Thursday, February 9, 2023

Fear grips Westminster as landmark Telegraph mega-poll shows pro-independence parties are on course to win AN OUTRIGHT MAJORITY OF THE POPULAR VOTE at a de facto referendum in 2024

You'll probably have seen by now that there's a headline-grabbing Britain-wide poll for the Daily Telegraph which projects that a general election now would result in a Labour government, with the SNP overtaking the Tories to become the Official Opposition, and with Stephen Flynn replacing Keir Starmer as Leader of the Opposition.  I initially thought the Scottish component of the projection must be fairly questionable due to being based on a tiny sample size, but in fact that's not the case - the GB-wide sample was an enormous 28,000, meaning that the Scottish subsample is roughly the same size as would generally be used for a full-scale Scottish poll.  Here are the percentage voting intentions...

Find Out Now poll for the Daily Telegraph (27th January - 5th February 2023)

GB-wide voting intentions for the next UK general election:

Labour 49%
Conservatives 21%
Liberal Democrats 10%
Greens 6%
Reform UK 6%
SNP 5%
Plaid Cymru 1%

Scottish voting intentions for the next UK general election:

SNP 48%
Labour 25%
Conservatives 12%
Liberal Democrats 7%
Greens 3%
Reform UK 3%

There's almost no chance in the real world that the SNP will become second party in the Commons.  That doesn't necessarily mean the poll is wrong, but it's a snapshot of opinion at a certain period of time, and the likelihood is that when a general election comes around the Tories will be able to shore up their support sufficiently to at least hold on to most of their heartland seats.  So in a way that means everyone is missing the point about this poll - what's interesting about it is not the projection of Flynn as Leader of the Opposition, but instead the fact that the SNP and Greens between them have 51% of the popular vote in Scotland.  Which means that if the SNP stick with the original plan of using the next Westminster election as a de facto independence referendum, an outright mandate for independence would, on these numbers, be won.

That said, given the unusual nature of the poll, and the relatively untested nature of Find Out Now as a pollster, it's hard to know how much credence to give to the numbers.  If they can be trusted, they certainly seem to suggest that the impact of the GRR controversy has been vastly overstated - either that, or the SNP's U-turns on trans prisoners have reversed the damage.  (The fieldwork for this poll was conducted after Nicola Sturgeon announced Isla Bryson would not be held at Cornton Vale.)

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Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Two new Scottish polls show that Nicola Sturgeon is still more popular than every other leading politician

There's been chatter in some quarters, which seems to me rooted largely in wishful thinking, that Nicola Sturgeon is on the way out as First Minister due to increasing unpopularity.  And it's certainly true that her personal ratings in opinion polls have dipped, and it may well even be true that this is partly because her foolishness in placing herself so thoroughly and comprehensively on the wrong side of public opinion on the trans issue has finally caught up with her.  But there's one obvious problem with the 'Sturgeon is toast' theory - why is every other leading politician still less popular than she is?  If she's toast, then presumably the same must be true to an even greater extent of Anas Sarwar, and Keir Starmer, and Rishi Sunak, and Alex "Fast Bowler" Cole-Hamilton.

YouGov Net Ratings (Scotland-only poll, 23rd-26th January 2023):

Nicola Sturgeon: -4
Keir Starmer: -10
Stephen Flynn: -12
Lorna Slater: -12
Anas Sarwar: -14
Alex Cole-Hamilton: -14
Patrick Harvie: -16
John Swinney: -20
Douglas Ross: -35
Rishi Sunak: -40

Ipsos UK Net Ratings (Scotland-only poll, 30th January-1st February 2023):

Nicola Sturgeon: 0
Keir Starmer: -1
Anas Sarwar: -4
Douglas Ross: -41
Rishi Sunak: -42

When Rishi Sunak became Prime Minister, I vaguely remember joking that it was terrible news for Douglas Ross because it condemned him to going back to being less popular in Scotland than his UK Tory counterpart.  Well, give Ross his due - he's somehow now less unpopular than Sunak, although that's a fairly low bar to clear at the moment because Sunak's numbers are mind-bogglingly abysmal.  Sunak is clearly a talented communicator - in terms of his basic personality I don't actually particularly dislike him, which is almost unprecedented in a Tory leader, so such awful numbers must be down to a large extent to the ongoing toxicity of the Tory party in Scotland.  Probably anyone in 10 Downing Street at the moment would suffer the same effect.

