Saturday, March 4, 2023

Suggested questions for the SNP leadership hustings

Over recent days, a few people have said to me: "I'm going to X hustings or Y hustings - which question would you suggest?"  In a way this is an academic exercise, because the chances of anyone: a) picking up on one of my suggestions, and b) being called to speak, are pretty slim.  However, just for the fun of it, here is my own list of burning questions that I'd like to see asked.  Bear in mind that I only saw parts of the first two hustings, and didn't see any of the third earlier today, so apologies in advance if any of these questions have already been asked and satisfactorily answered (with the operative word being 'satisfactorily').

For Kate Forbes: "You've said that the first part of the 'process' element of your plan for winning independence is to put the subject front and centre of the SNP's campaign for next year's Westminster election.  You wouldn't, you say, call that election a de facto referendum, but you'd be using any SNP victory as a mandate for an early democratic vote on independence.  That actually sounds a bit like the second option that the NEC was intending to put before the special conference - with the Westminster election used to gain yet another mandate for a referendum, and the 2026 Holyrood election then used as a de facto referendum if the UK government ignore the mandate.  But you haven't really been mentioning that last crucial part of the equation.  Does this mean you are still open to the idea of a de facto referendum in 2026, or are you ruling out de facto referendums completely in exactly the same way Humza Yousaf is?"

OK, there's probably a more concise way of asking that, and there might well need to be if you're faced with an impatient moderator, but to me this is the most crucial question of the campaign.  If Forbes is open to a de facto referendum at some date in the future, then we still have a credible candidate offering a credible path to independence.  But if she's not open to that, then no matter whether she or Yousaf wins, we'll have a leader who has ruled out holding a vote on independence unless a Section 30 order is granted, which we all know it will not be.  We'll effectively just be twiddling our thumbs for years on end, because we'd already know that independence will not and cannot happen.

For all of the candidates: "Will the postponed special conference still definitely take place under your leadership, will that conference be able to make a free choice without leadership diktat, and will you be bound by the decision it makes even if it contradicts your own personal preference?"

That last bit is particularly relevant to Humza Yousaf, who has been going around cheerfully 'ruling out' all three of the main options the conference had been expected to consider - ie. an early Holyrood election this year, a de facto referendum in 2024, and a de facto referendum in 2026.  And yet he's still been pretending the members will ultimately decide, which is an absurdly contradictory position.

For Humza Yousaf and Kate Forbes: "Didn't Nicola Sturgeon's strategy of going to the Supreme Court depend totally on having the Plan B of a de facto referendum in case the court closed off the option of Plan A?  Doesn't abandoning the strategy in an unfinished state halfway through mean that it's been converted - totally needlessly - into a Scotland-shooting-itself-in-the-foot exercise, with literally the sole effect of it being that we no longer have the tactical option that we used to have of tabling a Referendum Bill?"

For Humza Yousaf: "The definition of insanity, Einstein said, is to do the same thing over and over again and expect a different result.  That is what you appear to be doing by saying that you will use an election victory to pressure the UK Government into granting a section 30 order, something that has already failed to work on at least four separate occasions.  But isn't it even worse than that, though?  On those previous occasions, at least we had some leverage because we had the option of tabling a Referendum Bill, which the Supreme Court hadn't yet ruled out.  If your strategy didn't work when we did have some leverage, why would you to expect it to work now that we have no leverage at all?"

For Humza Yousaf: "You've spoken warmly of Nicola Sturgeon and say you wish to continue her work.  Doesn't that sit rather oddly with your plan to totally ditch her flagship policy of a de facto referendum on the day you take over from her?  Given her immense political experience, shouldn't you be considering the possibility that she has made the correct strategic call in this case and that you are being far too hasty in rejecting her judgement?"

For Humza Yousaf: "The first opinion poll of SNP members in this campaign suggests the result could be incredibly close once second preferences are taken into account.  If you win very narrowly, there will be a perception, probably correctly, that you only won because party HQ did not ensure a level playing-field during the campaign.  That could create years of toxic bitterness within the SNP that would cause both you and the party immense harm.  Wouldn't it be in your own interests to call for a much fairer and more transparent election process before it's too late?"

