Tuesday, January 31, 2023

The best reason of all for holding a plebiscite election by the end of 2024 at the latest

Long term readers (and my handful of ever-beloved stalkers) may recall that I got involved in some pretty unpleasant exchanges last July with a number of people on social media who were being willfully obtuse about how a de facto referendum would work.  Whenever I made the point that smaller pro-independence parties had to be very careful not to split the vote in a plebiscite election conducted by first past the post, these people would instantly pop up and say "but Nicola Sturgeon has already said it's a majority of votes that counts, not a majority of seats, so she can't have it both ways, can she?"  The reality is that it's got nothing to do with Nicola Sturgeon having it both ways, because Nicola Sturgeon is not the Electoral Commission, or the UK Government, or God, or the international community, or any of the other authorities that a de facto referendum is trying to impress.  She can't just set whatever "rules" she likes and expect everyone else to defer to her decree.  A vote in favour of independence will only give us leverage if it looks watertight to neutrals, and to the media, and to reasonable unionists.  That's why setting a majority of the popular vote as the target for victory was not so much a choice as a statement of the inevitable - if we demanded independence negotiations on the basis of a majority of seats won on 35% of the vote, we'd just be laughed at.  It's also why seats matter as well as votes, because in the real world losing seats would be regarded as complicating any mandate won on the popular vote.

However, I'm beginning to feel like it's the SNP rather than the smaller parties that need to be reminded that Nicola Sturgeon can't just make up "rules" as she goes on.  If you look at the details of the second option put forward in the NEC proposal from earlier this month, the one about delaying the de facto referendum until Holyrood 2026, they're just absolutely laughable.  A majority of the popular vote will still be required at the plebiscite in 2026, but paving the way for that will be an earlier mandate at Westminster 2024 - for which, randomly, only a majority of seats will be required, not a majority of votes.  Why should anyone in London take that remotely seriously?  They'll just say "you can't unilaterally pick and choose which elections you need a majority of votes and which you don't".  It'll look like student politics or playground politics.  If the SNP get 40% of the vote in 2024, people will wryly say "but that's OK, because they've self-identified a lower victory threshold for this particular election".

There are many excellent reasons why a plebiscite election must be held by 2024 at the latest, and should ideally be an early Holyrood election brought about by the entirely practical means that have been clearly identified.  Avoiding turning the Yes movement into a laughing-stock may be the very best reason of the lot.

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Monday, January 30, 2023

The GRR War is Over - if you want it

I'm going to return briefly to a point I made in my previous post, namely that however outrageous and indefensible Alister Jack's use of the Section 35 veto was, it nevertheless carries with it a potential side-benefit for the pro-independence movement.  Because the UK government has used its imperial powers to effectively repatriate (or should that be 'depatriate'?) the GRR issue to Westminster, and because Keir Starmer is giving clear indications that he will not reverse that process, it's now possible for both the SNP and Alba leaderships to draw a line under what has been an appallingly toxic debate, without compromising on principle in any way.  The SNP leadership has fulfilled its obligations to the Greens and to its other zealot lobbyist allies - it was foolish to ever enter into such obligations, but nevertheless nobody can dispute that Nicola Sturgeon has done her absolute utmost to introduce a full-fat version of self-ID and was only thwarted by forces totally outwith her control.  There's therefore no longer any conceivable harm in reunifying the SNP by holding out an olive branch to the gender critical wing of the party.  It's highly unlikely that there'll be any further Scotland-specific decisions on self-ID for the likes of Ash Regan to rebel on, at least not this side of independence, so why even regard her as a rebel?  (At most, there might eventually be a vote on a Legislative Consent Motion to 'allow' a Starmer government to pass UK-wide self-ID legislation, but that would just be a symbolic exercise, because the Sewel Convention is completely dead and the UK Government will just ignore any withholding of consent.)  Meanwhile Alba rightly campaigned against the GRR Bill up until the moment it was taken out of Holyrood's hands - but now that moment has passed, there's no need to keep the campaign going, or at least not at anything like the same level of intensity.  There's also no value in doing so even from the point of view of partisan self-interest, because in the long run Alba will find that the GRR can no longer be used as a wedge issue against the SNP when it's Starmer that will be making the decisions and facing any political consequences.

However, the opportunity to draw a line under the toxicity of the GRR issue is only that - an opportunity.  The SNP and Alba can, if they wish, go in the opposite direction and pointlessly keep this destructive culture war going indefinitely. But if they do, the only loser will be the cause of independence.  I'm hearing whispers that Alba doorstep campaigners are finding there's been a sea-change in public attitudes towards the gender identity issue - whereas previously voters were looking at them as if they were aliens when they raised the subject, there's now genuine and widespread anger out there.  That's not at all surprising given the heavy media coverage of recent decisions relating to "trans prisoners" - nobody has to be a diehard feminist to care about a threat to vulnerable women from sexual predators (which has been a social concern since time immemorial).  So I can totally understand the excitement of my fellow Alba members now that they feel they're finally gaining traction on a campaigning issue they've been running with for two years - but I really would urge some caution, because this is actually the moment of danger.  If Alba pile in and assist anti-independence media outlets such as the Daily Express, Wings Over Scotland and the Daily Mail in building public anger against Nicola Sturgeon on the prisoner issue to a fever-pitch, it probably will damage the SNP, but it's far more likely to be unionist parties (especially the Tories) that reap the main benefit, rather than Alba itself.  To my mind, Alba is, or should be, a special sort of party, because its aim is not power for itself, but instead to bring about independence as swiftly as possible.  It makes no sense for any part of the strategy of such a party to be to replace a pro-independence government with a unionist government.  (I know the Wings ultras will argue there's "creativity in destruction" and that the architecture of Yes politics as we know it must be destroyed so that we can start again from scratch - in other words the destruction of the Yes campaign is somehow a pro-independence act.  That whole worldview is idiocy on stilts, its initiator is a dishonest chancer and a snake oil salesman, and frankly I have no intention of showing any further patience towards it.)

My advice to Alba, for what it's worth, would instead be to accentuate the positive by warmly welcoming the correct decisions of the SNP government to take steps, however belatedly, to ensure that self-identified trans prisoners are not placed in women's prisons - and by all means Alba should take part of the credit for coaxing and pressurising the SNP into a better place.  But the emphasis should be on a problem solved by pro-independence politicians, rather than on needlessly painting the SNP leadership on an ongoing basis as friends of sexual predators - something which would only benefit the Tories and unionism.  I don't particularly expect my advice to be heeded - but I do think people may look back in a few years and wish they'd heeded it.  I think we've heard quite enough about the "Scottish Nonce Party" and about a vote for the SNP being a vote for Jimmy Savile - although doubtless Alister Jack and Douglas Ross would be only too delighted to hear lots more about it.

Incidentally, I completely accept that the SNP leadership's language in the wake of their U-turns is insufferably hypocritical.  Over the last few days, they've explicitly done three things that they previously defined as 'bigoted' and 'transphobic' when done by other people - ie. they've acknowledged that you can't automatically always believe individuals when they tell you what gender they are, they've acknowledged that self-identified trans women may not in absolutely every case be women, and they've acknowledged that in some cases accepting an individual's self-identification as female may pose a danger to women.  And yet they've carried on throwing around the charges of bigotry and transphobia without interruption.  They've simply narrowed the goalposts of what constitutes transphobia to exclude themselves from it and are hoping no-one will notice that Orwellian manoeuvre.  It's breathtakingly cynical, but let's face it, this is what governments usually do when they back down on something.  They try to find a form of words that makes it sound as if nothing has really changed at all.  (Jeremy Hunt's reversal of decisions made by Truss and Kwarteng was a rare exception, probably because the U-turn was so total that it would have been impossible to cover up.)  What matters most in this case are the deeds, not the stupidity of the words.

I'd also like to make clear that although the ends of thwarting self-ID will never justify the means of a Westminster veto, I nevertheless haven't remotely changed my mind on how desirable the ends are.  Quite apart from the potential impact of self-ID on women's rights and safety, there's also the factor of the sinister McCarthyite atmosphere that critics of self-ID (including myself) have had to endure over the last couple of years.  It's almost frightening to think how much worse things would have got on that score if those trying to crack down on free speech had found the law on their side.