A couple of other nuggets of interest from the two polls - YouGov show a plurality of 47-42 in favour of an independence referendum being held within the next five years.  Mysteriously that result hasn't attracted much attention from our legendarily neutral mainstream media.  Meanwhile, Ipsos UK have found a 50-33 plurality in support of the UK Government's imperial veto of the GRR Bill.  However, my view is that the question wording - although perfectly legitimate - is likely to have focused respondents' attention on how they feel about the gender identity issue itself, rather than the principle of the veto.  In my own next poll, I'm minded to ask a question along the lines of: "Regardless of your own views on the Gender Recognition Reform Bill, do you think the UK Government should have the power to veto a law passed by the Scottish Parliament?"  I suspect the results might be a little different, but we'll see.

Incidentally, the detailed results on the Ipsos question once again contradict the "it's women v the Scottish Government" narrative.  Although both genders support the veto of the GRR Bill, men (55%) are clearly somewhat more hostile to the Bill than women (47%).

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Stewart McDonald's wizard "plan for winning independence": do exactly the same thing that has completely failed four times already, but do it HARDER!!!!!!!

What puzzles me about Stewart McDonald's call for the SNP to back down yet again, and totally abandon its plans to try to win independence in the foreseeable future, is not so much that he's done it (we all know exactly where he's coming from on this) but that The National decided to make it a front page splash and prominently place the entire text of his "report" (ie. extended opinion piece) on their website.  As the saying goes, "retweets are not necessarily endorsements", and by the same token "front page splashes are not necessarily endorsements", but the unspoken words that follow in both cases are "but more often than not, they are".  It must be hoped that this is one of the exceptions - perhaps The National's plan is to encourage and facilitate the widest possible debate in the run-up to the special conference in March, and we can look forward to equivalent front page splashes about the release of "reports" strongly making the case for the de facto referendum to be moved ahead to an early Holyrood election in October of this year, which a growing consensus within the independence movement recognises to be the option with by far the greatest chance of delivering a successful outcome.

McDonald's piece contains an enormous number of words but it boils down to the following: "A de facto referendum cannot deliver independence because the UK Government will not respect the result. We should therefore instead use the next election to seek a mandate to hold a referendum, and start a campaign to increase support for independence."  It really is as thin as that, when you strip away the frills.  The fundamental contradiction in it is that McDonald is arguing that any plan that cannot deliver independence must by definition be rejected, and yet the evidence that his own plan cannot deliver independence is considerably stronger than the equivalent evidence that a de facto referendum cannot do the trick.  Why?  Because his own plan has already been tried, and it has failed.  Indeed it has been tried multiple times, and it has failed on each and every occasion. McDonald tacitly acknowledges this himself in a passage that unwittingly borders on the comical -

"By reinforcing such an unambiguous mandate with the issue front and centre of our campaign - even putting the commitment into a form of words on the ballot paper itself - coupled with existing support for a second independence referendum, we will have steeled the mandate to such an unprecedented level that no Prime Minister can misinterpret, delay, or ignore it. It would be the fifth parliamentary election across two parliaments with such a commitment [to a referendum in our manifesto], but there must be a noticeable difference in the prominence that the issue is given compared to previous elections."

In other words, we've tried this four times before and it's had zero effect, but the fifth time, yeah baby, the fifth time it'll work for sure, as long as we're a wee bit more enthusiastic about it than we previously were.  As my old American gun nut buddy Kevin Baker used to say, "Do it again, only HARDER!!!!"  Stewart, mate, if you think your wholly untested assumption that victory in a de facto referendum will not result in independence negotiations is a fatal flaw, then I'm afraid it's a massive problem for you that we already have such overwhelming evidence that a mandate for an independence referendum does not, and never will, result in an independence referendum.

