Monday, June 20, 2022

Alex Massie's bizarre repudiation of the principles of parliamentary democracy

Courtesy of an anonymous commenter on the previous thread, I've now seen Alex Massie's column in full, and it's even worse than I thought.  It effectively contains a repudiation of the most fundamental principle of parliamentary democracy, which is pretty extraordinary from someone who imagines himself to be a traditional moderate conservative.  The strength of parliamentary democracy, we're generally told, is that it's not rule by whim or rule by impulse - a party puts forward a manifesto containing a considered package of proposals, and voters give that party a broad mandate to implement its programme.  The result of a general election is not then frivolously over-ridden by random opinion polls saying "yeah, but we don't like that bit of the programme, just leave that bit out, actually".  

Massie is now elevating opinion polls above parliamentary democracy by saying it's inconceivable that the elected SNP-Green government should be allowed to honour its manifesto commitment of an independence referendum because there are purportedly ComRes or YouGov polls saying the voters aren't enthusiastic about a referendum in 2023.  (In reality, the polling evidence on voters' preferred timing for an indyref is a lot more complicated and contradictory than he'd care to admit.)  He apparently thinks the 'government by YouGov' principle is so self-evident that anyone who argues in favour of parliamentary democracy instead is being knowingly fatuous.

This really shouldn't need saying, but no country has introduced rule by opinion poll yet, and there are exceptionally good and obvious reasons why.  First of all, polls can be inaccurate.  They have a margin of error, but sometimes they're not even accurate to within the stated margin of error.  Secondly, they can be easily manipulated with leading question wordings - the propaganda polls Survation regularly carry out for Scotland in Union are the most obvious example, but there are subtler forms of manipulation too.  And most fundamentally of all, polls are throwaway affairs.  Respondents are giving an instantaneous reaction to questions they may not have previously encountered or considered in any depth.  By contrast, most voters in general elections will have thought about their decision carefully and at considerable length.  Elections are a serious business, opinion polls are (relatively) disposable.

And, actually, the word 'serious' brings me to another of Massie's recurring themes.  When Nicola Sturgeon was in "do nothing" mode, he used to praise her to the skies as a "serious" political leader, drawing an implicit contrast with "unserious" activists or politicians who actually want to take some kind of action to overcome Westminster's anti-democratic obstructionism of Scottish self-determination.  Now that Sturgeon has - temporarily and/or superficially at least - moved to the other camp, Massie is of course blasting her for "looking unserious".  (This is the Alyn Smith school of politics, where the main objective is to avoid at all costs "looking odd" when viewed through some sort of centrist dad prism.)  Even more absurdly, he's claiming that "do nothing" would be a far better strategy for achieving independence, because for some fantastical reason he's never specified, he expects us to believe that Westminster will eventually agree to an independence referendum if we just wait for enough years or decades.

But let's imagine that Sturgeon had actually done what Massie thought she should do, or what he thought "a serious leader" would do.  That would have meant that, having won an election on an unambiguous pledge to hold a referendum, she would then have said that obviously she can't honour her promise because Boris Johnson doesn't fancy the idea and mumble mumble something about YouGov.  It's hard to think of anything that would carry a more fundamentally unserious look than that.  It would be treating voters with utter contempt, it would be treating the whole process of democratic elections as a meaningless farce.

To be frank, the best that can be said for Massie is that he's making a set of mind-bogglingly stupid propositions look intelligent or defensible with the use of some elegant prose.

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Over the years, Scot Goes Pop has provided extensive Scottish polling analysis and political commentary, as well as commissioning no fewer than six full-scale opinion polls, and producing numerous podcasts and videos.  If you'd like to help me continue this work, donations are welcome via any of the following methods...

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Sunday, June 19, 2022

#Referendum2023 : Another EXCITE-SPLAT as the mainstream media LOSES ITS RAG over the guaranteed referendum date of October 2023

I can't get past the paywall, but apparently Alex Massie says in his latest column that "a consultative referendum designed to heap pressure on the British government is the kind of wild gamble made by desperate punters who have run out of options".  But what does he mean by "run out of options"?  As I understand it, Massie believes the only circumstance in which an independence referendum should take place is if it's agreed by Westminster - in other words he thinks Boris Johnson should be given an absolute, condition-free veto over Scottish democracy.  There's not much point in Massie praying in aid opinion poll results that he thinks supports his case when he doesn't believe the wishes of the Scottish people actually matter anyway.  "Run out of options" literally means nothing more than "Boris has said no". Any attempt at any sort of action whatsoever now that Boris has said no is thus a "desperate gamble".  Massie's message to Eastern European dissidents during the Cold War would presumably have been "stop gambling, just do nothing, accept Moscow's veto".  But, as those dissidents would doubtless have reminded him, a gamble when you've been left with little to lose is barely a gamble at all.

Elsewhere, Gerry Hassan argues that our guaranteed referendum date of October 2023 is too early, and like Massie he also prays in aid opinion polls purportedly showing that voters want a referendum, but at a later date.  As I've pointed out umpteen times, this is one of the biggest red herrings in Scottish polling.  Five years ago, polls showed that voters wanted a referendum, but not imminently - they wanted it about three to five years down the road.  In other words, they wanted it around about now.  So if you took what they said absolutely literally, polls should still be showing that voters want a referendum now - but they don't, they show that voters want a referendum, but in around three to five years' time.  If you came back in five years' time, you'd find that voters still say they want a referendum, but after another three to five years.  This is a vicious circle that no pro-independence government will ever break out of unless they decide to lead public opinion on referendum timing rather than be a slave to it.  "Yes, but not yet" effectively means "never", unless the "yet" is a fixed, immutable date.  So the majority SNP-Green government have done absolutely the right thing by guaranteeing - "no ifs, no buts" - that the referendum will take place in 2023.

Turning to the piece in the Times that is causing so much interest, I must just start by noting the irony of the Scottish Tories suggesting that an advisory referendum would be a "glorified opinion poll". It's the Tories themselves who have attempted to turn Scotland into a "YouGov democracy", constantly arguing that Scotland shouldn't have a referendum because YouGov says we don't want one.  A glorified opinion poll should thus be right up their street.

There's a suggestion in the article that the SNP may have a "clever legal wheeze" in mind whereby the wording of the referendum question is changed to ask whether voters want the Scottish Government to open negotiations with the UK Government to bring about independence - in other words it wouldn't be a direct independence question, and thus might evade any difficulties arising from the Scotland Act.  What undermines the sense of cleverness somewhat, though, is that the "open negotiations" referendum question is exactly what the SNP had in mind in the early days of devolution - I distinctly recall the late, great Professor Sir Neil MacCormick discussing the possibility of such a question in the run-up to the 1999 Holyrood election and saying he had "no doubt" that it would be within the competence of the Scottish Parliament.  So clever wheeze it may be, but that cleverness long predates the current SNP leadership, and is presumably what we'd have ended up with in 2014 if the UK government hadn't spontaneously offered to negotiate a Section 30 order (remember it was David Cameron and Michael Moore who made the initial approach to the Scottish Government, not the other way around).  Nicola Sturgeon has long set her face against what was once the preferred approach of the government she was Deputy First Minister of, so in a sense she's just ended up back where she started after a needlessly long detour.  But the important thing is she's getting it right now - "more joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth", and all that.

One thing that becomes abundantly clear - albeit indirectly - from the SNP source quoted in the Times article is that Alba and their fellow travellers have played a crucial role in bringing about the SNP's somewhat more radical new stance on independence.  The clue is in the suggestion that pushing for a referendum will be a "win-win" because it will re-unite the Yes movement behind the current SNP leadership.  Nicola Sturgeon wouldn't even need a strategy for rallying the Yes movement behind her if we had all remained slavishly loyal to her previous "in my own good time, dears" messaging.  So this gives the lie to the idea that unity for unity's sake would have achieved independence quicker, and I would respectfully suggest that the most effective way of keeping the SNP leadership honest over the crucial sixteen months until the referendum they've promised is to join or support the Alba Party.

There's been a lot of cynicism about the SNP source revealing that uppermost in the leadership's thoughts has been that the new strategy may help to gain seats at the 2024 Westminster election.  Well, what I'd say is that the SNP might well deserve to gain seats if they secure a Yes vote in a consultative referendum and the UK government refuse to accept the result - the obvious next step would be to pile on the pressure by securing as many pro-indy seats as possible at Westminster, and given the nature of first-past-the-post, that would have to mean getting behind the SNP in most constituencies. 

