Friday, February 4, 2022

A response to yet more "feedback" (ahem) from Bella Caledonia

Predictably, Bella Caledonia's eccentric hit-piece the other day about me and this blog led to an extended pile-on from The Trendies in the Bella comments section (although, interestingly, they haven't had it all their own way by any means).  Most of the diatribes are barely worth responding to, but there are one or two comments that make a brief reply irresistible by virtue of being so full of downright lies, or of being so brazenly hypocritical.  

On the latter theme, let's begin with our old friend Alec "LOL" Lomax.

"Ah yes, the GRA, the topic that takes priority over independence, damage from Brexit, climate change, the escalating cost of living etc."

Extraordinarily, this is an attack line from a supporter of the Scottish Government's plans to reform the GRA by legislating for gender self-ID within the next few months. Dear reader, you and I may be naive enough to believe that someone who claims to think the GRA is a less important topic than independence, Brexit, climate change and the cost of living would want to see self-ID put firmly on the backburner so we can get on with dealing with these far more pressing priorities.  But no.  Apparently the way Alec demonstrates his total disinterest in the GRA as a topic is by agitating for precious parliamentary time to be eaten up in the hope of pushing through a hugely controversial GRA reform at breakneck speed.

Answers on a postcard, folks.

Next up we have "Mr Chips" - a moniker that means nothing to me, which may not be a coincidence given that practically every single claim he makes about me and this blog is factually inaccurate...

"His tweets imploring people to vote Alba because they had a good chance of “gaming the system” were either hopelessly naive or deliberately stupid."

Alternatively they could just be a figment of your imagination, old son.  The inverted commas around the words "gaming the system" are particularly bonkers given that I've spent half my waking life explaining why attempts to game the Holyrood electoral system are a bad idea, and given also that I stressed when I joined Alba that I hadn't changed my view about that.  I made clear again and again that I was voting Alba on the list simply because Alba are my first choice party, and not because of any tactical wheeze.  So are you intentionally lying about my stance, Mr Chips, or are you just some clueless soul making a wild guess at what you hope I might have said?   I've no idea which it is, but I do know that it's one or the other. 

"Alba were polling between 1% and 4%. The statistical variance suggested just noise and no signal."

That claim is plain and simply untrue.  Alba actually polled between 1% and 6% during the Holyrood campaign, and no fewer than three polls had them on 6%.  (I'm in a very good position to remember that, because I commissioned one of them myself.)  The guff about "statistical variance suggesting just noise" spectacularly misses the point, because the real question was never whether Alba were "recovering" - it was which pollster was getting it right.  If the 6% showings from Panelbase had been accurate, then Alba were on course to win multiple seats throughout the campaign.  The seats projection from the Scot Goes Pop / Panelbase poll in April 2021 had Alba on eight seats.

"Anyone familiar with statistics knew support for Alba was so small it could not be successfully measured. Despite this, Kelly implored his followers that the system could be gamed with a vote for Alba."

Actually, what anyone with even a primary school grasp of statistics knows is that you can't claim that Alba were polling between 1% and 4% when they in fact polled at 6% three times.  And what anyone familiar with even the basics of the English language knows is that you can't claim that someone who thinks attempting to game the system is a bad idea was "imploring his followers that the system could be gamed".

"He was one of the many bloggers and tweeters who supported Craig Murray throughout his trial and imprisonment..."

Crikey, he's got something right at last - although of course even broken clocks are accurate twice a day.  Yes, Mr Chips, I'm opposed to the jailing of journalists. I believe that's known as "being on the right side of history".

"...without really understanding the gravity of Murray’s offence. Let’s not forget what Murray did: he impaired the Article 8 ECHR rights of complainers at a sexual offences trial. When you do stuff like that, prison is an appropriate sanction. Despite this, Kelly believes there is no inconsistency in his new role as one of the “women protectors”."