Aha, Stewart will say, you're overlooking my cunning plan for an independence campaign to take place at the same time, and that will ingeniously tip the balance and ensure the UK Government cannot possibly ignore the fifth mandate for a referendum in the way they have the previous four!  Well, this begs the obvious question of why the hell the SNP have not been campaigning for independence thus far (if Stewart thinks they haven't).  But more importantly, there are sound reasons for thinking that the UK Government would become even less likely to agree to a referendum if a campaign successfully pushed Yes support higher than it currently is.  From London's point of view, there is only strategic sense in facilitating a referendum if they believe they at least have a realistic chance of winning it.

I don't think Stewart has quite thought through the psychological impact of the SNP putting an outright commitment to independence in its manifesto, campaigning seriously on that commitment, and then winning more than 50% of the vote on it.  For the first time, the 2014 mandate to remain in the United Kingdom will no longer be uncontested - and indeed the mandate for independence will be seen to be of superior quality to the 2014 result because it'll be much more up to date.  I don't know whether independence negotiations will follow thereafter - perhaps they won't, but what I do think is that there would be a recognition that there is a constitutional crisis that needs to be resolved by negotiations of some sort, especially if the mandate is followed up by either disruption at Westminster or a deadline for withdrawing Scottish MPs from the Commons, thus seriously calling into question the legitimacy of continued London rule.  It's certainly far more likely to move us on from the current deadlock than the magical thinking of "the fifth mandate for a referendum will be the straw that breaks the camel's back in the way the fourth wasn't".

Stewart claims that the whole idea of a de facto referendum is bogus because only one side of the argument will be fighting the election on that basis.  Well, the 1918 election in Ireland is generally regarded as the mandate for an independent Ireland, even though only Sinn Féin fought that election as a de facto independence referendum.  Exactly the same point could be made about any other mandate sought via a manifesto commitment - including, for example, a fifth mandate for a referendum.  Is Stewart saying that such a mandate would only be valid if unionist parties agree that the election is about whether a referendum should be held?  And if so, why on earth should they conveniently play along?  What Stewart is actually arguing for is a losers' veto - a sentiment that Alister Jack would thoroughly approve of, but it's nonetheless nothing short of an anti-democratic outrage.

To delegates at the forthcoming conference, let me say this.  The de facto referendum was an indispensable part of Nicola Sturgeon's strategy for going to the Supreme Court.  It had to be there, because it was the only way of ensuring that no matter what the judges' verdict was, it would not be a defeat for the independence cause, and there would still be a way for Scotland to make its choice.  What Stewart McDonald wants to do is turn the Supreme Court's decision into a real defeat - one that bestowed London with a permanent veto over Scotland's right to democratic self-determination.  Moreover, it's a veto that McDonald has utterly failed to show he has any even remotely credible plan for overcoming or circumventing.  Don't waste even five seconds' thought on his craven plea that we should haul up the white flag at this moment of all moments.

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Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Meet the Rev's number one fan: racist, homophobic, misogynistic, inciter of extreme violence, Covid denier, and spreader of defamatory allegations against named politicians

There's a fascinating comment on the previous thread which wonders aloud whether Wings is being deliberately used as a breeding ground for crazy QAnon-style conspiracy theories as a way to "demoralise and turn the independence movement", in order to prevent us from being an effective grassroots force in the face of Westminster obstructionism.  The commenter charts a darkening of the mood in the Wings BTL section, particularly since the start of the year, with mutterings about "globalists capturing small countries first" and with the SNP being increasingly equated with "evil, a disgrace, deviant, disgusting, nonce".  As you know, I'm also deeply concerned that a few senior people in my own party (Alba) have been using language like "Scottish Nonce Party" and suggesting a vote for the SNP is equivalent to a vote for Jimmy Savile, and I think we desperately need to distance ourselves from this dreadful stuff before it gets totally out of hand.

