Friday, March 8, 2024

Holocaust Deniers For Labour

For those who have been asking, here is how voters for the far-right party "Independent Green Voice" transferred in the Hillhead by-election yesterday - 

Greens 55
SNP 37
Labour 27
Conservatives 7
Non-transferable 20

So I don't think there's much doubt that the vast majority of these people were successfully conned and honestly thought they were voting for a left-wing environmentalist party at the very least, and probably many thought they were voting for the official Green party.  Intentional far-right voters would have transferred in pretty much the polar opposite way, with the Tories getting the most transfers and the Greens the fewest.

In a way you have to grudgingly admire Alistair McConnachie's cunning, because one of the very reasons the Electoral Commission exists is to prevent cynical actors exploiting voter confusion, and yet he's clearly found a rare way around the rules.  The name "Independent Green Voice" is different enough from "Scottish Green Party" that it's hard for the Electoral Commission to disallow it, but the party emblem which appears on ballot papers has the word "Green" in much bigger lettering than the other two words in the name, and there's also a leaf which looks very much like the sort of logo a real Green party might use.  Even if a voter notices the word "independent", they might still be led astray due to the well known fact that the Greens support Scottish independence.

However ingenious the tactic is, though, you'd still have to ask: what's the point?  There's only so far you can get by pretending to be something you're not.  You aren't going to ride all the way to far-right revolution by posing as tree-huggers.  The only way it might be a stepping stone would be if it generated a big enough vote to actually get a few people elected to councils or to parliament, and we can clearly see it's falling short of that.  Mr McConnachie took 3.3% of the vote in Hillhead, the most Green-friendly ward in the whole of Scotland, and even that wouldn't be enough to win a Holyrood list seat if you extended it across a whole electoral region.  So logically the purpose must be to act as spoilers and to try to limit the number of seats the Greens win, in the hope that mainstream unionist parties (ie. the Tories or Labour) will win the seats instead.  That didn't work yesterday, and it was never likely to work under a preferential voting system like STV, but it very much did work in 2021 under the Additional Member System that is used to elect Holyrood.

Mr McConnachie's official ballot description yesterday was "Organic Green Scotland".  The honest version would perhaps have been "Holocaust Deniers For Labour".  

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Another week, another by-election humiliation for Starmer, as Labour lose seat to *the Greens* in historic Hillhead vote

The dubious practice we've had in Scotland since 2007 of using what is effectively a majoritarian voting system to fill local councillor vacancies, in seats that were originally elected proportionally, often leads the media to use paradoxical and misleading language about a party "holding" a seat when they actually had to overtake another party to win, or "gaining" a seat when they've gone backwards or stood still.  But what we've seen in Hillhead overnight may be the wackiest example so far.  The Scottish Green Party have "gained the seat from Labour" in what is their first by-election win in history, in spite of the fact that the Labour vote went up, the Green vote went down, and Labour overtook the Greens to win the popular vote in the ward. And yet objectively it's still a bad result for Labour. How is any of this possible?  Let's take a deep breath and go through it step by step.

Hillhead by-election result, first preferences (7th March 2024):

Labour 31.9% (+9.7) 
Greens 31.5% (-4.7) 
SNP 24.9% (-3.7) 
Conservatives 5.3% (-1.4) 
Independent Green Voice 3.3% (n/a) 
Liberal Democrats 2.6% (-2.8) 
Independent - McGinley 0.5% (n/a)

As far as I can see, Hillhead appears to be the only ward in the whole of Scotland where the Greens won the popular vote in the last local council elections two years ago.  There are a few other wards where an individual Green candidate topped the poll, but the combined vote for another party's candidates still outcounted them.

However, local government wards in Scotland are multi-member, and the Greens' triumph in 2022 still meant they only took one of the three seats in Hillhead.  The SNP in second place took one, and Labour in third place also took one.  The vacancy that triggered yesterday's by-election was caused by the death of the Labour councillor, the former MSP Hanzala Malik.  So simply to "hold" a seat they were "defending", Labour had to jump from third place to first.  They actually did just that - but still lost.  How so?  Because it's a preferential voting system, and it's therefore possible for a party that finishes a close second on first preferences to be declared the winner after transfers are taken into account.