It's hard to know where to start with such gibberish. Presumably, again, the inverted commas are meant to indicate that I've portrayed myself at some point as a "women protector" - the only snag being that I've done no such thing.  What I certainly have said is that the Alba Party are defenders of women's sex-based rights - a statement that is irrefutably accurate.  

To suggest that I supported Craig at his trial without understanding "the gravity of his offence" is a nonsense, because the purpose of a trial (at least in a free country, which hopefully this still is) is not to assume an offence has been committed and adjudicate upon the "gravity" of it, but instead to determine whether an offence has been committed in the first place.  Those of us who supported Craig at his trial believed - and still believe - that "not guilty" was the appropriate verdict, not least because of the total lack of evidence to substantiate the notion that anyone was actually identified in the real world due to Craig's reporting.

Even if the erroneous verdict of "guilty" was taken at face value, though, imprisonment was plainly an inappropriate sentence for three reasons: a) it was a non-violent offence, b) there is little or no recent precedent for other journalists being jailed for similar offences, and c) Craig has health conditions which meant that a jail term needlessly put his life at genuine risk.  One of the ugliest parts of this saga was a tweet from a senior person in the SNP demanding that Craig be jailed, on the grounds that if he was sentenced to community service he would supposedly use his health conditions to worm his way out of it.  The implication being that the health conditions were somehow bogus, in spite of the testimony from his doctors.  It's amazing how the mask of progressivism slips, isn't it?  That's the kind of inhuman rhetoric you'd expect to hear from the hard right "hang 'em, flog 'em" wing of the Tory party.

"Murray deserved to go to prison. Apart from anything else, it serves as a deterrent to anyone else thinking of doing the same thing. Anyone supporting him is similarly stamping all over the human rights of the complainers at the Alex Salmond sexual offences trial. For that reason, I have no time whatsoever for James Kelly."

And because "Mr Chips" supports the jailing of journalists, and doesn't give a damn about whether a medically vulnerable man lives or dies in prison, I'm afraid I have no time whatsoever for "Mr Chips" - whoever the sodding hell "Mr Chips" may be.

"It [gender self-ID] was put to the people of Switzerland, hardly the epicentre of woke Europe. They voted to adopt self-id by the majority rule that so many commenters here are keen on. I think you underestimate just how far the public have moved on questions of sexuality, identity and state intrusion into our private lives."

I'm not going to pretend to be an expert on Swiss politics, but having looked into it as carefully as I can, this appears to be yet another false claim.  It looks as if gender self-ID was introduced by the Swiss parliament, and was not tested in a referendum in the same way that the simultaneous introduction of same-sex marriage was.  It's also worth making the point that Switzerland is one of only a small minority of European countries that have thus far introduced gender self-ID, which gives the lie to the suggestions elsewhere in the Bella thread that there's some sort of unstoppable global trend at play here.  Whatever "international best practice" may mean, it certainly doesn't appear to mean "international common practice".

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Monday, January 31, 2022

BELLA WOMAN-PHOBIA? A response to Bella's bizarre hit-piece about Scot Goes Pop - which I was neither given advance notice of, nor offered a right of reply to

I have a long history with the Bella Caledonia website (or the Bella Caledonia group blog, to call a spade a spade).  Way back when Scot Goes Pop was in its infancy, probably around 2009, I received an email out of the blue from Bella editor Mike Small - who at the time I didn't know from Adam - asking me to place Bella on my link list.  I was a tad startled by this, because there was no hint at all of any offer of reciprocation.  The subtext seemed to be that Bella was so obviously important that it was only right and proper that it should be on every link list in the pro-indy blogosphere. I went along with the request, but I was a touch bemused.