For Humza Yousaf: "Approval ratings for party leaders are often highly predictive of election results.  The current approval ratings show that you are considerably less popular than the Labour leader Anas Sarwar.  They also show that Kate Forbes is considerably more popular than Mr Sarwar.  Did you ever consider that it might be irresponsible to even offer yourself as a candidate, because if you win, you may be needlessly condemning your party to defeat in the 2026 Scottish Parliament election?"

For Kate Forbes: "If you win, will you appoint Ash Regan as Deputy First Minister and Constitution Secretary?"

If she answered "yes" to the above question (which admittedly she probably wouldn't) that might just win her the leadership by sewing up Ash Regan's second preferences.

And a couple of non-strategy questions, just for the hell of it...

For all of the candidates: "Are you in principle supportive of a conditions-free universal basic income that would ensure every citizen has access to basics like food and shelter, regardless of personal circumstances?"

For all of the candidates: "Do you support unilateral nuclear disarmament, or do you think multilateralism has a role to play too?"

Asking it in that innocent way might just coax an unwary candidate into revealing whatever multilateralist impulses they may harbour.

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Friday, March 3, 2023

Data tables from the poll of SNP members show that Kate Forbes has a big lead among older SNP members - and she would need just *76%* of Ash Regan's second preferences to become the next First Minister

To their credit, Savanta have already released the data tables from the first poll of SNP members in the leadership contest, and I've been having a look at them.  On the raw weighted numbers, there are 139 respondents for Humza Yousaf, 114 for Kate Forbes, and 50 for Ash Regan.  If, hypothetically, the Don't Knows end up being distributed between the candidates in the same way as those who have already reached a view, it would mean Forbes will win if Ash Regan's second preferences break just over 3-1 in her favour, which is a less daunting task than the headline percentages led us to believe earlier.  76% of Regan's second preferences in this poll would give Forbes 152 respondents, leaving Humza Yousaf with just 151.  That hinges, of course, on Regan's supporters all using their second preferences, and one of the biggest priorities for Forbes will be ensuring that as many as possible of them do.

Bear in mind that every poll has a margin of error, and in this case it'll be a bit larger than normal because there were only 500 respondents.  If Yousaf's first preference lead is being overestimated, the road to victory for Forbes on the second count could be extremely straightforward and easy.  If it's being underestimated, Forbes' chances may be a fair bit slimmer.

The tables confirm some of the previously untested assumptions of this campaign, because it turns out there's an absolutely enormous disparity between the different age groups.  The reason Forbes is in with a real shout is precisely because, as speculated in The National a few days ago, older SNP members are backing her and they happen to represent the bulk of the membership.  Among 55-64 year old members, Forbes has a 15 percentage point lead over Yousaf (after Don't Knows are excluded), and among over-65s, she has a 10-point advantage.  So the accuracy of this poll will depend on whether Savanta have got the target weightings for each age group correct.  They look in the right ball-park to me, but the reality is that I'm not sure accurate information about the SNP's current membership is even publicly available.

UPDATE: Also worthy of note is that Yousaf has a significant first preference lead among female party members, but among male party members Forbes is essentially tied.  That seems counterintuitive, but this would be far from the first election in the world where the gender gap was 'the wrong way round', so to speak.

11% of the original sample in this poll, some 55 people (bigger than the gap between Yousaf and Forbes on first preferences) told Savanta that they "prefer not to answer" the question.  That's very different from saying "don't know" because it may imply they do know who they will vote for but want to keep it a secret. Could that be the "Shy Kate" factor that was speculated about on the previous thread? SNP members who are too embarrassed to admit they will vote for Forbes in case they're called "far-right bigoted transphobes who are probably married to BEARDED TORIES"?  Best not to jump to that conclusion, actually, because whenever there is a "prefer not to answer" option in a poll, some respondents will select it.  But it's an interesting thought, and if there are a significant number of Shy Kate voters out there, Yousaf could be in a bit of a hole.

