Saturday, May 20, 2023

The final betrayal: Yousaf goes through the motions of holding the special conference, but cynically changes the purpose of the event into the total opposite of the one Sturgeon intended. It's now a mechanism for disempowering SNP members and burying independence for however long Yousaf remains leader.

If The National are reporting this development accurately, the new specified function of the conference is - 

"will be solely focused on how Scotland is able to hold a legally binding independence referendum"

That should be an incredibly short discussion, because the Supreme Court has ruled that Scotland is not able to hold a referendum of any sort, either legally binding or non-binding.  A referendum is entirely in the gift of the UK Government, who have definitely ruled it out.  End of story.

For the avoidance of doubt, the purpose of the special conference is now the total opposite of the one intended by Nicola Sturgeon when she announced it.  It was supposed to be an event at which SNP members thrashed out the details and timings of a vote on independence that would be neither a referendum (because such a thing is no longer possible) nor legally binding, and members were to be given the final say because Ms Sturgeon did not "have a monopoly on wisdom".  Now it's a conference in which you can choose any option you like, just so long as it buries the Sturgeon plan of using a scheduled election as a de facto referendum. That is required of members because apparently Yousaf DOES have a monopoly on wisdom.  The manner in which Yousaf is persevering with the conference is a bit like the leaders of a coup announcing that elections will go ahead as planned, but with the minor difference that there'll only be one legal party and one approved list of candidates that everyone will be required to vote for.

Let me confront Yousaf loyalists with two inconvenient points of reality.  Firstly, there are literally no options for SNP members to choose between at this conference if it has already been predetermined by the leadership that a legally-binding referendum is the only legitimate way of winning independence.  There are no variations or flavours to that method - the only way you can get a referendum is by saying "please, Mr Jack, can we have a Section 30?" and then to go on repeating that question into infinity when the answer is always no.  The conference is therefore by definition a sham and a rubber-stamp of a decision that has already been taken.

Secondly, the SNP's conditions for a process that qualifies as "gold standard" now seem to significantly exceed the ones that applied even under the Edinburgh Agreement in 2014, because the 2014 referendum was categorically NOT legally-binding.  The UK Government made a political declaration that they would accept the outcome of the vote, but that declaration had no legal force or effect.  There would have been no legal automaticity to independence in the event of a Yes majority vote.  The Yousaf leadership seem intent on putting as many barriers in the way of independence as humanly possible, including ones that are self-evidently unnecessary, and it's reasonable to infer that they are doing so because they are a de facto devolutionist leadership.  The SNP have ceased to be a party actively seeking to win independence for the first time since at least 1942, and the purpose of the special conference is now to formally endorse the shelving of independence - a grotesque perversion of the reason Nicola Sturgeon called it.

The fact that the SNP under Yousaf are to all intents and purposes opposed to winning independence in any conditions that might ever exist in the real world does not put the independence movement in an impossible position by any means, but it puts us in a bloody awkward position.  It means independence can only happen if Yousaf is either replaced as leader or forced into reversing course entirely, and the only way in which either of those events will occur is if the SNP are shocked into taking drastic action as a result of voters abandoning them.  That's not something I find myself remotely comfortable wishing for, and indeed I'm not going to wish for it.  I'm sure I'm not alone in that.  The least worst outcome from here would be if poor opinion poll results prove a sufficient shock to bring Yousaf down before the general election, but I have a horrible feeling that only actual seat losses in an actual election would bring enough pressure to bear.

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I launched the Scot Goes Pop fundraiser for 2023 a couple of weeks ago, and the running total has now passed £1200.  The target figure is £8500, however, so there's still quite some distance to travel.  If you'd like to help Scot Goes Pop continue by making a donation, please click HERE.  Many thanks to everyone who has donated so far.

Friday, May 19, 2023

The SNP have no independence strategy but lots of pro-indy votes. For Alba the reverse is true. How do we square this circle?

In 2021, I made three adventurous predictions about the result of the Holyrood election, one of which was that Alba was likely to win at least a seat or two.  When I was later taunted about being a long way out with the Alba prediction, I pointed out that I never claimed to be Nostradamus, but actually the other two predictions were proved right, and in the immortal words of Meatloaf, "two out of three ain't bad". And in fairness, I think last night's Question Time was a belated insight into why I made that Alba prediction in the first place, because you could see how the audience started to warm to Alex Salmond once he was given the space to talk sense about a wide range of bread-and-butter issues.  What I hadn't anticipated in 2021 was that the BBC in particular would treat Alba in the same way that they treated Sinn Fein during the Troubles - ie. as a 'non-normal' party who could only be given airtime if every second of that airtime was devoted to delegitimising their very existence.  Last night will have repaired some of that damage, but only a small portion of it, simply because of Question Time's modest audience figures.

