Saturday, November 18, 2017

Hothersall faces bushtucker trial of the soul as everything he thought he could rely on turns to dust

Fate has dealt Duncan Hothersall a cruel hand over the last eighteen hours or so.  Deep down, he probably always anticipated that mystery man Richard Leonard would take the Scottish Labour crown, bringing an end to the branch office's resistance to Corbynism.  But the news about Kezia Dugdale....well, it's a real Ramsay MacDonald meets the Chuckle Brothers moment for poor Dunc, whose idiosyncratic vision of "International Socialism" now lies in tatters.  He hasn't been seen on Twitter since the news broke, and many suspect he's pondering a new career as a Spanish public prosecutor - something he can really put his heart into.

Scottish Labour leadership election result:

Richard Leonard 56.7%
Anas Sarwar 43.3%

I'm trying to decide whether that margin of victory justified the extreme 7/1 odds on a Sarwar win.  Probably not quite, although it looks like the result was never in that much doubt, in spite of what we had been led to believe.

I'll be completely honest about this - faced with the very limited options available to them, I think Labour have made the right choice (just for once).  We've seen enough of Anas Sarwar over the years to know that he would have been a disaster area, and that no-one would have taken him seriously as a potential First Minister.  I thought Leonard came across reasonably well in the STV debate with Sarwar - it sounded like he was actually thinking about his answers rather than reading from a script, which is quite rare in this day and age.  If he can keep that up when debating with opponents from the SNP rather than his own party, he might do OK...but that's a big "if".  He seems to have exactly the same irrational rage towards the SNP that all of his immediate predecessors have displayed.

I saw Christopher Silver say on Twitter earlier that the "pro-indy left" will have to drop their "instinctive dismissal" of Labour in the light of this result - well, that rather depends on how serious they are about the "pro-indy" part of the equation, doesn't it?  Leonard seems to be an absolute dinosaur on the constitutional issue.

It'll be interesting to see what the significance is of Leonard putting off any decision about suspending Dugdale for a few days.  The expectation that she's going to be cut adrift is now so strong that it'll be hard to pull back from that, but on the other hand a few days' grace will give her a chance to actually appear on the programme and mutter "for the many, not the few" as she devours assorted insects.  Maybe we'll hear some waffly excuse about how they can't suspend someone who may have been unwise, but who is nevertheless "reaching out to young people".

If she does go, it'll mean that the people who were leader and deputy leader of Scottish Labour in late August will both no longer even be members of the party just three months later.  A totally unprecedented state of affairs.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Andrew Neil: the mask slips

Amid the mindless hysteria about Alex Salmond's perfectly reasonable decision to run his show on an Ofcom-regulated UK television channel (it's on Freeview, for pity's sake!), there is also a slightly more thoughtful 'middle position' being taken by some.  Basically that position is: "No, of course Alex Salmond hasn't done anything terribly wrong, and of course it's not true that the mainstream British broadcast media is as pure as the driven snow while RT is evil incarnate.  But that's not to say there is no distinction between the two.  RT's news coverage deliberately pursues a political agenda, in contrast to the BBC and ITN, where any bias is usually unconscious or unintended."

That's quite a seductive argument, but for it to have validity, you'd be entitled to expect that the BBC would react with a degree of concern and reflectiveness if the more partisan channel ever succeeded in showing it up - by, for example, broadcasting an interview that was overwhelmingly in the public interest, but that the BBC had inexplicably neglected to conduct.  One of the most common observations on social media about Alex Salmond's interview with Carles Puigdemont was just how bizarre it was that no British broadcaster had previously shown a full-length interview with the exiled Catalan president.  You'd have hoped that the BBC bosses watching would have had a light-bulb moment and thought "Damn, we should have done that on the Andrew Marr Show.  It was an oversight and we'd better put it right now."  That would have been the reaction of an organisation that truly has only unconscious biases, and rectifies them when they're identified.

Troublingly, however, if Andrew Neil's extraordinary rant at an RT host on last night's This Week is at all representative of the wider BBC, their reaction seems to be entirely different and highly belligerent -

"The whole point of Russia all focused to undermine our faith in our democratic institutions, and to divide us....I went on to your website before we came on tonight and they're all stories that try to undermine our faith in our society.  They're all trying to divide us, you give prominence to Catalonia, to Scottish independence, you're trying to divide us."

So the reaction is not "we should have done that interview ourselves", but rather "no decent broadcaster should have given Puigdemont the oxygen of publicity because Catalan nationalism is bad". There, unwittingly, Neil has vindicated the argument that RT and the BBC are two sides of the same coin - ie. that RT pursues a political agenda by giving prominence to the Catalan and Scottish independence movements (thus "dividing us") while the BBC pursues the opposite agenda by starving those movements of attention where possible (thus "bringing us together").  That would of course be entirely in keeping with the BBC charter requirement that the corporation must operate in the interests of the United Kingdom's cohesion, but if that is what's going on, it's murderously hard to see how the BBC can ever cover the Scottish independence debate fairly and impartially.  For both the BBC's sake and for the sake of democracy, we must hope that Neil was speaking for himself only.

Where he probably was speaking on behalf of many of his colleagues was in his extraordinary "heads I win, tails you lose" attitude to the regulation of broadcasters.  When it was pointed out to him that RT is regulated by Ofcom in much the same way that the BBC is, he argued that this meant that RT was probably going to lose its licence - in other words the fact that RT won and has so far retained its licence is somehow proof that the channel is just about to be taken off the air.  If anyone made a claim like that about the BBC, you'd question their sanity, and rightly so. When it was pointed out to him that the BBC's political editor Laura Kuenssberg had been censured by a regulatory body in much the same way that RT has occasionally been censured by Ofcom, he reacted as if someone had just defended a serial killer.  "Laura Kuenssberg is a very fine journalist", he said quietly, with the subtext being that an attack on Laura Kuenssberg (even by the BBC's own regulators) is an attack on journalism itself.  In other words, RT being censured by their regulators is proof that RT is a Kremlin propaganda machine, and the BBC being censured by their regulators is proof that BBC journalism is the victim of persecution.  Yup, that all seems pretty clear-sighted and fair.

*  *  *

I don't generally offer betting tips on this blog, and I'm not going to start now...but I maybe would have done if Ladbrokes hadn't just closed their books on the Scottish Labour leadership contest.  The 7/1 they were offering on Anas Sarwar earlier today just seemed like crazy odds.  All the mood music from both camps implies that Leonard is the more likely winner but that it's too close to call.  If you buy into the Neil Edward Lovatt theory that betting odds are a predictive God, you'd have to conclude that Ladbrokes or their punters know something we don't, but more likely is that they don't have any inside information and are just lazily assuming that a comfortable victory for the Corbynite is logical.  7/1 definitely looked like a value bet - but (perhaps thankfully) it's too late to put that to the test.

*  *  *

I was all set to defend Kezia Dugdale's decision to take part in I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here! until I remembered that she's still a sitting MSP and that it's therefore a completely ridiculous thing for her to be doing.  She's supposed to be representing the voters of Lothian in parliamentary votes and debates, and helping them if they contact her with a problem.  She will self-evidently be neglecting those responsibilities for the entire duration of her stay in Australia.  I trust the mainstream media will muster at least twice as much hysteria for Kezia as they managed for Alex Salmond, because there's no doubt over which of those two has made the truly indefensible decision in pursuit of attention.

Whether deservedly or otherwise, Kezia had until now looked set to emulate David Steel by "passing from rising hope to elder statesman without any intervening period whatsoever" (as Michael Foot famously put it).  But I suspect she may have permanently destroyed her credibility with this single act.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

A gentle hint: this kind of behaviour doesn't just bring journalism into disrepute, it turns journalism into a laughing-stock

Those of you on Twitter are probably well aware that there's a Herald journalist called David Leask who is notorious for being the least tolerant person you could ever encounter.  It's almost comical - he's literally blocked every single person who's ever interacted with him unless they've unreservedly agreed with his own worldview in each and every microscopic particular.  He has no self-awareness at all about how this behaviour reveals him to have a sinister, mildly fascist mindset (I use the word 'fascist' advisedly - defined in part as 'no tolerance for opposing opinions') and indeed he advertises what he is doing quite openly - after most blockings he 'names and shames' the offending person and states his 'reason' for blocking, which in most cases is silly beyond all belief.  He carries on doing this without any understanding of the immense harm he's doing to his own reputation - and by extension to the reputation of his profession - because, you've guessed it, he's already blocked anyone who is capable of being a candid friend to him and taking him to one side.