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Dramatic boost for Kate Forbes as first poll of SNP members suggests she will become First Minister if she receives the lion's share of Ash Regan's second preferences

Thanks to Keaton for pointing out to me that the first 'proper' poll of the SNP leadership election has been published - ie. a poll of SNP members who actually have a vote, as opposed to the polls we've previously seen of the general public or of SNP voters, most of whom don't have a vote.  It turns out, as we feared, that SNP members are pulling in a different direction from the party's voters and the wider public, and that Humza Yousaf has a lead on first preferences.  However, the good news is that the lead is small enough that there is a clear path to victory for Kate Forbes once second preferences are taken into account, which arguably means she should now be considered the slight favourite.

SNP members' first preferences for leader (Savanta ComRes / Daily Telegraph, 23rd February - 1st March 2023):

Humza Yousaf: 31%
Kate Forbes: 25%
Ash Regan: 11%

So there are two questions here: firstly, will the 32% of undecideds break in roughly the same way as those who already have a view, and secondly, how strongly will Ash Regan's voters break for Forbes on second preferences?  There's no doubt in my mind at all that the majority of Regan voters will go for Forbes over Yousaf, but on these figures they would need to break roughly 9-2 to put Forbes 34-33 in the lead (or the proportionate equivalent of that) on the final count.  That would normally be a tall order, but it's very hard to see why all that many Regan voters would prefer Yousaf to Forbes - he supports the GRR Bill and he's by far the most tepid and 'do nothing' of the three candidates on independence strategy, which puts him at the opposite end of the spectrum from Regan.  Still, voters do odd things in preferential elections, and some people fail to rank more than one candidate.

It's now vital that Regan's most prominent backers (such as, let's face it, a certain gentleman in Somerset) stress the importance of using a second preference for Forbes as a back-up.  Stuart does have an 'everything or nothing at all' streak to his personality, which led him at one point to urge Kate Forbes not to even stand and thus allow a straight fight between Yousaf and Regan (an outcome that would almost certainly have handed Yousaf the leadership on a plate).  If he doesn't want to blow a golden opportunity to stop Yousaf, it would be wise of him to clearly hammer home that this is a preferential voting system and that Forbes is obviously preferable to Yousaf.

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If you wish, you can add a note saying "for the fundraiser", although even if you don't do that, it'll be fairly obvious what the payment is for.

(I'm going to punt the Paypal option for a while, because I received a strange message the other night implying that there might soon be a delay in GoFundMe's payment processing. But if you don't have a Paypal account, last year's fundraiser is still open for donations HERE.)

Thursday, March 2, 2023

Update on Scot Goes Pop's plans for the coming period (including a new opinion poll)

After a number of false starts over a period of more than a year, I'm at last able to say: thank you for your patience, and I've now commissioned the seventh Scot Goes Pop opinion poll.  The wheels will soon be getting into motion, and the results will be with you well before the end of the SNP leadership election.  This new poll will be a bit shorter than the previous six, but I've done the best I can with the funds available.

In all honesty I had been minded to wait even longer, and perhaps to try to top up the funds so that there would be enough to commission the type of all-singing, all-dancing poll we've had before.  However, Nicola Sturgeon's unexpected resignation finally settled the issue as far as I was concerned, because from that point on, a shorter poll in March obviously made far more sense than a longer poll in April or May.

Just to briefly recap how we got here, between the autumn of 2021 and the autumn of last year, I was plugging away at promoting a polling fundraiser which never actually reached its target figure.  That fundraiser had two purposes - firstly to reimburse me for the remaining costs of a poll I ran in October 2021, and which I initially had to partly pay for with my own money, and secondly to help fund a new poll.  I eventually had to temporarily give in last autumn, because even though the progress of the polling fundraiser was very sluggish, it was still diverting attention away from the Scot Goes Pop general fundraiser, and at the end of the day a man has got to eat as well as commission opinion polls.  So I reverted to promoting the general fundraiser only, and there have been a number of very generous donations since then - including, incredibly, a four-figure donation.  However, that fundraiser has still fallen even further short of its target than the polling fundraiser.