But yes, just as pure observation, it's fair to say that there's one obvious difference between the Salmond and Sturgeon governments.  The object of Salmond's strategy on a referendum was to deliver independence.  The object of Sturgeon's strategy on a referendum is to rally the pro-indy base and help the SNP win elections.  If independence itself is actually achieved along the way, that would no more than a happy by-product.  But I suppose, ultimately, who cares if the motivations are cynical as long as they help us all to get what we want.

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Over the years, Scot Goes Pop has provided extensive Scottish polling analysis and political commentary, as well as commissioning no fewer than six full-scale opinion polls, and producing numerous podcasts and videos.  If you'd like to help me continue this work, donations are welcome via any of the following methods...

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

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Wednesday, June 15, 2022

#Referendum2023: It's OCTOBER! Specificity THRILL-BOOM as the Scottish Government NAMES THE MONTH for our guaranteed independence referendum next year

We still don't have the exact date for #Referendum2023, but we're far closer to it thanks to an announcement from Angus Robertson, the Cabinet Secretary for the Constitution and External Affairs, on today's Good Morning Scotland -

"The First Minister made clear yesterday that she intends to make an announcement to the Scottish Parliament in the forthcoming weeks about the route-map towards the referendum, which we intend to hold next October."

Assuming tradition is maintained by holding #Referendum2023 on a Thursday, we can now narrow the date down to four possible options:

5th October 2023

12th October 2023

19th October 2023

26th October 2023

Let's hope it's the 5th, because October is a transitional month and the weather is often a lot better at the start than it is at the end.  (For that reason, September might have been preferable, although perhaps there's some other major event in the calendar that would have clashed.)

In all seriousness, I think we are making some progress now.  This most certainly doesn't mean a referendum will actually be held next year, but the Scottish Government have now gone far enough that it's going to be very hard for them to quietly march their troops back down from the top of the hill in the way they've got away with in the past.  There would be a tremendous sense of betrayal among many SNP members and supporters if that happened, and it wouldn't be hard to imagine a large number of defections to Alba or to other independence parties.  So to avoid that danger, the Scottish Government will know they'll have to make a credible attempt to deliver an October 2023 referendum, and if the vote doesn't take place it'll have to be clearly seen that it was external forces that thwarted it.  As a result, it would be established that the type of referendum the SNP and Greens want to hold simply isn't viable, and the onus would then be on them to explain how they're going to deliver independence without a referendum.  The only remaining game in town would be a plebiscitary election, which is something that no UK government or court can thwart.

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SCOT GOES POP #Referendum2023 COUNTDOWN CLOCK

Thanks to the October announcement, the Countdown Clock will henceforth have considerably more precision - and note this means we are now less than 500 days away at most.

There are just 477 days until the earliest possible date for #Referendum2023 (5th October)

There are just 498 days until the last possible date for #Referendum2023 (26th October)

(Note: the Countdown Clock calculations assume that tradition will be maintained by holding #Referendum2023 on a Thursday.)

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

#Referendum2023 : It's a certainty! Drama as it emerges our guaranteed independence referendum next year will go ahead EVEN WITHOUT A SECTION 30 ORDER

As you know, I think Nicola Sturgeon and the rest of the SNP leadership do not expect or intend to keep their signed-in-blood "no ifs, no buts" promise of an independence referendum in 2023.  However, the fact that they are continuing to ramp up expectations of what will probably prove to be a phantom referendum is a very good thing, because that makes it much harder for a reckoning to be avoided.  Harder but not impossible, mind - the SNP leadership have a track record of gratefully grabbing hold of any big news story that randomly comes along as an excuse for further delay.  But the likelihood is that the rank-and-file SNP membership will go into next year in the genuine belief that a referendum is imminent, and that means the leadership will have to factor in the danger of mass disillusionment - and perhaps mass defections - if members later feel they've been 'had'.  So, at the very least, the leadership are going to have to make it look like they made a serious and credible effort to deliver a referendum and were unexpectedly thwarted by forces outwith their control.

And that can no longer mean simply asking for a Section 30 order, pretending to be shocked when Boris Johnson says no, and then saying "this is totally unsustainable, vote SNP yet again in 2024 to tell Boris Johnson that he is doing something totally unsustainable".  To Nicola Sturgeon's credit, she has finally released us from the Section 30 trap, and says that a referendum can go ahead without the permission of London Tories.  So the failure of Johnson to respond to a Section 30 order will no longer be an acceptable excuse for inaction.  What Sturgeon has not done, though, is release us from the "legality" trap - she's still drawing an utterly bogus distinction between a "legal" and a "non-legal" referendum.  (In reality, the UK is not Spain and there is no such thing as an "illegal vote" here.  There are certainly votes that have no legal standing or recognition, but that doesn't prevent people from organising them.)  So the excuse for a lack of a referendum next year is now more likely to be legal in nature - "we tried, but we underestimated the conservatism of the Supreme Court, we can do no more for now".  

And, unfortunately, there is probably still enough goodwill towards Sturgeon among the SNP membership that they would accept that as a good enough excuse for the time being.  But such a sequence of events would still move us forward, because after a defeat in the Supreme Court any further talk of holding a referendum would then be seen as a dead end (barring something improbable such as a post-election deal with Starmer), and the debate would move on to the timing of a plebiscitary election.  Pete Wishart would hate it, but that's where the conversation would go.  So, on the whole, today's events are a positive development.

SCOT GOES POP #Referendum2023 COUNTDOWN CLOCK

There are just 205 days until the earliest possible date for #Referendum2023 (5th January)

There are just 555 days until the last possible date for #Referendum2023 (21st December)

(Note: the Countdown Clock calculations assume that tradition will be maintained by holding #Referendum2023 on a Thursday, and that it will be before Christmas.)

Monday, June 13, 2022

#Referendum2023 : All Systems GO! The starting gun has been FORMALLY fired, and either a Referendum Bill or a TIMESCALE for a Referendum Bill will be set out SHORTLY

Today has seen multiple further hammerblows for the dwindling band of cynics who are inexplicably sceptical about the majority SNP-Green government's cast-iron guarantee that an independence referendum will be held in 2023.  When asked if the Scottish Government's new paper about independence meant that she was formally starting the Indyref 2 campaign, Nicola Sturgeon replied "yes".  That's crucial, because of course the SNP leadership have started the Indyref 2 campaign on many previous occasions, so the fact that they are doing so "formally" on this occasion is tremendously heartening.  That ol' starting gun will actually stay fired this time.  And it's also emerged that one of two things will happen "shortly" - either a Referendum Bill will appear, or a timescale for a Referendum Bill appearing will appear.  I'm hugely reassured that there's no third possibility that a timescale for a timescale will appear - if that had been the case, I might have worried that we were being strung along.  So the only remaining concern is that when we see the timescale shortly, it'll just say that the Referendum Bill will be along shortly or "in due course".  But I'm sure there'll be far more specificity than that.

Let's celebrate this latest thrilling landmark with another update of the #Referendum2023 Countdown Clock.

SCOT GOES POP #Referendum2023 COUNTDOWN CLOCK

There are just 206 days until the earliest possible date for #Referendum2023 (5th January)

There are just 556 days until the last possible date for #Referendum2023 (21st December)

(Note: the Countdown Clock calculations assume that tradition will be maintained by holding #Referendum2023 on a Thursday, and that it will be before Christmas.) 

Sunday, June 12, 2022

Here's what the SNP leadership could have done, should have done, and should now be doing on independence, but have not done

I've recounted this story before, but in the spring of 2017, Mike Small of Bella Caledonia summoned me and several others from the Scottish pro-independence New Media to a meeting in Edinburgh, with a view to "resolving our differences" in the wake of Nicola Sturgeon "calling an independence referendum". I remember thinking afterwards that it was a bit of a shame that nobody had recorded the meeting, because playing it back would have been hysterically funny due to all the little cultural differences on display.  The radical left/identity politics Trendies were being characteristically passive-aggressive, which inevitably triggered a fairly direct reaction from me, while an utterly serene Peter Curran was delivering brutal truths on an equal opportunities basis to everyone in the room with a beaming smile on his face.  Meanwhile, there was someone with a sort of hippy worldview who gave us all a little lecture on how we were falling disappointingly short in our communication styles, but unfortunately he did that using such impenetrable psychobabble that I had to rely on non-verbal cues to make an educated guess as to what he was actually getting at.