Over the years I've been on Twitter, I've watched in genuine astonishment as practically everyone I know, across all shades of pro-independence opinion, has been blocked by Leask, often after interacting with him very respectfully on just one single occasion.  Being aware of his antics, I began to regard it as a game to see if I could end up as just about the only non-sycophant left that he hasn't blocked, simply by permanently ignoring him.  However, over the last few days he has lost the plot even by his own high standards.  Because of his hardline views about Russian-funded media in the UK, he's taken to declaring that anyone who defends Alex Salmond's association with RT cannot by definition be part of the 'real SNP' or share the values of the 'real independence movement' (a jaw-dropping piece of conceit given that Leask is not actually in the indy camp).  This naturally means that Salmond himself, the man who led the Yes campaign in the indyref and has been leader of the SNP for almost one-quarter of its entire existence, is not 'real SNP' or 'real pro-indy'.  I'd humbly submit that is quite possibly the most embarrassing argument ever put forward by any professional journalist who does not work for the Express.

So I finally cracked.  I decided a more interesting game than ignoring Leask would be to see if I could gently challenge him by making a point that is practically irrefutable, and come away without being blocked.  The result, I'm afraid, was all too predictable.

Remember that the above tweet is the only time, in eight years as a Twitter user, that I've ever interacted with the guy.

Try the game yourself.  Go on, it's fun.  Say to him: "It's Thursday, David", and ten seconds later he'll publicly execute you with the words "Blocked for denying it's always Wednesday".

Ladies and gentlemen, I give to you the one and only Mr David Leask.  

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

New ICM poll is hammerblow for Dugdale...sorry, I mean Rowley...sorry, I mean 'Position Vacant'

Confusion reigns today over whether the role of interim Scottish Labour leader is now completely vacant or occupied by Jackie Baillie (and indeed confusion also reigns over whether we'd be able to tell the difference between those two possibilities).  One thing remains constant, though - there's no sign of any joy for Scottish Labour in the opinion polls.  The SNP are back up to 4% of the Britain-wide vote for only the second time in any ICM poll conducted since the general election, and the Scottish subsample shows the following: SNP 40%, Conservatives 27%, Labour 20%, Liberal Democrats 6%, Greens 5%, UKIP 1%.  This is the twentieth subsample in a row across all firms to put the SNP in first place.

Of course no individual subsample should be regarded as reliable given the small sample size, but for what it's worth the ICM poll is the first straw in the wind since we were all royally entertained by the affectations of outrage over Alex Salmond's TV show.  So the very earliest indications are that the SNP's detractors may have to find a line of attack that is more promising than "Salmond is almost as bad as Kim Philby" (which is something that Channel 4 News presenter Jon Snow actually said out loud last night!).

'We need to talk about the monarchy as part of independence'

The latest from Phantom Power's Journey to Yes series, featuring someone who you might remember giving Ruth Davidson a (thoroughly deserved) hard time during the general election campaign.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Nineteenth subsample in a row puts the SNP ahead

A new Britain-wide YouGov poll is out today, so this may be a good moment to round-up the Scottish subsamples that have been published since my last update.  There have only been a couple...

Ipsos-Mori: SNP 43%, Labour 24%, Conservatives 23%, Liberal Democrats 9%

YouGov: SNP 36%, Labour 28%, Conservatives 25%, Liberal Democrats 5%, UKIP 4%, Greens 1%

That means nineteen subsamples in a row have put the SNP in an outright lead.  Just the usual reminder - any individual subsample should not be regarded as reliable, but an aggregate/average of a large number of subsamples can give you a rough indication of what is happening.  The sheer consistency of the SNP lead in subsamples since early September is probably indicative of quite a healthy SNP advantage on the ground, and is very much in line with the message from full-scale Scottish polls (although admittedly we haven't had any of those for a few weeks).

Are there any clouds on the horizon?  Obviously the hysteria over Alex Salmond's new TV show has only just happened, so we'll have to wait and see how that plays out.  It goes without saying that the criticisms of Salmond are hypocritical bilge given that leading politicians from all major parties have been willingly interviewed on the same channel, but on the other hand it is unusual (probably unprecedented) for Nicola Sturgeon to put out a personal statement distancing herself from something Salmond has done.  She and her advisers may have thought that was a safety-first approach, but I suspect the truly dangerous thing is for parties to allow themselves to look divided.  However, it's a very polite division on a relatively minor issue, so in spite of the mainstream media's valiant demands that their readers and viewers should care about this, I expect the likelihood is that we'll look back on it as a 72-hour wonder. 

If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear

Earlier today, I had a brief exchange with Nick Robinson (former Political Editor of both the BBC and ITV News, and now presenter of BBC Radio 4's Today programme) on the subject of Alex Salmond's new TV show - which is made with complete editorial control by Salmond's own production company, and will be broadcast on RT.





This is my cue to use the immortal words "He didn't answer" (albeit with rather more accuracy than they were originally used).

I realised as I was writing those tweets that I am - somewhat to my surprise - a fan of Twitter's new 280-character limit.  Until a couple of days ago, if I had tried to make points like those I would have given up in despair after realising that it's impossible to condense them into 140 characters.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

No, Nicola Sturgeon does not need to apologise for someone else's personal opinions

Good Morning Scotland presenter Gary Robertson raised a few eyebrows last night by taking a clear stance on an issue of party political controversy -

Now, first things first - there's nothing wrong in principle with a BBC journalist expressing a political opinion on Twitter.  That's what the standard disclaimer "my views, not my employer's" is there to cover - he wasn't tweeting with his BBC hat on.  Nevertheless, there presumably is a line that has to be drawn somewhere - it would, for example, be a problem if Brian Taylor was constantly telling us which party he votes for in general elections, because we would inevitably view all of his political reporting through that prism.  What troubles me is not so much that we now know Gary Robertson thinks the SNP should have declined large game-changing donations in 2007 and 2011, but rather that he believes he's merely stating the obvious and is evidently offended by the idea that any right-thinking person would not dutifully fall in behind him.

Let's be absolutely clear what it would have meant for the SNP to turn down Souter's donations.  In 2007, the odds were - as since the dawn of time - stacked against them.  They were up against much wealthier opponents who could tap into UK-wide funds, and the media were relentlessly hostile.  The Souter donation helped level a hopelessly skewed playing-field, and there was simply no other way that was going to happen.  In a nutshell, Gary Robertson thinks the SNP should have opted out of the chance to properly compete for power on something approaching a fair basis, just so they could look as pure as the driven snow.  That would have been a betrayal of anyone who had pounded the streets for the SNP since 1934 on the assumption that the party was not playing a futile game of cricket, but was instead engaged in a serious attempt to overcome the dirty war fought against them by the media and London establishment, to attain power, and ultimately to win maximum self-government for Scotland.  The 2007 election was so desperately close that it's entirely plausible to say that without the Souter donation there would have been no independence referendum (because the 2011 overall majority was only possible due to the success of the 2007-11 government), meaning that we wouldn't now have a more powerful Scottish Parliament and an enormous contingent of pro-independence MPs at Westminster.  And what noble point of principle would the SNP have been sacrificing their raison d'être for?  None at all.  The donation came without strings.

Maybe once we have public funding of political parties, and once the media has put its own house in order, the SNP will have the luxury of turning down unconditional donations of £500,000.  But not until then.

I'm also slightly baffled as to why Robertson thinks Brian Souter has "policies".  Politicians have policies, but private citizens - no matter how wealthy - merely have opinions.  Perhaps Robertson thought it was only by indulging in the pretence that Souter is the equivalent of an SNP government minister that he could justify the otherwise incredibly silly notion that Nicola Sturgeon should be "apologising" for someone else's personal views.