It's also pointed out in the comment that some Wings BTL posters have been making "nod, nod, wink, wink" suggestions about Scottish politicians, and that Stuart Campbell himself has encouraged this by "dropping names in at various points of his weaving rants tenuously linking awful/sick people with elected officials".  Well, I can tell you from personal experience that it sometimes goes way, way beyond "nod, nod, wink, wink".  There's one Wings follower calling himself "PeeJay" who is constantly trying to leave comments on this blog, and many of them contain baseless allegations of sexual crimes made against named politicians and public figures.  I don't think I've been able to publish any of PeeJay's comments for more than two years, because they're invariably so extreme in nature.  Almost all of them contain one or more of the following features - 

1) Baseless allegations of a sexual nature against named politicians or public figures.

2) Extreme homophobic language, often directed against named politicians or public figures.

3) Extreme racist language, often directed against named politicians or public figures.

4) Extreme misogynistic language, often directed against named politicians or public figures.

5) Calls for named individuals to be subjected to extreme violence or murder.

6) Endorsements of stock far-right conspiracy theories.

7) Suggestions that Covid is just a cold and that not one person has ever died from it.  (In reality, between 16 and 28 million people worldwide are estimated to have died of Covid so far - a death toll similar to the First World War.)

Below is a small selection of his attempted comments, just so you can see what I have to wade through in my inbox on a near-daily basis.  But this really is just the tip of the iceberg.  The first one is from just a few hours ago.  It's difficult to know how to present these, because the content is so extreme that I can't publish them totally uncensored, but on the other hand there's no point in publishing them at all unless you can gain a decent idea of what he's saying.  So I've blotted out letters in the 'P' word and the 'C' word, and I've also blotted out the name of the person he makes an extreme allegation against.

Obviously Stuart Campbell can't be directly blamed for what his supporters write, but if I was spontaneously attracting people like this guy to my corner, I'd be concerned that I was going very seriously wrong somewhere.

The thoughtful comment left on the previous thread deserves, I think, to be read by as many people as possible, so here it is in full - 

"Your post does sound conspiratorial but if you listen to the bbc podcast about the Qanon influence of the capital riots, it becomes arguable power brokers are feeding the culture war machine for their own ends. Gabriel Gatehouse goes right back to the beginnings of conspiracy theories with surprising protagonists apparently feeding the frenzy surreptitiously. It's a good podcast as it doesn't go at it from one side, there are faults on both left and right. Anyway, I digress. 

What happens in America can morph into a UK phenomenon quickly in the internet age. We've gone from talking about pensions/currency to furries (a word I had and still did not need to know). The QAnon story has changed to "grooming" and an evil regime wanting access to kids. It's insane but there are seemingly intelligent people being taken in by this. I think we're seeing our own version now in Scotland. If you look at Wings BTL comments, there are loads making nod, nod, wink, wink suggestions about Scottish politicians. In fact, Stuart Campbell is doing it himself dropping names in at various points of his weaving rants tenuously linking awful/sick people with elected officials. There are legitimate issues with the Trans bill but I sense a tiny but increasingly louder minority are starting to equate the SNP as evil, a disgrace, deviant, disgusting, nonce. That "the Globalists" "capture" small countries first (New Zealand, Scotland, Finland) as part of their "ends". I see this insane view percolating out at an alarming rate since the turn of the year. I can't believe I'm saying this but am I alone in noting this? 

It's not that these people are significant in number versus the population but can have an influence on the grassroots. Let's face it, we're going to need a grassroots movement in the face of a wall to our agreed referendum hopes. I feel all of this is a way to demoralise and turn the movement. 

I cannot believe I am saying this but I now believe Wings is being used to feed this chaos to attempt to stamp out unity in the independence movement for good. I hope we can get out of it but this type of culture war is a bottomless pit and such a waste of energy."

Monday, February 6, 2023

Are dark forces using the GRR obsession as a "gateway drug" to take independence supporters on a journey to British nationalism?