But whatever our differences in culture, ideology and temperament, the one thing that united every single person in the room that day was that we were all just taking it as read that an independence referendum was actually going to be held, probably in the autumn of 2018, but certainly by 2019 at the latest.  As far as we were concerned, Nicola Sturgeon had simply called a referendum in exactly the same sense that Alex Salmond had done so a few years earlier, ie. with the intention that a referendum would take place.  It had yet to occur to us that the calling of a referendum on this occasion might be more of a metaphysical concept that would form part of an ongoing Hokey Cokey routine, going just far enough to keep independence supporters motivated to vote SNP, but never extending as far as an actual real-life referendum.

This is why I'm so bemused when people ask me in all apparent seriousness what I could possibly want the SNP to be doing on independence that they aren't already doing, and what Alba would be doing differently if they were in government.  It really, really oughtn't be hard for anyone to think of what the SNP could have done already that they haven't done.  Most obviously they could have held an independence referendum in 2018 as promised, secured a Yes vote, and delivered sovereign independence for our nation by 2020. It should have been unthinkable for them to withdraw the Section 30 request after it had been submitted, and I have no time whatever for the argument that the 2017 general election outcome made that U-turn inevitable.  The SNP won that election handsomely, with a proportion of Scottish seats that was more or less identical to the proportion of seats across the UK won by Mrs Thatcher in her 1987 landslide victory.  

I am well aware that there were siren voices external to our movement trying to use the 2017 result to convince us the referendum was dead - Peter Kellner was the most obvious offender on the BBC results programme, but I myself was accosted on Twitter by Professor James Mitchell within literally seconds of the exit poll being released.  He was furious that I had pointed out that the SNP appeared to have completed a "triple lock mandate" for a referendum in exactly the manner specified in their manifesto, ie. by winning a majority of Scottish seats.  As far as he was concerned, the notion that multiple electoral mandates should be respected or honoured was for the birds, seemingly because the margin of the SNP's triumph wasn't enormous enough to satisfy him, and those of us who felt differently should pipe down and start learning to know our place again.  He seemed pretty confident that his own brand of anti-democratic 'realism' was firmly back in the ascendancy.

You know, it's just possible that the likes of Kellner and Professor Mitchell are small 'c' constitutional conservatives and that paying heed to their pronouncements is not really compatible with the best interests of the independence cause.  If we'd listened to them at every step along the way, we would never have believed it was appropriate to campaign for independence, we would never have believed that full independence was even attainable, and we most certainly would never have been brave enough to hold a referendum in 2014 - which ironically would mean that even the careerists in the SNP's Westminster group would never have won their seats on the back of the post-indyref swing from Labour to SNP.

I also have no time for the argument that it was actually desirable to call off the referendum in 2017, on the theory that the decline in the SNP's vote share in the general election somehow demonstrated that Yes would have lost.  In truth, the result of that election tells us absolutely nothing about what would have happened in an indyref more than a year later.  Just three months before the first indyref in 2014, the SNP took a disappointing 29% of the vote in the European elections, which probably indicates that they would have been in the 20-25% zone if a general election had been held at around that time - well below the 37% they achieved in 2017.  And yet that didn't prevent enormous momentum developing behind Yes over the subsequent weeks and months, culminating in an outright lead in the famous YouGov poll on the penultimate weekend of campaigning.  It was the fact of the referendum itself that changed the political weather.  Indeed, sticking with the referendum plan in 2017 would have been the ideal way for the SNP to regain the political initiative after their reverses in the general election.

But even if we factor in the SNP leadership's needless loss of nerve in June 2017, that's not the end of the story.  Because they could then have honoured their subsequent promise that a referendum would be held later than originally intended but before Scotland was dragged out of the EU against its will.  They didn't even attempt to keep that promise, and there's no Covid alibi for that one - the virus didn't properly arrive on these shores until a few weeks after Brexit Day.

And even if we factor in both the loss of nerve in 2017 and the failure to honour the promise of a pre-Brexit referendum, it still doesn't end there, because there was nothing to stop the SNP from acting with far more urgency after they won yet another mandate for a referendum in May 2021.  They could have struck while the iron was hot and put in a renewed Section 30 request within hours of the 2021 election outcome becoming clear.  They could have passed a Referendum Bill by now, and there could be a Yes campaign in full swing on the streets of our cities and towns.

So for the people who have been innocently asking me, as if butter wouldn't melt in their mouths, what more I think the SNP could have done and should be doing now, I hope the above answers your question.

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Over the years, Scot Goes Pop has provided extensive Scottish polling analysis and political commentary, as well as commissioning no fewer than six full-scale opinion polls, and producing numerous podcasts and videos.  If you'd like to help me continue this work, donations are welcome via any of the following methods...

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Friday, June 10, 2022

No, Anas Sarwar does not look "increasingly credible as a future First Minister" - don't be so unutterably silly

I've been asked by a couple of people what I thought of Mandy Rhodes' article in Holyrood magazine claiming that Anas Sarwar "looks increasingly credible as a future First Minister".  The politest way I can put it is that I thought it was an extremely poorly reasoned piece and an example of the Scottish media at its very worst. I say that with some regret, because Mandy Rhodes has been a breath of fresh air in the way she's fearlessly covered the GRA issue.  But using the bog-standard weasel word "increasingly" to try to confect an appearance of momentum behind the Labour party is fairly typical of what happens whenever the Scottish media get bored with the political status quo and try to weave a narrative of "change is coming"- with the "change" naturally meaning a return to the old comfort zone of perpetual Labour-Unionist domination.  It would obviously be justified if the facts actually supported the notion that we're in the early stages of a changing of the guard, but they simply don't.

Although Labour have managed to reclaim second place in Scottish politics after several years in which they mostly trailed the Tories, they still find themselves a formidably long way behind the SNP.  The average SNP lead on the constituency ballot in the last six Holyrood opinion polls is twenty-one percentage points.  Realistically, if a change of government was on its way, you'd be expecting to see Labour in the outright lead at this stage of the electoral cycle, not twenty-one points adrift.  And even if they were in the lead, you'd still be wondering how likely they'd be to stay there, because it's common for there to be a swing back to the governing party as an election approaches.  The reality is that Labour remain light-years from reclaiming top spot and it's very difficult to see what will change that.  There was certainly not much sign of a looming breakthrough in the local elections last month, when the SNP took slightly more gains than Labour did.

It's true that if Labour win back power at Westminster, there's a possibility that Sarwar could ride on Keir Starmer's coattails and take a few Scottish seats in the House of Commons from the SNP with a 2017-style result.  But remember that even by narrowing the SNP's lead to ten points in 2017, Labour still only won a relatively modest seven seats.  And power at Westminster is a double-edged sword, because it means that the 2026 Holyrood election will take place in mid-term for a Starmer government, by which point voters may be ready to give Labour a kicking.  It could actually make things a lot harder for Sarwar, not easier.

There is, of course, a caveat to all this, which is that the Scottish Parliament is elected by proportional representation, meaning that there could be a unionist majority after 2026 even if the SNP remain the largest single party by miles.  And if there's a unionist majority, it's theoretically possible that Sarwar could replicate what happened recently in some local councils (such as Edinburgh and Fife) by becoming First Minister from a distant second place with support from the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats.  The problem is, though, that such a Labour-Tory deal at national level would be much more visible than the equivalent deals in local councils.  It would be noticed by voters and it would destroy Labour's mythologising of themselves as an anti-Tory party.  They were once seen as "the only possible alternative to Tory rule", but after a deal they wouldn't even be "an" alternative to Tory rule. They would be Tory allies, the Tories' path back to influence.

And in spite of Mandy Rhodes' best efforts, this would not be in any way analogous to the informal understanding that existed between the SNP government and the Tories in the 2007-2011 parliament.  The SNP were the largest single party back then, which meant the Tories didn't even have to vote for Alex Salmond for him to become First Minister - they abstained on the vote, as did the Liberal Democrats.  For Sarwar to become First Minister from a distant second place, the Tories would have to actively vote for him.  It would be clearly seen and understood by voters that he was only there because the Tories put him there.  I doubt if Sarwar would be foolish enough to even accept such a poisoned chalice.  If he did, the likelihood is that any government he led would fall apart fairly quickly - but the consequences would linger on for potentially decades.  It would be a "1979 moment" on steroids.

If Labour have any thoughts about becoming the largest party in Scotland ever again, they'll need to win back the Yes voters who abandoned them in 2015 and have stuck with the SNP ever since.  Doing a deal with the Tories would exclude any chance of that for a very long time.  By taking power as Tory allies once, they would ensure that the only way they can ever be in power at any point thereafter is as Tory allies.  It's fool's gold.