As for Robertson's question about whether Souter's donations took place within the historical period Sturgeon apologised for in her statement, he should have known the answer to that, because she gave a pretty strong hint that she regarded 2001 as the watershed - that being the year in which the age of consent was equalised at 16.  The vast bulk of what she was apologising for took place on Westminster's watch - most notably, it was UK-wide Labour and Tory governments that eccentrically kept sex between men a criminal offence in Scotland for well over a decade after it had been legalised in England and Wales.  The short post-devolution period covered by the apology was during the Labour-Lib Dem coalition government at Holyrood, and ended six years before Souter's first donation to the SNP.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Penny for the Guy

A few years ago I stumbled across a BBC drama series from the 1970s, confusingly called 1990 because it was set in a dystopian Britain of the near-future.  It starred Edward Woodward at the peak of his powers, but it doesn't seem to be as well-remembered as his other series like Callan and The Equalizer.  I think probably the reason is that it's a bit of a mixed bag - some aspects of it work very well, while other things occasionally snap you out of the fake reality you're presented with.  For example, in Britain of 1990 the crown jewels have been literally sold off, the House of Lords has been turned into a politicians' drinking club (how would you tell the difference?), and the pound sterling has been replaced by the "Anglo-Dollar", which just doesn't ring true as a name.  (Unless it was imposed by the Americans themselves, of course, but that's not the storyline.)  There's an unintentionally hilarious bit in the final episode of Series 1, where an old man recounts the sorry tale of Britain's descent into totalitarianism, and he says something like "it all began when they brought in that Value Added Tax in the early 70s..."  That must have sounded a bit daft even at the time of broadcast.  

And then there's the whole issue of Europe.  Weirdly, Britain is supposed to have remained in the European Community and the Council of Europe, and therefore is still fully subject to the European Convention on Human Rights - which it circumvents by means of various technicalties, even though citizens are routinely denied all sorts of basic rights such as the right to travel, the right to free expression, and the right to a private life.  When I first saw the series, I thought it was wildly implausible that European leaders would ever allow any country to get away with such a thing, or at least not without facing expulsion...which means I now need to urgently introduce my naive former self to a certain Mr Guy Verhofstadt, who seems hellbent on ensuring that 1990 proves to be an uncannily accurate prophecy - albeit in real life the rogue state is Spain rather than the UK.

Verhofstadt's latest Facebook post about the Catalan crisis is typically grotesque.  It's thinly disguised as a rare criticism of Spanish actions, but in truth his only quibble seems to be that the taking of political prisoners is a tactical blunder that might allow the filthy law-breaking "separatists" to paint themselves as martyrs, thus helping them to do well in the December election.  He suggests that there should be "other ways" to ensure that the jailed politicians "receive a fair trial", by which he seems to mean a delay of legal proceedings until the election is over.  At no point does it even occur to him to question why elected politicians in an EU member state should be facing trial at all for the supposed "crime" of implementing the manifesto on which they were elected.  He fatuously signs off with an image of demonstrators holding up a banner reading "all we need is talk" - well, exactly what interest has Verhofstadt ever shown in genuine dialogue that puts the two sides of this dispute on an equal footing, rather than putting one side in the dock of a Spanish court?  I think we know the type of dialogue he has in mind - it'll be a cosy chat between the Spanish government and a puppet Catalan regime, in which they furiously agree with each other about how the Spanish constitution must be respected and how independence is a complete non-starter.

*  *  *

If you were particularly 'lucky', you might have heard me on the radio this morning.  The Bauer network (ie. Clyde 2, Forth 2, etc.) invited me on because of something I tweeted the other day about what appeared to be an enormous Comic Relief-style red nose on the front of a car - but actually proved on closer inspection to be a 'poppy'.  I suppose, in fairness, the whole problem with "poppy fascism" is the denial of freedom of choice, so it would be hypocritical of me to suggest that people shouldn't be free to be as ostentatious as they like with their own poppy-wearing.  But I do feel that there's an inverse correlation between how large or tacky a poppy is, and how close the sentiment behind it is to the original intention of the poppy symbol.

You can hear the radio show on catch-up HERE.

Friday, November 3, 2017

That ever-shrinking Tory minority government

After the SNP suspended Michelle Thomson and Natalie McGarry a couple of years ago, there were various articles in the unionist media gloating about 'the mystery of the vanishing SNP MPs'.  It might be worth noting, then, that other parties seem to have recently mastered the art of shrinking their own parliamentary representation.  This is the direction of travel since the general election in June...

Composition of the House of Commons:

Conservatives 314 (-2)
Labour 258 (-2)
SNP 35 (n/c)
Liberal Democrats 12 (n/c)
DUP 10 (n/c)
Sinn Féin 7 (n/c)
Independents 5 (+4)
Plaid Cymru 4 (n/c)
Greens 1 (n/c)

Conservatives 10 seats short of a majority

(The Speaker and Deputy Speakers are excluded from the above figures. Note also that Sinn Féin have not taken up their seats. Theoretically they can do so at any time, but in practice are highly unlikely to.)

Of course in one sense the Tory and Labour losses might be viewed as a mere technicality, because Jared O'Mara can still be expected to vote in line with the Labour whip and Charlie Elphicke can still be expected to vote in line with the Tory whip.  But I do wonder if there may eventually prove to be a distinction between an MP who still harbours realistic hopes of being readmitted to the party fold (such as Anne Marie Morris), and an MP who is accused of something of sufficient seriousness that it becomes hard to imagine any way back.  In the latter case, such a person may feel they have nothing left to lose, and the whips would have nothing left to bribe or threaten them with.

Those of you with a long memory may recall that nine Eurosceptic rebel Tory MPs had the whip withdrawn in late 1994, which technically and temporarily meant that John Major's majority was wiped out.  Robin Oakley, then the BBC's Political Editor, assured viewers that this was a masterstroke by the Tory whips, because suspended MPs typically show obsessional loyalty in an effort to be readmitted as soon as possible.  But the MP Rupert Allason, who'd had the whip withdrawn a year earlier, predicted that precisely the opposite would happen, and he was proved correct.  The whipless MPs became an informal grouping, and with safety in numbers became emboldened to vote against the Major government even more often.  They were eventually readmitted without providing any guarantees about their future conduct.   That was merely embarrassing for the Tories, but it won't even be regarded as a credible option now if the reason for an MP's suspension is suspected wrongdoing of a serious nature (unless the individual is completely cleared).

Take a bow, Anne McElvoy: the competition is stiff, but you may have just said the most ridiculous thing in the history of Question Time

OK, so let's just briefly recap.

* In 2015, the Catalan people freely elected a parliament in which the absolute majority of members were pro-independence.

* In the popular vote in the 2015 election, pro-independence parties comfortably outpolled anti-independence parties by 48% to 39%.

* The elected pro-independence government held a referendum last month to definitively determine whether the population wanted independence or not.

* The pro-independence campaign won the referendum by an overwhelming margin of 92% to 8%.

* In spite of violence, intimidation and vote theft by the Spanish authorities, 38.5% of the entire registered electorate successfully cast a vote in favour of independence, meaning that even had there been a very high overall turnout of as much as 76%, a victory for the pro-independence campaign would have been statistically certain.

* Braving a very real threat to their own personal liberty, government ministers acted to respect the will of the electorate by declaring an independent republic.

* An opinion poll published this week shows that there continues to be a majority in favour of independence (roughly 53% to 47%).

* Two very recent voting intention polls suggest that the pro-independence parties are on course to retain their overall majority in parliament in the December elections, and to win the popular vote once again.

Presumably aware of most or all of the above, Anne McElvoy of The Economist somehow felt able to indulge in the following musings on the BBC's Question Time tonight: "The facts are that there is not an overall appetite in Catalonia for independence, and sometimes the debate is conducted as if there were.  And sometimes some of the framing of news reporting seems to suggest that there is.  AND THERE IS NOT.  If you want a LEGITIMATE pro-independence movement, then go out there, campaign for it, and get people on your side. The push for independence is, I think, over for the moment."

There comes a point where it's actually quite difficult to know how to argue with stupidity like that.  What's truly inexplicable is that the host David Dimbleby didn't step in to correct (or at least challenge) such an obvious factual inaccuracy, and instead simply allowed viewers to be grossly misled.