To cut a long story short, the Scot Goes Pop coffers will be looking relatively bare after this new poll is completed, so once the SNP leadership election is over, I'm planning to launch a brand new Scot Goes Pop fundraiser for 2023.  (I think it makes sense to wait until then before launching it, because now is the time for me to be covering the leadership election as extensively as I can, and I also don't want to divert attention away from any fundraising Ash Regan or even Kate Forbes might need to do - although admittedly there's no obvious sign of any fundraising at all from any of the candidates yet, so perhaps it's not even necessary in an internal vote of this type.)

In the meantime, though, if anyone feels able and willing to contribute early by "buying me a hot chocolate" or "buying me a ham and cheese toastie", I can't deny it would be extremely helpful.  Here are the options for donations at the moment...

The preferred method is direct payment via Paypal, which is usually more or less instantaneous and can eliminate fees altogether depending on the option you select from the menu.  My Paypal email address is -

If you wish, you can add a note along the lines of "for the fundraiser", but even if you don't it'll still be very obvious what the payment is for.

I know not everyone has a Paypal account, in which case the best option is the Scot Goes Pop general fundraiser from last year, which is still very much open for donations.  I did receive a strange email from GoFundMe a couple of nights ago implying that there might be delays in payment processing, which is one of the reasons I'm now saying Paypal is the preferred method. But the funds will still reach me eventually.

And there are always one or two people who prefer a direct bank transfer - if you'd like to do that, please email me.  My contact email address is different from my Paypal email address above, and can be found either in the sidebar of this blog (desktop version only) or on my Twitter profile.

Last but not least, many thanks to the people who have donated over the last eighteen months and made this new poll possible.  I can't, of course, promise positive results from the poll - all we can do is put the questions out there and see how the public react to them.

Scot Goes Pop On The Spot: Relive ALL THE DRAMA of the first hustings for the SNP leadership election

It took me a while to walk back and I therefore only saw the latter part of the hustings, but from what I've read it looks like we may now have a bit more clarity on Kate Forbes' thoughts on what I will call, for want of a more accurate expression, "her way forward to independence".  Apparently she said something about putting independence front and centre of the Westminster election campaign and that there should be a demand for a referendum within three months of an SNP victory, in order to put pressure on the UK Government.  For the avoidance of doubt, that would be a massive and humiliating step back from the current policy of a de facto referendum. It would idiotically convert the Supreme Court ruling into a real defeat that gives the UK Government an indefinite veto over any exercise of Scottish democratic self-determination (until such time, of course, that an SNP leader re-adopts the current policy, which may be inevitable in the long run).  I would like someone to ask Kate Forbes how she will ensure a legal vote on Scottish independence takes place even if the UK Government keeps saying no.  In other words, where is the Plan B that was rendered essential by risking the Plan A with the Supreme Court referral?  There's no point pretending that it's an unanswerable question or an unsolvable problem, because the de facto referendum plan solves it.  If Kate Forbes is going to ditch that plan, what is her alternative method for holding a vote without Westminster's agreement?  Does she have one?

The snag is, of course, that Humza Yousaf most certainly doesn't have an alternative to offer either, and from him the mood music is several million times worse.  At least Kate Forbes is offering some optimism and urgency.  Although she has no credible plan, at least she's putting a tight timescale on her non-credible plan, if you see what I mean.  She's talking about her newborn daughter growing up in an independent Scotland, which is more promising than (for example) a hope that she'll go through university under independence.  Whereas if Humza was talking about his child, he'd probably speak of his dream that they might collect their pension from an independent Scotland - but only with a lot of hard work, of course, and sustained supermajority conditions apply.  Rome wasn't built in a day.

Unfortunately, this does look like being essentially a Forbes v Yousaf contest, which means that whatever happens, the independence cause is now almost guaranteed to suffer a setback.  But with Ms Forbes it would be a significantly lesser setback, and in situations like this you just have to do your best to ensure that the least worst outcome occurs.  It's also vital that as many people as possible give Ash Regan their first preference vote (with Ms Forbes getting their second preferences), because if the ultimate catastrophe of a Yousaf win is averted, it's possible that a strong third place for Ms Regan might just embolden Ms Forbes to be a little more radical on independence strategy.

