Friday, April 7, 2023

A quick reply to Professor John Robertson (this doesn't warrant anything more than "quick")

Yesterday I called out Professor John Robertson for essentially fibbing about the results of an opinion poll.  He had claimed that the new Survation poll showed the SNP "surging into a 12% lead", when in fact the previous Survation poll had also shown a 12% lead - so it was a static position rather than a surge.  Rather comically, he then left comments on my post which more or less admitted he was trying it on, but claimed that it was justified because the unionist media do exactly the same thing all the time.  He also encouraged me to join in with the fibs.

I published his first couple of comments, but it then went totally beyond a joke - he started trawling through ancient posts on this blog and leaving infantile insults on them, and predictably he also started lecturing me on his all-time favourite subject of how anyone who doesn't think a man can turn himself into a woman at the stroke of a pen is basically a Nazi.  I told him that enough was enough and that he should take his identity politics extremism and his deeply peculiar attitude to the truth elsewhere.  Predictably, he's now lashed out with a rant on his own blog, which randomly lumps me in with a "gang" that apparently also includes Robin McAlpine, Craig Murray and - of all people - Stuart Campbell.  (I self-evidently have very little in common with Campbell and my views about him are extremely well known, but I certainly have no objection to being compared with Robin McAlpine and Craig Murray - I've often strongly disagreed with them on particular points, but they are both serious and principled people who I very much respect.)

There's remarkably little substance to Robertson's rant - it just seems to amount to "I used to think these people were brill but now I think they're rubbish".  It's as if, since retiring from academia, Robertson has reverted to the primary school playground.  To the extent that there's anything more specific, it's this - 

"They were impressive then, but today, all are more bothered by a range of issues including gender recognition reforms, economic policies, the campaign strategy and now leadership election conspiracy theories, than they seem to be about winning independence."

I can't speak for the other three men, but anyone who has ever read this blog will know that the absolute polar opposite of that allegation is true of me.  I would put up with almost anything from the SNP, and as a former member of long standing frequently did so, as long as they remained committed to independence.  Neoliberal economics, the gender nonsense, uninspiring campaign pitches, the ruination of an SSSI at the behest of Donald Trump, you name it, I can and did put up with it.  It was only when the SNP ceased to work towards independence that I became deeply concerned and started hoping Alex Salmond might set up a new party to pressurise the SNP into returning to the indy fold.  

The best proof of my good faith came in the middle of last year, when I was still on the Alba NEC.  As soon as Nicola Sturgeon announced the plan for a de facto referendum, I was very pleasantly surprised and said both publicly and privately that Alba needed to embrace the de facto referendum, make sure it happened, make it work, and above all else not sabotage it by splitting the Yes vote.  I also pointed out repeatedly that Alba's obsession with bringing down Nicola Sturgeon was counterproductive, and if I may say so, history has proved me spot on about that - as soon as Sturgeon was forced out, the de facto referendum plan disappeared with her.  Not even Kate Forbes would have kept faith with it.  It's unlikely that Robertson is unaware of the views I expressed, because on the very day that Nicola Sturgeon resigned, The National did a two page splash about what I had said and featured a reply from Chris McEleny.  (Arguably The National's intention was to cause as much trouble for Alba as possible, but only they can know for sure what it was all about from their point of view.)

Every step of the way, then, I have acted not as a partisan but as an independence supporter who always puts independence first.  The reason I am now once again hostile to the SNP leadership under Yousaf is because they have, for the first time since at least the major split of 1942, indefinitely abandoned all attempts to secure independence.  It is thus Robertson who has allowed his focus on independence to drift due to his side-passion for one particular devolutionist party and its non-independence-related policies.  It goes further than that, though, because I defy anyone to seriously claim that Robertson would have remained a propagandist for the SNP if Kate Forbes had won and ditched GRR reform.  I'm not quite sure what would have happened to his blog, but if it had continued at all, there would have been a very abrupt change of direction.  I don't doubt that Robertson is genuinely pro-independence, but just like Stuart Campbell, the "women with beards" thing is his first love, and it will always come before absolutely everything else, including the freedom of his country.

Personally, I would always choose independence.  With or without gender self-ID.  With or without Tory rule.  With or without Humza Yousaf or Kate Forbes as SNP leader.  Can Robertson say the same?  Spoiler alert: no of course he can't.

Thursday, April 6, 2023

Stunning Survation survey shows staggering surge in independence support

Many thanks to a borderline-abusive troll on the previous thread, cowering as always behind anonymity, for belatedly pointing me in the direction of yet another poll with a very positive story to tell on independence.  I overlooked it yesterday due to the simulcast of Gardening Live on multiple news channels.

Survation poll, 29th March - 3rd April 2023:

Should Scotland be an independent country?