*  *  *

I touch on the subject of Catalonia in my article for this month's iScot magazine, which is now available.  A preview of the article has been posted HERE, and you can purchase a digital copy of the magazine HERE.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Opinion poll confirms what we already knew: Catalonia wants to be an independent state

I don't often wade through polling datasets in the Catalan language for this blog, but it may be worth doing it in this particular case.  As I've noted a couple of times over the last few weeks, the result of the Catalan referendum makes it phenomenally improbable that the anti-independence side would have won if they hadn't boycotted the vote.  You'd have to believe in an ultra-high turnout and that practically all of the extra voters would have voted No - which stretches credibility beyond breaking-point, given that we know large numbers of Yes supporters were prevented from voting by the police.  The only other possibility to cling to is that there was widespread falsification of results - essentially the mirror image of the wild conspiracy theories about the Scottish indyref result that unionists here love to scoff at.  Judging from the reports of observers, there in fact seems to be compelling evidence that the vote was extremely well and fairly conducted under the circumstances.  And yet, in spite of the compelling mandate for independence staring them in the face, the BBC website has taken to innocently finishing articles about Catalonia with a variant on the following: "Catalans are split on independence.  An opinion poll earlier this year showed 41% in favour, 49% against."  The pretty obvious subtext being that outdated opinion polls are more authoritative than actual referendum results.

Even if you believe that the BBC's favourite poll was bang-on accurate at the moment it was conducted, is it really so implausible that public opinion has changed since then, allowing us to reconcile the poll result with the referendum result?  Of course it's not.  Scottish public opinion proved extremely volatile over the final few weeks of indyref campaigning, and we didn't have the provocation of state authorities telling us it was illegal to vote and attacking us with truncheons and rubber bullets if we attempted to reach a polling station.  The new Catalan poll today confirms that there has been a significant swing in favour of independence since the pre-referendum period, sufficient to give Yes a majority.

I, més concretament, vol que Catalunya esdevingui un Estat independent? (And, more specifically, do you want Catalonia to become an independent State?)

Yes 48.7% (+7.6)
No 43.6% (-5.8)

The fieldwork dates were 16th-29th October, and with Don't Knows excluded the results are roughly: Yes 53%, No 47%.  Percentage changes are from the same polling organisation's figures in June.

The 'less specific' question asked by the poll is a multi-option question on various constitutional options - a bit like Scottish polls that chuck in a 'Devo Max' option.  Outright independence is the most popular single option with 40.2% support.  It's true that if you combine support for all of the options that involve Catalonia remaining within the Spanish state, you reach an overall majority - but, crucially, one of those options is Catalonia becoming a state in its own right within a federal Spain, which is clearly not on offer in the real world.  That explains why there is a pro-independence majority on the binary Yes/No question.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Spanish democracy : doubleplusgood

I wanted to vote but Big Brother told me it was illegal.

I went to the polling station, and Big Brother's police smashed me in the face with a truncheon.

They did it to save democracy and protect my human rights.

I checked with Big Brother's European allies to make sure he hadn't malfunctioned in some way, but they said "no, this is all perfectly normal".

The votes were counted and the result was announced, but Big Brother explained there hadn't been an election at all.  It had just been my imagination.

Some people attempted to implement the result of the imaginary election, but Big Brother's judges tried to arrest them and they had to flee to another country.

Then Big Brother decided to hold an election of his own.  It would be much better than the imaginary election because it wouldn't be imaginary, and because everyone would be able to take part. 

I tried to vote for my favourite candidates in Big Brother's election, but found I couldn't because they were in jail for organising the imaginary election. 

So I tried to vote for my second favourite candidates, but found I couldn't because Big Brother had banned their party for campaigning in the imaginary election.

I did manage to vote for my third favourite candidates.  And they won.   Hurrah!

But then Big Brother annulled the election results because it was undemocratic for the winners to win.

I went on a demonstration because I didn't think this was fair.  Big Brother's police smashed me in the face with a truncheon again and I suddenly remembered it was all totally fair.

Freedom is Slavery.

Dictatorship is Democracy.

I love Big Brother.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Listen to the real FM, Kenny

As you may already have seen, Kenny "Devo or Death" Farquharson fell hook, line and sinker for a tweet from a parody Nicola Sturgeon account stating that "Scotland does not recognise the Republic of Catalunya" and that "the Spanish constitution must be respected".  Emboldened by his belief that the real Sturgeon had made such a wildly implausible intervention, he rather amusingly scolded me for not falling into line with my party leader's edict.  "Listen to the FM!" he said, sternly.

(Click screenshots to enlarge.)

As Kenny's appeal to authority has blown something of a puncture, I'll just take this opportunity to amplify my original point.  17,410,742 people voted Leave in the EU referendum last year, out of a total registered electorate of 46,500,001.  That means just 37.4% of the electorate voted Leave - and yet, on the whole, the UK's political and journalistic establishment don't seem to have any problem with the idea that Britain must withdraw from the European Union on the basis of a mandate that would have fallen short of the notorious 40% rule in 1979.

In the Catalan independence referendum, 2,044,038 people voted in favour of independence, out of a total registered electorate of 5,313,564.  That means 38.5% of the electorate voted for independence - a slightly higher percentage than Leave achieved.  It would of course have been even higher if Spanish police hadn't stolen votes, closed polling stations, and used violence to prevent people from voting.

In fairness to Kenny, I saw the fake Sturgeon tweet when I did a Google search last night, and although I was dismayed by it, for just a split-second I thought it might be real.  It was the "to be clear" that did it - that sounds like Sturgeonesque language.  But when I thought about it I quickly became suspicious and decided to check, because I realised that an explicit rejection of the mandate for independence would have directly contradicted what she has been saying for weeks.  It tells us quite a bit about Kenny's fundamental misreading of the SNP that he didn't become suspicious about a tweet like that, even after reflection.  In reality, given the strength of feeling about Catalonia, there were only really two options open to the Scottish Government - either offer a symbolic "recognition" of Catalan independence (even though a non-sovereign country like Scotland has no power to recognise a state), or just opt out of the problem by neither recognising nor disputing the independence declaration.  They've gone for the latter option - I'm not sure that will be enough to satisfy most SNP members, but I can certainly understand why they've done it.

Barcelona, like a jewel in the sun

Depressingly (in one sense), I'm just about old enough to clearly remember Slovenia's unilateral declaration of independence from Yugoslavia in 1991.  I recall the TV reports dripping with scepticism about the prospect of the new "state" receiving recognition from the international community, and positive derision about its ambitions for membership of the European Community (as the EU was then called).  And yet in the blink of an eye, Slovenia had attracted widespread recognition, and within just thirteen years it was a full member of the EU.  None of this is to say that history is bound to repeat itself in Catalonia, but it's a useful reminder that it pays dividends to be sceptical about journalistic scepticism.  These situations often have a momentum all of their own.

I suspect that if the events of the last 24 hours do eventually lead to authentic independence, Catalonia may have a more tortuous journey to follow than Slovenia did.  A hard notion though it is to countenance amid the euphoria of the moment, there may yet have to be a strategic and temporary renunciation of the independence declaration if Spain is prepared to offer a binding independence referendum in return.  Why would the comically intransigent Spanish political establishment offer such a thing in a million years?  Most likely because there is a reasonable chance that Catalonia will prove to be ungovernable under Madrid's puppet regime, if enough public servants switch their allegiance to the new republic and if civil disobedience is widespread.  We don't know yet if that will prove to be the case, but we're about to find out.

*  *  *

Since my last update, four more Britain-wide voting intention polls have been published, and yet again, the Scottish subsamples from all of them put the SNP in the lead.

Survation: SNP 37%, Labour 28%, Conservatives 16%, Liberal Democrats 13%, UKIP 3%, Greens 2%

YouGov (a): SNP 42%, Labour 24%, Conservatives 22%, UKIP 6%, Liberal Democrats 5%

ICM: SNP 39%, Conservatives 27%, Labour 24%, Greens 6%, Liberal Democrats 4%

YouGov (b): SNP 36%, Labour 30%, Conservatives 25%, Liberal Democrats 5%, Greens 2%, BNP 1%

That means an extraordinary seventeen subsamples in a row have now put the SNP in first place - quite a contrast with the pattern seen between election day and the end of August, when a substantial minority of subsamples were putting Labour ahead.  It does look very much like the SNP's lead dropped significantly during the summer before recovering.  That trend will never be part of the 'official record', though, because the first full-scale Scottish poll after the election wasn't conducted until early September, which if the subsamples are to be believed is roughly the point at which the political weather changed back in the SNP's favour.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Now is a very odd time to be claiming that the division of powers between the UK and Scotland is "clear-cut"

There's an article on the BBC website that attempts to explain the system of autonomy in Catalonia - ie. the one that Madrid is today trying to sweep away and replace with a puppet regime.  Unfortunately, however, the article makes a comparison with devolution in Scotland that is astonishingly misconceived in the light of recent events...