It's important to stress, though, that the reason I'm saying this is an objectively bad result for Labour has nothing to do with their travails in the transfers - it's simply that a 9.7% increase in their first preference vote share is a bit underwhelming at a time when they're supposedly making a big comeback in former heartland areas.  That can perhaps be explained by the fact that Hillhead, just like Rochdale last week, has special demographics which mean that the local electorate is much more likely to be deeply unimpressed by Keir Starmer's apologism for genocide in Gaza.  In the case of Rochdale, it was the high percentage of Muslims, whereas in Hillhead it's the big student population.

Perhaps the most worrying thing of all for Labour is that the SNP vote has held up pretty well - a 4 point drop is not too bad in the context of the times.  And it's probably fair to say that the Greens would almost certainly have beaten Labour on the popular vote if it hadn't been for the artificial effect of the intervention from "Independent Green Voice", which is in fact the far-right party run by Alistair McConnachie (who once ignored an invitation to be interviewed on the Scot Goes Popcast!).  There's a long history of Green supporters being hoodwinked into voting for Independent Green Voice due to the name, and it's pretty obvious that's what happened yet again yesterday - there's no way McConnachie would have finished ahead of the Liberal Democrats on his own merits.  So if you see Labour trying to draw solace from their first place in the popular vote, bear in mind it was delivered to them by deceptive tactics from the Holocaust-denying far-right.

How did the Greens overtake Labour to win the seat on transfers?  Fairly straightforward - there were far more SNP voters in the ward than Tory voters or Lib Dem voters, and SNP voters were always going to transfer more towards another pro-independence party that is critical of Israel's atrocities.  The small number of Tory voters did of course transfer mostly to Labour, which pushed Labour a full one hundred votes ahead of the Greens on the fifth count.  That perhaps should give Labour-curious pro-independence voters pause for thought over just what it is about Keir Starmer that is so very attractive to Tory voters.  But once the SNP votes were redistributed, it was strictly no contest.  536 SNP voters transferred to the Greens, and only 249 transferred to Labour, leaving the Greens with a comfortable 187-vote cushion over Labour on the decisive count. 

It's obviously encouraging to see Yes supporters sensibly tranferring from one pro-independence party to another, but in truth it's fairly rare for SNP voters to get a chance to transfer to the Greens.  What usually matters much more is whether the SNP are the second-choice party for Green voters - and that's certainly what will matter in the general election as both the SNP and Labour seek to squeeze the Green vote in a first-past-the-post system.

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Thursday, March 7, 2024

Are the Tories handing three north-east seats to the SNP on a silver plate?

In spite of the SNP landslide in 2019, in spite of the Tories losing more than half their Scottish seats, the SNP were nevertheless unable to regain three Tory seats in the north-east.  Two of those were former SNP heartlands which they used to win even when they were losing almost everywhere else in Scotland.  Banff & Buchan actually bucked the national trend in 2019 by showing a small swing from SNP to Tory. However, it's now possible that the fortunes will flip and the SNP could take the north-east seats back even if they have a grim result nationally.

Just as a rough guide, I had a look at the seats projection from YouGov's latest Scottish subsample, which is on the unfavourable side for the SNP, showing Labour five points ahead. That would see the SNP lose their majority and be reduced to 22 seats - but they would still gain the boundary-revised seats of Aberdeenshire North & Moray East, Aberdeenshire West & Kincardine and Gordon & Buchan from the Tories.  And that's before you take into account the effect of local factors.