The programme encapsulated the problem faced by the independence movement at present, because it confirmed that there is a party with the right independence strategy and a convincing leadership, but that party is the one with 2-3% of the vote, not the party with 30-40% of the vote.  Mairi McAllan's answers on behalf of the SNP were dismal beyond belief, and confirmed yet again that the SNP under Yousaf have ceased to be a party actively seeking to win independence for the first time since at least 1942.  So how do we square this circle?  I know many of my fellow Alba members would say "simple - everyone ditch the SNP and start voting Alba" but in the real world that's not likely to happen any time soon, barring some kind of game-changing event such as a high-profile defection or series of defections.  And while there's a degree of impatience with the likes of Ash Regan for not joining Alba as of yet, those parliamentarians may well have calculated that there is still a bigger percentage chance of "recapturing the SNP" than there is of building up Alba to the point where it overtakes the SNP as the largest pro-indy party.  Given that Yousaf only won the leadership by a wafer-thin margin, it would be hard to argue that they're wrong about that, at least for the moment.  The dilemma is that you can't pursue 'change the SNP from inside' and 'leave the SNP and replace it' strategies simultaneously - you have to commit to one or the other, albeit with the option of switching from the first to the second if the first runs out of road.

But the second dilemma is just how long do you give it?  What if, despite his vulnerability and unpopularity, Humza Yousaf does a John Major and clings on by his fingertips for a good few years?  In that event, some parliamentarians may end up wishing they'd tried to change the weather by switching parties.  One possibility that is perhaps more likely than it currently seems is that SNP rebels could set up yet another new party, albeit one that becomes a close ally of Alba's, perhaps with a relationship along the lines of the SDP-Liberal Alliance of the 1980s.  That way they might feel bolder about leaving the SNP, because they wouldn't have to worry so much about any image problems or baggage that Alba has, while they could still benefit from the political talents of Alex Salmond and other leading members of Alba.  It would be a neat way of resolving the current stalemate - but first of all the SNP rebels would have to feel their current party is unsalvageable, and we may yet be some distance from that.

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I launched the Scot Goes Pop fundraiser for 2023 a couple of weeks ago, and the running total has now passed £1200.  The target figure is £8500, however, so there's still quite some distance to travel.  If you'd like to help Scot Goes Pop continue by making a donation, please click HERE.  Many thanks to everyone who has donated so far.

Monday, May 15, 2023

A belated look at last week's Survation poll showing another boost in support for independence - but more grim numbers for the unpopular new SNP leader Humza Yousaf

I'm not firing on all cylinders because of my injuries, so please forgive any spells of radio silence.  However, I did promise to have a belated look at last week's Survation / True North poll (I believe it was published on Wednesday), so let's quickly do that now.  It follows the familiar recent pattern of showing good news for independence support, but bad news for the SNP under their unpopular new leader Humza Yousaf.  Nevertheless, the previous Survation poll was unusually decent for the SNP, so the drop in SNP support in the new poll perhaps needs to be seen in that context.

Should Scotland be an independent country?

Yes 48% (+1)
No 52% (-1)

Scottish voting intentions for the next UK general election:

SNP 38% (-2)
Labour 31% (-1)
Conservatives 18% (+1)
Liberal Democrats 9% (+2)
Greens 2% (+1)
Reform UK 1% (-1)
Alba 1% (-)

Seats projection (current boundaries, with changes from 2019 election): SNP 32 (-16), Labour 16 (+15), Conservatives 6  (-), Liberal Democrats 5 (+1)

The SNP are just about retaining their majority in Scottish seats at Westminster on these numbers - they would have 32 seats and unionist parties in combination would have 27.  In the real world, though, that's too fragile an advantage to bring to the table in a Westminster election, which is an 'away fixture' for the SNP and a 'home fixture' for both Labour and the Tories.  If the SNP don't change their leader before the general election, they face the very real prospect of losing their Westminster majority and of slipping into second place behind Labour.

Scottish Parliament constituency ballot:

SNP 39% (-3)
Labour 30% (-)
Conservatives 19% (+1)
Liberal Democrats 9% (+2)

Scottish Parliament regional list ballot:

SNP 32% (-3)
Labour 26% (+1)
Conservatives 19% (+1)
Greens 10% (+1)
Liberal Democrats 7% (-)
Alba 3% (n/a)
Reform UK 2% (-)

Seats projection (with changes from 2021 election): SNP 51 (-13), Labour 36 (+14), Conservatives 24 (-7), Greens 10 (+2), Liberal Democrats 8 (+4)

The pro-independence majority at Holyrood would be lost on these numbers - the SNP and Greens in combination would have 61 seats, and unionist parties in combination would have 68.

Humza Yousaf's net personal approval rating in this poll stands at -13, which puts him eighteen points behind Anas Sarwar, and fifteen points behind Keir Starmer.

I was specifically asked on Wednesday if it was true that the poll has Alba on 6% of the list vote in Glasgow.  Technically the answer is "yes" but to be absolutely blunt I regard regional subsamples in Scottish polls as totally unreliable and meaningless.  To get an idea of whether Alba have a chance of nicking a seat somewhere, you need to look at the national figure, and admittedly on 3% it's just about possible, albeit unlikely.  On 4% there'd be a better chance, but what Alba really need to do is push up to 6% of the national list vote, on which they could expect to take something in the region of 6-8 seats.

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I launched the Scot Goes Pop fundraiser for 2023 a couple of weeks ago, and the running total has now passed £1200.  The target figure is £8500, however, so there's still quite some distance to travel.  If you'd like to help Scot Goes Pop continue by making a donation, please click HERE.  Many thanks to everyone who has donated so far.