"The division of powers between the central government in Madrid and the regional government in Barcelona is not as clear cut as it is in some other countries with devolved authorities such as Germany or the UK.  In the UK, for example, the government in Westminster cannot interfere in Scottish education policy because education is fully devolved."

Oh really?  Agriculture and fisheries are "fully devolved" in Scotland, and yet the UK government are doing a remarkably convincing impersonation of a group of people who think and know that they have the legal right to interfere with Scottish agriculture and fisheries to their heart's content under the cover of a post-Brexit power grab.  The reason?  First of all, the Scotland Act stresses that none of its provisions prevent the UK parliament from "legislating for Scotland".  The only constraint on Westminster legislating on devolved matters is the informal Sewel Convention, which was supposed to have been put on a statutory basis as part of the implementation of "The Vow".  However, earlier this year the UK government successfully argued at the Supreme Court that the whole thing was a con-trick and that Sewel remains legally unenforceable.

Secondly, the Scotland Act specifies that 'the constitution' is reserved to Westminster - an extremely broad category that naturally includes the Scotland Act itself.  So Westminster can simply rip up or modify the devolved settlement at its whim - which is exactly what it is currently attempting to do by means of the Great Repeal Bill.  The only conceivable constraint on that process is Sewel, which is legally worthless (see above).

As I've conceded before, the UK does have a good story to tell in the sense that it's extremely unlikely that a violent Spanish-style crackdown would ever be launched against an exercise in Scottish self-determination.  But the idea that Scotland has some sort of clear-cut legal protection that Catalonia lacks is an absolute fairy-tale.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Why Ruth Davidson will almost certainly NOT be the next Prime Minister

You may have seen over the weekend that John Rentoul manned up and made a stout-hearted attempt to resuscitate the decomposing corpse of the 'Ruth Davidson for PM' campaign, with an article entitled 'I'm convinced Ruth Davidson could be the next Prime Minister'.  Now, obviously most people reading this blog will share my view that Ruth is All Tank And No Ammunition, and will be aware that under her leadership the Scottish Tories have slipped back to a dismal third place in the majority of recent polls.  However, let's humour Rentoul just for a moment and pretend that the idea of Ruth as a world leader isn't quite as batty as it actually is.  What's missing from the article is an explanation of how it's even practically feasible for her to stand in a Conservative leadership election.

To stand as a leadership candidate, you need to be a Westminster MP.  Ruth is not a Westminster MP.  It is of course theoretically possible to become an MP without a general election taking place by engineering a by-election, but that takes time.  Vacancies for the Tory leadership generally occur rather suddenly (I can't think of even a single exception to that rule in my lifetime), so we're effectively being asked to believe that other potential candidates and the entire Hard Brexit wing of the Tory parliamentary party would be absolutely fine with the start of the contest being delayed for several weeks just so that the darling of Remainers can attempt to stand.  The only alternative would be for her to preempt the issue by persuading a Westminster chum to stand down before a leadership vacancy arises, but that would be seen as an obvious attempt to prepare the ground for a leadership challenge, and thus as a gross act of disloyalty - not just against Theresa May, but against the whole Tory party.  Any needless by-election can backfire, and the Tories know they can't risk losing even a single seat given the current state of the parliamentary arithmetic.

It just ain't going to happen.  She may well want it to happen, but by now she'll have worked out the permutations in her head and realised a plausible route to Downing Street just isn't there in anything like the foreseeable future.

*  *  *

What do you call a man who has already completely and utterly lost the plot and then doubles down?  If I didn't know the guy so well, I'd be rubbing my eyes in disbelief right now.  Round 3 in less than a week from Stormfront Lite's Mike Smithson -

"Remember the ONLY way an election can be triggered before 2022 is by going through the processes set down in the Fixed-Term Parliament Act. This requires two thirds of all 650 MPs to back one, as last April, or else the government losing two votes of no confidence within a specific time table.  In the current context the latter requires both the DUP and the SNP to join with LAB, PC and the LD MPs. The DUP has been bought off for its 10 votes and LAB should be under no illusions about the SNP’s 35 MPs. Nicola’s party got smashed on June 8th and isn’t going to put its remaining 35 MPs at risk by doing anything that would facilitate an early election."

I've already explained five hundred and eighty-three billion times why Smithson's repeated claim that the SNP would prevent an early election taking place is the polar opposite of the truth, so let's just take a moment to marvel at his startling new assertion that the SNP "got smashed on June 8th".  This, ladies and gentlemen, is the election result he is referring to...

SNP: 35 seats
Conservatives: 13 seats
Labour: 7 seats
Liberal Democrats: 4 seats

SNP: 35 seats
All other parties combined: 24 seats

SNP: 59.3% of seats
All other parties combined: 40.7% of seats

That's what the SNP "getting smashed" looks like, apparently.  I hope for the sake of the unionist parties that the SNP never actually win an election.

By the way, on a point of pedantry it's not even true that "the ONLY way" an early election can be triggered is via the processes of the Fixed Term Parliaments Act.  The other way of doing it is to repeal that Act.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

It's getting close to unspoofable now

Another day, another ill-judged analysis of Scottish politics from Stormfront Lite's Bedfordshire-based editor Mike Smithson, known fondly to thousands of East Dunbartonshire residents as an 'impartial' letter-writing 'election expert' (in spite of being a long-standing Liberal Democrat member, a former Liberal Democrat county councillor, and a former Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate).  When he mysteriously claimed yesterday that the SNP's electoral position was 'precarious', I wondered aloud if he was even aware of the three full-scale polls of Scottish voting intentions for Westminster that have been conducted since the election in June, and which all show that the SNP's support has gone back up.  He's unwittingly answered my question today -

"One of the problems we have with ongoing analysis of this is that there is very little regular Scotland only polling. Trying to assess what’s happening north of the border from the Scottish sub-set in national polls is fraught with danger."

Ooooh yes, subsamples are just riddled with peril for the unsuspecting impartial Liberal Democrat expert.  Just as well, then, that we've had three full-scale Scottish polls in the last few weeks, including one very recently.  Quite plainly he's oblivious to that fact.

A word of advice, Mike.  You don't even need to read Scot Goes Pop - there's a regularly updated list of Scottish polls on Wikipedia.  Might be an idea to take five seconds to check it before you next pontificate about the SNP's 'precarious' electoral position.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Europe is being slow to realise that it needs Spain to lose

Just a quick note to let you know that I have a new article at the TalkRadio website, about what Nicola Sturgeon is likely to say and do in response to the Spanish crackdown on democracy.  You can read it HERE.

For the seventy-ninth time, yes, the SNP can be counted on to bring about an early general election

Oh for the love of God.  The latest from Stormfront Lite -

"Remember that the SNP, which opposed the 2017 election cannot be counted on to support any move which could prematurely cut its already reduced Westminster base. On June 8th it saw its 56 Scottish seats reduced to 35 and in none of them was its vote share above 46%. Its precarious position is one of the key facts of current politics which is rarely discussed."

That'll be 'rarely discussed' apart from the fact that Mr Smithson has been banging on about the same point ad nauseam for months, and has ignored the contrary argument no matter how many times it has been set out.  Here it is yet again -

1) Regardless of how 'precarious' the SNP's electoral position is or is not, everyone in the party knows it would be electoral suicide in the long-term as well as the short-term to stand in the way of a general election that might bring down the Tory government.  There is no point in delaying a hypothetical short-term electoral hit if the consequence is being tarred for decades as the Tories' "little helpers".

2) Mr Smithson's claim that the SNP "opposed the 2017 election" is quite simply false.  All 54 SNP MPs abstained in the parliamentary vote on whether there should be an election, and that was only an option because it could be quite reasonably argued at the time that an early election was likely to vastly increase the Tories' majority.  That is self-evidently no longer the case.

3) It's highly debatable how 'precarious' the SNP's position is anyway.  There have been three full-scale Scottish polls of Westminster voting intentions since the general election, and all three have recorded an increase in the SNP's vote.  The Panelbase and Survation polls would see the SNP making gains from both Labour and the Conservatives, while the YouGov poll would see them making gains from the Tories only (and not suffering any losses to Labour).  I do wonder if Mr Smithson is even aware of the existence of those polls.  It's true that electoral behaviour has become very volatile in recent years and there is no guarantee that favourable opinion polls now would translate into a good result in an early general election.  But at the very least it's fair to say that the SNP would be just as likely to make gains as suffer losses.