Yes 47% (+2)
No 53% (-2)

Unlike every other poll we've seen since Humza Yousaf was narrowly elected as SNP leader in highly controversial circumstances, there's no decrease in the SNP vote (or no *further* decrease, I should say, because a decline had already happened in the final weeks of Nicola Sturgeon's leadership).  Indeed, there's even a small increase - albeit a statistically insignificant one - in the SNP's Holyrood support. However, it must be borne in mind that the fieldwork for the poll took place before the arrest of Peter Murrell and the raid on his and Ms Sturgeon's shared home, so even if Survation's numbers are more accurate than those of other firms (a big if), there's a danger that the reprieve for the SNP may be only temporary.

Scottish voting intentions for the next UK general election:

SNP 40% (-)
Labour 32% (-)
Conservatives 17% (-1)
Liberal Democrats 7% (+1)
Greens 1% (-)
Reform UK 1% (n/a)
Alba 1% (-)

Scottish Parliament constituency ballot:

SNP 42% (+1)
Labour 30% (+1)
Conservatives 18% (-)
Liberal Democrats 7% (-1)

Scottish Parliament regional list ballot:

SNP 35% (+2)
Labour 25% (-2)
Conservatives 18% (-1)
Greens 9% (+1)
Liberal Democrats 7% (-1)
Reform UK 2% (-)

(Note: The percentage changes above are measured from the most recent published Survation numbers in March.  Strangely, Survation's own Twitter account is measuring the percentage changes from an earlier poll in February and is therefore showing a significant drop in the SNP's vote.  This may imply that they do not regard the March poll as being technically a "Survation poll" due to the involvement of the Diffley Partnership.  Whether this is just a 'branding' difference or something more substantive isn't clear.  I cannot offer an explanation for the bizarre inconsistency of Alba apparently being offered as an option to respondents on the Westminster question but not on the Holyrood list question.)

Seats projections (with changes from most recent election):

UK Parliament: SNP 36 (-12), Labour 14 (+13), Liberal Democrats 5 (+1), Conservatives 4 (-2)

Scottish Parliament: SNP 59 (-5), Labour 31 (+9), Conservatives 23 (-8), Greens 10 (+2), Liberal Democrats 6 (+2)

By the way, our anonymous troll informed me that I "must" have seen this poll because Professor John Robertson's blog (which I have not read for several years) had covered it earlier today.  Having now checked Robertson's piece, this helpfully gives me the opportunity to point out that it is factually inaccurate.  Robertson claims that the SNP lead over Labour has "surged to 12%".  As you can see for yourself from the numbers above, the SNP have remained eight points ahead of Labour on Westminster voting intentions and are twelve points clear on the Holyrood constituency ballot, but that lead is absolutely static from the twelve point lead in the previous poll.  The only ballot on which the SNP lead has increased is the Holyrood list ballot, but the new lead there is ten points, not twelve.  So whichever way you cut it, Robertson is wrong and there is no "surge to a 12% lead".  I appreciate he's an out-and-out propagandist, but propaganda tends to be more effective when it stays just about within the bounds of truthfulness.

Wednesday, April 5, 2023

The SNP leadership election was intentionally timed to ensure members voted in the dark. Fairness and transparency now dictates that they must have the chance to accept or reject the continuity candidate with their eyes wide open.

With apologies, I'm going to have to be totally ruthless about not allowing anyone to post comments on this blog that touch directly on matters that are now subject to the Contempt of Court Act.  However, here are my general thoughts for the day, and I'd invite anyone trying to leave comments to keep it equally general.

Tuesday, April 4, 2023

Remarkable Redfield & Wilton poll shows INCREASE in support for independence, and majority support for holding an independence referendum - but doubts continue to grow over Humza Yousaf's leadership as SNP lead at Westminster slips to new low of five points

It's extremely heartening to see how resilient support for independence has proved as the SNP has indulged in a prolonged period of self-harm (which will never really be over until they eventually rectify the mistake of electing Humza Yousaf as leader).  Here we have an example of independence support actually increasing as the SNP's own support continues to slip backwards - although in this case the independence results may simply represent a reversion to the mean, because the previous Redfíeld & Wilton poll looked a bit like an outlier with the No vote unusually high.

Redfield & Wilton poll (31st March-1st April 2023)

Should Scotland be an independent country?

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

Just like in the Panelbase poll at the weekend, the Yes side was extremely unlucky to be rounded down rather than up - it was very nearly a two-point increase to 47%.  Rounded to one decimal place, the result is Yes 46.4%, No 53.6%.  The real improvement for Yes can be seen more clearly in the results with Don't Knows left in: Yes 44% (+2), No 50% (-1).