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Saturday, January 28, 2023

The pain of living in the scunnered middle of the independence movement, part 3

I said to a family member the other day that just about every faction of the independence movement seems to have completely taken leave of its senses, and that it's so mentally exhausting being caught in the middle of it all that perhaps the only answer is to be cryogenically frozen for about four years and hope by the time you wake up that people have finally got a grip of themselves.  The snag is, though, that the position for Yes in the opinion polls is considerably healthier than the state of the Yes movement gives us any real right to expect, and for that reason none of us can responsibly opt out at this point - if we do, we could be sleeping through the moment of maximum opportunity.  For the last couple of years, public opinion on independence has averaged out at roughly 50/50, meaning that we may never have a more favourable context in which to seek an outright indy mandate than we do right now.  So we'll just have to navigate our way through the current mess somehow.

It's not going to be easy.  The SNP is now led by people who care less about independence than they do about an ideology that seems to have been beamed down from Mars.  They dehumanise, ostracise and in many cases try to destroy some of their best colleagues simply for not signing up to a belief system that has never been mainstream at any point in human history, and that is not shared by the vast majority of the population even now.  What was previously the largest pro-independence website has essentially abandoned the cause by saying that its support for indy will only be reactivated if the architecture of Yes politics as we know it is razed to the ground and rebuilt completely from scratch, and gets people to credulously treat that impossible proviso as minor and achievable.  The only daily pro-independence newspaper appears to have very recently decided to openly pick sides on the toxic gender identity debate, which arguably points to a desire to ideologically 'purify' the movement rather than to serve it and encourage it in the diverse form that it actually exists.  And large swathes of the Alba Party seem to be becoming more militant, and are using language on social media that really cannot be defended, such as referring to the SNP as "the Scottish Nonce Party" or suggesting that a vote for the SNP is akin to a vote for Jimmy Savile. Some Alba voices also seem to have convinced themselves that there is a perverse 'unionist path to independence' which involves backing Westminster vetoes of Scottish Parliament decisions and allying with the Tories or other right-wingers in England to destroy a pro-indy government.

So what's the solution?  It's easier to describe than to put into practice.  As far as Wings is concerned, it's got to the point where I think the rational thing to do would be to write the site off as the de facto unionist / Tory site it's now become, and to try to fill whatever void is left behind with something new and genuinely pro-independence.  I know that won't happen, because so many people seem irrationally besotted with Campbell and would follow him to the bottom of the sea or into the core of a nuclear reactor if that's where he led them.  But nevertheless Wings is now a massive part of the problem and is highly likely to remain so, and there's no point sticking our heads in the sand about that.  My guess is Campbell may well urge his readers to either vote Tory or abstain in any election used as a de facto independence referendum.

I'd suggest The National should work its way back to what it used to do very well, which was to function as a welcoming home to all Yessers, regardless of their place on the political spectrum, their party affiliation, or their views on identity politics.  For a pro-indy newspaper to be so openly partisan on the GRR issue isn't just to choose sides between the SNP and Alba - if it was, there might be less of a downside given the respective sizes of those two parties.  No, the much bigger consideration is that the SNP itself is split on the GRR - there's a reason why the rebellion on the GRR Bill was the biggest in SNP history, and yet it was probably just the tip of the iceberg.  A very significant chunk of the independence movement will now feel The National is somewhat hostile towards them - and no, that's not just a problem for The National, it's a problem for all of us and for the independence cause itself.

Both the SNP and Alba should, in my view, make a virtue out of necessity now that it looks as if gender self-ID will be decided on a UK-wide basis at Westminster.  It's a golden opportunity to take the heat out of the debate here in Scotland.  There's no longer very much to be gained for Alba in constantly using the GRR as a wedge issue against the SNP when Starmer will be making the decisions and taking any flak.  Meanwhile the SNP can feel much safer in extending far greater tolerance towards its gender critical wing.

As I'm a member of Alba and not of the SNP, I'll just finish by saying this.  To be electorally successful, to win list seats in 2026, Alba need to become less angry and less militant.  But we're currently doing the complete opposite of that.  We appear to hate the SNP a hundred times more than we love the idea of independence.  That is not the way of giving SNP supporters confidence that an Alba list vote is a natural complement to an SNP constituency vote - which frankly is the only realistic chance Alba have of a breakthrough.  We really need to take a step back and think about what we're doing, and the long-term consequences of it, before it's too late.

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Thursday, January 26, 2023

Has the Philosopher-Tory successfully philosophised his way out of his most cynical lie? (Spoiler: no, he hasn't.)

He's Ready for Rishi.  Potty for Penny.  Batty for Badenoch.  Rabid for Raab.  Yup, the Scottish political world is still reeling from the former pro-independence blogger Stuart Campbell's shock announcement that he is backing the Tories at the next general election, although the man himself and one or two of his fans seem to be mostly furious with me for bringing the news to slightly wider public attention.  Which is odd, in a way - if he's concluded that voting Tory is morally justifiable and strategically wise from the point of view of whatever the hell his current objectives are, you'd think he'd be keen for as many people to know as possible.  

As per usual, the main outlet for the anger against me is an attempt at amateur psychoanalysis, with the burning question of the day being *why* I started my much-requested Wings-Watch fact-checking service.  They haven't as of yet considered the most obvious and straightforward possibility, namely that Campbell writes a very prominent blog which has a notoriously strained relationship with the truth, and that a fact-checking service will thus remain necessary until he stops regularly lying to his readers.  (Of course all bloggers and journalists make the occasional inadvertent factual blunder, but that's not the sort of thing we're talking about here.)

Instead, they ascribe Wings-Watch to two main factors.  Firstly, the old favourite that I or anyone else who disagrees with the great man must somehow be "deranged".  (If Campbell still owns a paperback thesaurus, you can be sure that the one page that has long since fallen out due to extreme overuse is the one containing synonyms for "mentally ill".)  But their second explanation is much more interesting, because although it's hopelessly misconceived, it's unwittingly quite revealing.

Since I started Wings-Watch, the lie I've had to correct by far the most often is Campbell's dodgy graph purporting to show that support for independence has remained absolutely static at 47% every year since either 2015 or 2016 (depending on which version of the graph is being used on any given day).  By this stage, Campbell knows the graph is a lie, I know it's a lie, you know it's a lie, even the dogs on the street know it's a lie, and the only people who don't know it's a lie are the unfortunate souls who never step outside the Wings bubble and are naive enough to believe that everything Campbell tells them is honest.  However, I think we may now have stumbled on how he philosophically justifies that lie to himself.  Although he knows the graph itself is fraudulent, it may be that he genuinely thinks it's a lie that contains a 'poetic truth' because he's labouring under the misapprehension that the standard 3% margin of error in polling renders the increase in independence support we've seen over the last few years statistically meaningless.

To be clear, though, he has no excuse for that erroneous belief.  As long ago as 2016, when I was still on good terms with him, I and a number of others (including Dr Morag Kerr, who is normally one of his stoutest defenders) pointed out to him where he was going wrong about the margin of error in polls.  He had been repeatedly insisting that there was no systemic error in the polling for the Trump v Clinton presidential election, which on average showed a 4-point lead for Clinton.  If that had been the actual result on the popular vote, it almost certainly would have translated into a Clinton win in the electoral college, and Trump would never have become president.  Instead, Clinton's real lead was only two points, and we all know what the consequences of that proved to be.  But Campbell was adamant that the polls had not been wrong, because a 4-point Clinton lead was "within the margin of error" of a 2-point Clinton lead.

The problem is that the margin of error only applies to each individual poll.  If individual polls are only slightly inaccurate due to normal sampling variation and not because of methodological failings, you'd expect the errors to be randomly distributed - in other words you'd expect roughly as many polls to underestimate the Clinton lead as to overestimate it, and for the average error in all of the polls to be far less than 3%.  That simply didn't happen - the vast majority of polls in fact overestimated the Clinton lead.

Similarly, if Campbell is correct in his belief that Scottish independence support has remained static at around 48% for several years and only the margin of error has been masking that, we should see in any calendar year with a large number of polls that roughly as many polls have Yes above 48% as have Yes below that figure, and that the annual average should always work out at pretty close to bang on 48%.  Is that what's happened?  Let's remind ourselves yet again of the real numbers.