A few weeks ago, I wondered if the SNP were getting into dangerous territory by opposing Labour's windfall tax proposals and thus giving Labour a free run to pose as Robin Hood.  But we started to see the upside of the SNP strategy with the now-famous P&J front page depicting senior Labour politicians as "Traitors" over the windfall tax, and the SNP painted in a more positive light.  And now Christmas has come early, with Douglas Ross helpfully identifying for voters that the Tory Budget is an attack on the north-east due to the windfall tax extension, and with Jeremy Hunt even more helpfully volunteering in a live BBC interview that the "Scottish oil and gas industry" is one of the two main losers from the Budget.

If Ross thinks the voters will give "the Scottish Tories" credit at the general election for standing up to their colleagues in London, he's mistaken.  Voters will not see any Scottish Tories on the ballot paper, merely candidates representing the UK Tory government.  If they want to hit out against the treatment of the north-east, they're obviously not going to vote Tory or Labour, and it's the SNP that leap out as the most likely beneficiaries.

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It's fair to say it's been a mixed few days for my own party Alba, with several high-profile departures balanced out by two high-profile new recruits.  And because the second of those new members is Karl Rosie, an elected local councillor in Highland who left the SNP three weeks ago, it's arguable that this week's balance sheet is now actually positive for Alba.  That said, Eva Comrie is still a big loss for the party, and I know several Alba members who think an absolute priority for the leadership should be to do whatever it takes to persuade her to rejoin.

Alba now have five elected representatives across the three tiers of government - two MPs (Neale Hanvey and Kenny MacAskill), one MSP (Ash Regan) and two local councillors (Chris Cullen and Karl Rosie).  In that sense, Scottish politics has become a six-party system, at least for now, although obviously Alba will have to start making electoral breakthroughs if they're going to maintain that state of affairs.

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Wednesday, March 6, 2024

BREAKING: The Scotsman newspaper thinks its readers won't understand the word "stramash" and so translates it into English

I thought you might enjoy some light relief related to the recent difficulties in the Alba Party.  The Scotsman's article about Denise Findlay's departure offers the following purported quote from Alex Salmond's email to party members - 

"Although Yvonne deleted her tweets and apologised for her mistake, the online row continued."

The thing is, though, I received that email when it was sent, and I was sure Mr Salmond had used the word "stramash".  I doublechecked, and sure enough the Scotsman's quote was accurate apart from the fact that they had replaced "online stramash" with "online row".  This presumably means the Scotsman had made an editorial decision that its readers would not understand "stramash" as a non-English word and thus felt justified to translate it into English.

Surely even the poshest Scots in Morningside or wherever have encountered the word "stramash"?  Just who is the Scotsman's target audience these days?  You can imagine the conversation: "we'll look ridiculous if we add an explanatory note about what the word means, so best just to pretend he never said it..."

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Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Professor Robertson is entitled to his own opinions, but not to his own facts

You might have seen yesterday that Professor John Robertson, well known for his long-running blog Global Ferry News, left two comments here in a fairly unsubtle attempt to sabotage the new Scot Goes Pop general fundraiser for 2024.  It seems his bitterness towards this blog is now so severe that he literally wants it to cease to exist, and is taking active steps to attempt to bring that outcome about.  I gave him a piece of my mind, and told him that if he really wanted to open up a conversation about whether each individual pro-independence blog has any worth or value, it was high bloody time that someone explained to him that a blog obsessively seeking out obscure stories about faults with ferries in New Zealand, the Channel Islands and Bulgaria is unlikely to be of any use whatsoever in bringing about Scottish independence.  It doesn't make the Scottish Government's handling of the ferry situation look less bad in a relative sense, it just makes himself look a bit odd.

What you may not have seen, though, is that Professor Robertson also left a couple of comments on an older thread while he was here.  Curiously, he was angry with me for my blogpost about the Survation poll showing the SNP lead extending their lead over Labour from two to five points.  Even though my post was largely positive for the SNP, he was furious that I had added a caveat that Survation had recently been more favourable for the SNP than some other pollsters and there was thus no guarantee that another firm polling at the same time would have shown the SNP ahead.  It seems that "largely positive for the SNP" is not enough to meet the Prof's exacting requirements - he expects nothing less than unadulterated propaganda from us all.