Incidentally, Ms Rhodes blasts the SNP over a sense of "entitlement" in criticising the unionist deals that have frozen them out of power in some local councils.  Although I'm not in the SNP anymore, I'm not sure that's entirely fair.  OK, coalition deals are a normal part of any proportional voting system, but they're also a choice that political parties freely enter into.  It's entirely legitimate to hold up a mirror to Scottish Labour and point out that the choice they have made to deal with the Tories rather than progressive parties is hopelessly at odds with the values they have always tried to project, and that voters should draw some conclusions from that.

*  *  *

Scot Goes Pop Fundraising

Over the years, Scot Goes Pop has provided extensive Scottish polling analysis and political commentary, as well as commissioning no fewer than six full-scale opinion polls, and producing numerous podcasts and videos.  If you'd like to help me continue this work, donations are welcome via any of the following methods...

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

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.  

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

#Referendum2023 : It's ON! Preparations for our guaranteed referendum next year move into frenzied new gear as it emerges more details will be set out SHORTLY

So here we are in the second week of June 2022, the referendum we've been guaranteed by December 2023 is thus supposedly just eighteen months away at most, we have a BBC reporter not unreasonably making the point that activity on independence campaigning seems peculiarly absent if the referendum is actually going to take place on the promised timetable, and yet Nicola Sturgeon has chosen this moment to reiterate the guarantee of a 2023 referendum in absolutely watertight language.

"People in Scotland will have the ability to make their views known on independence whether Boris Johnson is Prime Minister or not because that is democracy and that’s what I’m focused on. I have a mandate to give people the choice within the first half of this parliament and I intend to honour that mandate and I will set out more details on that shortly." - Nicola Sturgeon, SNP leader and First Minister of Scotland, 7th June 2022

For the uninitiated, the first half of this parliament ends midway during the autumn of 2023, and therefore Ms Sturgeon is once again explicitly guaranteeing that a referendum will have been held by then.

So Philip Sim and the BBC really ought to set their cynicism to one side.  It may look like nothing is going on at the moment, but shortly, by God just you wait, shortly there's going to be activity and stuff.  Details, even.  You won't know what's hit you.

SCOT GOES POP #Referendum2023 COUNTDOWN CLOCK

There are just 211 days until the earliest possible date for #Referendum2023 (5th January)

There are just 561 days until the last possible date for #Referendum2023 (21st December)

(Note: the Countdown Clock calculations assume that tradition will be maintained by holding #Referendum2023 on a Thursday, and that it will be before Christmas.)

Monday, June 6, 2022

The result of the confidence vote is a total vindication of the strategic genius of the SNP-Green government in guaranteeing that the independence referendum will be held BEFORE the next general election

In many ways, the tight result of tonight's confidence vote is the dream outcome for the Yes campaign in #Referendum2023.  Even by the standards of Tory PMs, Boris Johnson is horrifically unpopular in Scotland, and now he will stagger on, further weakened, and be the vision of government that unionists present as the alternative to independence next year. The hardening of Brexit, which also forms a key part of what the Yes campaign will be arguing that Scotland needs independence to avoid, will also now not be thwarted in the interim by the election of a more moderate Tory leader.

But of course these massive advantages for Yes only hold true because the majority SNP-Green government have guaranteed that the referendum will take place well before the general election in 2024.  If they hadn't done that, and if there was any question of the referendum not taking place until after 2024, tonight would have considerably eroded the prospects for independence.  Labour are more likely to win the 2024 election now that a weakened Boris remains in harness, and Brexit is thus more likely to be softened a little after that election.  The post-2024 environment would be a much less favourable one in which to seek a Yes majority.  So there can no longer be any doubt that the SNP leadership did absolutely the right thing by facing down those in their own party calling for a further kicking of the can down the road, and instead saying absolutely firmly, "no ifs, no buts", the referendum simply MUST and WILL be held during 2023.  Bring it on, because we all know that now the promise of a 2023 referendum has so wisely been made, we can count on the SNP-Green government to deliver it.

SCOT GOES POP #Referendum2023 COUNTDOWN CLOCK

There are just 213 days until the earliest possible date for #Referendum2023 (5th January)

There are just 563 days until the last possible date for #Referendum2023 (21st December)

(Note: the Countdown Clock calculations assume that tradition will be maintained by holding #Referendum2023 on a Thursday, and that it will be before Christmas.)

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Scot Goes Pop Fundraising

Over the years, Scot Goes Pop has provided extensive Scottish polling analysis and political commentary, as well as commissioning no fewer than six full-scale opinion polls, and producing numerous podcasts and videos.  If you'd like to help me continue this work, donations are welcome via any of the following methods...

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

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.  

What are the implications of today's Boris Ballot for the Scottish independence campaign?

As you'll almost certainly have seen by now, the much-anticipated confidence vote in Boris Johnson's leadership of the Conservative Party has at last been triggered, and will take place tonight.  It's completely ludicrous that a ballot is taking place on the same day that it's announced - I can't think of any other context in which something like that would happen.  It presumably indicates that Graham Brady is working in Johnson's interests and has calculated that a quick vote will prevent momentum building up against the Prime Minister.

The delicious aspect of this, though, is that Douglas Ross is still the Westminster MP for Moray (one of the multiple jobs he refused to give up when he became Scottish Tory leader) and thus will have a vote tonight.  At first I wondered if the speediness of the ballot would be a get-out clause for him due to the difficulty of getting to London in time, but it turns out that there will be provision for remote voting.  So he's going to have to jump one way or the other, and realistically he's going to have to tell us how he votes.  It's not tenable for a party leader to hide behind a secret ballot. Past precedent suggests Ross has no moral compass whatsoever and will be solely motivated by being seen to be on the winning side - but he's been badly burned before after he incorrectly guessed what the winning side would be. My guess is he'll play it safe this time by backing Johnson but making a show of reluctance for the TV cameras: "I didn't vote FOR Boris Johnson as such, quite frankly Colin I was voting AGAINST Vladimir Putin."

An even bigger issue for us is how the outcome of the ballot will impact upon the prospects for independence.  Boris Johnson is uniquely unpopular in Scotland, and given that the majority SNP-Green government at Holyrood have guaranteed us that an independence referendum will take place before the next Westminster election in May 2024, there's a strong case to be made that it would be better for the Yes side if Johnson remains in harness to become effectively the leader of the No campaign in the referendum.  But unthinkable as it may seem, let's just suppose that the SNP and Greens renege on their #2023ReferendumGuarantee, perhaps because of a volcanic eruption in Inverurie or something.  In that case, the next general election would go ahead before any vote on independence.  Assuming it would be more optimal for the case for independence to be contrasted with ongoing Tory rule from London, it's arguable that it would be better if the Tories went into the election with someone capable of winning in England - and it's also arguable that someone like Jeremy Hunt is now more capable of that than Johnson.

The last time I made that point, our old friend Scottish Skier (you know, the one with the French wife and the Irish passport, although he rarely mentions them) took to the comments section of Wee Ginger Dug to accuse me of outing myself as a Tory sympathiser.  Er, no, Skier, it's called realistic and honest political analysis - something of an alien concept for you, admittedly.

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Scot Goes Pop Fundraising

Over the years, Scot Goes Pop has provided extensive Scottish polling analysis and political commentary, as well as commissioning no fewer than six full-scale opinion polls, and producing numerous podcasts and videos.  If you'd like to help me continue this work, donations are welcome via any of the following methods...

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

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.  

Sunday, June 5, 2022

If the SNP want to persuade people of the need for independence, don't tell us what you love about the British state - tell us what is wrong with it, and what makes Scotland different

Someone pointed out to me a couple of weeks ago that my little gang of stalkers in the Wee Ginger Dug comments section were claiming that my blog, of all things, is to blame for the fact that the Yes vote isn't even higher than it currently is.  I forgot to look up the comments at the time, and it's long enough ago now that I'm unlikely to find them. But let's assume for the sake of argument that these barking mad comments were actually made.  I think I worked out once from my stats that Scot Goes Pop reached approximately 2% of the Scottish population in one calendar year - which is not at all shabby for a one-man blog, but nevertheless a lot of those are people who just visit once or twice in a year, perhaps because they've followed a link from social media.  The idea that I could have a transformative effect on the independence debate, whether in a positive or negative direction, is pretty fanciful.  But it's not at all fanciful that Nicola Sturgeon and her Scottish Government ministers, who are on our TV screens every day of the year, could have either a positive or negative transformative effect.