Yearly support for Scottish independence in the Scottish Social Attitudes Survey:

2014:  33%

2016 (a):  39%

2016 (b):  46%

2018:  45%

2020:  51%

2021:  52%

Average yearly support for independence in conventional opinion polling:

2016:  47.7%

2017:  45.3%

2018:  45.5%
2019:  47.6%

2020:  53.0%

2021:  49.6%

2022:  49.8%

Presumably even Campbell would have to acknowledge that if the Scottish Social Attitudes Survey is right, there has been a massive increase in support for independence since 2014 - so presumably we must infer that he thinks those figures are not valid for some unspecified reason.  (Which again is distinctly odd, because another of his dodgy graphs blatantly depends on the use of a cherrypicked figure for independence support from the 2007 Social Attitudes Survey.)

Let's turn instead, then, to the averages from conventional polling.  Even leaving aside what Campbell dismisses as merely a "Covid blip" in 2020 (something that lasted for almost a year is quite some "blip" by any standards), you can see for yourself that the Yes average was as low as 45% (after rounding) in 2017, which is three points lower than what Campbell claims to have been the constant underlying Yes figure.  It was as high as 50% after rounding in both 2021 and 2022, which is two points higher than Campbell's claimed steady figure.  Given the sheer number of polls that were conducted in all of those years, the changes simply can't be explained by random sampling variation.  Unless there is some reason to believe that there was some systemic error in the polls in 2017 that does not apply now, or vice versa, the only conclusion it is possible to draw is that Yes support was substantially higher in 2021 and 2022 than it was in 2017.  And no, a four or five point increase cannot be dismissed as trivial or underwhelming, given that the Yes vote recorded in the 2014 referendum was only five-and-a-bit points shy of victory.

Incidentally, it might amuse you to discover that Campbell did not exactly make an effort to listen and learn when we tried to politely explain where he was going wrong about Clinton v Trump in 2016.  His reaction instead was to angrily insta-block me, thus automatically placing me on the block-list he exported to hundreds of his fans.  Some things never change....

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Stuart Campbell blows his top as he confirms he is now a Tory voter: "I don't give a s**** and you are all unf***able nutjobs"

At least one Wings Over Scotland reader was deeply concerned about the screenshot published on this blog last night showing that Stuart Campbell plans to vote Tory at the next general election.  Several comments have appeared on Wings today suggesting that Campbell has just ensured he will never, ever get a hearing again from independence supporters because his blog will forevermore be dismissed as "Wings Over Toryland", "Tory Over Scotland", "Stu The Tory", etc, etc.

Now, in fairness, Campbell posted about his plan to vote Tory in the heat of anger just after the GRR Bill cleared the Scottish Parliament in the run-up to Christmas, so it was theoretically possible he had calmed down since then and thought better of it.  However, at 12.50pm today, Campbell posted a characteristically angry and abusive reply to the critical comments, and made abundantly clear that he still fully intends to vote Tory.  If a full month of reflection hasn't led him to change his mind, it's reasonable to conclude that the plan is now set in stone and we can henceforth regard him as a Tory voter.

(Swear words have been partly blanked out in the above screenshot.)

So a couple of points to pick up on here.  Firstly, even Campbell's beloved SimilarWeb claimed that Scot Goes Pop received 17,700 visits in December - the last month for what might very loosely be described as their "estimates" are available. So Campbell may possibly be getting carried away with his own propaganda just a tad.  Secondly, the excuse that he somehow has no option but to vote Tory because he lives in a constituency which is a two-horse Tory-Lib Dem race isn't going to wash.  I think most reasonable people on the Left of politics would conclude that if you're forced to make a straight choice between the Tories and the Lib Dems, you choose the Lib Dems to stop the Tories, not the other way around.  There are any number of things wrong with the Lib Dems, but they are unmistakeably less bad than the Tories on social justice, which is what ought to matter most.  In any case, that supposed forced choice is a false choice, and it's easily one that can be opted out of.  As Campbell admitted himself, he spoiled his ballot in the last two elections and there's nothing to stop him doing so again.  That way he would avoid voting for the Tories while not endorsing the Lib Dems either.  The fact is that he's freely making a positive choice to vote Tory.

The other way he could opt out of the bogus forced choice is by giving a principled vote to one of the also-ran parties.  As I pointed out last night, the Green Party of England and Wales (and their predecessor parties) have stood in the Bath constituency in no fewer than ten of the last eleven general elections, going all the way back to 1979.  They are sympathetic to Scottish independence due to their traditional relationship with the pro-indy Scottish Greens - and, no, the little tiff in that relationship doesn't change the basic point.  So by voting for the anti-indy Tories, Campbell will in all likelihood be rejecting an essentially pro-indy party - which in fairness is perfectly logical in view of his recent public announcement that he no longer supports independence.

It also shouldn't pass without comment that Campbell made the barking mad and deeply offensive suggestion in December that he wants Nicola Sturgeon to "b**n in H**l" for somehow 'making him vote Tory'.  As someone pointed out on the previous thread, it's a bit hard to work out how the leader of the Scottish National Party in any way has the power to make a voter in southern England hate the English Lib Dems so much that he's ended up voting for the English Tories to stop the English Lib Dems.

But would Campbell be a Tory voter even if he lived in Scotland?  Based on his statement today, it seems overwhelmingly likely that he would.  His rationale for rejecting the Lib Dems by voting Tory in England would apply equally strongly to rejecting the SNP by voting Tory in Scotland - because the SNP's position on the trans issue is basically identical to that of the Lib Dems.  The only way Campbell might not vote Tory in Scotland would be if there's an Alba candidate, but a) whatever the outcome of the internal debate within Alba about the wisdom of directly challenging the SNP in a first-past-the-post election, it's highly likely that many constituencies will not have an Alba candidate, and b) even if Campbell lived in a Scottish constituency where Alba is standing, he might conclude - just as he has in Bath - that he needs to vote for a candidate that can win, which might lead him to reject Alba and vote Tory depending on the constituency.  Conclusion: it's probable that Campbell would vote unionist in a de facto independence referendum, which leads me to suspect that he may urge his readers to do the same, very much in the way that he used Holyrood polling day in 2021 to tell his readers not to vote for pro-independence candidates on the constituency ballot.

There may be a silver lining to all this, though.  In many ways Campbell's political defection is a remarkable breakthrough for the Scottish New Media, which until now has lacked a reasonably popular pro-Tory site.  That deficiency has now been well and truly rectified.

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

WINGS-WATCH: Having already publicly abandoned his support for Scottish independence, Stuart "UKOK" Campbell has announced he will vote Tory at the next general election

I did wonder if the screenshot doing the rounds today on Twitter of Stuart Campbell announcing he will vote Tory at the next general election was a fake or doctored, because it's a month old and I hadn't previously heard anything about it.  But a couple of minutes on Facebook was all it took to verify that it's genuine, and you can see it above with some of the offensive language blanked out (and by God it's offensive).  So hot on the heels of his announcement that he no longer supports Scottish independence (or, to use his euphemism, that he is "the least Yes he has ever been" and that his "conscience" would now prevent him from campaigning for independence and presumably from voting for it too), we now discover he will actively be voting in favour of continued colonial Tory rule in Scotland next year.

Let's just briefly work through the logic of this, such as it is.  Campbell is explicitly tying his Tory vote to Alister Jack's veto of the GRR Bill - but the snag is that the veto has already happened, so even if you support it, there's no need to vote Tory to bring it about.  (And he knew when he wrote his Facebook post a month ago that the decision about the veto would be made one way or the other long before the general election.)  Effectively, then, what he's saying is that he plans to retrospectively reward the Tories for overruling a decision made by Scotland's elected parliament.  Not only that, but because he claims to find pretty much everything else the Tories do utterly abhorrent, he's by definition suggesting that giving them a little reward for a veto that has already happened is far more important than all of those utterly abhorrent things put together.  That suggests a really quite considerable enthusiasm on Campbell's part for London Tories trampling all over Scottish parliamentary democracy.  What a truly perverse and grotesque position for someone who was still a pro-independence blogger as recently as a few years ago to find themselves taking.