Every single pollster has had the SNP ahead for as long as anyone can remember!, the Prof harrumphed.  Well, at least since November!, he hurriedly added.  I pointed out to him that, in fact, polls from Redfield & Wilton and Norstat have shown the SNP behind Labour since then.  A few hours later he came back to absurdly bellow that ALL Redfield & Wilton polls have shown the SNP ahead!  ALL of them!  He's moving into Comical Ali territory at this stage.  For the avoidance of doubt, the result of the most recent Redfield & Wilton poll, conducted 3rd-4th February, was Labour 34%, SNP 33%, Conservatives 18%, Liberal Democrats 8%.  The Norstat poll conducted in late January showed: Labour 36%, SNP 33%, Conservatives 16%, Liberal Democrats 7%.

Nobody can stop Professor Robertson from making claims that are flatly untrue.  But it's important that people understand the nature of his propaganda - he's going beyond putting the most positive spin on facts, and has started inventing facts of his own.  That's a dangerous, and dare I say Trumpian, game.

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Monday, March 4, 2024

Why Alba shouldn't go beyond a round dozen of candidates

If, like me, you're a member of the Alba Party, you'll have received an email from Alex Salmond today, setting out changes that have occurred to the NEC line-up due to the turbulence of the last couple of days.  Suzanne Blackley has replaced Eva Comrie as Equalities Convener, albeit on an interim basis for now.  As I understand it, Yvonne Ridley officially remains Women's Convener but has stepped back from the role for the time being, with Ash Regan taking over on an informal basis.  People reading the email will probably be left with the impression that Eva Comrie's departure was straightforwardly due to Yvonne Ridley's tweets about the trans issue.  I think it should be borne in mind that there's almost certainly far more to it than that, however it's obviously understandable that the leadership will be keen to play down the significance of her decision.

My bigger concern, actually, is with a different part of the email, where Mr Salmond once again talks up the possibility of Alba standing more than the target number of twelve candidates at the general election.  The subtext is essentially "the more the merrier", as if it's self-evidently a good thing to stand as many candidates as possible if there are no financial or organisational barriers to doing so.  In reality there are other strategic considerations that ought to be taken into account, both in Alba's own best interests and in the best interests of the independence cause.

It's no secret that I think the most sensible thing to have done at the general election would have been to just stand two candidates, ie. the sitting Alba MPs Neale Hanvey and Kenny MacAskill, and concentrate all the available resources on their campaigns.  That would have been the best of all worlds because it would have given the two MPs the best possible chance of either holding their seats or getting respectable results, while avoiding the danger of Alba candidates acting as spoilers in other constituencies and letting in unionist MPs.  The latter would be a bad thing for two separate reasons - a) it's objectively a setback for independence if unionist MPs are unnecessarily elected, and b) any perception among independence supporters that Alba is to blame for that could damage Alba's reputation and undermine the party's chances at the 2026 Holyrood election.  Remember how sharply Ralph Nader's vote dropped between the 2000 and 2004 US presidential elections due to the perception among progressives that he was to blame for George W Bush's contested win in Florida.

In a democratic party, you have to accept democratic decisions, even if you think they're badly mistaken.  My preference for standing only two candidates was not the democratic decision made by Alba, which instead opted to stand in at least twelve constituencies.  As I understand it, the significance of the number twelve is that it's the minimum threshold for being given a Party Election Broadcast.  Although that's a desirable thing to have, I don't think three minutes on the TV comes close to outweighing the disadvantages of standing too many candidates.

However, a democratic decision to stand at least twelve candidates in order to get the election broadcast is perfectly consistent with standing just the twelve, banking the broadcast, and not going beyond that.  I really would urge the Alba leadership to see the wisdom of that course of action and not allow the party's intervention in the general election to become a runaway train.  The greater the number of candidates that go forward, the greater the risk of causing inadvertent harm.