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If you'd like to help Scot Goes Pop continue in some form, donations are welcome.  The simplest method is a direct Paypal payment. My Paypal email address is:

If you wish, you can add a note saying "for the fundraiser", although even if you don't do that, it'll be fairly obvious what the payment is for.

(I'm going to punt the Paypal option for a while, because I received a strange message the other night implying that there might soon be a delay in GoFundMe's payment processing.)

Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Kate Forbes is now very close to resuming her place as betting favourite

The polls have consistently shown Humza Yousaf in third place, distantly behind both Kate Forbes and Ash Regan, on net approval ratings.  They've also consistently shown him in second place, behind Ms Forbes but ahead of Ms Regan, on positive preferences for SNP leader.  Literally the only sense in which he's ever been "ahead" is in the betting odds - which of course are based on assumptions and guesswork about how the vote is likely to go, rather than on any objective measure of popularity.  At one point Mr Yousaf was an extremely strong favourite because it was assumed the SNP would never elect a leader with Ms Forbes' strong religious views.  As the polls have started to challenge that assumption, Ms Forbes' odds have gradually shortened again, and now she looks close to returning to her previous position as outright favourite.  Here are the latest prices from the largest betting market...

Humza Yousaf: 1.8
Kate Forbes: 2.34
Ash Regan: 21

Translated, that means Mr Yousaf is thought to have just over a 50% chance of winning, Ms Forbes is thought to have just under a 50% chance, and Ms Regan is considered a rank outsider.  That's a remarkable comeback for Ms Forbes, who at one stage had slipped to around a 10% chance.

Monday, February 27, 2023

We need to stop wrongly referring to Humza Yousaf as "the continuity candidate". By even flirting with the idea of making him First Minister, the SNP are sleepwalking into a revolutionary break from Sturgeon, Salmond and every other previous leader. For the first time, they would cease to be a party seriously attempting to win independence.

Regular readers can hardly have failed to spot that I've been unhappy with the Alba Party's direction of travel in recent months.  I can actually pinpoint the exact moment that my concerns kicked in - it was just after Nicola Sturgeon announced the plan to go to the Supreme Court and then hold a de facto referendum on independence if the ruling went the wrong way.  Prior to that, my only concern about Alba's approach had been the talk about possibly standing a few candidates at the 2024 Westminster election, which due to the first-past-the-post voting system would have split the pro-independence vote.  That would not only have harmed the independence campaign, but it could also have seriously damaged Alba's reputation if any unionist MPs had been elected as a direct result.  Beyond that, I was reasonably satisfied with our tactics - there was certainly nothing wrong with harrying the SNP leadership on independence strategy when they were ludicrously promising a 2023 referendum that they had made no preparations for and probably had no means to deliver.

But then suddenly, everything changed, and Nicola Sturgeon offered a credible way forward.  The details weren't perfect, and they weren't the ones I would have chosen - I would have passed a Referendum Bill first and then let the UK Government be the ones to refer the issue to the Supreme Court, and I would have used an early Holyrood election as the de facto referendum, rather than next year's Westminster election.  But nevertheless, there needed to be some recognition of the fact that no-one has a monopoly on wisdom as far as strategy is concerned, and that the leadership are the leadership and they get to make the final call on those points.  The important thing was that we finally had a route-map towards independence within a reasonable timescale.  I would have expected Alba to react positively to that news and claim it as a triumph for our own campaigning.  I would have expected us to warn that we would still hold the SNP's feet to the fire if there was any sign of backtracking, but otherwise to get wholeheartedly behind this golden opportunity to win our country's independence.