Let me gently remind my stalkers that during the remarkable period from mid-2020 to early 2021, every single opinion poll (including three that I commissioned myself) showed a pro-independence majority.  Nicola Sturgeon quite rightly received a huge amount of credit for that, and many of her cheerleaders argued that it was total vindication for Ms Sturgeon's cautious strategy of continually kicking the referendum can further down the road.  It would be crazy to change a strategy that is plainly working, they said.  But then when the Yes numbers started dipping again, suddenly Nicola Sturgeon and her government weren't responsible at all.  A few individuals (naming no names, but Mark McGeoghegan) absurdly tried to blame it on the Alba Party instead (!), and when that inevitably failed to stick, the next claim was that it was all down to some mysterious force of nature that was holding Yes back.  "Scotland is inherently a conservative country and won't be ready for independence for some time yet!  This is total vindication for Nicola Sturgeon's strategy of delay!"

Hmmm. Isn't it remarkable that, no matter whether the Yes vote goes up or down or remains static, it's still proof that endless delay and prevarication is a great idea?  Scientists might say that there's an issue of 'falsifiability' here.  If you're claiming a certain turn of events as proof that delay is desirable, then if the opposite thing happens instead, it really ought to be proof that delay is a bad idea.  But mysteriously it doesn't seem to work that way.

When Russia invaded Ukraine a few months ago, there was self-righteous anger in many quarters if anyone tried to draw any parallels at all between Ukraine and Scotland.  In the hope that we might have more of a sense of perspective by now, let's take a deep breath and have a look at a few of the similarities and difference between the countries - because there are both.

* Scotland has a much longer history as a sovereign state than Ukraine does.  Scotland was internationally recognised as an independent country for several centuries prior to 1707.  By contrast, Ukraine's history as a sovereign state is mostly confined to the three decades since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, and to a handful of years after the October Revolution in 1917.  At other times, Ukraine has generally been part of a Russian Empire in some form or another, albeit while being recognised as having a distinct culture.

* As in Scotland, millions of Ukrainians natively speak the language of their larger neighbour.  Millions of others have Ukrainian as their native language - which is analogous to the Scots language, because it has roughly the same degree of close similarity to the Russian language as Scots does to English.

* There are very close family ties between Ukraine and Russia, just as there are between Scotland and England.  During the indyref campaign, it was often claimed that 50% of Scots have family in England (although of course that would mean 50% don't), and in a similar way there have been countless stories of Ukrainians trying to explain the reality of the war to their disbelieving fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters in Russia.

* Because of the immense historical, political, family and linguistic connections between Ukraine and Russia, it is often claimed that the two countries essentially make up the same culture, the same country.  Exactly the same claim is made about Scotland and England.  In both cases, those who disagree are accused of "the narcissism of small differences" (by Michael Ignatieff, for instance) and of causing trouble for its own sake by ripping families apart and creating artificial distance where there ought to be closeness.  In particular, both Ukrainian and Scottish "separation" is supposed to create a "security risk" - and it would be hard to dispute that the point has been proved in Ukraine, even though it's categorically Russia's fault rather than Ukraine's.  In Scotland's case, the idea of a security risk seems rather more fantastical.

And yet in spite of all this, what is sometimes referred to as "the international community" is fully behind Ukraine's defence of its national independence, while it is neutral at best and hostile at worst to the idea of Scottish self-government.  Why would that be?  Well, admittedly to a large extent it's because of Ukraine's good fortune in already being a sovereign country.  When it comes down to it, the international community regards the abstract concept of sovereignty as far more important than the rights of peoples to determine their own future.  

But could there also be something more?  Even before the war broke out, Ukraine's leaders were not exactly squeamish about talking up their country's differences with Russia and talking down the similarities.  Zelenskyy even said last year that Ukraine had "nothing in common" with Russia - and remember he's a native Russian speaker who owes much of his career as a comedian and actor to success in Russia, just as so many Scottish creatives owe their careers to success in England.  But he's plainly not a slave to the "narcissism of small differences" argument, and it would be a bit hard to argue that he'd be more effective as a national leader if he was.  If you believe the threat to Ukraine's independence is an emergency, if you believe that Ukraine needs to be independent from Russia, then there's plainly an imperative to remind people of what makes Ukraine and Russia different from each other, not what makes them similar.

That's a lesson that it appears the SNP leadership have yet to learn.  They go to royal concerts in London and sit behind Prince Charles, taking selfies of themselves in front of Union Jacks.  They enthusiastically talk of their love and support for Emma Raducanu - not because they like her brand of tennis but specifically because she is British.  They wax lyrical about what a "cherished" institution the BBC is - even though by Nick Robinson's own admission, it exists to "bring Britain together" and thus by extension to oppose our country governing itself.  They insist on "four nation", ie. London-led, approaches to the most serious challenges such as Covid.  They ally themselves with middle-class pan-British liberal movements and seem to care far more about gaining approval from The New European or Guardian leader writers than from working-class people in Scotland (the "Cringe" in a nutshell).

All of this begs the obvious question from voters: if you like the British state so much, why do you want to leave it?  And how on earth do you expect to persuade us to leave it if you keep telling us how great it is?  And why should we tell pollsters that we want an independence referendum with any great urgency when you don't seem to think it's particularly urgent yourselves?

If WGD commenters really want an explanation for current polling numbers, I'd suggest that's the kind of direction they should be looking in.

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Latest TELEPHONE poll for #Referendum2023 says 50% of the public will vote for independence - and that's BEFORE the campaign for next year's guaranteed referendum even gets underway

Full-scale telephone polls in Scotland are relatively rare these days, but we do get one from Ipsos-Mori every few months - and it's always fascinating, because it tends to show better results for Yes than most online polls.  That raises the tantalising possibility that support for independence has for years been running at a considerably higher level than we generally assume.

Should Scotland be an independent country?  (Ipsos-Mori / STV)

Yes 50% (-4)
No 50% (+4)

So the short-term direction of travel is mildly disappointing, although actually this 50-50 split is identical to the result of an Ipsos-Mori poll around a year ago, so there's not necessarily any evidence of a longer-term decline for Yes.  And it would be hard to argue that this is anything other than an excellent platform from which to kick off our guaranteed 2023 independence referendum, especially when you bear in mind that there were Ipsos-Mori polls in the run-up to the first indyref showing a 2-1 majority for No.

Judging from the summary of the poll on the Ipsos-Mori website, it looks like there was either no Holyrood question in the poll, or the Holyrood numbers are being held back for another day.  But what we do have are Westminster voting intentions (although how relevant those are is open to question, given the majority SNP-Green government's guarantee that an independence referendum will have been held well before the next Westminster general election takes place in May 2024).

Scottish voting intentions for the next Westminster general election:

SNP 44%
Labour 23%
Conservatives 19%
Liberal Democrats 10%
Greens 3%

There are no percentage changes listed because I can't find any sign of Ipsos-Mori having previously asked the Westminster question in recent years.  There may be a slight cause for concern that the SNP are a touch below the 45% they achieved in the 2019 election, and also that there's been a clear swing from SNP to Labour, who now seem to have clearly re-established themselves as the second party of Scottish politics.  However, the gap between SNP and Labour remains twice as big as it was in Labour's mini-comeback year of 2017 under Jeremy Corbyn - and remember even that election produced only seven seats for Scottish Labour.  Also of note is the relatively strong showing for the Liberal Democrats, which supports the impression from the local elections that they may be recovering somewhat.

Last but not least, the poll confirms that the majority of the population want an independence referendum to be held at some point - with precisely 50% wanting it either by the end of 2023 or by 2026.  Just 31% of voters think a second indyref should never be held.

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Scot Goes Pop Fundraising

Over the years, Scot Goes Pop has provided extensive Scottish polling analysis and political commentary, as well as commissioning no fewer than six full-scale opinion polls, and producing numerous podcasts and videos.  If you'd like to help me continue this work, donations are welcome via any of the following methods...

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

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.  

Yessers feel that old familiar tingle down the back of the neck as we move within just SEVEN MONTHS of referendum year - let's celebrate with an update of the #Referendum2023 Countdown Clock

Democracy costs money - but not very much.  If you were as fatuous a person as Blair McDougall is, you could very easily say "we're in a cost of living crisis, every single penny needs to go towards alleviating it, so let's make vital savings by cutting out needless luxuries like elections".  But as soon as you think about that for half a second, you realise that the - in relative terms - pocket money required to administer an election is exceptionally good value in avoiding dictatorship and/or fascism.  

