Saturday, September 9, 2023

Addressing the bizarre claims that the Redfield & Wilton poll was "good for Humza"

There's a small section of the media, both mainstream and alternative, which wants to prop Humza Yousaf up at all costs - an entirely self-defeating objective from a pro-independence perspective, because Yousaf's departure would open up a genuine opportunity for the SNP to recover electorally, perhaps at some speed.  A couple of days ago, that section of the media attempted to turn the new Redfield & Wilton poll on its head and claim it as a good news story for Yousaf - a rather unpromising tactic, you would think, given that the poll was only the second poll from any firm for many, many years to show that the SNP have lost their outright lead in Westminster voting intentions.  However, there were two main aspects of the poll that were claimed as good for Yousaf, so let's take a look at each of them in turn.

Firstly, the fact that the Holyrood seats projection from the poll points to a pro-independence majority.  Now, I suppose from a propagandist's point of view, it must have been difficult to resist praying this in aid, because most polls in recent times have suggested a unionist majority, so the obvious temptation would be to try to make it look as if a pro-indy majority projection means Yousaf is achieving solid progress.  But to put it mildly, that is somewhat misleading.  Look at the list vote percentages in the new poll - 

Labour 30% (+1)
SNP 25% (-4)
Conservatives 15% (-3)
Greens 14% (+5)
Liberal Democrats 9% (-)
Alba 4% (+2)
Reform UK 3% (-)

In terms of who is in the lead and by how much, that is by far the worst result for the SNP on the list, in any poll from any firm, for many years.  They hadn't previously slipped more than two points behind, but now the deficit is five points.  In the real world, it's almost inconceivable they could get away with a result like that.  The reason the poll technically translates into a pro-indy majority in terms of seats is partly because the Greens are offsetting the SNP's disastrous showing on the list, but crucially it's also because the SNP's constituency lead over Labour is just high enough to crowd out the unionist parties in the constituencies and ensure that there aren't enough list seats available to correct for the SNP's constituency over-representation.  But that leaves the SNP in an incredibly vulnerable position, because it means that if their constituency vote falls even modestly, they'd suddenly be staring down the barrel of not only losing the pro-indy majority but also losing their status as the largest single party at Holyrood.  Without an in-built constituency bonus for any party, the list vote automatically becomes the more important vote and Labour's lead on the list would be very real indeed.

Secondly, the pro-Humza lobby are inviting us to ignore the fact that Yousaf is way behind Anas Sarwar and Keir Starmer on net approval ratings, and to focus instead on the fact that Yousaf is ahead of Sarwar on an alternative leadership question posed by Redfield & Wilton.  That's actually been a consistent pattern in the monthly Redfield & Wilton polls - Yousaf always trails Sarwar on net approval ratings but always leads Sarwar on the alternative question.  Other firms haven't generally been asking the alternative question, so there's no way of knowing whether they would replicate the same pattern.  

But even if we accept the dubious belief that only the results on the alternative question matter, the problem is that the UK general election will take place much earlier than the Scottish Parliament election, so the electorate thinking Yousaf would make a better First Minister than Sarwar is not of any great relevance for now.  No poll is likely to ask whether Yousaf or Starmer would make a better UK Prime Minister, because it's an obviously nonsensical question, but actually the answer to that question would probably tell us quite a lot about why the SNP are currently struggling in Westminster voting intentions.  A big part of the reason for the SNP winning majorities in the last three general elections is that Nicola Sturgeon was far more highly regarded than Ed Miliband or Jeremy Corbyn, and also that she was regarded as a political figure of enough significance to be worthy of being part of the Westminster 'conversation', which is not usually the case for SNP leaders and is unlikely to be the case for Yousaf.

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War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia, and Stuart Campbell is somehow still in favour of Scottish independence even though he's announced he won't vote in favour of it.  Or so you'd believe if you listened to the angry participants of the social media pile-on that Mr Campbell instigated within literally minutes of my blogpost last weekend.  It's probably fair to say that he was deeply concerned that his new stance was going to be correctly characterised as him abandoning his support for independence, because he seemed to be checking this blog every five minutes, with a rather half-hearted personal attack on me ready to go as soon as any post appeared.  But if he wants to maintain the ludicrous position that he can support independence by opposing it, I must say it's rather odd that he's just doubled down with another lengthy "now is not the time for independence" post, in which he advances the bogus case that there is widespread support for an indefinite delay of independence until the SNP and Scottish Government change out of all recognition and drop all the policies he dislikes.