Instead, we did pretty much the opposite.  The message from senior Alba people on social media was about the Sturgeon plan being a sham, and about how we should sabotage it by directly standing candidates against the SNP in every single constituency in the plebiscite election, and about using the supposedly inevitable failure of the Sturgeon plan as an opportunity for Alba to pick up disaffected SNP votes at the 2026 Holyrood election.  Preoccupying ourselves with the possibility of winning a handful of Alba list seats in 2026 when we could be winning independence itself in the intervening period seemed to me to be a bizarre failure to see the bigger picture.  I couldn't understand why all of us had joined Alba in 2021 with a view to pressurising the SNP leadership into proper action on holding an independence vote if we were going to automatically dismiss absolutely any proper action the SNP leadership were pressurised into taking as a sham or a stunt.  If our worldview really was that cynical, what was the point in us even having bothered?  Weirdly, the closer the SNP got to holding a vote on independence, the angrier we seemed to get at them.  It was as if we didn't really want what we had said we wanted, and that the real agenda was something else.  Again, that seemingly destructive attitude not only harmed the independence cause, it also severely harmed Alba's reputation, because it looked as if we were not - and never had been - acting in good faith.

However, Nicola Sturgeon has now resigned, totally unexpectedly - and it has to be said some Alba people bear at least a little of the responsibility for any consequences that flow from that, given how hellbent they've been on bringing her down at all costs. We now find ourselves in a totally new situation where the person who has been wrongly referred to (including admittedly by myself) as the "continuity candidate" offers anything but continuity.  He's not hiding his plans in any way - he would rip up Sturgeon's planned de facto referendum, and replace it with...nothing.  For the first time in its history, the SNP would no longer be actively trying to win independence.  It would remain nominally committed to independence as a long-term "aspiration", but in the absence of any route-map to the goal, that would be an utterly meaningless form of words.  It would be roughly analogous to the Chinese Communist Party remaining nominally committed to the Marxist-Leninist doctrine of "moving beyond the primary stage of socialism" in about one hundred years' time.  Although Yousaf has not specified a timescale of one hundred years, or the quarter of a century that would take us to Stewart McDonald's target date of 2050, he's made no secret whatever of the fact that he regards independence as being many, many years away.  Worse still, because he's being so open during the leadership campaign about scrapping any attempt to win independence in the foreseeable future, he would actually have a cast-iron mandate from the SNP membership for his "do nothing indefinitely" agenda.  Many of his supporters are probably genuine pro-indy folk who are so preoccupied by issues like the GRR and equal marriage that they haven't properly registered what they are about to endorse with their vote.  A Yousaf triumph would, in short, be an unmitigated disaster for the independence cause, because it would mark the end of the SNP's long and proud history as a meaningfully pro-independence party.

What it reminds me of in certain respects is the story of recent years in Quebec, where the pro-independence governments of the past have been replaced by a supposedly "nationalist" government that is nominally neutral on the question of whether Quebec should remain part of Canada or become a sovereign state.  Crucially, it is totally opposed to holding any further referendum on independence, and of course if you close off any means of actually winning independence, the question of whether you're officially in favour of independence or not becomes somewhat academic.  That's the grim future Yousaf holds in store for Scotland.  Of course he'll persevere with the fiction that he wants the SNP to build support for independence to such a high level that the UK Government won't be able to ignore it, but that's just a tactic to absolve himself of the blame for the fact that no progress is going to be made under his leadership.  At the end of each year, when independence is no closer, he'll say that's because independence campaigners haven't succeeded in pushing Yes support high enough.  When asked how he knows it's not high enough, he'll say it obviously isn't because if it had been the UK Government would have buckled by now.  "No use looking at me, guys, if you want independence you'll just have to go out and pound the streets even harder."  Not only is it an endlessly circular argument, it's an endlessly renewable excuse.

It shouldn't go without note that on the day after the UK voted to leave the European Union, Nicola Sturgeon announced that a second independence referendum was "highly likely".  In every SNP manifesto since then, that referendum has been promised.  A Yousaf win would mark a definitive dead end for that process, and a voluntary running up of the flag of surrender.  The logic of his position is inescapably that Brexit was never a justification for independence or for a referendum, that Scotland being dragged out of the EU against its will is in fact wholly tolerable for an indefinite period, that no referendum should ever have been promised, that no mandate for a referendum should ever have been sought, that no mandate received for a referendum should be taken remotely seriously and certainly shouldn't be honoured, and indeed that even the 2014 referendum on independence shouldn't have been held because there was no sustained supermajority for Yes in the polls at the time.

