Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Fresh questions for Humza over his refusal to try to win independence, as new poll from Ipsos continues to show that his fabled 'sustained supermajority' for Yes already exists, and currently stands at 53%

You rather suspect the London media will be scratching their heads in incomprehension as this latest full-scale Scottish poll from Ipsos, arguably the UK polling firm with the strongest pedigree, continues to show a clear pro-independence majority, driving a coach and horses through the recent media narrative that independence is essentially dead.

Should Scotland be an independent country? (Ipsos / STV, 15th-21st May 2023)

Yes 53% (-3)
No 47% (+3)

This is the first time in 2023 that any firm other than Find Out Now has shown a Yes majority, but it's not at all a surprising finding because Ipsos, rather like Find Out Now, have tended to be on the Yes-friendly end of the spectrum.  So when other firms are showing a Yes vote in the high 40s, Ipsos putting Yes in the low 50s is pretty much what you'd expect.  What marks Ipsos out as different from other firms is that they use telephone fieldwork and don't weight their results by recalled 2014 referendum vote.  The explanation for the higher Yes vote is thus likely to be one of those two factors, or a blend of both.  If the lack of 2014 weighting is indeed important, it seriously calls into question the credibility of No-majority polls from other firms, because nine years after the referendum there's such an obvious danger of false recall. 

This also raises major questions for Humza Yousaf over his refusal to do anything to win independence on the grounds that there is supposedly not yet a sustained supermajority for Yes.  If Ipsos (and Find Out Now) are right, there has in fact been a sustained supermajority for quite some time.  So why is Humza allowing Scottish democracy to be held hostage by a select group of mostly London-based polling firms who may be producing illusory No majorities due to the questionable practice of 2014 weighting?

Where Ipsos are more in line with other pollsters is in showing that, while independence support has held up well, the SNP's own support has fallen back alarmingly since Yousaf became First Minister.

Scottish voting intentions for the next UK general election:

SNP 41% (-10)
Labour 29% (+4)
Conservatives 17% (+4)
Liberal Democrats 6% (-)
Greens 3% (-)

Scottish Parliament constituency ballot:

SNP 42% (-8)
Labour 28% (+4)
Conservatives 17% (+3)
Liberal Democrats 7% (-)
Greens 4% (+1)

Scottish Parliament regional list ballot:

SNP 35% (-8)
Labour 27% (+6)
Conservatives 17% (+3)
Greens 12% (-1)
Liberal Democrats 5% (-1)

Because the SNP were starting from a higher base with Ipsos than with other firms, this collapse in support still leaves them with a bigger lead than other firms are reporting, which would in turn allow them to hold on to significantly more seats. It therefore very much does matter which firms are getting it right methodologically, and which firms are getting it wrong.

Ipsos are in agreement with other firms that Yousaf is well behind Anas Sarwar on net personal ratings, although unlike other firms they actually have him slightly ahead of Keir Starmer, so that's a non-trivial crumb of comfort.

Net personal ratings of leaders:

Anas Sarwar (Labour): +6
Alex Cole-Hamilton (Liberal Democrats): -3
Patrick Harvie (Greens): -5
Lorna Slater (Greens): -9
Humza Yousaf (SNP): -9
Keir Starmer (Labour): -12
Douglas Ross (Conservatives): -25
Rishi Sunak (Conservatives): -29

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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 £1400.  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.

Pressure mounts on Humza Yousaf to resign before the general election as new YouGov projection suggests he is leading the SNP towards the loss of their Westminster majority

For those of you who don't know how MRP modelling works, it's based on real polling, but the aim is to project the likely winner in each individual constituency, and also to project the most likely overall number of seats for each party.  (For statistical reasons, the overall number of projected seats for each party may confusingly not always tally up exactly with the number of individual seats that party is projected to win.)  Because there aren't enough YouGov panellists in each constituency to directly measure support for parties at that local level with confidence, the process partly depends on assuming that similar types of voters in similar types of constituencies will behave in similar ways.  In general those assumptions have been relatively well-founded, and in 2017 YouGov's MRP modelling was famously much more accurate than their conventional polling, even though they stated explicitly that they expected the reverse to be true.

There will be exceptions, though.  You might remember that the BBC/ITV/Sky exit poll in 2017 produced some wildly inaccurate predictions at Scottish constituency level because it was assuming that voters in former Lib Dem constituencies would all behave in much the same way, whereas in fact the trends in (for example) Gordon and Edinburgh West were radically different from each other.  The projection in the latest YouGov modelling that I'm most sceptical about is the Labour gain in Na h-Eileanan an Iar.  It's not that the SNP aren't under threat in that constituency - they probably are to some extent.  But the seat has changed hands between Labour and the SNP three times in recent decades (in 1970, 1987 and 2005) and on all three occasions the result would not have been predicted by the national trend.  So if YouGov are projecting an SNP loss based partly on what is happening "in other similar SNP-Labour battleground seats", they're likely to have gone awry, because there aren't any seats that are similar to Na h-Eileanan an Iar.