I don't know about anyone else, but I'm becoming increasingly concerned that the GRR issue is being intentionally used as a "gateway drug" to convert former Yessers to both unionism and Toryism.  As bizarre as it may seem, Wings Over Scotland today published its twenty-first post in a row about the GRR, with the subtext of that editorial obsession presumably being that trans rights are the defining and all-consuming battle of our age.  Forget about independence, forget about social justice, forget about the cost of living, forget about the Ukraine war, forget about the climate emergency, forget about the threat of nuclear weapons, forget about Covid - all that matters, all day, every day, is the women-with-beards issue.  Ironically, Stuart Campbell is actually closer to Nicola Sturgeon and the Scottish Green Party than he is to the vast majority of the Scottish population in one key sense - ie. he thinks the trans issue is far, far more important than absolutely anything else.  That represents a catastrophic loss of perspective - unless, of course, there is a wider agenda behind it.  

My own guess is that Campbell's coded announcement a few weeks ago that he no longer supports independence, and his more direct announcement that he has now become a Tory voter, is part of a process intended to gradually soften up his readers.  If he had suddenly said out of the blue "join me in abandoning independence and supporting the Tories" he'd have encountered substantial resistance, so instead he's giving his readers time to get used to the idea of their hero being a Tory-voting de facto unionist, in the hope that what they used to despise will slowly become normalised as something that "people like them" do.  The next part of the strategy is to keep whipping up the women-with-beards hysteria on a daily basis (perhaps we should run a sweepstake on when Campbell will next publish a post that is NOT about the trans issue), and get his readers so angry and obsessed about the subject to the exclusion of everything else, and get the focus of that rage so fully trained on a Nicola Sturgeon systematically portrayed as a monster, that when he finally chooses his perfect moment to urge them to vote Tory and reject independence "for now", they'll be receptive to the message.

Nobody can directly stop this process from happening.  All we can do is point out to people the way in which the manipulation is working, and if certain predictions come true - for example, if Campbell does urge his readers to consider voting Tory in Scottish seats or to abstain - they might start joining up the dots for themselves.  But if they're determined not to see what's happening, they won't.

I was asked a few days ago, by someone who evidently thought they were posing a killer question, how I would recommend voting in the Bath constituency if you want both Scottish independence and the protection of women's rights.  It's important to stress this is not a Bath-specific or England-specific question, because unless Alba stand in every Scottish constituency (which I'm almost certain they won't), voters will face precisely the same dilemma in Scotland.  That's exactly why there's such an obvious and natural progression between Campbell announcing that he will vote Tory in Bath and him eventually telling his readers to either vote Tory or abstain in Scotland.

The reality, of course, is that in Bath, as in many constituencies in Scotland, it is unlikely to be possible to find a candidate that both supports Scottish independence and opposes gender self-ID.  As a voter, you therefore have to decide what your first principle is, and for me it's that Scotland must be free to govern itself and make its own decisions.  My second priority is social justice, and when you put those two imperatives together a Tory vote simply becomes impossible, whether in Bath or anywhere else.  If l lived in Bath and there was a Green candidate, as there has been in all but one general election since 1979, I strongly suspect I would vote Green.  That would mean voting for a pro-self-ID party, but it categorically would not entail abandoning my own opposition to self-ID.  It's perfectly possible to advocate for change within the party you are either a member of or that you vote for.  Indeed, I believe I'm right in saying the Green Party of England and Wales is the only political party Campbell has ever tried to join, and he did so with the intention of supporting the anti-self-ID faction within the party.  That makes it all the more bizarre that he isn't even considering a Green vote and is so hellbent on backing the Tories.

The commenter Wee Walker made an intelligent point on an earlier thread - he pointed out that the party Campbell now supports is, if credible sources are to believed, seriously considering withdrawing the United Kingdom from the European Convention on Human Rights.  That is an extremist position that no other non-Faragist party of any significance would ever contemplate, and would put Britain in line with Russia and Belarus.  So let me put this question.  Even if you're so obsessed with the trans issue that you think it's more important than self-determination for your country, or than social justice and tackling poverty, surely to God you don't think it's worth abandoning human rights over?  Without the ECHR, all bets would be off - the death penalty could come back, there would be no protection against torture, minorities could be persecuted, workers' rights would be called into question, etc, etc, etc.  No individual issue weighs more heavily than all of that.  (Admittedly, Campbell's recent retweet history implies that he is - at the very least - not unsympathetic to a specific trans prisoner being put to death in Ohio, so maybe I'm asking a stupid question.)