Let me just gently point out what should be obvious: Scottish independence is for life, not just for Christmas.  Although it's theoretically possible that an independent Scotland would change its mind and rejoin the UK, we all know from the history of other former London-ruled countries that it wouldn't happen.  So if Scotland becomes independent, you have to face the fact that at some point over the next few decades, there will inevitably be an independent Scottish government that you will despise and that will do all sorts of things that you loathe.  There is no country in the world in which all citizens get what they want 100% of the time.  Democratic elections will sometimes go against you.  If you want to "delay" independence until that inescapable fact of life somehow changes, you will "delay" it forever.  If your default is to prefer London rule to an elected Scottish government that you personally wouldn't have chosen, then independence was never anything more than a passing fad for you, and you never believed in it in any real sense.

And I must just reiterate how astoundingly hypocritical it is for Mr Campbell to have spent the last few years castigating the SNP for not holding an immediate independence referendum ("The Betrayers!, The Backstabbers!"), when he now openly admits he would not vote for independence in any such referendum and thinks Scotland should remain in the United Kingdom for the foreseeable future.  I defy anyone to try to get that risible position to make sense with any sort of rational argument.

Wednesday, September 6, 2023

SNP on course for general election defeat, says new Redfield & Wilton poll - intensifying the pressure on Yousaf to either resign, or end rule-by-faction

For only the second time in many years, a polling firm has reported that the SNP have lost their outright lead on Westminster voting intentions.  They haven't been overtaken - Labour have merely drawn level.  However, due to the inbuilt advantage Labour enjoy courtesy of the grotesque first-past-the-post voting system, a dead heat in the popular vote equates to clear defeat for the SNP in terms of seats.

Scottish voting intentions for the next UK general election (Redfield & Wilton Strategies, 2nd-4th September 2023):

SNP 35% (-2)
Labour 35% (+1)
Conservatives 15% (-2)
Liberal Democrats 8% (+1)
Greens 4% (+2)
Reform UK 2% (-)

Seats projection (with changes from 2019 general election): Labour 27 (+26), SNP 22 (-26), Conservatives 5 (-1), Liberal Democrats 5 (+1)

Stewart McDonald, Alison Thewliss, Anne McLaughlin, David Linden, Deidre Brock and Tommy Sheppard would all be losing their seats on these numbers, along with many other SNP colleagues.  And this, of course, is well before a UK general election campaign in which Labour will be lavished with TV coverage and the SNP will be treated as an afterthought.  It's entirely possible that a further swing to Labour in the closing weeks before polling day could leave the SNP with only a tiny handful of seats.

In fairness, most polls in recent times have given the SNP a very small lead in Westminster voting intentions, which means that you'd expect the occasional poll with Labour either level or slightly ahead, due to the standard margin of error.  So it's possible that nothing has really changed and that we're just seeing 'margin of error noise' in the new poll.  However, these numbers certainly make it less likely that the situation is improving for the SNP, which underscores the point I made last night about how utterly baseless it was for Professor John Robertson to claim that "the polls" were showing that Labour's lead in Rutherglen & Hamilton West had been "slashed".  As of yet, there are no polls specifically for that constituency, and a uniform swing projection from the new national poll numbers suggests that Labour should be expected to win the by-election by something in the region of sixteen percentage points.  The odds on betting exchanges imply that Labour have close to a 90% chance of winning in Rutherglen - I personally think that's an underestimate.

I'd hope that the SNP would regard this poll as a wake-up call, rather than as a predictable milestone in a process of 'managed decline'. When you have a leader as unpopular as Yousaf, there's a very obvious step you can take that has a good chance of dramatically improving the situation.  But even if they can't bring themselves to jettison Yousaf, the minimum they've got to do is put an end to factional rule and bring Kate Forbes, Ash Regan, and at least a couple of Forbes' key supporters back into senior positions in the government.  That might at least help to offset Yousaf's unpopularity somewhat.  Falling short of that is frankly no longer an option if the SNP are remotely serious about winning elections, or even about damage limitation in elections.