I know some of Campbell's apologists will, as always, point out at this juncture that he lives in Bath.  ("£100,000 a year?  In Bath?!  That disnae go far in Bath, pal.")  Even if someone still supports independence, they'd point out that voting in an English constituency is always a choice of the lesser evil.  Well, that may or may not be true - the Green Party of England and Wales are supportive of their Scottish sister party's pro-indy stance, and have stood in the Bath constituency in ten of the last eleven general elections.  If they do so again in 2024, Campbell will be choosing the anti-indy Tories over a basically pro-indy party, which is natural enough given he has publicly abandoned his previous support for independence.  But in any case, the broader issue is Campbell's stated reason for the fact that he still lives in England and thus votes there - namely that Scotland is the most "gutless" country in the world, because it voted against independence, which awkwardly he would now "gutlessly" do himself.

So let's just recap. Campbell no longer supports independence for Scotland, he supports London overruling the elected Scottish Parliament, he intends to vote in favour of continued colonial Tory rule in Scotland, and he dislikes Scotland so much that he can't bear to live here.  I'd say we've pretty much reached the full house now.

There's still a deafening silence from Dennis Noel Kavanagh in response to the above question.  I remember when devolution started in 1999, there was a degree of incredulity from certain sections of the English public, with letters to newspapers asking in all seriousness whether English taxpayers would have to "foot the bill" when it all went wrong - the implication being that Scots, uniquely among the peoples of this planet, were incapable of governing themselves and were bound to make a catastrophic mess of it.  You'd think twenty-four successful years of Scottish Governments of different political persuasions governing responsibly (far more responsibly than Westminster, incidentally) would have put paid to that fatuous and deeply insulting narrative, but Tory voters / sympathisers like Kavanagh and Campbell are now using the GRR issue as a wedge to resurrect it.  If you follow their lead by endorsing Jack's imperial veto, you are - whether you realise it or not - lending support to a narrative which leads inexorably to the conclusion that it is irresponsible to let the hapless Jocks continue to run their own affairs, especially as the long-suffering English always have to "sort out their mess" by overruling them, and that therefore something approximating to direct rule from London must be reimposed.

And no matter how strongly you feel about the GRR, remember that there is nothing inherently 'gender critical' about London rule.  In all likelihood we are just over a year away from a Starmer-led government at Westminster that will introduce gender self-ID across the UK.  The only major differences from getting the homegrown Scottish version is that it will be imposed from London, any specifically Scottish concerns will barely be heard, and Nicola Sturgeon will be waxing lyrical about how infinitely preferable it is to do these things on a "Four Nations" basis.  Backing the imperial veto is fool's gold - you're not defeating self-ID, you're just abdicating Scotland's right to make choices on the big issues for ourselves, and you can rest assured the Brit Nats will be duly grateful.

UKOK if you want to, Stu.  The Popper's not for Kokking.

Sunday, January 22, 2023

It's good that the SNP leadership have stated that they don't think "TERFs" should be put to death - but now we need to hear that they shouldn't be subjected to a civil death either

I said yesterday that it was puzzling that no matter how outrageous the actions of pro-GRR campaigners at rallies that SNP politicians attend, the SNP leadership never seem to feel shamed into explicitly condemning it or properly distancing themselves from it - because, after all, if there were anti-English placards at a pro-indy rally, seventeen days of collective national shame would probably be automatically announced.  In fairness I was proved wrong on this occasion - the SNP leadership did condemn yesterday's incident in Glasgow, although the suspicion must be that the change in tack only happened because of how politically damaging it all was.  The ultra-close proximity of SNP politicians to placards calling for women to be murdered, mutilated and cannibalised was what made the episode so unusual and dangerous.  If you crop the photos in a certain way, the hate-speech placards almost look like a "twibbon" that Kaukab Stewart or Kirsten Oswald have deliberately added to a beaming profile pic, ie. "I'm Kaukab Stewart and I think TERFs should be..."

And the fact that condemnation has occurred this time means that it's reasonable to pose a question of the SNP and Green leaderships: if you don't think "TERFs" should be put to death, why not?  That may seem a strange thing to ask, but we know that you think "TERFs" are bigots who are not fit for human company, and who should be ostracised and who nobody should ever share a political platform with.  We know that you think they shouldn't, in many cases, be allowed to have a career, because pressure is often put on employers to take draconian action against them.  We know from the sacking of Joanna Cherry two years ago that you don't think they're fit to serve on the SNP front bench.  We know from the incendiary words of Maggie Chapman and John Nicolson that you don't think they have any place in our parliament and should leave politics altogether - even though they represent the views of the vast majority of the general public.  You believe, in short, that they should suffer a 'civil death', and it's therefore perhaps unsurprising that some of your fellow travellers would expect you to have no problem with the idea that they should suffer an actual death.  If you genuinely do have a problem with calls for them to be murdered, it's high time you explained to some of the people who attended that rally yesterday why "TERFs" are in fact worthy of life and of personal safety.  And if you find those words don't come out easily, perhaps you should ask yourself why, because for anyone who truly believes in liberal democracy it should be the easiest thing in the world.  It needs to happen, because when the language of violence is normalised against a certain group, actual violence tends to follow sooner or later.

The reality is that there is an obvious tension in thinking a class of people are worthy of a civil death but not of an actual death.  Either you dehumanise people and regard them as vermin, or you don't - and if you don't, there's no good reason for subjecting them to a civil death either.  We can but hope that yesterday was a psychological watershed that will lead the SNP leadership to start acknowledging that "TERFs" hold views that can be strongly disagreed with but that are nevertheless legitimate to express in a democracy, and that they therefore have a place in parliament, on the SNP front bench, on political platforms, in the workplace, and indeed in absolutely every other walk of life.  Only then will some of the heat be taken out of this toxic debate, and the risk of violence will dissipate.

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Saturday, January 21, 2023

Why is a campaign on "the right side of history" characterised by hate speech and threats of extreme violence?

Does it matter that several SNP parliamentarians were today photographed smiling in front of placards calling for women to be murdered, mutilated and cannibalised?  In one sense it shouldn't, because in most circumstances it would be obvious that any politician in a situation of that sort must have found themselves there by accident rather than design - and in any case, the arguments for or against the GRR Bill don't become any stronger or weaker depending on the character defects of those on either side of the debate.  

One problem is, though, that many of the proponents of gender self-ID have repeatedly suggested in the past that the characteristics of campaigners should in fact be taken into account.  For example, when there were competing protests outside the Scottish Parliament a couple of weeks ago, I saw people on Twitter drawing a contrast between the supposed anger and hatred displayed by anti-GRR campaigners, and the sight of pro-GRR campaigners bringing fun and sunshine to the occasion by doing the conga with huge grins on their faces.  The implication was that the people on one side of the argument are likeable and 'normal' and the people on the other side are 'abnormal', and thus there must be a lesson to be learned about which side was in the right, and on the "right side of history".  That was always a completely bogus narrative, because we all know it's extremely common for pro-self-ID protests to feature placards riddled with hate and calling for physical violence.  But the fact that such a prominent example has occurred today is nevertheless a catastrophic setback for the self-ID campaign and the image it has tried to cultivate of itself.

And the fact that this is far from being the first time is why the SNP parliamentarians can't be given a free pass in saying that it was something they couldn't possibly have foreseen.  Senior SNP politicians, most notably Nicola Sturgeon, are notorious for avoiding pro-independence rallies because of paranoia about being seen to be around campaigners dressed as William Wallace, or who might be carrying placards that could be interpreted as anti-English.  It therefore must reasonably have occurred to them that if they attend pro-self-ID rallies, there's a risk that the behaviour on display will be very similar to previous rallies about the same subject.  Which begs one simple and obvious question: "why didn't you at least turn around and check?"

The unwarranted suspicion that the politicians knew exactly what was going on behind them and were comfortable with it can be pretty easily explained by the blind eye they've turned to similar hate speech so many times before.  They literally only seem to notice anger and hate when it comes from those they disapprove of, rather than from their own allies.  They've never had any difficulty lecturing a generally very well disciplined Yes movement about the supposed need to "put its house in order", so it's arguably long past time for them to deploy some of the same tough love on a considerably less disciplined gender self-ID movement.