YouGov projection of Scottish seats in the next UK general election based on voting intentions of 3586 respondents, collected 10th April-21st May 2023:

SNP 27 (-21)
Labour 24 (+23)
Liberal Democrats 4 (-)
Conservatives 4 (-2)

That's a worse outcome for the SNP than suggested by most, but not all, recent conventional polling.  The majority of polls have suggested the SNP will just about pass the threshold of 30 seats required for an overall majority, but this projection says they will fall short of that.  The unionist parties in combination would have 32 seats, outcounting the SNP's 27.  And remember this is just a starting point that doesn't factor in the effect of an official campaign period in which the London broadcasters will beam the Sunak v Starmer narrative into every Scottish home, leaving the SNP struggling to get a look-in.  The final result could easily be worse than this projection, with the SNP slipping to second place (or lower).

The only silver lining is that the SNP seem to be faring better against the Tories than the crude national trend would imply, and are projected to make gains in Moray and West Aberdeenshire & Kincardine. Even in Alister Jack's seat of Dumfries & Galloway, they are thought to be only one point behind the Tories. They are also projected to hold off the Lib Dem threat in Jo Swinson's former seat of East Dunbartonshire.  But in the former Labour heartlands, the SNP seem to be facing absolute carnage.

This is all total unnecessary - it's not an inevitable side-effect of the GB-wide Labour lead.  A few months ago, the SNP seemed to be successfully fending off the Labour surge, but what's changed since then is that they've lumbered themselves needlessly with a deeply unpopular new leader.  Yes, there are other important factors such as the revelations related to the police investigation, but when those other factors fade from the public's thoughts, the problem of an unpopular leader will still be there unless the SNP take action to resolve it.  Time is ticking, and there really needs to be a new leader in place before this projected defeat at the general election is permitted to happen. Making a change after the event will be a classic case of shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted, because by then the independence cause will have suffered a huge setback it may struggle to recover from.

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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.

Sunday, May 21, 2023

The first clause in any proper independence Code of Conduct should be a belief in democratic self-determination, meaning that a majority of 50% + 1 (not 55% and certainly not 60%) is sufficient for Scotland to become an independent country

We're invited to believe that the SNP under the new regime are preocuppied with one over-riding question: how do we get independence over the winning line? To which their answer appears to be: "move the winning line as far away as possible, ideally to Mars".  I said a few weeks ago that if Humza Yousaf was arguing that the simple majority defined as the winning line in the 2014 referendum was no longer enough in the SNPs opinion for Scotland to become an independent country, then we needed the new supermajority target to be explicitly defined, so there couldn't be constant shifting of the goalposts no matter how high Yes support rises. Someone on Twitter disagreed with me, suggesting that if the SNP were stupid enough to publicly set a 60% target, that could prove to be as big a hostage to fortune as the "once in a generation" line.  Well, for better or worse, Mairi McAllan has gone and done it - she said on Question Time the other night that 55-60% support was required if we're ever going to get anywhere, and as far as I'm aware that's the first time anyone speaking on behalf of the SNP has ever gone on record with the barking mad and utterly unattainable 60% figure (although it's occasionally been rumoured for years as an unofficial target).  On balance I think Ms McAllan has done us all a favour, because it's shocked quite a few people who were previously "giving Humza a chance" into realising that he's not remotely serious about winning independence in any circumstances that will ever exist in the real world, and that his departure as leader is thus highly likely to be a prerequisite for independence.

Even worse, of course, Ms McAllan was not even talking about 55-60% support in official votes at the ballot box but instead in opinion polls, which effectively contracts out any exercise of Scotland's right to self-determination to mostly London-based opinion polling firms, many of which have a track record of either conscious or subconscious bias against Scottish independence.  It's quite a shock to the system to realise that when Adam Tomkins used to lecture the SNP on how it needed to stop trying to win independence via a simple majority at the ballot box, and instead concentrate on building up a sustained supermajority in YouGov polls, the Yousaf faction weren't furious at the anti-democratic outrage they were being confronted with, but were actually saying "GREAT POINT, ADAM" and enthusiastically taking notes.

There's been a lot of talk recently about a Code of Conduct that anyone who wants to be part of the officially recognised independence movement must adhere to.  In my view, any such Code should consist of the following three main points - 

1) Everyone must accept the principle of democratic self-determination, ie. that a simple majority of 50% + 1 is sufficient for Scotland to become an independent country.  If you think that Scotland should be forced to remain in the UK if 59% support independence and only 41% oppose it, then it's debatable whether you even believe in independence at all, but you most certainly don't believe in democratic self-determination, which is supposed to be the cornerstone of civic nationalism.

2) Everyone must accept that democracy and Scottish democratic self-determination happens at the ballot box, not via YouGov polls.  (For people who keep chucking around the largely meaningless phrase "legally-binding", answer me this: what the hell is legally binding about a YouGov poll?  Since when did YouGov become part of the constitution?)

3) Everyone must accept that independence is not less important than other unrelated issues, and that differing views on those other issues are thus no bar to inclusion within the movement.  Of course there are a few exceptions to that general rule - nobody should be expected to work with far-right extremists, even if they support independence.  But where views are mainstream, are legitimately held by a significant section of the population, and are deemed by the courts to be "worthy of respect within a democratic society" (most obviously gender critical views), there should be no question whatsoever of anyone being excluded on that basis.  

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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.