Elsewhere in the poll, Redfield & Wilton ask their usual complement of independence-related questions.  The trend is marginally negative for the Yes side in most questions, but the changes are so minor that they do look like they could just be "noise", and it wouldn't be at all surprising if the status quo ante is restored in next month's poll.  An intriguing exception to the general trend is on the 'Jack Principle', ie. Alister Jack's statement that there should only be an independence referendum if opinion polls consistently show 60%+ support for one.  Backing for the Jack Principle has, for whatever reason, plummetted by six percentage points over the last month from 52% to 46%, leaving it a mammoth fourteen points short of the Jack Threshold itself.

Even with the negative changes elsewhere, there is still majority support (after Don't Knows are excluded) for an independence referendum to be held within the next five years, while voters are exactly split down the middle over whether there should be an independence referendum within the next year.

There's a weird contradiction in the poll's Holyrood numbers, which show a sharp increase in SNP support on the constituency ballot, but a sharp decrease in SNP support on the list.  A partial explanation for this phenomenon is Alba rising to an unusually high 4% of the list vote.

Scottish Parliament constituency ballot:

SNP 39% (+3)
Labour 30% (-2)
Conservatives 16% (-3)
Liberal Democrats 8% (-)
Greens 3% (+1)
Reform UK 3% (+2)
Alba 1% (-)

Scottish Parliament regional list ballot:

Labour 30% (+1)
SNP 25% (-4)
Conservatives 15% (-3)
Greens 14% (+5)
Liberal Democrats 9% (-)
Alba 4% (+2)
Reform UK 3% (-)

Seats projection (with changes from 2021 election): SNP 53 (-11), Labour 36 (+14), Greens 16 (+8), Conservatives 15 (-16), Liberal Democrats 9 (+5)

Tuesday, September 5, 2023

No, "the polls" are not showing Labour's lead in Rutherglen has been "slashed" over the last week - not least because there haven't been any polls

There's a deceitful post - there's no other word for it, really - on Professor John Robertson's blog tonight, and it's resulted in a number of copycat tweets from people who really ought to know better by now.  Professor Robertson is claiming that "the polls" are showing Labour's lead has been slashed in the Rutherglen & Hamilton West by-election over the last week, but in fact so far there haven't been any polls in Rutherglen & Hamilton West - not only in the last week, but not at all.  Nor have there been any Scotland-wide polls over the last week from which an extrapolation can be made.  It's plainly ludicrous to suggest the polls are showing a certain trend when no polls from the relevant period actually exist.

What Robertson is referring to as "two polls" are in fact not polls, but predictions made by websites.  One comes from the newly resurrected UK Polling Report and the other from Electoral Calculus.  Robertson does not present any evidence that either website's prediction has suggested a drop in the Labour lead in the constituency over the last week, and indeed he does not even claim that they have.  Instead, he makes an apples-and-oranges comparison between what the Electoral Calculus prediction was showing a week ago and what the UK Polling Report prediction is showing now, and pretends that it can be taken of indicative of the SNP closing the gap, even though each prediction is based on a completely different methodology, and even though the data being inputed into each prediction can't have changed over the last week for the obvious reason that there's been no new polling data from the last week to input.  (In fact there's a graph on UK Polling Report suggesting their prediction has been stable for many weeks.)

Oh, and the predictions aren't even for the by-election, but instead for the Rutherglen constituency in the general election.  Apart from all that, though, a characteristically bang-on accurate contribution from the Prof.

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My blogpost two weeks ago, about the difficulty of keeping Scot Goes Pop going for much longer due to lack of funds, produced a substantial response.  Not all of it is visible on the fundraiser page itself because around half the donations were made directly via Paypal, but over £700 has been raised since I posted.  The fundraiser remains well short of its target, but I'll certainly keep going for as long as I possibly can, and there's still some sort of chance I may be able to keep going indefinitely, depending on what happens over the next few weeks.  Many thanks to everyone who has donated, and if anyone else would like to contribute, the fundraiser page can be found HERE.  Alternatively, direct payments can be made via Paypal - my Paypal email address is:

Sunday, September 3, 2023

End of an era as the Wings Over Scotland website officially abandons its support for Scottish independence, putting on record what's been clear from social media posts for around a year - but rest assured that Scot Goes Pop and other leading sites from the 2014 period remain unequivocally pro-independence

One thing that has bemused me over the last year is that every so often someone has approached me in full-blown "intervention" mode and told me that I need to unite with others for the sake of the independence cause.  That sounds perfectly reasonable until you drill down into what those people actually mean, and 9 times out 10 it turns out they actually don't want me (or anyone else) to unite with others who support independence - indeed in many cases they want me to declare all-out-war-to-the-death against the largest pro-independence party and to try get their MPs replaced by unionists.  Instead, the 'unity' being urged is mostly with a high-profile individual who now votes Tory and who used to support independence but no longer does.