Exactly the same principle applies to a referendum on independence.  If the UK isn't Scotland's prison (and unfortunately that's very much a point of contention), then there has to be a democratic mechanism by which independence can be chosen or declined. If the voters decide to trigger that mechanism, the relatively small amount of necessary funding has to be spent.  The time for arguing against a referendum was the 2021 Holyrood election - a free and fair election in which Blair McDougall's side of the argument was decisively defeated.

So it's entirely appropriate that the Scottish Government have announced that £20 million has been set aside for delivering the guarantee of an independence referendum in 2023.  And let's have no time for the cynics who say that this announcement is just part of an elaborate 'sound and light show' and that the money will never actually have to be spent because the referendum will never take place.  It is utterly inconceivable that the SNP leadership would play games like that, because when they commit to a date for a referendum, by God they stick to it.  Well, OK, they didn't stick to it in 2017, 2018 or 2019, but this time is obviously different.  Just like Rita Ora, the majority SNP-Green government will never let you down as far as the #2023ReferendumGuarantee is concerned.  Let's celebrate with an update of the Scot Goes Pop #Referendum2023 Countdown Clock...

There are just 218 days until the earliest possible date for #Referendum2023 (5th January)

There are just 568 days until the last possible date for #Referendum2023 (21st December)

(Note: the Countdown Clock calculations assume that tradition will be maintained by holding #Referendum2023 on a Thursday, and that it will be before Christmas.)

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I saw on Twitter yesterday that one of the identity politics zealots (I'm not sure which one) disgraced themselves by making anti-English comments about the gender critical witnesses who appeared before the Scottish Parliament committee discussing GRA reform.  So I had a look at the video of the session, and to my surprise I actually found myself getting quite annoyed by the opening statement and some of the answers from the representative of 'Keep Prisons Single Sex'.  It was nothing to do with her English accent or her gender critical views - it was simply the fact that what she seemed to care about, mainly, was the impact in England of any change of the law in Scotland.  She kept telling the committee that they would have to consider the effect on English prisons of awarding Gender Recognition Certificates to a wider range of people in Scotland.  Current Ministry of Justice policy on the importance of GRCs would effectively create a two-tier system, she complained, with Scottish prisoners in England being treated differently from English prisoners in England.

But here's the thing - none of that is the province of the Scottish Parliament.  If a change in Scots Law has the side-effect of creating practical problems in England, it's up to the English authorities to decide how to resolve that - they could, for example, decide not to recognise certain GRCs granted in Scotland, at least in the context of prisons.  Legislators in Scotland shouldn't even be taking those problems into account - they're there to decide what's best for Scotland, not to work out what will be least troublesome for England (centre of the universe though it may be).  What would have been much more appropriate from the witness would have been to make the case for keeping Scottish prisons single sex.

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Scot Goes Pop Fundraising

Over the years, Scot Goes Pop has provided extensive Scottish polling analysis and political commentary, as well as commissioning no fewer than six full-scale opinion polls, and producing numerous podcasts and videos.  If you'd like to help me continue this work, donations are welcome via any of the following methods...

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

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.  

Monday, May 30, 2022

Scottish Labour have just helpfully destroyed one of their own favourite myths - thanks, Anas

You may recall that in the run-up to the 2015 Westminster general election, when there was opinion poll evidence of a swing from Labour to SNP of biblical proportions but nobody quite believed it would be fully replicated on polling day, one of the tactics Labour used to try to bring voters "back home" was to lie through their teeth and claim that it was a "fact" that in a hung parliament the largest single party gets to form a government.  When it was pointed out to them that there was no rule or constitutional convention that supported their claim, and indeed that the 1923 election led to the Labour party forming a government in spite of the Tories being the largest party in the House of Commons, they simply modified their line to "for the last 90 years, the largest party has formed the government", as if that was a distinction without a difference, as if something that hadn't happened for 90 years couldn't possibly happen ever again.  The point of the fib, of course, was to hoodwink people into thinking a vote for the SNP wasn't 'really' an anti-Tory vote - that if you were serious about dislodging a Tory government you had no choice but to vote Labour.

Voters weren't impressed, but that wasn't necessarily because they didn't believe Labour's claim - it was probably more because Yes voters were still caught up in an indyref mindset and weren't as preoccupied as usual with getting rid of the Tories.  In other circumstances, the Labour con might well have worked, because it has a 'truthy' feel to it.  Most people aren't going to bother to read up on the niceties of the constitutional convention that requires the monarch to appoint a Prime Minister who commands a majority in the Commons - which pretty much means that if Labour and the SNP have a majority between them, there cannot be a Tory government, regardless of whether or not the Tories are the largest single party.  (Unless of course Labour do a deal with the Tories themselves.)

So could a similar fib work for Labour in a closely-fought 2024 general election?  Of course not.  Thanks to the SNP-Green government's #2023ReferendumGuarantee, an independence referendum is certain to have taken place before the next Westminster election.  It is utterly inconceivable that Nicola Sturgeon will go back on her word, so the 2024 election will be pretty much an irrelevance in Scotland, and we can just totally relax about it.

Just as a bit of fun, though, let's pretend that a 2023 independence referendum isn't the nailed-on certainty that we all know it is.  What if, heaven forbid, the 2024 election turned out to actually be an active contest in Scotland?  Even then, Labour would have a credibility problem with the "largest party forms the government" wheeze that they didn't have back in 2015.  And they would have nobody to blame but themselves, because they've just given voters a high-profile precedent of a party taking power from second place that is much more recent than 1923.  

Here is the state of the parties on Edinburgh City Council after the local elections earlier this month...

SNP 19
Labour 13
Liberal Democrats 12
Greens 10
Conservatives 9

That result has - nominally at least - produced a "minority Labour administration" with Tory and Lib Dem support, in spite of the fact that Labour are in a distant second place and have just 21% of the seats on the council.  As I said on Twitter the other day, this takes the meaning of the word "minority" into a whole new dimension.  What is even more striking is that Labour are inviting us to accept this outcome as if it was totally unremarkable and routine, and are getting their journalist proxies in the mainstream media to credulously parrot the same message.  Nothing to see here, folks.  Happens every day of the week, apparently.  

Well, OK, if you want us to believe that, then fine, but never again insult our intelligence by pretending that it would be in any way difficult for Labour to form a Westminster government from second place if they had a parliamentary majority in combination with the SNP.  In fact, the only conceivable obstacle would be that, as the Edinburgh outcome yet again demonstrates, Labour are considerably keener on doing deals with the Tories to keep the SNP out of power than they are on cooperating with the SNP to keep the Tories out of power.

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Scot Goes Pop Fundraising

Over the years, Scot Goes Pop has provided extensive Scottish polling analysis and political commentary, as well as commissioning no fewer than six full-scale opinion polls, and producing numerous podcasts and videos.  If you'd like to help me continue this work, donations are welcome via any of the following methods...

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

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.  

Friday, May 27, 2022

Those #AbsoluteMenaces have done it again - the Alba Party's vote DOUBLES in latest YouGov poll

When I posted about the new YouGov poll the other night, it was quite late and my eyelids were drooping heavily, so I didn't get round to adding the Holyrood numbers.  Here they are now.

Scottish Parliament constituency voting intentions:

SNP 47% (-1)
Labour 23% (+4)
Conservatives 18% (-3)
Liberal Democrats 7% (-)
Greens 2% (-)

Scottish Parliament regional list voting intentions:

SNP 39% (+1)
Labour 21% (+2)
Conservatives 18% (-1)
Greens 10% (-1)
Liberal Democrats 8% (+1)
Alba 2% (+1)

The percentage changes listed above are from the previous YouGov poll around six months ago, so the swing they show from Tory to Labour is pretty much already factored in - there's nothing really new in it, and it reflects what happened in the local elections earlier this month.  All the other changes are not statistically significant, but that in itself is very important, because it would suggest that the SNP, the Greens and the mainstream media have utterly failed in their attempts to use the local election results to either kill off Alba completely or to persuade the electorate that Alba should be regarded as being "as good as dead".  In fact, Alba's vote has increased from 1% to 2% in the last six months, so if simply surviving as a party after the local elections is the test, it seems Alba has passed with flying colours.  It may even be that the local elections have actually been helpful in boosting the party's profile.

In practice, of course, Alba will need to double its vote to have a good chance of winning a seat or two in the Holyrood elections in 2026, or triple its vote to win a significant haul of seats.  It looks like first preference votes in the local elections are a pretty good guide to the votes Alba would have received if a Holyrood list ballot had been held this month - which makes perfect sense, because the Holyrood list is not a second preference vote, and the SNP will presumably keep pushing the "both votes SNP" message.  So standing still on the roughly 2% vote share Alba achieved in the wards it stood in at the local elections will not cut it, but it's a pretty decent platform for a new party to build on over the coming four years.  

