Friday, April 12, 2024

A red letter day as Neil MacKay may not be completely wrong about absolutely everything

Here's a question I never thought I'd ask myself: is Neil MacKay actually half-right about something?  He's got a typically provocative column in the Herald about how the independence movement is tearing itself apart as the general election approaches.  But it's not, as some people automatically assumed from MacKay's track record, about "evil Cybernats" or "Alba splitters".  It's instead about divisions between the SNP and the Greens, and between different factions of the SNP.

If part of MacKay's point is simply that pro-independence parties should not be standing against each other in a first-past-the-post election, and that every pro-independence party will bear a share of the responsibility if the vote is split, that's music to my ears and is exactly what I've been saying all along.  And it really is particularly odd that the SNP and Greens, who are forever waxing lyrical about how much they get on and about the extreme importance of the Bute House Agreement, seem hellbent on knocking lumps out of each other at the general election like never before.

Yes, of course coalitions can just be businesslike affairs, born out of necessity, that have no particular relevance in elections for other tiers of government.  But this is a coalition of choice, not of necessity.  The SNP could govern perfectly well without the Greens, which means it's reasonable to infer that the two parties must really like each other.  In that case, why not do the sensible thing and form an electoral pact for the general election, even just as a one-off to get the independence movement through the current crisis?  The SNP could throw their weight behind the Greens in, say, two constituencies where the SNP have very little chance (Ian Murray's and Christine Jardine's spring to mind) and the Greens could give the SNP a free run elsewhere.  The only downside would be the challenge of getting the media to report the combined popular vote for the two parties, but winning seats really is the name of the game in this election.

And the flipside of the coin is that if the two parties don't like each other enough for an electoral pact, and don't see enough common cause, why would they persevere with a coalition of choice at Holyrood?

Of course this is Neil MacKay we're talking about here, so emphasis is very much on the half-right.  He's still reassuringly wrong about plenty, not least the usual guff about an independence referendum being very distant if Labour are going to win a thumping majority.  Most of us got the memo quite a while ago that independence will only be won when we stop kidding ourselves that the route to it is a referendum that will never be granted under any circumstances whatsoever.

MacKay also blasts Kate Forbes for supposedly being wrong in claiming that a "ban" is being imposed on wood-burning stoves, but then curiously contradicts himself by saying "only new-build properties applied for after April 2024 are prohibited from installing wood-burning stoves".  Yeah, that sounds a bit ban-like, Neil.  The clue is in the word "prohibited".

He says, probably correctly, that a big general election defeat would lead to the SNP replacing Yousaf, but then nonsensically claims that this will "compound" their "inevitable" defeat at the 2026 Holyrood election.  That's just his prejuduce against Forbes' social conservatism speaking.  No, replacing an unpopular leader with a more popular one will not make the situation worse.  It will make the situation better.  Even under Yousaf, the polling evidence suggests the SNP still have a real chance of emerging as the largest single party in 2026, so under a Forbes leadership, defeat most certainly would not be inevitable.

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If, like me, you're a member of the Alba Party, you'll have received the weekly email today, which lauds the party's performance in the Inverness South local by-election, said to have been a "60 per cent" increase on the party's showing in the ward in 2022.  It's also said that a similar increase in the Holyrood election would see Alba win seats in the north.

Now, I'm all for positive thinking, but it's important to remain grounded in some sort of reality.  Alba's share of the vote in the by-election increased from 1.8% to 3.2%.  They're unlikely to win any seats on 3% of the vote.  I presume what they're talking about is some sort of exponential growth path, which assumes they are now on 3% across the north, and that they might come close to doubling that in the next two years, which might win them two list seats in the north (thus justifying the plural).  But exponential growth paths are rare in politics, and to put it mildly, it's a bit of a stretch to suggest that a 3% vote share in a local by-election is proof that you're on one.

As I always say, I think it's absolutely possible that Alba can win list seats in 2026, but the most important part of the battle is recognising just how hard it's going to be and that we haven't made enough progress yet.  Patting ourselves on the back and falsely telling ourselves that we're already well on our way is pretty much the worst thing we can possibly do.

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It looks like the Blogger platform has introduced an irritating new feature which means that if a comments thread is exceptionally long, the most recent comments will only appear if you press a "Load More" link at the bottom of the page, which is quite difficult to spot on a first glance. This shouldn't be a major problem, because so far it's only seemed to happen when a thread has well over 200 comments.  But if you do post a comment on a very long thread and it doesn't show up, it'll probably be there if you press "Load More".