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Friday, January 20, 2023

It's actually not "the second-highest Yes vote ever recorded" - but 54% for independence in a remarkable new poll is still plenty high enough to be getting on with

There are two completely contradictory polls on independence out today - one shows a substantial Yes lead, and the other shows a substantial No lead. The good news is that the poll with the Yes lead has more recent fieldwork dates.  The bad news is that the poll with the No lead comes from a more established firm and some people will perhaps intuitively assume it to be more accurate.

Should Scotland be an independent country?  (Survation / True North, 10th-12th January 2023)

Yes 46% (-1)
No 54% (+1)

Should Scotland be an independent country?  (Find Out Now / The National, 11th-18th January 2023)

Yes 54% (-)
No 46% (-)

As you can see above, the Find Out Now poll with the Yes lead was commissioned by The National, who are claiming in their write-up that 54% for Yes is the "second-highest level ever reached".  I can't make any sense of that.  54% is certainly unusually high, but it's identical to the previous poll from the same firm, and there have been multiple previous polls from other firms putting Yes anywhere between 55% and 58%.  The National are citing Mark McGeoghegan as the source of their claim, which is odd, because although he's an abusive troll on social media and an identity politics extremist, he generally does know his stuff about polling.  But if he's been quoted correctly, he seems to have got it wrong on this occasion.

If I had seen the Survation poll on its own today, I would have been fairly despondent, because taken in combination with the ComRes poll at the end of last year, it would have looked very much like the effect of the Supreme Court ruling had eased off and we were back to the status quo ante of a small-to-moderate No lead.  However, Find Out Now's figures have very much muddied the waters and we'll thus have to wait to see which version of public opinion is corroborated by future polls.  It's also possible, of course, that the later fieldwork can partly explain the difference between the Survation and Find Out Now results, because perhaps public opinion has changed due to the veto of the GRR Bill.  However, I doubt if that would have been sufficient to transform an 8-point No lead into an 8-point Yes lead, especially given that only the very tail-end of the fieldwork would have been affected.

There are party political voting intention numbers in the Survation poll, which are a bit of a curate's egg from a pro-indy point of view.  Although they show the SNP falling a few percentage points short of the self-defined target for victory on the popular vote in a Westminster election used as a de facto referendum, they nevertheless add further weight to the findings of other recent polls suggesting that the Labour surge has either stalled or gone very slightly into reverse - which is crucial, because at least in terms of seats in a first-past-the-post election, Labour is where the threat lies.

Scottish voting intentions for the next UK general election (Survation / True North)

SNP 43% (-1)
Labour 29% (-2)
Conservatives 18% (+2)
Liberal Democrats 7% (+1)

Seats projection: SNP 48 (-), Labour 5 (+4), Liberal Democrats 3 (-1), Conservatives 3 (-3)

Scottish Parliament constituency ballot:

SNP 46% (+2)
Labour 27% (-2)
Conservatives 17% (+1)
Liberal Democrats 8% (-)

Scottish Parliament regional list ballot:

SNP 33% (-)
Labour 25% (-1)
Conservatives 18% (+3)
Greens 12% (-)
Liberal Democrats 8% (-1)

Seats projection: SNP 61 (-3), Labour 28 (+6), Conservatives 22 (-9), Greens 11 (+3), Liberal Democrats 7 (+3)

The SNP's projected seat losses can be mostly explained by the regional list vote - which means they should be taken with a pinch of salt, because Survation always seem to understate the SNP on the list ballot.  In fairness, Survation appear to have made an attempt to address that problem by changing the wording of the question they ask about the list, making it clear that you can if you wish vote for the same party on both ballots, thus by implication stressing that the list is not a second preference vote.  But for some reason that hasn't made any obvious difference to the results.

In case you're wondering about Alba's absence from the list results, it looks very much from the datasets as if Survation have dropped Alba as an option - which is really odd, because they included Alba in their recent propaganda poll for Scotland in Dungeon.  Indeed, Alba registered in that poll with 2% of the list vote.

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Thursday, January 19, 2023

No, Mr Kavanagh, "decent nationalists" have not suddenly started rejecting independence and cheering on Tory rule in Scotland. You'll find that people who do that sort of thing are generally known as "Unionists".

Above is another incredibly revealing tweet, which presumably refers in part to Wings blogger Stuart Campbell's announcement two days ago that he no longer supports independence (or, to use his careful euphemisms, that he "is the least Yes he has ever been" and that his "conscience" would now prevent him from campaigning for independence - and presumably from voting for it).  It's not just Mr Campbell, of course, but many of the others in the same category are people he's led along like the Pied Piper of Hamelin.  It was absolutely fine to give voice to the concerns about the GRR Bill - it was a terrible piece of legislation and I opposed it myself.  But there is nothing inevitable, or even logical, about opposition to the Bill morphing into hostility towards Scottish independence or Scottish self-government.  What is unforgivable about Mr Campbell's role in this drama is that he's brainwashed a number of people - albeit mercifully only a tiny minority - into believing that cheering on the Tories as they trash devolution is somehow the only stance that is consistent with support for women's sex-based rights.

Which I think in turn has led to others with an anti-independence agenda (ie. "you can only be a 'decent' person if you oppose independence"), such as Dennis Noel Kavanagh, to overplay their hand massively.  They looked at Mr Campbell's passionate embrace of the Westminster veto, leaped to the conclusion that everybody else in Scotland must be reacting in the same way, and were emboldened to imagine they could suddenly say things out loud that they were previously too cautious to say, in case they alienated independence supporters who otherwise agreed with them on the GRR issue.  But the reality is that nothing has changed.  "Decent nationalists" still have no intention whatever of making a false choice between independence and women's rights, and thus they still passionately support independence - the clue is in the word "nationalist".  Mr Campbell - of all people - is not representative of "decent nationalists", because he no longer supports independence and is therefore not a Scottish nationalist of either the decent or indecent persuasion.  I understand that Mr Kavanagh is London-based and may not be well-versed with the vocabulary of the constitutional debate here, but surely if he'd taken a step back before posting his tweet, he'd have realised that a nationalist Unionist is a contradiction in terms (unless the nationalism in question is British nationalism).

Presumably with a name like Kavanagh, he's either originally from Ireland or has an Irish family background.  Which is somewhat ironic, because the Republic of Ireland introduced gender self-ID several years ago, and yet I doubt if even a single opponent of that law in Ireland reacted by saying "oh well, that's it, then, we'll have to let the Brits take over so they can overrule our democratically-elected parliament".  No, what they do instead is organise and campaign in Ireland with the hope of reaching a tipping point where at least one major Irish political party supports repeal - and once they get that far, they'll campaign to get that party into power.  That's how it works in a self-governing country.  That's the democratic process you support if you truly believe in self-government for your own country - if you're not, in short, what Jim Sillars called a "ninety-minute nationalist", who crumples and reverts to the comfort blanket of "UKOK" at the first sign of any discomfort or difficulty.  And good luck to anyone in either Ireland or Scotland who is daft and naive enough to think London rule is the answer to this problem, because in all likelihood we're only a year-and-a-bit away from a Starmer government which will impose self-ID across the whole UK anyway.  It'll be with a minimum age of 18 rather than 16, but it'll still be self-ID.

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I raised an eyebrow at some of the BBC's reporting of the veto.  They called the GRR Bill a "draft Bill", which is an incredibly odd way to describe a Bill that actually completed the entire legislative process with the sole exception of Royal Assent.  Presumably they did that to play down the significance of the veto.  And both James Cook and Chris Mason suggested the SNP's opposition to the Section 35 order was "complicated" by the fact that they voted in the Commons to pass the Scotland Act in 1998, knowing that Section 35 was in it.  I mean, what?  By the time the whole Act was being voted on, it was a take it or leave it package.  By voting against that package, the SNP would have been voting to uphold direct London rule in Scotland.  And yet if you buy into Cook's and Mason's logic, the SNP should have voted in favour of direct London rule in order to defeat Section 35.  It's a complete nonsense even by BBC standards.

I think what's going on here is that Cook spotted that the Tories had raised serious concerns about Section 35 in 1998, when they described it as a "Governor-General clause".  They also tried unsuccessfully to amend it to address those concerns.  Cook quite rightly pointed out that this potentially gives rise to a charge of Tory double-standards now, but seemingly he felt he could only get away with saying that by manufacturing a "false balance", which he did by suggesting that the SNP's position is also somehow contradicted by what they did in 1998.  It really, really isn't.