It's also worth gently pointing out that Mr Smithson spent two years between the spring of 2015 and the spring of 2017 telling anyone who would listen that the Fixed Term Parliaments Act essentially made an early election impossible, because it required the opposition's cooperation and they would never play ball.  That theory survived all of ten minutes once Theresa May pulled the trigger.

Friday, October 13, 2017

SNP vote increases by 6% in Inverurie by-election

Just for once we have an STV by-election result where the classification of "hold" is not misleading - the Tories were defending the Inverurie seat, and also comfortably won the popular vote in the ward in May.

Inverurie & District by-election result (12th October):

Conservatives 48.5% (+12.6)
SNP 33.3% (+5.7)
Liberal Democrats 8.6% (-3.2)
Labour 8.0% (+3.7)
Greens 1.6% (n/a)

What does make interpretation of the result difficult is that the independent candidate Judy Whyte received more than 20% of the votes in May, which were all up for grabs this time.  If those voters were predominantly unionist or small 'c' conservative in character, it may not be any great surprise that the Tories have grabbed the lion's share of them.  Certainly there was nothing inevitable about the substantial increase in the SNP's own vote (Labour's vote didn't go up by as much and the Lib Dems actually contrived to go backwards), so we're entitled to take heart from that.  And, as always, we have to remember that Tory supporters are traditionally more likely to make it to the polls in a low turnout local by-election than supporters of other parties.

Incidentally, since my last update there have been three new Scottish subsamples from GB-wide polls, and all of them have shown an SNP lead (albeit a wafer-thin one in the case of today's YouGov poll).  The SNP were also ahead in a BMG subsample from September which was published belatedly.  That means there have now been thirteen subsamples in a row putting the SNP in front, underscoring the apparent change in the political weather since the summer.

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Have you joined Scot Goes Pop's new Facebook discussion group yet?  It's called Scottish Independence Required By Next Tuesday, and it's already attracted several hundred members in its first week.  You can join HERE.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Unethical constitutions deserve no respect

A guest post by Al Skinner

Spain’s vicious authoritarian response to the referendum in Catalonia got me thinking about constitutions. The constant refrain from Madrid is that the plebiscite was in violation of the Spanish constitution, with former vice-president of the Spanish government Alfonso Guerra going so far as to declare that there can be no negotiating with the Catalan golpistas (“coupists”).

It is, in fact, essentially undeniable that the referendum was “illegal” and in violation of the Spanish constitution.

But here’s the rub: the constitution of Spain is itself illegitimate. But allow me to back up for a moment.

In light of Germany’s central role in the EU, I kept wondering how German politicians and media would respond to the situation in Catalonia. Surely, I thought, they would condemn Spain’s brutal actions even if there was no chance of the German government doing anything substantial. At least, I naively assumed, both state and press would rhetorically uphold certain core values. How wrong I was. Instead they’ve largely been supportive of Madrid, construing recent events as an internal Spanish matter.

The title of a recent article in the Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper absurdly declares that "Self-Determination is an Invitation to Dictatorship", another in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung explains "Why Spain is Doing the Right Thing", while yet another in the former publication baldly states that “There is No Unlimited Right to Secession".

The last article is an interview with one Christoph Vedder, who is described as an expert in international law. He explains that while the right to self-determination is enshrined in the UN Charter, this does not mean Catalonia has the right to an independence referendum. As I read the article my curiosity grew. How on earth was he going to square that particular circle?

Then came the sleight of hand. Vedder invents a qualification to the right to self-determination. It applies, he explains, only in cases of severe repression. So Kosovo’s independence from Serbia was OK. But Catalonia, being part of a democratic state under the rule of law, does not enjoy that right. For this expert, the Catalans’ right to self-determination is “exhausted” within the Spanish state. If this ideological contortion seems warped and ridiculous to you, then good – it is.

But why are these highly educated and no doubt in many ways liberal-minded Germans twisting common sense into such grotesque shapes?

I don’t think we have to look too far for an answer. This is essentially about power and authority. Existing states are averse to, if not terrified of, the implications of the right to self-determination. They don’t want to lose territory, population and resources. They don’t want a "diminished status in the world". And this brings us to the nub of the matter – the sheer infantilism of most contemporary governments. They care only about perpetuating their own states. The idea that this is about solemn commitment to constitutions is laughable. This is about the state and its ego. This infantilism, of course, leads to terrible ethics. Which is just what we're seeing in Madrid at the moment.

Vedder mentions in the interview that Germany too recognizes no right of its constituent parts to become independent states. But this is like saying, look, women are oppressed everywhere, so what are you complaining about? The fact that the German constitution, like its Spanish counterpart, flagrantly violates the right to self-determination is nothing to be proud of. It should be a source of deep shame. The German commentators alluded to here are being good little servants of the constitution, in a twisted, deeply conservative sort of way.

How different it could and should all be. Imagine a world that truly honoured the right to self-determination. Now, I’m the first to agree that not every bit of the planet should enjoy that right. I recognize no right of Renfrewshire or Hampshire to self-determination. This is the self-determination of peoples we’re talking about. But to deny that right to Catalonia is to strip it of all meaning. Of course the Catalans (by which I mean the citizens of Catalonia) are a people. Of course they must enjoy that fundamental right. There’s no ultimate reason why existing states could not approach the possibility of some of their territory morphing into separate states with calmness and great ethics. There’s no ultimate reason why they couldn’t facilitate the emergence of new independent states. So does the UK government’s approach to the Scottish independence referendum serve as a template here?

Only very partially. Ultimately, the right to self-determination cannot be constrained by the decision of central governments. So the need for a Section 30 order is itself an infringement of this right. Furthermore, the shocking tsunami of propaganda unleashed by the UK government and its unionist coreligionists in the press destroyed any prospect of a sound decision in 2014. I belong to the school of thought that believes there would have been a Yes vote in the absence of this ideological warfare. A handsome victory, I suspect.

As we watch Madrid’s sickening descent into authoritarianism, we should remember that constitutions are not sacred texts. It is vital to challenge the dreadful ethics they often embody. The Spanish constitution is in violation of international law. This is one of the key prisms through which I think we should view current events in Catalonia.

Monday, October 9, 2017

New Scottish poll is "unmitigated disaster" for Ruth Davidson as Tories slip seventeen points behind SNP on WESTMINSTER voting intentions

It's a hat-trick, folks - and in more ways than one.  YouGov's new poll is the third full-scale Scottish poll since the general election, and all three have shown that the SNP's support in Westminster voting intentions has gone back up - a genuinely astonishing consensus that defies all of the expectations during the summer, and indeed the propaganda that was being pumped out by commentators as recently as yesterday.

Scottish voting intentions for next Westminster general election (YouGov) :

SNP 40% (+3)
Labour 30% (+3)
Conservatives 23% (-6)
Liberal Democrats 5% (-2)

(This is YouGov's first Scottish voting intention poll since the general election, so percentage changes are measured from the actual election result.)

The equally remarkable thing that the three polls have in common with each other is that the anti-independence media outlet that commissioned them buried all mention of the Westminster results - presumably because they'd rather people didn't know the SNP are doing so well.  The Daily Mail didn't report Survation's Westminster numbers at all, the Sunday Times held back Panelbase's Westminster results for a week and then made only passing reference to them, and although I don't pay the Murdoch Levy, I get the distinct impression from those who do that the Times didn't say anything about YouGov's Westminster results in their coverage of the new poll on Saturday.  If there was any mention at all, it can't have been very prominent, because the numbers didn't make their way onto social media.  I eventually found them in the datasets published on YouGov's own website today.

On all three occasions, the unionist newspaper in question has preferred to focus all of our attention on the Scottish Parliament voting intention figures instead - which are spinnable as being a mild setback for Nicola Sturgeon, because although the SNP have an enormous lead on that measure as well, it's down a little from the extraordinary high recorded at the Holyrood election in May 2016.