I always point out, in a state of some incredulity, that if you want to achieve a political goal, you generally unite with people who believe in that goal, and crucially you unite in opposition to the people who do not believe in it.  As a supporter of independence, the only circumstances in which it might make sense for me to unite with someone who doesn't want independence would be if we were aiming for some sort of grand national compromise between Yessers and unionists.  That's not where we are right now.  We actually are trying to win independence, not something less than it.

That fairly unanswerable point generally provokes indignation from the wannabe 'peacemakers'.  "Of course the fact that Stuart Campbell votes Tory doesn't make him some sort of 'Tory voter'.  Don't be silly, James.  And the suggestion that he no longer supports independence is ridiculous.  There's no more passionate supporter of independence than the Rev, that's why he's saying he wouldn't vote for it!"

I mean, people are quite rightly scornful of so-called "gender woo", but I'd have to say that the idea you can vote Tory without being a Tory voter, and that you can support independence by opposing it, is taking the mind-bending metaphysical gibberish into a whole new dimension.  It's thus something of a relief that Mr Campbell has randomly chosen today of all days to put the matter beyond all dispute with an article on Wings itself that makes clear he would not vote in favour of independence in any new referendum held in the prevailing political conditions.  He would not vote No either, seemingly for old times' sake, but it's plain that he'd be wanting No to win because he thinks an independent Scotland would be a "nightmarish Aunt Lydia nanny state".  He'd previously announced his abandonment of support for independence on social media quite a long time ago, but many people seem to regard his social media posts as throwaway in nature, so I suspect that this may be the first time they realise that his departure from the pro-independence camp is genuine and that his announcement of it can be regarded as definitive.

To be clear, Mr Campbell's defection is not something I welcome.  Indeed it's a matter of considerable regret, because it means that a website with a substantial readership (nowhere near as big as he claims, but substantial nonetheless) is now working against our cause rather than in favour of it.  However, until today we had the worst of both worlds, because people were deluding themselves that black was white and that Scotland could somehow be led to independence by a person who wants Scotland to remain in the United Kingdom.  At least now we can collectively start facing up to the new reality, and find new constructive constellations among those of us who are actually still inside the independence movement.

Doubtless a few people will cling to their denial due to Mr Campbell attempting the "Schrodinger's Yesser" trick by claiming elsewhere in his article that he remains in favour of independence "in principle".  But the unspoken words at the end of that sentence are "but not in practice".  Labour have been "in principle" supportive of democratic reform of the House of Lords for over a century, but have always failed to do anything about it when in government.  If you say you are in favour of a reform in principle but oppose it in practice, you are in fact an upholder of the status quo.  That's exactly the position Mr Campbell is now in.  The only objective and credible test of whether someone is a supporter of independence is whether they would vote in favour of it if given a chance, and Mr Campbell has clearly indicated he would not do so.  By definition, therefore, Wings Over Scotland is no longer a pro-independence website.  That's regrettable, but it's also the indisputable reality.

The only caveat on all of this is that Mr Campbell has stated that he might in the future revert to supporting independence if the SNP perform a mass clear-out of the "deranged ideologues".  There would only be a chance of that happening in the near-term or medium-term if Kate Forbes replaces Humza Yousaf as leader, and admittedly that's perfectly conceivable - Ms Forbes has established herself as the most likely successor if the unpopular Mr Yousaf is toppled due to some sort of entirely foreseeable electoral calamity.  But there's certainly no guarantee of that happening, and there's also no guarantee that Ms Forbes would go far enough as leader to satisfy Mr Campbell, or indeed that anything at all would even be capable of satisfying him.  My suspicion is that, while most of us who left the SNP did so in desperation because we wanted to get the independence campaign back on track, Mr Campbell turned against the SNP at around the same time because he was becoming Yoon-curious.  For him, the reasons he has found to hate the SNP leadership are a gateway drug that is leading him towards out-and-out unionism.  In fact he may well already be there and is in the process of trying to break the news to his most devoted readers by installments to avoid alienating them with a sudden admission that even they might find too unpalatable.  His hint at the end of the article that he may not even be "in principle" supportive of independence for very much longer would tend to support that suspicion. Wherever precisely he is on the journey, though, there seems little doubt about the final destination.