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Tuesday, January 17, 2023

WINGS-WATCH: When someone tells you who they are, believe them

The above is a genuine tweet posted by Stuart Campbell nine hours ago in response to the question "You Yes Yet?", and let's be honest - it's not easily reconcilable with his supporters' insistent claims over recent months that he is still somehow full-bloodedly working towards independence, albeit by counter-intuitive and seemingly contradictory means.  

I would guess I speak on behalf of most readers of Scot Goes Pop when I say that I am just as Yes today as I have ever been, if not more so.  No principled dispute with the SNP / Green Government over an individual piece of legislation would ever dent my support for independence, but it appears the opposite - in fact far more than the opposite - is true for Mr Campbell.

The narrative being pushed today by Mr Campbell and certain others is that the Westminster veto of the GRR Bill is fully justified because Scotland's parliament is a second-rate, juvenile, irresponsible institution that needs to be kept on a tight leash by the altogether more sensible, seasoned and mature Westminster parliament, in the best interests of the people of Scotland. To state what should be the bleedin' obvious, that Tory-style narrative is not helping to build the case for independence. It's actually building the case for the abolition of devolution and the reintroduction of direct London rule.  And it's absolutely natural coming from someone who answers "no" to the question "You Yes Yet?" (and who goes on to say in a further tweet that his "conscience" would now prevent him from campaigning for independence).  I don't doubt the sincerity of Wings readers who have practically been mass-hypnotised into believing that by adhering to Mr Campbell's essentially unionist narrative they are somehow - God knows how - following the "only true path to independence", but that just makes it all the more vital that we at least endeavour to bring to their attention the real destination at the end of that path, before it's too late.

I've never bought into the wild conspiracy theory that Wings has been "compromised" and is now serving a new master. But I'd just note that he's currently behaving in the *exact* way that he would if that conspiracy theory were true.

Sticking to a belief in Scottish self-government, even when mistakes are being made by our parliament, is not an endorsement of the awful GRR Bill.  It's not a betrayal of women and girls.  I entirely agree with what Joanna Cherry said today - the GRR Bill is a problem made in Scotland and it should be solved in Scotland.  Solving your own problems as a country is what self-government is all about, and indeed it's what sovereign independence will be all about.  No parliament anywhere in the world gets it right 100% of the time, but the UK Parliament has done far, far more harm to Scotland over the years than the Scottish Parliament ever has.  If we didn't believe that to be true, we would have no logical reason to support independence - and it's no coincidence that Mr Campbell, who doesn't believe it to be true, apparently no longer supports independence (or to use his euphemistic language, he's "the least Yes he has ever been").  His statement today is also entirely consistent with his call for his readers not to vote for pro-independence candidates on the constituency ballot in the 2021 Scottish Parliament election.

If Scotland becomes independent and then passes the GRR Bill, the logic of Mr Campbell's support for the Westminster veto - which he openly admitted to in absolutely crystal-clear fashion last night - is that he would want Scotland to rejoin the United Kingdom so that the grown-ups in London can set us straight once again.  Or perhaps he'd want England to launch a White Knight Invasion and repeal the Bill to save us from ourselves.  That is not the position of an independence supporter.  If you think MSPs have got it wrong, then at the next election you elect MSPs who will put the mistake right.  That's how parliamentary democracy in any self-governing country works.

By the way, anyone concerned at the standard of MSPs such as Emma Roddick and Maggie Chapman should take a closer look at some of the Tory and Labour lobby fodder in the House of Commons before concluding that the grass is greener down in the metropolis. And although I'm certainly no admirer of Ms Roddick myself, I remain deeply concerned at the overtones of some of the attacks on her from Wings and others, which seem to imply that anyone with a diagnosed personality disorder should automatically be regarded with hostility, suspicion and derision, and should have no place in our parliament.

UPDATE: I see that Mr Campbell has deliberately misled his readers today by yet again trotting out his fraudulent and long-debunked graph which falsely claims that support for independence has remained static on 47% since Nicola Sturgeon became First Minister.  To read a detailed explanation of how and why Mr Campbell's graph is a lie, and to discover the real trend on independence support over recent years (there have actually been considerable shifts in public opinion from year to year), please click HERE

Pro-indy politicians who loathe the GRR Bill should take care not to lose the room by appearing to be on the wrong side of a dispute between Scottish democracy and Westminster diktat

Out of curiosity, I ran a Twitter poll last night to ask whether people supported the UK Government in vetoing a Bill passed by the elected Scottish Parliament.  I wasn't entirely sure what the result would be, because when I've run Twitter polls in the past, it's been clear that my followers are roughly evenly split between sympathies for the SNP and Alba, and of course we know that Alba supporters are generally extremely hostile to the GRR Bill.

The poll still has a few hours to run, but as of 2pm, here are the provisional results -

Regardless of your opinion of the GRR Bill, do you support or oppose the UK Government vetoing a Bill passed by the elected Scottish Parliament?

Support: 14.5%
Oppose: 85.5%

Now, of course this is an unscientific, self-selecting poll, but it does suggest that a very large chunk of committed independence supporters who loathe the GRR Bill are nevertheless opposed to the UK Government vetoing it.  And that shouldn't be a major surprise, because committed independence supporters are first and foremost opposed to London rule in Scotland, and there can hardly be a more extreme example of the exercise of raw London colonial power in Scotland than the vetoing of a Bill that has been properly passed by the elected Scottish Parliament.

I'd suggest there's a timely warning here for pro-indy politicians, both inside and outside of Alba, who are tempted to publicly welcome the veto because of how they feel about the GRR Bill.  We've yet to see polling evidence of how the wider public have reacted to the veto, but if committed indy supporters generally abhor it - which seems to be the case - that's what matters for a party like Alba, because that's the pool in which they're seeking votes.  There's a big danger of losing the room by seeming to be on the wrong side of a dispute between Scottish parliamentary democracy and Westminster diktat.  

Nobody is suggesting that people who hate the GRR Bill, for very good reasons, should dishonestly shed tears for its demise.  But there's nothing to be gained from going to the other extreme and being publicly seen to celebrate or gloat about the outrageously anti-democratic way that the Bill has been thwarted.  You're not going to win over pro-independence converts by indicating that you prefer Tory ministers in London to be making decisions for Scotland, rather than elected Scottish ministers.  Or by giving the impression that you're glad that the Tories are in power to be able to make such a decision.  Or by claiming that the Tories simply had no choice but to do what they did (that's most certainly not true, by the way). Or by asserting that it was somehow the Scottish Parliament's own fault that London overruled it.  Or by saying that the onus is on the Scottish Parliament to sort out the mess by coming into compliance with London's wishes.  That is not going to sound to anyone like the sort of things a pro-independence party would or should be saying.

For my money a much better tack is simply to note that, while it's a good thing that the GRR Bill will not be coming into force, the ends do not justify the means, and the Tories should get their hands off Scottish democracy and let us make our own decisions - including our own mistakes.  And it could also be pointed out to the SNP leadership that they bear some responsibility for this outcome due to their failure to push urgently for independence over the last seven years.  There would have been no Westminster vetoes in an independent Scotland.  

There's actually no downside to saying any of the above, because the Tory veto isn't going to go away just because you condemn it.  You can have the quiet satisfaction of knowing self-ID isn't coming into force for the foreseeable future, while not needlessly taking a hit for being associated with the way in which that happened.  You didn't cause the veto, so why the hell would you want to take responsibility for it?

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Monday, January 16, 2023

The Scottish Government have used apocalyptic language to justify the absolute necessity of the GRR Bill. Surely, therefore, London's veto of the Bill creates a "human rights emergency" that MUST now be addressed by an urgent push towards independence?

So it's official.  For the first time in the twenty-four year history of devolution, the UK Government will use an obscure power that was generally assumed to be merely theoretical to veto a law passed entirely properly by the elected Scottish Parliament.  Not to challenge it in the courts, but to literally veto it with the flourish of a pen, thus putting Holyrood firmly in its place as a subordinate legislature - a far cry from the post-indyref claim that it was "the most powerful devolved parliament in the world".  And although the veto is potentially subject to judicial review, the smart money is that the courts will uphold it.