It's been suggested that Alba can navigate the risk by selecting the seats it intervenes in with great care to avoid SNP marginals.  But that reminds me of some of the wild claims we used to hear about how it was possible to "vote tactically on the Holyrood list", when in reality that would have depended on the voter having a degree of foreknowledge about the election result that would never realistically be available.  Alba will have to choose which constituencies to target months or at least weeks before polling day, at which point there is bound to still be massive uncertainty about which SNP seats are most likely to be on a knife-edge.  Seats projections from recent opinion polls have varied wildly, with some putting the SNP in the low teens (in which case the "safer" SNP seats are the most likely to be the real marginals), and others putting the SNP in the mid-to-high thirties (in which case it's seats with lower majorities that will be in the balance).  I suppose there's an argument that the seats in which the SNP have the lowest majorities over Labour look like lost causes in any of the scenarios we're seeing at present, so those might be the 'safest' seats for Alba to intervene in.  But even there, an outside chance exists that the SNP might recover enough to bring those seats back into play, and in any case, do Alba really want to give the impression that they're deliberately trying to help "finish off" the most vulnerable SNP MPs?

The original concept of Alba was as a list-only party that Yes voters could back to get the best bang for their buck, safe in the knowledge that no damage was being done to the SNP in first-past-the-post elections.  I'd suggest Alba would be foolish to stray too far from that concept.  The real opportunity for Alba to make gains and change the weather for independence will be on the Holyrood list vote in 2026, and the important thing in the meantime is not to do anything that would imperil that opportunity.

I'm not an absolutist about avoiding first-past-the-post elections - I advocated Alba standing in the Rutherglen by-election as long as Alex Salmond was the candidate, because in that scenario they wouldn't have been spoilers, they could have taken a very significant vote share and generated momentum that might have really got them off the ground.  I also think it's reasonable to say that sitting Alba MPs have every right to defend their seats if they wish to do so.  But if you stand in a large number of first-past-the-post seats where you're likely to get a very small vote share, the effect will probably be counter-productive.

The 2024 Scot Goes Pop fundraiser is now underway.  Please click HERE if you'd like to help keep this blog going strong throughout this crucial general election year.

Alternatively donations can be made direct to my Paypal account.  In many ways this is preferable because the funds are usually transferred instantly, and fees can be eliminated altogether depending on which option you select from the menu.  My Paypal email address is:

Sunday, March 3, 2024

The launch of the Scot Goes Pop General Fundraiser for 2024

Click here to go straight to the fundraiser page.

As I explained last year, I really am reliant on the success of the annual general fundraisers to keep Scot Goes Pop going, at least in the sense of being a blog that is updated frequently and provides comprehensive coverage of Scottish opinion polls. That's perhaps even more the case now than it was six, seven or eight years ago, because a couple of my other income streams (one of which had nothing whatever to do with writing or with politics) dried up as a result of the pandemic and so far haven't restarted.  So for that reason, although the poll fundraiser I launched towards the end of 2023 is still well short of its target, I'm going to have to launch the 2024 general fundraiser now and concentrate on that for the time being.  I will get the poll done as soon as humanly possible, and if by any chance the general fundraiser eventually hits its full target, I'll set aside some of the funds from that to top up what has already been raised for the poll.  Doubtless the general fundraiser will be another slowburner due to the cost-of-living crisis, so please bear with me as I continue to promote the fundraiser link at the bottom of some/most blogposts over the coming days and weeks (and possibly months) - it'll probably take a fair bit of persistence.

Here is my pitch from the new GoFundMe page I've set up - 

Hi, my name is James Kelly and for sixteen years I've been writing Scot Goes Pop, consistently one of the most popular pro-independence blogs in Scotland. With its distinct focus on opinion polls (although not to the exclusion of other subjects), it has been able to challenge the conventional narratives about polls that are mostly set by the unionist media.