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If you can, please help Scot Goes Pop continue with a full-fat service throughout this crucial election year.  The 2024 fundraiser has received three very generous donations recently, and a million thanks to everyone who has contributed so far.  But we're still a long way from the target figure.  Donations by card can be made via the fundraiser page HERE, but if you have a Paypal account, the preferable way to donate is by direct Paypal payment, because that way the funds are usually transferred instantly and fees can be eliminated completely depending on which option you select from the menu.  My Paypal email address is:

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Bombshell Redfield & Wilton poll shows a clear majority for independence, but the SNP slip to second place in YouGov poll, posing the question for SNP members: is factional Humza rule REALLY worth losing the general election for?

It's been an ongoing frustration that although the monthly Redfield & Wilton polls tend to show a high Yes vote in the upper 40s, it's been a long time since they've shown an outright lead for Yes.  I had to check back to see when it last happened, and it was the autumn of 2022, so a year and a half ago.  It's finally happened again.

Should Scotland be an independent country? (Redfield & Wilton)

Yes 51% (+3)
No 49% (-3)

It may be, of course, that in a monthly poll that typically shows Yes in the high 40s, you're bound to eventually get one putting Yes in the low 50s sooner or later due to normal sampling variation.  So the breakthrough may not be real - we'll have to wait and see what next month's poll brings.  But even taking into account the standard margin of error, support for independence must at the very least be in the upper 40s, which means it's held up extraordinarily well as the SNP's own vote has slipped back.

And by goodness have the SNP slipped back.  Full-scale Scottish polls from YouGov are rarer than the monthly Redfield & Wilton polls, and so attract more interest when they pop up - and the new one is a landmark because it shows the SNP in second place in Westminster voting intentions for the first time since the independence referendum a decade ago.

Scottish voting intentions for the next UK general election (YouGov):

Labour 33% (+1)
SNP 31% (-2)
Conservatives 14% (-6)
Reform UK 7% (+5)
Liberal Democrats 7% (+2)
Greens 5% (-)

Seats projection (with changes from 2019 general election): Labour 28 (+27), SNP 18 (-30), Conservatives 6 (-), Liberal Democrats 5 (+1)

I've heard it suggested recently that at least Humza Yousaf has steadied the ship for the SNP and things haven't been getting any worse.  These numbers would perhaps suggest that isn't true.  The percentage comparisons are with the previous YouGov poll, which was conducted last October when Yousaf had already been in harness for six or seven months.  So it looks as if things have got signficantly worse since then.  The painful truth for SNP members is that it just doesn't seem to be working with Yousaf as leader, and it may well be that if defeat is to be averted, the leadership problem will have to be addressed before the general election.  Ideally that means a change of leader (bearing in mind that unlike the Tories, the SNP are blessed with a popular alternative leader), but at the very least it means putting an end to the factional rule that has been going on since the leadership election, by bringing Kate Forbes and her key allies back into the heart of government.

As I've noted before, if you're more loyal to your faction than you are to your party or your movement, that tends to imply you think you have the luxury of guaranteed power.  Those days are over, but the psychology of Humza's followers may not have caught up with that reality yet - which could prove deadly.

Although YouGov are showing a modest No lead on the independence question, they nevertheless are in agreement with Redfield & Wilton that the trend on independence support seems to be completely unaffected by the slump in the SNP vote.

Should Scotland be an independent country? (YouGov)

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

So there are still more than enough independence supporters out there to theoretically win a first-past-the-post election for the SNP, but it ought to be a statement of the obvious that this will depend on the SNP making the election about independence and actually giving Yes supporters something to vote for.  At the moment, perversely, they seem to think doing the complete opposite of that is the key to victory, and it's therefore perhaps unsurprising that YouGov are showing the SNP currently have the backing of just 56% of people who voted Yes in 2014, compared with 21% for Labour.

Now, here's a question which I'm not claiming to know the answer to.  Why do Redfield & Wilton self-fund a full-scale Scottish poll every single month even though they have no obvious Scottish connections and it must cost them a small fortune each year?  Is there a story behind the funding of these polls that we're not aware of, and could there be a partisan agenda at play?  One possible clue is in the nature of the write-ups that Redfield & Wilton provide on their website, and which as I've pointed out before seem to have a distinct unionist slant.  Month after month, they make a song and dance about the fact that independence trails behind one or two bread-and-butter issues such as health when Scottish voters are asked what is most important to them, even though that is completely normal and has been the case in pretty much every poll since time immemorial.

But this month Redfield & Wilton have dropped all subtlety.  They've mentioned the outright lead for Yes as an afterthought at the end of their long write-up, as if it's only a little curiosity of marginal interest, whereas in fact it's self-evidently and by some distance the most newsworthy part of the whole poll.  What's going on, guys?  What's the game?