Let me put this to the Scottish Government.  You didn't think the loss of freedom of movement with European countries was a big enough emergency to warrant an urgent push towards independence.  You didn't think the loss of access to the EU Single Market was a big enough emergency to warrant an urgent push towards independence.  You didn't think Scotland's enforced exit from the EU customs union was a big enough emergency to warrant an urgent push towards independence.  You didn't think the post-Brexit power-grab of devolved powers was a big enough emergency to warrant an urgent push towards independence.  You didn't think London's disastrous mishandling of Covid, which needlessly cost hundreds of thousands of lives, was a big enough emergency to warrant an urgent push towards independence.  You didn't think the importance of getting the post-Covid recovery right was a big enough emergency to warrant an urgent push towards independence.  And you didn't even think the UK Government's grotesque priorities in the face of the cost of living crisis was a big enough emergency to warrant an urgent push towards independence.

But you've used some pretty apocalyptic language about the GRR Bill.  Although it would have conferred legal rights that have never previously existed at any point in history, you have argued that, from this point on, the absence of those rights would be totally incompatible with basic human rights and basic human dignity.  You have also argued that voters felt so strongly about the importance of those rights that they marched to the polling stations in May 2021 with the specific intention of rejecting the "bigoted" politicians who opposed the Bill.  And yet without independence, there now seems to be no prospect of those rights ever reaching the statute book in the form that you want, especially in view of the cold water that the London Labour leadership have been suddenly chucking in your direction.  Can we therefore assume that we now at last have a big enough emergency to warrant an urgent push towards independence?  In your own terms: an emergency of the withholding of "basic human rights"?  An emergency of the denial of "basic human dignity"?  A democratic emergency where voters' "rejection of bigots" has been reversed by remote control from London?  Surely it is now unconscionable to wait until 2026 to address these unprecedented emergencies?

A Westminster veto on gender self-ID, combined with Starmer becoming a born-again sceptic on the issue, could be the perfect storm that radicalises the SNP and Green leaderships on independence

In a small way, I was involved in the campaign against legally-recognised gender self-ID, via the Panelbase poll I commissioned just over a year ago.  The hope was always that an opinion poll with balanced, non-leading questions would help wake some MSPs up to the extent of the gulf that had opened up between themselves and public opinion on the gender topic.  But given the scale of the pro-self-ID majority in Holyrood, which extended well beyond the ranks of the SNP and the Greens, it always seemed an extreme long shot to imagine that the campaign would end in self-ID actually being defeated.  When the GRR legislation finally passed just before Christmas, I was left (like many others) with the empty feeling that we needn't have bothered, which I suppose inevitably follows any campaign that ends in failure.  Admittedly there was still the small consolation of feeling confident that we had been (ironically) on the right side of history, and that time would eventually prove that to be the case.

Now, in the ultimate plot twist, it appears from today's Financial Times front page that our campaign may have succeeded after all, and that the legislation will not be permitted to go forward for Royal Assent - and yet that just makes me feel emptier still.  Regardless of what some people might say, it does matter how you achieve your political objectives.  For anyone using perverted logic to suggest a Westminster veto is somehow upholding the will of the Scottish people, please understand that way of thinking simply isn't consistent with a belief in self-governing Scottish parliamentary democracy.  If a mistake is made by the Scottish Parliament, no matter how grievous, the place to clear it up is in the Scottish Parliament.  The solution is not for a colonial master to intervene as some self-appointed God that enforces the will of the people as expressed in opinion polls, but only when it happens to feel like doing so.  The place-man Alister Jack acting as colonial Governor to veto a Bill of the elected Scottish Parliament by means of nothing more than the flourish of his pen will be an unprecedented tragedy for the cause of democratic Scottish self-government.

That said, there may be side-benefits, as I noted the other week.  A veto is likely to radicalise supporters of self-ID on the subject of independence.  Maggie Chapman, perhaps the very worst of the MSP zealots, is quoted in Pink News hyping up the narrative that Sunak is on the verge of triggering a constitutional crisis.  I had previously thought this effect might be tempered by the knowledge that a Starmer government is probably just around the corner and will introduce self-ID across the UK - but the ground is suddenly shifting on that point too.  Having been a fully paid up adherent of the Stonewall ideology, Starmer suddenly seems to be rowing back a little, and is giving every impression of having just been alerted to private polls and focus groups suggesting that his stance could cost him votes. His refusal to even state that he opposes a veto on the legislation is particularly astonishing given that Scottish Labour full-bloodedly supported the Bill, and given that Labour MSPs have been queueing up to state that a veto would be an attack on devolution.  Suddenly Scottish Labour looks once again like a mere branch office of the "whole party", to use Starmer's own withering words.

If Starmer no longer looks like he can be 100% relied upon to deliver full-fat self-ID, then forget about Peter A Bell - it could be Maggie Chapman who will be the keenest proponent of UDI going forward.

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Sunday, January 15, 2023

A warning from the future

Fresh constitutional chaos as no-one can agree on whether Scotland has just voted for independence or not

by Pamela Molly Bannatyne

- Edinburgh, Friday 3rd May 2024

Hopes that yesterday's general election could resolve the long-running constitutional stand-off over Scottish independence took a knock early this morning as results came in.  The Scottish National Party (SNP) defied the expectations of many pundits by surging to 51 seats north of the border - even more than the 48 they won in their 2019 landslide.  They also increased their share of the Scotland-wide popular vote from 45.0% to 47.4%.  Crucially, two other pro-independence parties, the Scottish Green Party and Alex Salmond's Alba Party, grabbed 2.4% and 0.6% of the vote respectively, meaning that the combined vote for pro-independence parties slightly exceeds 50%. Since all three parties had declared the election to be a "de facto referendum on independence", First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is expected to claim later today that a mandate for independence has been secured, and to demand that the UK Government enter into immediate negotiations on an independence settlement.

However, unionist parties have already rubbished this claim.  Their objections are mostly centred upon the SNP's insistence prior to the election that votes for the Alba Party should not count towards the pro-independence tally.  This appears to have been intended as a tactic to deter independence-supporting voters from drifting away from the SNP in the small number of constituencies where Alba had put up candidates.  But it may have backfired badly, because Alba's modest vote effectively holds the balance, with the SNP and Greens alone only having secured a combined vote of 49.8%.  Pamela Nash of anti-independence group Scotland in Union was dismissive of what she described as "Nicola Sturgeon's attempt to shift the goalposts after the game is already over".  She pointed out that the plan to exclude Alba votes had been indirectly announced by the SNP's National Executive Committee as long ago as 14th January 2023.

But Mike Russell, President of the SNP, angrily retorted that the constitutional future of Scotland was not a game.  "Independence is a matter for the people of Scotland," he commented.  "It's not a private cricket match between a closed group of politicians who can decide 'the rules' between them.  There can be no credible doubt that the people who voted Alba yesterday intended to express their backing for independence, every bit as much as the people who voted SNP and Green.  That's what matters, not the minutiae of what individual politicians may or may not have said before the election."

There were also growing signs of recriminations from independence supporters who feel Nicola Sturgeon's vendetta against her predecessor Mr Salmond has led her to make a "catastrophic unforced error" which may have needlessly called into question what would otherwise have been a clear-cut mandate.  But some SNP parliamentarians seemed almost relieved that the UK Government may now have a ready-made excuse for disregarding the pro-independence majority.  One MP, who asked not to be named, said he hoped the election outcome would come to be seen as "a small but important incremental step in a long-term process that may eventually result in independence one day".  He added: "The last thing we should be doing now is forcing the issue.  Remember the tortoise beat the hare in the end.  Let's keep the heid!"

SNP activist Marcus Carslaw agreed.  "Gradualism has served the Yes movement extremely well over the last eighty years, and frankly I can't wait for the next eighty. Slowly slowly catchy monkey."

Controversial Wings Over Scotland blogger Stuart Campbell reacted furiously. "Women can't have beards," he thundered.