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Over the years, Scot Goes Pop has provided extensive Scottish polling analysis and political commentary, as well as commissioning no fewer than six full-scale opinion polls, and producing numerous podcasts and videos.  If you'd like to help me continue this work, donations are welcome via any of the following methods...

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

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.  

Thursday, May 26, 2022

Latest poll for #Referendum2023 shows Yes vote at 45%

As polling day approaches in next year's independence referendum, which the SNP-Green majority government have guaranteed us will be held on schedule, there's bound to be an increasing fascination with opinion poll results. It's therefore noteworthy that we now have the first #Referendum2023 poll to be conducted since the local elections.  

Should Scotland be an independent country? (YouGov / The Times)

Yes 45% (-2)
No 55% (+2)

The last batch of polls prior to the local elections were actually pretty encouraging for the pro-independence side, with Yes percentage shares in the high 40s.  So on the face of it these latest numbers look slightly disappointing, but a few important points need to be remembered.  Firstly, YouGov tend to be on the No-friendly end of the spectrum, and it's therefore possible/likely that other firms would show better results for Yes.  Secondly, any individual poll that bucks a clear recent trend needs to be treated with caution until its findings are corroborated by one or two more polls.  It's entirely possible that the slight slippage for Yes is an illusion caused by the poll's standard margin of error, and indeed if you look at the numbers before Don't Knows are stripped out, the Yes drop is a statistically insignificant one percentage point. And lastly, 45% is a superb platform with which to start any referendum campaign, and far better than the starting-point for Yes in the run-up to the 2014 vote.  The poll is therefore total vindication for the Scottish Government's decision to pass the point of no return by committing itself beyond all shadow of doubt to a referendum within the next nineteen months.

It goes without saying that the commentary in The Times claiming that Nicola Sturgeon has failed to increase the Yes vote in her seven years as First Minister is highly misleading, because it takes a single poll out of context.  You really need to look at an average of recent polls, which would suggest that the Yes vote remains significantly higher than the 45% recorded in September 2014.

Monday, May 23, 2022

Is there survey evidence of a surge in Scottish national identity?

Someone emailed the other day to ask if I'd write a blogpost about the New Statesman's report on survey evidence apparently showing a surge in Scottish national identity, and a decline in British national identity in Scotland.  I actually saw the article when it was published and I was going to comment on it, but the trouble was that I couldn't entirely make sense of what I was looking at.  We're very used to seeing the annual figures on national identity from the Scottish Social Attitudes Survey, but the numbers in the New Statesman piece were apparently from the British Social Attitudes Survey and were being compared with data from ten years ago, rather than last year.  So I'm not entirely sure how to fit them into the wider jigsaw.  (Although it's rather typical that a London-based publication is only viewing Scotland through the lens of a Britain-wide survey.)

What I can say with confidence, though, is that the commentary in the New Statesman piece was very misleading.  It suggested that the independence referendum produced a flourishing in Scottish national identity at the expense of Britishness, but we already know from the Scottish Social Attitudes Survey results from the time of the long indyref campaign that, if anything, the opposite is true.  There was a sudden change between the 2011 and 2012 surveys, with the percentage of respondents saying they were "equally Scottish and British" jumping from 23% to 30%, and with corresponding reductions in the percentage of respondents saying they were "Scottish not British" or "more Scottish than British".  In fact "equally Scottish and British" became the joint most popular option at that point, after years of "more Scottish than British" being on top.  Nor was this a blip - by referendum year in 2014, "equally Scottish than British" had jumped even further to 32% and had moved into the outright lead.

I think this phenomenon is pretty easy to explain - many people who had previously identified as "more Scottish than British" knew they were going to vote No in the referendum, and began to feel that "equally Scottish and British" was a better way of reconciling their national identity with their indyref allegiance.  A cynic might argue that any recovery in Scottish identity since then could therefore indicate that the prospect of a new referendum feels much more distant to potential No voters, but in fact that's pretty unlikely given the way that unionist parties have obsessively talked up the "threat" of Indyref 2. 

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I ran an informal Twitter poll yesterday, and these are the results after a whopping 1375 people voted...

Do you believe the SNP's promise of a 2023 independence referendum will be kept?

Yes 42.8%
No 57.2%

Of course the sample isn't representative of anything apart from people who follow me on Twitter, or in some cases of people who follow my followers.  So there'll be a disproportionate number of Alba members and supporters in there, but what I find more interesting anyway is the substantial minority of people who voted "yes".  Someone actually left a comment to say in all apparent seriousness that he had "never been as sure of anything in his life" as he is of a 2023 indyref.  I hope the SNP leadership are aware of how sky-high expectations are among their own supporters.  These are not people who "play the game" and pay heed to the nods and winks given to journalists that the 2023 promise isn't really intended to be taken seriously.  They simply expect the promise to be kept, and heaven only knows how they'll react if in a year's time they realise they've been led up the garden path.

*  *  *

Over the years, Scot Goes Pop has provided extensive Scottish polling analysis and political commentary, as well as commissioning no fewer than six full-scale opinion polls, and producing numerous podcasts and videos.  If you'd like to help me continue this work, donations are welcome via any of the following methods...

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Sunday, May 22, 2022

#Referendum2023 : Thoughts on Nicola Sturgeon's essay

So we've now seen Nicola Sturgeon's heavily-trailed essay, which apparently marks "the start of a new independence campaign".  The piece can be summarised as "the government I lead is wonderful - no, seriously, it's truly, truly wonderful, oh and it's time to debate independence".  No date is announced for the independence referendum, and indeed the word "referendum" isn't even used at all as far as I can see, which is a bit worrying given that we're supposed to have been guaranteed that there will be a referendum within the next nineteen months at the absolute most.  However, the referendum promise is at least obliquely acknowledged with references to people "wanting a say" on Scotland's constitutional future, and the SNP being "committed to offering that choice".  To the extent that there's any meat at all, it's the announcement that the Scottish Government "will shortly begin publishing" an updated prospectus for independence.

I suppose if you were opting for the maximally charitable interpretation, you would say that perhaps the SNP are paying attention to the optics of doing everything in the correct sequence.  So first we'll see the prospectus for indy, then perhaps there'll be a renewed request for a Section 30 order, then there'll be legislation for a referendum in the absence of a Section 30, followed presumably by a high-profile Supreme Court verdict on whether the legislation is within Holyrood's competence.  But that would be a very, very optimistic expectation given the long history since 2017 of the SNP starting these much-hyped pushes towards independence, only to allow them to quietly fizzle out within a few weeks.

On that very point, I've received some interesting feedback relating to the Scot Goes Pop #Referendum2023 Countdown Clock. The person said that they understood what I was trying to achieve - it's like an each-way bet that attempts to help shame the SNP into keeping their promise this time, but also with the aim of forcing SNP leadership loyalists to notice if that promise isn't kept, in the hope that they might then take some action (either by pressing for internal change within the SNP or by moving across to a different pro-indy party).  But, the person added, he wasn't sure that would work, because this particular scenario is different to the earlier promises that a referendum would be held in 2018, or in 2019, or in 2020, or in 2021. This time there really is a justified expectation that some sort of action will be taken.  It's not that the referendum will actually be held - it probably won't be.  But the SNP at least seem minded to legislate for a referendum, safe in the belief that the Supreme Court is likely to strike it down, and only then will they refuse to take any further concrete action for the foreseeable future.  And because of the theatrics of a televised Supreme Court case, most SNP members and supporters will be satisfied with that - they'll think "we wanted something to be done, and it has been".  If I then persevere with the Countdown Clock, people will just say "what are you talking about, they did their level best to hold the referendum in 2023".

That may well be a perfectly plausible scenario, but actually if we ever get to that point, I'd be almost inclined to say "mission accomplished" as far as the Countdown Clock is concerned, because I'm far from convinced that the SNP will even hold their nerve sufficiently to push matters as far as legislation or a Supreme Court showdown.  Based on past precedent, there's a very real chance that they'll gratefully grab hold of any convenient excuse that comes along for delaying the whole process yet again, and that'll be when we very much need to confront SNP leadership loyalists with the uncomfortable truth that yet another promise has been broken.  