During the 2014 referendum campaign, I was able to demonstrate that the position was nowhere near as hopeless for the Yes side as was often portrayed by the media, and just after the referendum was over, I was faster than anyone in the mainstream media (I think literally) to spot and point out the extraordinary swing that was occurring from Labour to the SNP.

With your help, Scot Goes Pop has also commissioned several opinion polls of its own from reputable polling firms affiliated to the British Polling Council. Some of these were genuinely landmark polls, for example our poll in June 2020 was the first in the famous long unbroken sequence of Yes-majority polls that lasted for around a year, while the 56% for Yes in our November 2020 poll was the highest ever Yes vote in a Panelbase poll, and one of the highest ever in any type of poll.

In 2021, I also started a 'Scot Goes Popcast' to accompany the blog, in which (among other things) I interviewed a number of fascinating guests including the former First Minister of Scotland, Alex Salmond. There have been numerous spin-offs from the blog - I've been a monthly columnist for iScot magazine since 2017 and I've written extensive poll analysis for The National newspaper since 2015. I've been interviewed for TV and radio, including for BBC Breakfast, BBC Radio Five Live, Al Jazeera, the Bauer radio network and CTV News (Canada).

This is general election year, with the most likely date for polling day being October or November. That means the number of published Scottish opinion polls is likely to steadily increase as the year progresses (with perhaps a little lull in the summer). With your help I hope to be able to provide Scot Goes Pop's usual standard of coverage of the coming vote, which will be a genuine political crossroads for Scotland as a whole and for the independence movement in particular. The funds raised will help give me the flexibility to drop everything (circumstances permitting!) and post analysis whenever a new poll comes out. It will also help cover various miscellaneous "running costs", such as the small monthly fee for podcast hosting. And if the full target is reached, I will put some of the funds towards commissioning a new poll. Any donations, whether large or small, will be tremendously helpful.

You can learn a bit more about Scot Goes Pop from the promotional video below.

Alternatively, direct payments can be made to my Paypal account.  In many ways this is preferable, because the payment is usually processed instantly and fees can be eliminated entirely depending on which option you select from the menu.  My Paypal email address is:

A small number of people prefer direct bank transfer.  If you'd like to donate that way, please email me directly via my contact email address, and I'll send you the details.  My contact email address is different from my Paypal address and can be found on my Twitter profile or in the sidebar of this blog (desktop version only).

If Alba is to thrive, its members must feel empowered

I was extremely sorry - and frankly shocked - to discover an hour or two ago that Eva Comrie has left the Alba Party.  I don't know her exact reasons for leaving, so I can't analyse the significance of it with any precision.  But there are a couple of common sense observations that can be made.  Firstly, I've always had the impression that she was probably the second most popular person in the Alba leadership, after only Alex Salmond himself (her 82% to 18% victory in the recent Equalities Convener election would support that impression), and she's always been very supportive of Mr Salmond personally.  So this is not a development that can be brushed off lightly - people who see her as a political lodestar are going to be upset and bewildered about losing her and will want answers from the leadership that may not be immediately forthcoming.  And secondly, this fits into a pattern of a number of very senior people within the party either leaving altogether or stepping back.  It's a statement of the obvious that none of this would be happening if the party was in a good place internally, which is a frustrating thing to have to say at a time when Alba should really be going places after the addition of rocket-fuel from the defections of Ash Regan and Chris Cullen.

My own view, as I've said many times, is that the solution can only lie in greater transparency and internal democratisation.  There was an interesting exchange in the comments section of this blog the other day between someone who felt that internal democracy doesn't matter because the most electorally successful parties are often centrally controlled, and someone who pointed out that a centrally controlled party which is not electorally successful is the worst of all worlds.  I think that's right - members will tolerate almost anything if the electoral triumphs are free-flowing, but in a relatively small party which has yet to demonstrate an election-winning capacity, the trade-off needed to keep members on board is empowerment.  They need to feel their voices are heard and that they are the party's ultimate masters - and if they don't feel that way, there's a danger they may start to look for that empowerment elsewhere.