Meanwhile, many Scottish political commentators are speculating that independence will now be an issue settled by the 2029 general election.  "That's what we expected all along," said one prominent columnist, although his recollection was disputed by a colleague sympathetic to independence, who suggested that journalists had been predicting for several years that whichever election happened to be "the next but one" would be decisive.

Saturday, January 14, 2023

If presented with a straight choice between the two options that the SNP's NEC set out today, I would without doubt choose Westminster 2024 as the de facto referendum, in spite of the disadvantages of a limited franchise. Waiting until 2026 - an entire decade after the EU referendum - would be totally unacceptable.

When the Tories completed their "taking stock" exercise in 1993, presenting a ragtag collection of cosmetic procedural changes (mostly involving the Scottish Grand Committee) as an answer to the Scottish people's desire for political devolution, Canon Kenyon Wright memorably replied as if he was marking an exam paper: "Interesting, but appears to have misunderstood the question."  Those words popped into my head today when I saw the outcome of the SNP's NEC meeting.  The SNP leadership would probably argue that they've listened to the concerns of those who think using a Westminster election as a de facto referendum would be a mistake, on the grounds that it would exclude 16 and 17 year olds, EU citizens, plus anyone who falls foul of the outrageous new photo ID rules.  So an alternative to the main plan has now been proposed, which would see a Holyrood election used as the de facto referendum instead - but crucially, it would wait until the next scheduled Holyrood election in 2026.  That's no use at all to the people who were actually arguing for a Holyrood de facto referendum, because they almost uniformly expected it to be a snap election held this year.  There was never any intention that it should be used as an excuse for yet more delay.  

Although I firmly believe that it is strategically wiser to use a Holyrood election, if I was confronted with a straight choice between the two options the SNP have set out today, I would undoubtedly choose the Westminster 2024 option, in spite of all the disadvantages of a narrower franchise.  By far the most important consideration is to ensure a timely vote.  If we wait until 2026, it means the people of Scotland will not be given a choice on independence until a full decade after they learned they were to be dragged out of the EU against their will.  None of us should consider that remotely acceptable.

However, there are two big plus points here.  Firstly, the NEC paper embraces the possibility of amendments at the special conference - so, in theory, delegates may yet be able to bring the option of a snap Holyrood election to the table, although given the control-freakery that the SNP leadership have become known for, I'll believe that when I see it.  And secondly, in spite of the way some people are reacting tonight, there has at least been no climbdown from the principle of a de facto referendum - both of the main options would see a de facto referendum take place, albeit in one case it would take place far too late.

By far the weakest part of the paper is the nonsense built into the alternative option about the 2024 Westminster election being used to obtain yet another mandate for a referendum (that would be the fifth!). Only if that mandate is ignored would the 2026 Holyrood election be used as a de facto plebiscite.  That creates a completely unnecessary additional hurdle.  There's no reason why the 2026 election can't be used regardless of the outcome of the 2024 election.  2026 will be a standalone election and its result will speak just as powerfully no matter what happened in 2024.  Why muddy the waters if the SNP win a majority of Westminster seats in 2024 but not a majority of the popular vote?

And there's also a needless sentence in the paper about how votes for other pro-independence parties will be counted towards the 50% + 1 target in a plebiscite election, but only if the SNP have entered into a pre-arrangement with those parties.  That caveat is obviously only there to exclude Alba, and it really is idiotic beyond words.  As you know, I don't think Alba should be intervening and risking a split in the vote in a plebiscite election conducted under first-past-the-post, but if they do, they could potentially take 0.5% or 1% of the vote, and excluding that from the pro-indy tally could needlessly convert a victory into a defeat.  Talk about the SNP shooting the independence campaign in the foot.

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Thursday, January 12, 2023

WINGS-WATCH: Campbell yet again trots out his dodgy graph falsely claiming Yes support has flatlined on 47% since the indyref - even though it has been comprehensively debunked multiple times

Stuart Campbell is back to blogging about opinion polls today, which - as inevitably as night follows day - means that he's trotted out some cynical lies.  Fortunately, our much-requested Wings-Watch fact-checking service is on hand to set the record straight yet again.

Once again we must start with Campbell's Lib Dem-style dodgy graph which falsely claims that support for independence has remained absolutely static on 47% since just after the independence referendum.  I've comprehensively debunked that graph many times before, but it looks like I'll just have to keep doing it every so often, because he's determined to treat his readers with utter contempt by telling them the exact same lie over and over and over again.  Below you'll find the real figures for independence support in recent times, which as you can see actually show substantial changes from year to year.  The annual averages for conventional polling are now updated with the final average for 2022, which saw Yes fall shy of the 50% mark by just 0.2 percentage points.

Yearly support for Scottish independence in the Scottish Social Attitudes Survey:

2014:  33%

2016 (a):  39%

2016 (b):  46%

2018:  45%

2020:  51%

2021:  52%

Average yearly support for independence in conventional opinion polling:

2016:  47.7%

2017:  45.3%

2018:  45.5%
2019:  47.6%

2020:  53.0%

2021:  49.6%

2022:  49.8%

(For the sake of simplicity, the above figures use any poll included in Wikipedia's main list of independence polls.  There are up to five surveys for the Scottish Election Study - two from 2022 and three from 2021 - that arguably should be in Wikipedia's list but aren't.  However, there may be sound reasons for excluding them which I'm not aware of, so I'll just stick with the list.)

Incidentally, there's no alibi of ignorance for Campbell in repeating his discredited claim.  He's almost certainly seen the previous posts in which I debunked his graph, because he occasionally attempts to leave comments on Scot Goes Pop, and did so as recently as two or three nights ago.  (The comments are invariably abusive, so I tend to leave them in the moderation queue.)  Oh, and for his two adoring fans who tried to question my mental stability this week because of what they seemed to think was my absurdly improbable claim that Campbell was attempting to leave anonymous comments and that I could tell it was him from his writing style - nice try, guys, but he freely confirmed his identity in the final comment.

Not content with just one dodgy graph, Campbell also presents us with a second, which purports to show that support for independence was around 24% in May 2007 when Alex Salmond became First Minister (although that was almost three years after Mr Salmond started his second stint as SNP leader), rose to 50% by November 2014 when Mr Salmond handed over to Nicola Sturgeon, and slightly declined to what appears to be around 48% or 49% in November 2022.  The latter figure is an outright lie - every poll conducted in November 2022 had Yes over 50% once Don't Knows were excluded. Campbell can't use the sleight of hand of saying he left Don't Knows in, because that would make a nonsense of the graph's claim that Yes was on 50% in November 2014 - no poll conducted that month had Yes higher than 46% prior to the exclusion of Don't Knows.  And chucking in the 24% figure from 2007 is an absolutely fatuous apples-and-oranges comparison, because it comes from the Social Attitudes Survey, which cannot be compared with conventional polling because it uses a completely different methodology, including a multi-option question format.  It has always produced wildly different results, and indeed wildly different yearly trends, from conventional polling.  If Campbell's graph had been consistent by following up the 2007 figure with the comparable Social Attitudes Survey results from 2014 and 2021 (the latter being the most recent survey), it would have shown a rise from 24% to 33% under Alex Salmond between 2007 and 2014, and then an even bigger rise from 33% to 52% under Nicola Sturgeon between 2014 and 2021.  

The other way Campbell could have achieved consistency in the graph is by using conventional polling throughout.  That would have meant using a far, far higher starting point for Yes in 2007.  An average of TNS polls in 2007 had Yes on around 47% with Don't Knows excluded, or around 39.5% with Don't Knows left in.

Campbell sometimes styles himself as a "journalist", and indeed his supporters often laud him to the skies as "the best journalist in Scotland".  Well, I'd invite you to check everything I've said above.  It's all in the public domain and you'll be able to verify that the points I've made are accurate.  Then be honest with yourself about whether or not Campbell's graphs can be considered "journalism".  If you think they can, I'd gently suggest the only type of "journalism" you can really have in mind is the grotesque parody of the profession that has left the credibility of the mainstream Scottish media in tatters over recent years.  The sole purpose of the graphs is to deliberately convince people that a lie is true.  And, what's more, it works.  Many Wings readers regularly parrot Campbell's lies about polling as if they were indisputable gospel.  I make no apology whatever for confronting Wings readers with the factual reality - even though in some cases they really, really don't want to hear it.