Pretty much everything that Alba definitely shouldn't have been doing over the last few months would suddenly become entirely reasonable and justified from the date that Yousaf becomes leader.  If the SNP are no longer trying to win independence, it's hard to see much point in avoiding splitting the pro-indy vote in first-past-the-post elections.  I suppose there would still be an argument that the SNP leader is not the SNP itself, and there might be a post-Yousaf future in which the party would eventually revert to what it has been until now, and that maintaining a pro-indy majority at Westminster would thus be important to keep the flame burning until Yousaf is deposed.  But on the other hand, the worse Yousaf does in elections, the earlier he's likely to be deposed, so it's a finely-balanced argument.

Although there would be nothing much left to lose for Alba or another pro-indy party in embarking on a potentially decades-long project to replace a Yousaf-led SNP, that's not a challenge I would relish, because the need for doing that would be a sign that we - collectively as a movement - have utterly failed.  This disaster needs to be averted. Let's not get to the point where we're scratching our heads about how we can possibly reverse it, let's make sure it never happens in the first place.  SNP members need to wake up to the danger and stop Yousaf.  It's now or never.

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Sunday, February 26, 2023

The case for thinking this contest is winnable for Kate Forbes

I agree with a fair bit of Craig Murray's latest blogpost, but there's one part I'll pick up on, because it's not actually the case that there have been no membership-wide votes in the SNP for twenty years.  There have in fact been three depute leadership elections since 2014, and I remember them well because I voted in all three.  On the face of it, the outcomes do not appear to bear out Craig's suspicion that there is a tide of radicalism within the SNP membership just waiting to burst forth...


1st) Keith Brown
2nd) Julie Hepburn
3rd) Chris McEleny


1st) Angus Robertson
2nd) Tommy Sheppard
3rd) Alyn Smith
4th) Chris McEleny


1st) Stewart Hosie
2nd) Keith Brown
3rd) Angela Constance

The 2018 result almost gives the impression that SNP members were deliberately ranking the candidates from least radical to most radical on independence strategy.  The most radical candidate of the lot, Chris McEleny, finished last on both occasions he stood, and although his vote increased markedly between 2016 and 2018 as dissatisfaction with the leadership's over-caution grew, many of his supporters have since followed him to the Alba Party and thus can't vote in this election.  (I'm in that category myself.)  So it might almost be assumed that The Trendies, ie. the Sturgeon-aligned youthful identity politics obsessives who want decades-long political careers and don't want independence getting in the way of that, are in the ascendancy in the membership, and that Humza Yousaf is thus bound to win.

I'm actually not at all sure that's right - after all, Alyn Smith is the undisputed "Daddy" of the soft unionist, identity politics wing of the SNP, and he only finished a distant third in 2016.  I think what actually happened on all three occasions is that SNP members picked the candidate they knew best, liked most and instinctively trusted.  So that resulted in them going for an establishment choice, but I don't think it should be inferred that any of the winning candidates would have suffered if they had offered a more radical independence prospectus - in fact, if they had done, they might have won by an even greater margin.  It's just that being strong on independence isn't sufficient in itself - the members will always choose on personal qualities first.  All other considerations are just the fine-tuning.

That would fit in with the analysis mentioned in The National that 70% of SNP members are over the age of 50 and not as socially liberal as might be assumed.  There are reasons why the membership have leaned towards establishment candidates in recent years but those reasons may have little to do with identity politics issues or a perverse desire to kick independence into the long grass.  Which would be great news for Kate Forbes, because she's just as 'establishment' as Humza Yousaf in that she's a very senior member of the government, and is equally as well known to members.  So if Yousaf and Forbes start on a level playing field in that sense, and if Forbes' social conservatism isn't necessarily a barrier, is there any reason to doubt that SNP members might just come to the same conclusion that the general public are expressing in opinion polls - ie. that Forbes is by some distance the more likeable and trustworthy of the two, and is thus the most deserving of support?

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