This generates a major peril for the Alba Party, of which I am a member.  There is substantial overlap between the Alba membership and the Wings readership, and many senior figures in Alba routinely praise Mr Campbell to the skies on social media.  But we simply cannot afford to allow Mr Campbell to be the Pied Piper figure who leads us to being a "Yes in principle" party or a "Yes but not really" party or a "we might be Yes one day but only when and if a long list of terms and conditions are met in full" party.  We only have a future as what we started out as - a totally committed "Yes, just Yes, no ifs, no buts, no caveats" party.  Indeed the whole point of Alba's existence is to be far more full-throttled about independence than the SNP.  If we start doing the total opposite, we might as well never have bothered getting the party off the ground.

It's become commonplace to observe that "I didn't leave the SNP, the SNP left me".  Well, by the same token, I can honestly say that I didn't leave Wings, Wings left me.  I was once a staunch supporter of him, and long-term readers might remember that in 2017 I defended him to the hilt in his absence at a sort of alternative media "summit" in Edinburgh attended by a passive-aggressive Mike Small and an openly hostile Angela Haggerty. I have no regrets about doing that, because at the time Mr Campbell was still a pro-independence blogger and on balance was still a strong asset for our movement.  My own political views have remained constant since 2017, while Mr Campbell's have darted off in a radically different direction, in a way that could never have realistically been predicted.  It's also fair to say I had no way of predicting in 2017 that Mr Campbell would behave in a frankly unforgivable way towards me personally four years later, first by sending me an abusive email out of the blue for literally no other purpose than to call me a "c**t", and then the following night getting his solicitor David Halliday to attempt to intimidate me with thinly-veiled threats of what might happen if I refused to give in to his outrageous demands that I should delete Douglas Clark's criticisms of him in a comment that had already been published in the Scot Goes Pop comments section.  That, of course, is a further reason why it was always barking mad for people to suggest I could or should somehow "unite" with Mr Campbell.  It's impossible to make peace with someone who has overstepped the mark so outrageously unless genuine contrition is shown later, and that was never going to happen in a million years.  

For what it's worth, my own response to the question "do you support Scottish independence?" is not "yes, in principle", but simply "yes".  My answer to the question "would you still support Scottish independence if it meant trans self-ID would be introduced?" is "yes".  My answer to the question "would you still support Scottish independence if you were required to worship weekly at a statue of Fiona Robertson, inscribed Mother Of The Nation?" is "yes".  My answer to the question "would you still support Scottish independence if it ushered in twenty unbroken years of Tory rule?" is "yes".  My answer will always be "yes", irrespective of which hypothetical you hit me with, because my support for independence is not rooted in transient bread and butter policy matters but in the simple, fundamental belief that Scotland is a country and should be able to choose its own governments.  It's entirely up to the Scottish people which governments and policies they choose, and even if I think they made the wrong decision, I'll still be glad they were able to make it and I'll still want them to be free to keep making their own choices in the future.

Say what you like about Brit Nats, but their sense of identity is authentic and deep-rooted enough that they don't start pining for rule from Paris or Berlin just because an election goes a way they don't like or because they disapprove of a particular law passed by Westminster.  The fact that all it took for Mr Campbell to abandon independence was for Scots to vote in a way he disapproved of suggests that his belief in the cause was always much, much shallower than most of us ever suspected.  In retrospect, his weird desire to eradicate the Gaelic language, something which I've literally never encountered in any other Yesser, should perhaps have been taken as a massive red flag.

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On a semi-related matter, I was recently asked by an anonymous commenter to write a blogpost about a factually inaccurate claim of truly astounding scale that Mr Campbell included in a Wings article.  But the comment itself explains the inaccuracy and the surrounding issues admirably - you can read it HERE.