Campbell finishes his twenty-first consecutive trans-flavoured post with the question: "What's happening to our country?"  Well, which country do you mean - England, or the UK?  Either way, much of the answer goes back to the door of the Tory government in London - which you're planning to vote for, Stuart.  And if you think the Tories can't make things any worse, just sit back and watch the results of your own handiwork.

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Sunday, February 5, 2023

YouGov poll: SNP vote holds up well on Westminster ballot, offsetting slight disappointment on the indyref numbers

Thanks to the commenter 'Alba for Independence' for pointing me in the direction of a new full-scale Scottish poll from YouGov.  I was actually expecting a Survation poll, because I heard a few days ago there was one in the field, so unless that's a private poll it might still be along soon.

Should Scotland be an independent country?  (YouGov / Sunday Times, 23rd-26th January 2023)

Yes 47% (-6)
No 53% (+6) 

I know the scale of the swing to No looks alarming here, but I can't emphasise enough just how unusual the previous YouGov poll (showing a 53-47 lead for Yes) was.  YouGov are generally on the No-friendly end of the spectrum, and if anything I'd normally regard 47% for Yes in a YouGov poll as being decent enough.  Essentially this is just a reversion to the mean, and I don't buy the spin in certain quarters about Yes taking a big hit due to the trans issue.  There was a Survation poll earlier in the month showing a very similar picture before the trans issue even hit the headlines, which would suggest that the change is caused more by the Supreme Court verdict fading from voters' memories.  However, the bad news is that YouGov's figures also lend support to the idea that the Survation poll was more accurate than the Find Out Now poll commissioned by The National, which was conducted at around the same time but showed a big Yes lead.

Scottish voting intentions for the next UK general election: 

SNP 42% (-1) 
Labour 29% (-) 
Conservatives 15% (+1) 
Liberal Democrats 6% (-) 

Scottish Parliament constituency ballot: 

SNP 44% (-6) 
Labour 26% (+1) 
Conservatives 17% (+4) 
Liberal Democrats 7% (-) 
Greens 2% (-) 

Scottish Parliament regional list ballot:

SNP 36% (-4) 
Labour 26% (+2) 
Conservatives 17% (+4) 
Greens 9% (-2) 
Liberal Democrats 6% (-)

So very good news on the Westminster ballot where there is no statistically significant change.  It's a different story in the Scottish Parliament voting intentions, and it's probably fair to say party political voting intentions are more susceptible to being affected by something like the trans story, so it's possible that may be the explanation for the drop in the SNP's Holyrood vote.  The fact that the anti-self-ID Tories are the main beneficiaries is consistent with that theory.  However, anyone nursing the 'hope' that Scottish politics was about to be totally upended will be very disappointed with these numbers - the SNP remain comfortably in first place and the Tories still languish in third, well behind Labour.

We also have to pay heed to the exact fieldwork dates - it looks to me as if the poll was already completed by the time that Nicola Sturgeon announced that Isla Bryson would not be held at Cornton Vale, a decision which may have repaired some of the damage.  For what it's worth, there's been a more recent GB-wide poll from YouGov since then, and the Scottish subsample shows a 16-point SNP lead over Labour, with the Tories on a very low vote.

The full YouGov tables aren't out yet, but apparently Nicola Sturgeon's personal ratings have slipped very slightly into negative territory.  The Sunday Times have gone into full propaganda mode by comparing this to the highs of her popularity during the first Covid lockdown - I mean, you could just as easily compare it to the years prior to that when Ms Sturgeon was sometimes in negative territory and often slightly trailed Ruth Davidson.  And yet that didn't stop the SNP winning every election they fought.  So I'd advise people to keep a sense of perspective and maintain scepticism about propaganda from a media which may think it scents blood, but may just as easily be trying to 'fake it until it's real'.

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