting intentions had dropped sharply - which they were to some extent able to get away with because, after all, it's a Westminster election that the SNP are now planning to use as a de facto independence referendum.

Today's new Ipsos UK poll, however, puts unionists in danger of losing the battle of the narratives - and it's up to all of us to make sure the numbers become as widely known as possible.  (The fact that STV were Ipsos UK's client should help considerably, although there's still the challenge of making sure the London-based media don't ignore the poll.)  

Should Scotland be an independent country? (Ipsos UK / STV, 28th November - 5th December 2022)

Yes 56% (+6)
No 44% (-6)

Scottish voting intentions for the next UK general election:

SNP 51% (+7) 
Labour 25% (+2) 
Conservatives 13% (-6) 
Liberal Democrats 6% (-4) 
Greens 3% (-) 

Seats projection: SNP 58 (+10), Labour 1 (-), Conservatives 0 (-6), Liberal Democrats 0 (-4)

This poll differs from the Redfield & Wilton poll in quite a number of respects.  Although both show a pro-independence majority, Ipsos UK shows the Yes vote increasing by a larger amount (six points rather than four), and also shows a Yes lead that isn't within the standard margin of error.  In other words, the Ipsos UK poll unequivocally shows a pro-independence majority, whereas Redfield & Wilton could technically be said to have shown a 'statistical tie', to use the American term.

But of course by far the biggest differences are to be found in the Westminster numbers, with the trends reported by the two polls not being even remotely reconcilable with each other.  Redfield & Wilton showed the SNP down four points and Labour up twelve, working out at a very substantial sixteen point drop in the SNP's lead over Labour.  Although Ipsos UK also show a boost for Labour, it's a statistically insignificant two points, while the SNP are up seven points and have thus considerably extended their lead.  This also moves the SNP above 50%, which is no longer just a psychological barrier - it's their self-defined target for victory in a plebiscite election.  Indeed, in combination with the Greens, the Westminster vote for pro-indy parties stands at 54% - just a touch below the Yes vote on the standard indyref question.  That's another big difference with Redfield & Wilton, who suggested that the combined vote for pro-indy parties was a full nine percentage points lower than the Yes vote.

It obviously matters tremendously which pollster is getting it right and which is getting it wrong, because if Redfield & Wilton are right, a Westminster election used as a plebiscite may not be winnable for the pro-indy camp due to the Labour surge, whereas if Ipsos UK are right, the SNP are shrugging off the Labour surge down south and tightening their grip on Scottish politics.  If we (or rather the SNP leadership) read this situation incorrectly due to faith in an incorrect poll, it could have catastrophic consequences if the wrong strategic call is made as a result - ie. sticking with the Westminster plebiscite plan rather than using an early Holyrood election in 2023 instead.

My suspicion is that a gulf is opening up between Ipsos telephone polling and online polling from the other firms.  There won't necessarily be such a big gulf on indyref voting intentions, but on Westminster numbers my guess is that the other online pollsters will be closer to Redfield & Wilton - I say that in part due to the straws in the wind we're seeing from subsamples.  So if the SNP put their faith in the Ipsos numbers, that may mean putting all their eggs in one basket, because it could mean assuming that the other pollsters are all wrong.  That would be a big call.  Remember that Ipsos have in recent years tended to be on the Yes-friendly end of the spectrum - a complete reversal from the 2014 campaign, where they were just about the most No-friendly firm.

In a nutshell, I would still strongly argue that the most promising strategy for a de facto referendum is to engineer an early Scottish Parliament election next year, possibly in the autumn at around the same time the referendum had originally been planned for.

UPDATE: The poll also contains Scottish Parliament voting intention numbers...

Scottish Parliament constituency ballot:

SNP 50% (-2)
Labour 24% (+7)
Conservatives 14% (-5)
Liberal Democrats 7% (+2)
Greens 3% (-)

Scottish Parliament regional list ballot:

SNP 43% (-)
Labour 21% (+6)
Conservatives 14% (-6)
Greens 13% (+1)
Liberal Democrats 6% (-)
Alba 1% (-)

Seats projection: SNP 67 (+3), Labour 26 (+4), Greens 16 (+8), Conservatives 15 (-16), Liberal Democrats 5 (+1)


Note: The reason the percentage changes look more flattering for Labour than on the Westminster numbers is simply that there's a different baseline.  Ipsos' most recent Westminster poll was earlier this year, whereas they don't appear to have polled for Holyrood voting intentions since 2021.

I know some people will triumphantly point at these numbers and say "look, the SNP are 1% higher on Westminster voting intentions than Holyrood constituency voting intentions!", but that doesn't remotely impress me, because a) 1% is not a significant difference, and b) the SNP's vote is much more likely to hold up during a 'home fixture' Holyrood campaign.  It's very difficult for the party to get a fair crack of the whip from the broadcasters during a Westminster campaign - as we saw in 2017, for example, when the SNP were powerless to do much about the Corbyn bandwagon effect.  I'd also just note that the combined vote for pro-independence parties on the Holyrood list is a remarkable 57%, and that pro-indy parties are on course to take 62% of the total seats in the Scottish Parliament, with the Greens overtaking the Tories to move into third place in terms of seats.

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