For the avoidance of doubt, there is no innocent explanation for this selective reporting of the polls.  We've only just been through a Westminster general election, and there is a non-trivial chance of another one being held next year.  By contrast, the next Scottish Parliament election is almost four years away.  Of course Westminster voting intentions are the more interesting of the two sets of numbers at present - so why on earth are London-based newspapers behaving as if Holyrood is the only game in town, and as if Westminster is just some trivial detail?  It makes no sense unless they're in the propaganda business, and are determined that a decrease in the SNP's Holyrood lead should be widely known about, but that a deeply inconvenient increase in the SNP's Westminster lead should be kept a total secret.  It's a cynical game, but to some extent it's working - you may have seen Rachael Swindon (a well-known Corbynite on Twitter) express genuine shock and bewilderment yesterday upon being told that all of the Westminster polls since the election have shown the SNP's vote increasing.  She was utterly convinced that all of the polls she had seen had shown the polar opposite.

If I could blow my own trumpet for just a moment, the YouGov poll bears out what I've been saying for months about the likelihood that an aggregate of subsamples will at least be vaguely in line with the results of full-scale Scottish polls.  Unlike other firms, YouGov's subsamples have been consistently showing the Scottish Tories in third place, so it makes perfect sense that YouGov's full-scale poll has parted company with both Panelbase and Survation by showing Labour in a clear second place and the Tories in a dismal third.  Ruth Davidson must be absolutely horrified by these numbers (and on this occasion that's not hyperbole).  It's even more startling when you bear in mind that Labour and the Tories are essentially tied in the same poll's Holyrood figures.

The SNP would plainly be well-placed to make several gains from the Tories in any early general election if YouGov are correct.  The poll implies a 4.5% swing from Tory to SNP, which in respect of the 'box office' contests means that Alex Salmond would comfortably take back Gordon if he chooses to stand again, and that Angus Robertson would have a 50/50 chance of taking back Moray.

There's another interesting nugget from the YouGov datasets on the Holyrood numbers - the SSP are on 3% of the list vote.  That's not enough to win them any seats, but it does mean that support for pro-independence parties on the list is significantly higher than we first thought.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Stunning rebuke for Ruth Davidson as new YouGov poll gives SNP a mammoth SEVENTEEN point lead - with the Tories set to slip into THIRD place

Kenny "Devo or Death" Farquharson is full of beans this morning about a new full-scale Scottish poll that his publication has commissioned from YouGov, and which he says shows that "Nicola Sturgeon would lose her pro-independence majority".  My first reaction was that if that's the angle he had chosen, the results of the poll must be pretty good for the SNP, because if there was any danger of the SNP actually losing power that would have been the first thing he'd have mentioned.  And so it has proved.  A kind payer of the Murdoch Levy has sent me the full results, and just like the full-scale Scottish polls from Survation and Panelbase in September, they show the SNP with an absolutely enormous double-digit lead in Scottish Parliament voting intentions - something that surely nobody would have predicted during July or August.

Constituency vote:

SNP 42%
Labour 25%
Conservatives 25%
Liberal Democrats 5%

Regional list vote:

SNP 35%
Labour 24%
Conservatives 23%
Greens 6%
Liberal Democrats 6%

Remarkably, in spite of Farquharson's triumphalism about the supposed loss of the pro-independence majority, the Times' own seat projection shows that the pro-indy parties between them would win 61 seats on the basis of this poll - just FOUR short of a majority.  Which begs a rather awkward question for the unionist media - if the propaganda they've been feeding us over the last few months is correct, why would there seemingly be a fighting chance of the pro-indy majority being re-elected, even if there was a Scottish Parliament election as soon as tomorrow?

This poll follows in the footsteps of the Panelbase and Survation polls in that at the point of publication there doesn't appear (correct me if I'm wrong) to be any sign of Westminster voting intention numbers, even though it seems hard to believe a Westminster question wasn't asked.  In the case of Panelbase, the Sunday Times withheld the Westminster results for a week and then gave them only a cursory mention.  In the case of Survation, the Daily Mail decided not to report them at all, and the only reason we ever found out about them was because they were quietly revealed on Survation's own website.  In both cases, a unionist newspaper was playing a very cynical game - focussing all the attention on the Holyrood numbers because they showed a decrease in SNP support from an extremely high base in May 2016, and ignoring Westminster numbers which inconveniently (and very unexpectedly) showed the SNP gaining support from a slightly more modest base in June 2017.  Is exactly the same thing being done with the YouGov poll?  I don't know, but I doubt if any of us will faint with amazement if that turns out to be the case.

The use of this blatant propaganda technique is why we've got every right to be angry about the following nonsense on the YouGov poll from Keiran Pedley, a pollster and analyst who I believe I'm right in saying is open about his support for the Labour party -

"SNP poll rating in Scotland continues to fall like a slowly deflating balloon"

Well, of course you can pretend to believe that's what happening when your fellow travellers in the media are intentionally giving the public only one half of the polling story.  If this was anyone else but Pedley, I'd give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he was speaking from ignorance, but as a polling expert he presumably knows perfectly well that both post-election Westminster polls have shown an increase in the SNP vote, and an increase in the SNP lead over both Labour and the Tories.  It's really sad to see him giving people such a misleading impression, and I can only conclude that he's probably doing it deliberately.

Let's stay for a moment on the subject of dubious claims that have been made about the YouGov poll on Twitter.  I can't locate the tweet, but I spotted someone suggesting earlier that Nicola Sturgeon was projected to be left with "even fewer" seats than she currently has.  Er, what?  "Even"?!  The SNP currently has 63 seats out of 129 in the Scottish Parliament - that's 49% of the total.  How many other countries in western Europe can you think of that use proportional representation voting systems and have a party with 49% or more of the seats?  Yeah, exactly.  The SNP had an absolutely phenomenal performance last year by any normal standards, and today's poll suggests they stand to suffer only relatively modest seat losses (six, to be exact) from that high.

As a rearguard defence against people who were quite reasonably pointing out that 42% of the constituency vote for the SNP and a 17-point lead is an extremely good performance, Kenny Farquharson tried this line -

"Dear Scottish Twitter peeps, it's the regional vote that determines shape of Holyrood parly, not constituency vote. SNP polling 35% on list."

Well, of course there's some truth in that - under the Additional Member System the overall composition of parliament is supposed to be broadly determined by the list vote.  But it seems an odd point to make in this particular context, when your own newspaper's seat projection is saying that the SNP would win 44% of the seats - a considerably higher number than 35%.  What's happening here is that the SNP are benefitting from the wrinkles that Labour so carefully built into the system in the late 1990s - if a party (expected to be Labour itself) has a big enough lead on the constituency vote, it effectively overwhelms the list vote and gives that party a hefty 'winner's bonus'.  The SNP are hitting a particularly sweet spot because the unionist vote in the constituencies is split down the middle, allowing them to do even better in terms of seats than would normally be possible with 42% of the vote.  It's certainly arguable that the SNP are extremely fortunate that a Labour wheeze is backfiring so comprehensively, but there's no point sticking your head in the sand and pretending it isn't even happening.

Like Survation, YouGov have found an increase in support for independence, but unlike Survation that increase does not look particularly significant: Yes 44% (+1), No 56% (-1).  Amusingly, the Times use percentage changes from the referendum result itself in an attempt to make it look as if support for independence has dropped slightly!

Respondents were asked three different ways about the principle of whether an early independence referendum should be held.  The most favourable results are on the question of whether a referendum should be held after Britain leaves the EU, where there is almost (not quite) a statistical tie - 38% say yes, 45% say no.  Those results are markedly better than when the same question was asked in April.  Certainly no evidence there for the media's belief that interest in independence and a referendum has fallen away since the election.

*  *  *

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Friday, October 6, 2017

No wonder the Mail kept it a secret : their September poll gave the SNP a huge Westminster lead

You might remember a few weeks ago that the Daily Mail published a full-scale Scottish poll from Survation, showing that the SNP were maintaining a considerable lead in Scottish Parliament voting intentions.  We knew that a question about Westminster voting intentions had also been asked, and yet mysteriously there was no mention of that anywhere in the Mail's reporting.  The obvious suspicion was that the results were good enough for the SNP that the Mail were too embarrassed to report them.  It looks like the numbers were quietly revealed on the Survation website three days ago (I missed that at the time because I was travelling), and just like Panelbase's full-scale poll they show that the SNP's position has improved since the general election - in stunning defiance of the media narrative.

Scottish voting intentions for the next Westminster general election (Survation) :

SNP 39.3% (+2.4)
Labour 26.4% (-0.7)
Conservatives 26.1% (-2.5)
Liberal Democrats 6.6% (-0.2)

(Note: This is the first Survation poll since the election, so the percentage changes listed above are from the actual election result rather than a previous poll.  The figures are weighted by recalled 2017 vote, so aren't comparable with pre-election polls in any case.)