There's also a corresponding improvement - and a much more dramatic one - in public attitudes towards holding an independence referendum in the relatively near future.  43% of respondents would support a referendum being held within one to five years - an increase of six points from the previous poll.  41% take the opposite view, a decline of three points, meaning there is a slim majority in favour of a referendum once Don't Knows are stripped out.  Even when asked whether a referendum should be held within the very tight timescale of one year, respondents are almost evenly divided with 41% in favour, an increase of seven points, and 44% opposed, a decrease of five points.  The appetite for both independence and voting on independence seems pretty considerable these days, and it's great to see.

For some bizarre reason Redfield & Wilton keep asking people whether they "agree with Alister Jack" that a referendum should only be held if polls show 60% of people want one.  A mere 50% of respondents agree with him, which I'm sure Mr Jack will confirm means that his proposal has been soundly rejected.  I mean, obviously to be consistent about it, he'd need 60% support in opinion polls to have a "real" majority, and he's way, way, WAY short of that.  50%, Alister?  Pathetic.  Another decisive win for the pro-indy camp.

Now for the less good news - the first Redfield & Wilton poll since Humza Yousaf became First Minister shows the SNP lead for Westminster dropping to just five percentage points, which is lower even than in the recent Savanta and Panelbase polls.  This is bound to increase fears that the SNP simply cannot afford to go into next year's Westminster election with Yousaf as leader if they want to avoid a landmark national defeat.

Scottish voting intentions for the next UK general election:

SNP 36% (-3)
Labour 31% (+2)
Conservatives 19% (-3)
Liberal Democrats 10% (+4)
Greens 2% (-)
Reform UK 2% (-)

Seats projection (current boundaries, with changes from 2019 election): SNP 28 (-20), Labour 19 (+18), Conservatives 7 (+1), Liberal Democrats 5 (+1)

That will send a chill down the backs of SNP MPs, because the projection points to an end of the pro-independence majority at Westminster that has been sustained since May 2015.

As I said about the Panelbase poll, what makes these poor results particularly worrying is that they seem to have happened in the middle of a honeymoon period (of sorts) for Yousaf.  In the personal ratings there are clear signs of a honeymoon, with Yousaf's net approval rating standing at -7.  That's obviously extremely poor for any incoming First Minister, and places him way behind both Keir Starmer (+8) and Anas Sarwar (+10), but nevertheless it's better than most polls showed during the leadership campaign and also before that.  The suspicion must be that it's just a temporary bounce caused by the positive publicity any new leader can expect in their first few days, and that he'll soon slip back down to where he previously was.  If that happens, will the SNP's popularity slip with him, pushing them down into second place for the first time in many, many years?  It's certainly a real danger.

On the plus side, though, the Holyrood numbers are not too dreadful for the SNP, or at least not in the context of the times.

Scottish Parliament constituency ballot:

SNP 38% (-2)
Labour 28% (-1)
Conservatives 18% (-2)
Liberal Democrats 10% (+3)
Greens 3% (+1)
Reform UK 2% (-)

Scottish Parliament regional list ballot:

SNP 30% (+1)
Labour 24% (-2)
Conservatives 19% (-1)
Liberal Democrats 13% (+2)
Greens 11% (+1)
Reform UK 2% (-)

Seats projection (with changes from 2021 election): SNP 52 (-12), Labour 28 (+6), Conservatives 23 (-8), Greens 13 (+5), Liberal Democrats 13 (+8)

Incredibly, the pro-independence majority would just about be salvaged on those numbers - the SNP and Greens in combination would have 65 seats, and unionist parties combined would only have 64.

Monday, April 3, 2023

Panelbase poll: a clear majority of SNP voters want the Scottish Government to make delivering independence a top priority - but a majority of SNP voters also DON'T want the GRR veto to be challenged in court

The tables for the Panelbase poll in the Sunday Times were released today, and there are a few nuggets of interest. First of all, although the headline independence numbers from the poll are Yes 48%, No 52%, they were incredibly close to being rounded up to Yes 49%, No 51%.  To one decimal place, the result is Yes 48.5%, No 51.5% - so I think we're safe to assume there's still a big appetite for independence out there, in spite of the SNP's determination to implode over recent weeks.

Secondly, it turns out there's one important group of people who are not going to be at all impressed by Humza Yousaf's decision to abandon all attempts to win independence - and that's SNP voters, without whom it wouldn't even be possible for Yousaf to be First Minister.  Respondents to the poll were asked to name up to three things that they thought should be priorities for the new SNP leader to focus on - and 54% of people who voted SNP at the 2019 general election named independence.  That's startlingly close to the number of SNP voters who chose the bread and butter issues of health (65%) and the economy (67%).  You can imagine the effect on SNP support if the government was felt to be neglecting health and the economy, so it's reasonable to expect a very similar effect if no attempts are made to deliver independence, which almost as many SNP voters regard as a very high priority.  There's no point in Humza and his loyal followers shrugging their shoulders in mystification at plunging SNP support - the shelving of the manifesto commitment to a vote on independence is clearly likely to be one of the key factors.