Then in 2010 came the bizarre episode of Bella's "let's all spoil our ballot papers in the AV referendum" campaign.  I and other bloggers received an email, again totally out of the blue, informing us that an "independence referendum" had been called for May 2011. What this turned out to mean was that Bella Caledonia had issued an edict (self-described with typical humility as a "masterstroke") that all independence supporters should throw their votes away in the AV referendum by scrawling the word "INDEPENDENCE" on the ballot paper.  When I and most other bloggers refused to fall into line with this hare-brained scheme upon demand, Small angrily denounced us on Twitter (literally within hours) as ditherers and "fence-sitters".  As others pointed out at the time, if Small had conceived of the spoiled ballot campaign as a collective endeavour by the pro-indy New Media, he might have been better advised to check to see whether any other bloggers actually agreed with him before making the announcement, rather than 'assuming consent' and having a tantrum when consent wasn't forthcoming.  Certainly for my own part, if there's one political belief I've held for even longer than my belief in independence, it's my support for electoral reform, so there was never any way on God's earth that I was going to spoil my ballot in the AV referendum or recommend that anyone else should do so.  As was utterly predictable, the hubristic Bella stunt was a total flop, with a vanishingly small number of people spoiling their ballot in the way suggested.

A few years later, I think it was during the long independence referendum campaign, Small actually asked me to write an article about polling for Bella Caledonia in return for payment.  I wrote the article and it was published, but I was never paid.  I wasn't overly bothered, because I would have happily agreed to write the article for free - but once again, I just thought it was a very odd way for Bella to conduct itself.

In the run-up to the Holyrood election in 2016, it became painfully obvious that Bella had turned into a propaganda site for the concept of "tactical voting on the list", having published several articles in favour of the idea (including an unedited RISE press release), and none that opposed it or even expressed the remotest scepticism about it.  I and others challenged Small about this on Twitter, and he innocently insisted that Bella was open to submissions from all corners of the indy movement - he couldn't publish a counter-argument if it wasn't submitted.  So I asked the obvious question: if I submitted an article explaining why tactical voting on the list was a dreadful idea, would he consider it for publication?  He stated that he would.  I then stayed up half the night writing the article and sent it over to him.  In the morning he wrote back to me indicating that he had no intention of publishing the article unless I modified it to bring it into line with his own views on tactical voting - in other words to say the complete opposite of what it actually said. He had wasted my time in the most appallingly cynical way - and I told him so, and revealed on Scot Goes Pop what had just happened.

He started spitting fury that I had gone public, and made an abusive comment about me on Twitter.  (I blocked him as a result of that abuse, and have kept him blocked ever since.)  He then published his entire correspondence with me on Bella in a supposed attempt to "prove" that I had misrepresented it, but as several BTL commenters on Bella pointed out - often in a tone of some astonishment - what his messages to me actually proved was that every single claim I had made was entirely accurate.  Small had, indeed, refused to run my article as it stood, simply because he disagreed with the argument it advanced.  He watched on in a degree of helplessness and bitterness as the narrative about the exchange spiralled out of his control.

In the spring of 2017, Small invited me and other New Media people to a sort of "summit" in Edinburgh.  It was a response to Nicola Sturgeon "calling a second independence referendum" - little did we know that all she had actually done was the first half of what was to become an all-too-familiar Grand Old Duke of York routine.  The idea was that we needed to "resolve our differences" before the "referendum campaign" got underway in earnest.  So I went along in good faith, but I ended up forming the distinct impression that my own invitation had been intended as a trap, because Angela Haggerty - at the time the editor of Common Space - had a pre-prepared attack on me ready for the moment I opened my mouth.  Apparently I had no credibility to make any suggestions at all given that I had published a satirical poem a few months earlier that failed to show sufficient deference towards her friends on the trendy radical left. It's a sign of how susceptible the radical left are to groupthink that Angela honestly seemed to believe I would crumple the moment she uttered the word "poem" with a knowing smile.  When I instead responded at some length to Angela's attack, Small started wincing and asked me to lower my voice because we were in a "shared space". (For the avoidance of doubt, I hadn't been shouting, although my friends have sometimes pointed out to me that my normal speaking voice is quite loud, possibly because I'm so used to being around hard-of-hearing family members.)