At least if we get to the point where the Supreme Court have said Holyrood can't hold a referendum, we'll be a bit further forward, because it will kill the whole bogus narrative about how we have to keep delaying a referendum until we're "certain to win" (impossible) because we "only get one more shot".  After a Supreme Court defeat, the only game in town will be a plebiscitary election, and elections come up once every five years, not "once in a generation". The likes of Pete Wishart will no longer get away with pretending that the independence cause is a piece of china he's balancing on his head, heroically trying to prevent it from being destroyed forever.

Saturday, May 21, 2022

#Referendum2023: We have LIFT-OFF! The unstoppable momentum towards Scotland's guaranteed independence referendum next year moves into a dramatic new phase with the appearance of an ESSAY

Thanks to the majority SNP-Green government's #2023ReferendumGuarantee, it is the unshakeable destiny of this country to hold a second independence referendum within the next nineteen months at the absolute most.   And it's great to see yet more evidence that some of the really concrete practical steps needed to honour that solemn vow are being taken.  Just a few days ago, Nicola Sturgeon used her official visit to the US to tell a journalist that the referendum would definitely take place in 2023, and tonight brings exciting news that she's written an essay to launch what is billed as "the new independence campaign".  This will almost certainly be the last time that a new independence campaign is announced, because there simply won't be time for more than one campaign in the maximum of a year and a half that remains before referendum day.

We've yet to see the contents of the essay, but we can be sure that they'll be perfectly pitched to prepare Scots for their visit to the polling station next year. This calls for another update of the Scot Goes Pop #Referendum2023 Countdown Clock...

There are just 229 days until the earliest possible date for #Referendum2023 (5th January)

There are just 579 days until the last possible date for #Referendum2023 (21st December)

(Note: the Countdown Clock calculations assume that tradition will be maintained by holding #Referendum2023 on a Thursday, and that it will be before Christmas.)

Of course there have been many previous occasions when new independence campaigns have been heralded that were supposed to lead to a referendum, and nothing really happened.  So perhaps there'll be a touch of cynicism in certain quarters about this latest development.  But this time is obviously totally different due to the clock ticking down on that ultra-specific 2023 guarantee. And because of that, we can confidently join Donna Summer in shouting it out with a megaphone: "This time we know it's for real..."

Thursday, May 19, 2022

The SNP leadership's doublethink on nuclear weapons is unsustainable - polling evidence shows the Scottish people want to join the treaty banning nukes completely

Perhaps the most insufferable aspect of the ongoing debate about reform of the GRA is the claim of those on one side of the debate that they are on "the right side of history" and that their opponents are on "the wrong side of history".  They sound exactly like Marxists when they say that, because Marxism is one of the few ideologies that insists the course of history is predetermined (and arguably it's already been proved wrong about that).  For non-Marxists, considerably more humility is required, because it's very difficult to tell whether you're on the right side of history when you're living bang in the middle of it. In 1940, for example, it seemed obvious to many people that fascists were on the right side of history, at least within the confines of continental Europe, because the fall of France and the Low Countries seemed to leave no route back.  Philippe Pétain's guiding principle in reconstituting the French state after the Nazi invasion was that the 1789 revolution's goals of 'liberty, equality and fraternity' had been defeated forever.  But then Hitler overreached himself by invading the Soviet Union and declaring war on the US. From that point on it seemed equally obvious that the course of history favoured the Allies, and that the future of Europe belonged to liberal democracy and Soviet-style communism.

Sometimes, what appear to be the prevailing trends of history can even contradict each other in the here-and-now.  Due to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and the momentous decisions that have subsequently been made by Finland and Sweden, it seems obvious that Europe's destiny is to unite under the NATO banner against a common enemy to the east.  But it's equally obvious that there's a trend in recent years towards challenging the assumption that nuclear weapons can never be eliminated, with dozens of countries signing up to a new and legally-binding treaty that bans nukes completely.  Those two historical trends are more or less in direct conflict with each other because NATO is a nuclear weapons alliance.  And yet somehow the SNP leadership have got themselves wrapped up in both.

How did that happen?  Support for the nuclear weapons ban treaty can be explained by the legacy of the SNP's long-standing status as a unilateralist party, which the membership will accept no overt backtracking from.  The support for NATO membership stems from the desire of self-styled 'modernisers' at the top of the SNP to make the party look more 'normal', with 'normality' being defined as centre-right militarism.  (During the SNP conference session a few years ago at which opposition to NATO membership was finally overturned, Alyn Smith infamously said that he was upset that the party's principled stance on peace was making it look 'odd'.)  There's been an uneasy narrative that NATO membership is not strictly incompatible with the removal of nuclear weapons from Scottish soil, but that attempt to square the circle may have been pushed beyond breaking point by the emergence of an actual nuclear ban treaty with very strict provisions. 

The SNP's militarist wing has now been emboldened by the war in Ukraine to such an extent that the defence spokesperson Stewart McDonald felt able to openly express his willingness to allow NATO nuclear weapons to be temporarily welcomed in an independent Scotland - totally at odds with his party's supposed belief that all such weapons should be wiped from the face of the planet.  That triggered a timely intervention from CND Scotland, who pointed out that McDonald's words are not even compatible with the text of the treaty that the SNP apparently want an independent Scotland to sign and be legally bound by.

Is there any way at all that NATO membership can be squared with joining a legally-binding nuclear ban treaty?  It doesn't look easy to me.  Only three EU countries have ratified the treaty so far - Ireland, Malta and Austria.  Those are all neutral countries where there isn't even any serious debate about the possibility of joining NATO.  Sweden initially voted in favour of the treaty but later decided against joining, and that was presumably partly because NATO membership has never been a non-issue in Sweden (and in neighbouring Finland) due to geographical proximity with Russia.  Now that Sweden has actually applied to join NATO, it's surely unthinkable that it will join the nuclear ban treaty in anything remotely close to the foreseeable future.

So in the real world, the SNP leadership may have to make a straight choice between whether NATO or the nuclear ban treaty represent "the right side of history", rather than pretending that both do simultaneously.  At the very least, they need to be honest with themselves and with others that what they claim to want to do - join both NATO and the treaty - is not only unusual ("odd" as Alyn Smith might put it), it's totally and utterly unique.  An avowedly non-nuclear independent Scotland would of necessity be a very different sort of NATO member, not a full-blooded 'mainstream' member like Belgium or Denmark, and there needs to be an acknowledgement of that.  

And if a straight choice has to be made, let's remember where Scottish public opinion stands on the issue of the nuclear ban treaty.  A poll commissioned by this very blog one year ago asked about the subject, with dramatic results...

Scot Goes Pop / Panelbase poll, 21st-26th April 2021:

Nuclear weapons were banned by an international treaty that came into force in January this year.  However, the nine countries that are currently believed to possess nuclear weapons, including the UK, have so far refused to sign the treaty. Do you think the UK should join the treaty and dismantle its nuclear weapons?  

Yes: 47%
No: 33%

With Don't Knows removed -

Yes 59%
No 41%

The other point I'd make is that if the SNP leadership think Alba's disappointing results at the local elections means they've crowded out any alternatives within the indy movement to Smith/McDonald-style militarism, they'd better think again.  We in Alba are determined to forge on - to survive as a party and then to thrive.  But regardless of whether we succeed or fail in that endeavour, the fact that the SNP have voluntarily gone into coalition with an anti-NATO party means that the alternative position is alive and well and living inside the Scottish Government itself.

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Excitement about #Referendum2023 builds to new crescendo as Nicola Sturgeon uses US trip to repeat her guarantee that Scotland will have an independence referendum in 2023

Have you noticed the step-change in independence campaigning from the SNP?  The public meetings, the street stalls, the constant buzz about imminent referendum legislation?  Nope, me neither, but we know it must be going on because a referendum is DEFINITELY HAPPENING NEXT YEAR.

Associated Press interview with Nicola Sturgeon, 17th May 2022:

AP interviewer: "Is the plan for Scotland to still hold a referendum on independence next year?"

Nicola Sturgeon: "Yes.  I was re-elected as First Minister round about this time last year, and was re-elected on a very firm mandate to offer people in Scotland that choice."

As every good Catholic knows, it's important to renew your Vows periodically, so it's great to hear such an unambiguous and emphatic reaffirmation of the SNP-Green government's #2023ReferendumGuarantee.  It's ON, folks.  This calls for an update of the Scot Goes Pop #Referendum2023 Countdown Clock...

There are just 232 days until the earliest possible date for #Referendum2023 (5th January)

There are just 582 days until the last possible date for #Referendum2023 (21st December)

(Note: the Countdown Clock calculations assume that tradition will be maintained by holding #Referendum2023 on a Thursday, and that it will be before Christmas.)