One plan Yousaf very much hasn't shelved, though, is the intention to challenge the imperial veto of the GRR Bill in court. Ironically, SNP voters aren't behind him on that.  Only 39% of them want a legal challenge, whereas a combined total of 61% either want the GRR Bill abandoned completely, or for a compromise to be reached with the UK Government.  As I've said before, I have no great problem with the legal challenge, because although the GRR Bill would have been a truly terrible piece of legislation, we should be able to resolve our own mistakes in line with the principle of self-government rather than relying on God-like interventions from a foreign capital.  But the challenge still seems strategically odd to me, because unlike the long-running question mark over whether the Scottish Parliament had the power to pass a Referendum Bill without Westminster's consent, which genuinely was the subject of heated dispute between different legal experts, there seems to be no real ambiguity over the fact that Westminster does have the legal power of veto in the circumstances it was used.

One obvious question is how the hardline trans rights activists react when the challenge is lost and it becomes literally impossible to deliver self-ID until Scotland becomes an independent country.  Starmer has hurriedly switched sides, so there's no longer any rescue coming from that direction.  Will we then hear about how it's "transphobic" and "far right" for Humza to insist on sustained supermajorities before holding a vote on independence?  Or will we suddenly find out that previously unsuspected reserves of patience and caution are present when the only remaining route to self-ID is indy? It'll be interesting to see.

Sunday, April 2, 2023

The scary thing is that this actually is the honeymoon

Although it seemed fairly obvious from Humza Yousaf's dismal public approval ratings during the leadership election that the SNP were likely to lose support with him at the helm, I did wonder if that consequence might be delayed for a month or two (or three) due to the honeymoon effect that most new leaders enjoy when they first take over.  After all, in spite of the self-inflicted wound caused by (effectively) sacking Kate Forbes and all but one of her supporters, Humza has enjoyed some lovely coverage over his first week, as you'd expect given the symbolism of him being Scotland's first ethnic minority, Asian and Muslim leader.  (I'm using the word 'leader' because there have only been six First Ministers so far, and in pre-devolution times the role of national leader was effectively filled, albeit on a less democratic basis, by the Secretary of State for Scotland.)

So it was a disappointment that the first two polls of the Yousaf era, from Savanta and Panelbase, both showed the SNP vote already down on Holyrood and Westminster voting intentions, with Labour getting perilously close to drawing level, with swathes of SNP Westminster MPs projected to lose their seats, and with the precious pro-indy majority at Holyrood now projected to be lost.  Interestingly, though, I noticed this morning that underneath the bonnet, there does seem to be evidence of a mini-honeymoon for Humza.  Here are the new approval ratings from Savanta -

Nicola Sturgeon (SNP): +10
Anas Sarwar (Labour): -1
Kate Forbes (SNP): -2
Humza Yousaf (SNP): -12

Although those numbers look pretty awful for any newly-installed First Minister, they do actually represent an improvement for Yousaf, which seems to be driven almost wholly by current SNP supporters - exactly as you'd expect in the period of afterglow and novelty.  The problem is that you'd then expect a reversion to, at best, the previous approval ratings once the afterglow wears off.  So eleven points behind the Labour leader, and ten points behind his narrowly defeated rival for the SNP leadership, may be as good as it ever gets for Yousaf.  If and when his ratings start slipping again, there's an obvious danger that the current narrow SNP lead in the polls will be replaced by some sort of Labour lead.

The reality is that you can't replace a leader whose net rating is eleven points better than Anas Sarwar with a leader whose net rating is eleven points worse than Anas Sarwar and not expect to pay a heavy price in voting intention numbers.  Admittedly there was no alternative leader available who was quite as popular as Nicola Sturgeon, but as you can see from the above numbers, Kate Forbes is right in the middle of the two extremes and would have been able to compete on roughly equal terms with Sarwar.

I don't expect a Liz Truss scenario, with Yousaf forced out within a month or two.  But if, within six months, the SNP vote has dropped by just a few more percentage points and three-quarters of SNP MPs are staring down the barrel of losing their seats next year, I think the difficult question may start to be asked of whether the drastic step of replacing Yousaf at an early stage might be better than the alternative.  The trajectory points to a relatively early leadership crisis, and at the very least there may be tremendous pressure on Yousaf to reverse his stubborn factional course and to bring back Kate Forbes, possibly as Deputy First Minister or as Finance Secretary (or both).

PS. Does anyone know the independence numbers from the new Panelbase poll in the Sunday Times?  I get the impression they're pretty decent, but not being a payer of the Murdoch Levy I can't find them.

UPDATE: 'Real Indy Loun' on Twitter has answered the above question - the numbers are Yes 48% (-), No 52% (-).  That's now three polls in a row that suggest the trend on independence support has become decoupled from the trend on SNP support, with the Yes vote holding up strongly as the SNP vote falls.