Later in the meeting, I challenged Small on the apparent contradiction between his belief that the pro-indy New Media had to work together, and his own constant attacks on Stuart Campbell. He responded that he would try his utmost to ignore Campbell for the duration of "the referendum", but that he just didn't think Campbell was a "serious person" in the New Media.  I thought that was an extraordinary statement.  Whatever anyone thinks of Campbell (and I'm no longer on good terms with him myself, of course), the very fact that his readership was several times bigger than Bella Caledonia and Scot Goes Pop combined meant self-evidently that he had to be taken seriously as a major player in the New Media.

The outcome of the meeting was, at least according to Small, that we should all co-ordinate more and inform each other in advance if we were going to mention or criticise each other in blogposts or articles. This principle was not put to the vote - it was just an edict from Small and consent was assumed.  Again, this suggests that Small imagines himself to be sitting at the apex of some sort of New Media hierarchy - although who the hell is supposed to have put him there is anyone's guess.

To be clear, I have no complaint about the fact that Bella Caledonia have today run a hit-piece about me and about Scot Goes Pop, without giving me any prior indication that they were planning to do so, or indeed offering me any right to reply.  That's a perfectly legitimate thing for them to have done - however, I do think in the light of the past history outlined above, I'm entitled to point out that it is utterly irreconcilable with what Small has expected and demanded from other bloggers over the years.  Double-standards abound on Planet Bella.

To turn to the actual contents of the hit-piece, the contention is essentially that Scot Goes Pop has "lost its sparkle" - but the author's only supporting evidence is that I have joined the pro-independence Alba Party (you know, just like Small once hitched his wagon to the pro-independence RISE party), and that the comprehensive GRA poll I commissioned last autumn was allegedly "flawed".  That appears to be code for "the questions weren't loaded with ideological assumptions that Bella would approve of".  Frankly, that was a feature, not a bug.  I've noted quite a few times that commissioning that poll was one of the most stressful things I've done in a long time, and most of the reason for that was simply that it was extremely difficult to find a pollster that was willing to ask the neutral and balanced questions that I had taken great care in devising.  If I hadn't stood my ground and eventually turned to the excellent Panelbase, I could very easily have ended up with a poll full of leading questions and incomprehensible Stonewall-approved buzz-language such as "cis-women" - which would have been an appalling betrayal of the people who had put their trust in me by helping to fund the poll and who fully expected the questionnaire to be a fair one.

The author of the Bella hit-piece (Paul Bassett) reads significance into the fact that some of the non-GRA questions in the poll were very short, while many of the GRA questions were long.  That's not a 'flaw' - it was quite simply unavoidable, because most of the public are unaware of the nature of the GRA reform that is being proposed by the Scottish Government, namely legally-recognised gender self-identification.  Unless poll respondents know and understand exactly what they're being asked about, the results of the poll will be meaningless.  (That's exactly what happened with a GB-wide YouGov poll commissioned by Pink News which asked a very short and vague question about self-ID, a concept which wasn't defined for respondents in any way.)

Bassett takes issue with the question that I asked about the right of a woman who has been sexually assaulted to request to be examined by a doctor who was born biologically female, rather than merely a doctor who is legally regarded as female.  Bassett asks: "How likely is that situation to actually play out in the way this question supposes? Does it reflect reality, or is it phrased to evoke an uneasy reaction in respondents’ minds as they try to answer?"  That's a bloody peculiar query, Paul.  If you're asking whether it is likely that some women might want the right to request to be examined by a doctor who is biologically and physically female in the incredibly stressful hours immediately after a sexual assault committed by a man, the answer is pretty obviously 'yes', and if you have any lingering doubts about that, the emphatic answer that respondents gave to that question should dispel them.  If the latter part of your query is asking me whether the poll question was an attempt to create "unease" or simply to find out the answer to the question I actually asked, then I'm happy to clarify it was the latter.  Doh, and all that.

Bassett goes on to complain that the GRA questions are "circuitous" because they start with the words "some people argue that".  I'm sorry to have to break the news to you, Paul, but that wording is entirely routine in the polling world, to the point of being almost humdrum.  Curiously, he then claims that the questions end up as open questions - "which point of view do you find more persuasive?".  But in fact that wording does not constitute an open question for the very reason that Bassett himself gives, ie. that respondents are being asked to choose between two specified points of view.  So I'm afraid that it's Bassett's own argument that is circular and "circuitous", rather than my poll questions.  If I had set out to ask "open questions", I would have failed to do so, but I didn't intend to ask open questions, so I didn't fail.  Again, doh.

Bassett is troubled that the two points of view respondents were invited to choose between were "strongly worded". Well, yes, this is a polarised debate, and the questions reflected that.  The problem with some past GRA-themed polls is that they only asked about the strongly-worded views of one side of the debate, and neglected to provide much-needed balance by also asking about the strongly-worded views of the other side.  I was determined to remedy that, and I make no apology for doing so.  Because respondents may well have found themselves somewhere between the two polarised extremes, they weren't invited to identify totally with one or the other - merely to say which they found "more" persuasive.  And if they were unable to do so, there was a "Don't Know/Prefer not to answer" option.  It was, in a nutshell, an entirely proper and scrupulously fair polling exercise.

Next comes the red herring that has already been given one or two outings by Professor John Robertson, who in recent months has reinvented himself as an increasingly preposterous propagandist on the GRA issue.  It's claimed that there couldn't have been much interest in the GRA poll because it wasn't fully funded at the point at which I felt I needed to go ahead and commission it.  The problem with that theory is that just before I launched the fundraising for the GRA poll, I had attempted to crowdfund for another full-scale independence poll, and that fell much further short of the target figure. About three times as much was raised for the GRA poll as for the independence poll, which implies that there is three times as much passion for the GRA issue as there is for independence.  That's something that should concern us all, and perhaps speaks volumes about how the Scottish Government's inaction is draining enthusiasm from the Yes movement.

Bassett adds that he "for one" is unconvinced that the poll did what I said it did - ie. "convincingly demonstrate" that the Scottish public are opposed to gender self-ID.  Quite honestly, Paul, if you can look at those almost painfully balanced questions and the overwhelming results they produced and still claim to be unconvinced, the one and only thing that reveals for us is your boneheaded determination to refuse to believe the evidence of your own eyes.

Finally, there's the usual bog-standard rant about Alba and about how Alex Salmond supposedly has too much "baggage" for the new party to ever succeed. Gentle hint, Paul: the fact that I disagree with you about that does not mean Scot Goes Pop has "lost its sparkle" - it means that two people have a difference of view.  Such a phenomenon is not totally unheard of, I believe.  All I can tell you is that I've served on the Alba Party's National Executive Committee since I was elected at the September conference.  Confidentiality rules prevent me from going into details about the meetings, but I can give you my general impression, which is that the way Alex Salmond has been caricatured recently is about a billion light-years away from the reality. Indeed, the entire Alba leadership team - Alex Salmond, Kenny MacAskill, Neale Hanvey and Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh - have all struck me as impressively level-headed strategic thinkers with a laser-like focus on achieving independence at the earliest possible date (and, yes, on defending women's sex-based rights too).

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If you'd like to help this blog continue for another year, or to help us commission another full-scale poll like the six we've commissioned over the last two years, here are the various options for donating...

Via the Scot Goes Pop polling fundraiser for 2021-22, which I set up in the autumn and is part-funded.

If you prefer to donate directly, that can be done via Paypal or bank transfer:  

My Paypal email address is:

Or email me for my bank details.  (My contact email address is different from my Paypal address, and can be found in the sidebar of the desktop version of the site, or on my Twitter profile.)