Ironically, the SNP's Westminster lead is a little more modest than its Holyrood constituency lead, so why were the Mail happy to report the Holyrood figures but not the Westminster ones?  Quite simply, because the SNP's Holyrood vote has decreased since last year's election, allowing the Mail to put a negative spin for the party on a very healthy lead.  By contrast, it's simply not possible to put a negative spin on the Westminster figures - the Mail would have been forced to concede that the SNP stand to gain a number of seats from both Labour and the Tories in any early general election.

To be fair, the Survation poll is a touch less dramatic than Panelbase's.  In particular, the picture is somewhat rosier for Labour - they're in second place (just), their vote share is down by only a trivial amount since June, and the distance between themselves and the SNP has increased by only three percentage points.  Nevertheless, there are so many ultra-marginal seats out there that a modest swing of that sort is more than enough to do plenty of damage.

Of course such small changes could in theory be illusions caused by the standard margin of error.  But with both post-election full-scale Scottish polls showing a pro-SNP swing, it does at the very least seem highly unlikely that the SNP's position has significantly worsened since June.  That goes against pretty much everyone's expectations at the end of summer - and it seems to be an inconvenient truth that the unionist media would prefer you didn't know about.

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Have you joined Scot Goes Pop's new Facebook discussion group yet?  It's called Scottish Independence Required By Next Tuesday, and it's already attracted several hundred members in its first 24 hours.  You can join HERE.

Hammerblow for besieged Ruth Davidson as NINTH subsample in a row puts the SNP ahead - with the Tories in THIRD place

Today brings word of the first Britain-wide voting intention poll for over a week.  The YouGov poll actually shows a minor decrease in the Labour lead in spite of Theresa May's comical mishaps during her conference speech.  Of most interest to us are the Scottish subsample figures, which show: SNP 35%, Labour 34%, Conservatives 21%, Liberal Democrats 6%, UKIP 3%.

YouGov appear to be the only firm that weights its Scottish subsamples separately, although of course with such a small sample size the margin of error is still enormous.  So what matters is not so much the size of the SNP lead, but the impressive consistency of the fact that this is the ninth subsample in a row across all firms that have shown the SNP ahead.  What a contrast to the summer months, when a substantial minority of subsamples were putting Labour ahead, and one or two even had the Tories in front.

That said, it's not implausible that the SNP lead might have slipped a little over the last couple of weeks due to the relentless focus on Labour and the Tories during the UK party conference season.  Any effect of that sort ought to be only temporary.

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Have you joined Scot Goes Pop's new Facebook discussion group yet?  It's called Scottish Independence Required By Next Tuesday, and it's already attracted several hundred members in its first 24 hours.  You can join HERE.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

The attractions of holding a referendum without a Section 30 order

I rarely disagree with G A Ponsonby, but I do part company with him on his belief that it would be a strategic mistake to hold an independence referendum without Westminster granting a Section 30 order (although of course he does very much want a referendum and thinks the Scottish Government should press for a Section 30 next year).  Basically he thinks that the unionist domination of Scotland's mainstream media would doom the referendum to delegitimisation and failure.  I think that argument overlooks a few key points -

1) Just like in Catalonia, there absolutely must be a back-up plan if the state cuts off the most obvious route to an exercise in self-determination.  There isn't much point in being a pro-independence Catalan if you accept the risible argument that voting for independence is illegal, and by the same token there isn't much point in being a pro-independence Scot if you're willing to accept that Westminster has the right to say "now is not the time, and the right time is never".  Most of us agree that it would be preferable to hold a referendum with Westminster's agreement, but if we don't have a prepared answer to an insistent "no" we might as well pack up and go home.

2) It's not possible for the unionist establishment (both political and media) to delegitimise the referendum without also boycotting it.  If there's a unionist boycott, a Yes victory in some form is assured.  As in Catalonia, that will immediately create new facts on the ground - at the very least the anti-independence mandate from the 2014 referendum will no longer be unchallenged.

3) Unlike in Catalonia, the referendum will not actually be illegal.  What we're talking about is legislation that is framed in such a way that the Presiding Officer's legal advisers, and perhaps the courts if necessary, will accept that a consultative referendum is within the Scottish Parliament's existing powers.

4) Irrespective of legality, the referendum will almost certainly not be disrupted by British state violence of the sort that we've just seen from Spain.  The UK population just wouldn't stand for that sort of thing - witness the spontaneous disgust displayed towards Spain's actions by establishment figures such as BBC network newsreader Huw Edwards.  That means the only limit on the number of Yes votes we can attract will be determined by the shortcomings of our own campaigning skills.

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Now I'm back from my travels, I have a couple of things to let you know about.  This year has seen a bumper number of visitors to this blog, culminating in the month leading up to the general election when Google Analytics recorded approximately 35,000 unique visitors - the second busiest month in Scot Goes Pop's nine-year history, outstripping even the month of the 2014 referendum.  Part of the reason for that success is that I was made an admin (or editor, or whatever the correct word is) on one of the most popular pro-indy Facebook pages, and was encouraged to post links to my own content.  I've no idea exactly what percentage of the blog's visitors were coming from that page, but my vague impression is that it was making a significant contribution.  The page was recently taken down, seemingly due to a long-running dispute with Tommy Sheridan and his supporters.  It's now back up again, but the creator has stepped aside, and it appears that as part of the shake-up I've been quietly removed as one of the admins.  I briefly thought about querying that, but I quickly realised that a) I don't actually know who is in overall charge of the page now, and b) it's very unlikely that I would have been removed by mistake.  I'll probably never know the reason why.  This could obviously prove to be a big setback, so it's led me to think about alternative ways of promoting the blog on Facebook.

For many years Scot Goes Pop has had its own dedicated Facebook page, but it 'only' has 1780 followers, probably for the very simple reason that I spend a fair bit of time on Twitter and almost no time at all on Facebook.  (And there are only so many hours in a day.)  I'm wondering if a Facebook group might conceivably work better, because it would allow non-admin members to post their own content, and indeed to annoy friends by adding them directly.  So just as a mad experiment, I've set up a group called Scottish Independence Required By Next Tuesday.  There's probably a 95% chance it'll fall flat on its face, but let's give it a go and see what happens.  If you have a Facebook account, you can join the new group HERE.  Rest assured that if it takes off it'll be an anything goes funfair.

And the other little piece of information is that I have a new article in the October issue of iScot magazine.  If you're not a subscriber to the print edition, a digital copy can be purchased HERE.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Homage to Catalonia

So I was just doing some basic sums.  A little under 92% of Catalan voters who turned out yesterday voted in favour of independence.  The overall turnout, suppressed by Spanish state violence, was 42.3%.  This means that roughly 38% of the entire registered electorate voted Yes.  You could therefore take the turnout all the way up to 75% (not all that far short of what was achieved in the free and semi-fair Scottish referendum), and still be guaranteed of a Yes victory even if all the extra voters were No voters, which would obviously be extremely unlikely.  In reality, even a turnout in the low 80s would almost certainly have produced a Yes majority.

Spain now has a massive legitimacy problem.  Even the dogs on the street know that Catalonia is being held captive within Spain by means of thuggery.  All that Madrid and its apologists have left is the claim that the vote was not "free and fair" - but the problem is that (very unusually) it was the losing side that ensured it was not and could not be free and fair.  The losing side also has the capacity to hold a free and fair re-run at any time it chooses.  The onus is therefore on Madrid to either organise/facilitate that re-run, or accept yesterday's result.  Doing neither is simply unsustainable in the modern world.

I hope the Catalan government's success in creating new facts on the ground by holding an unauthorised referendum has been noted by the SNP leadership.  Thankfully, I doubt if we would have to face British state violence, but if London remains intransigent we might (at some point) have to be brave enough to get the ball rolling without a Section 30 order.

Incidentally, on the subject of London wanting a "strong and united Spain" (and to hell with the democratic choice made by the Catalan people) - I presume that means we'll be handing back Gibraltar?  Madrid does, after all, regard Gibraltar as being every bit as much part of Spain's "indivisible territory" as Catalonia is.  Exercises in Gibraltarian self-determination have been held in exactly the same contempt by Spain as yesterday's vote.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

More misery for beleaguered Ruth Davidson as Tory vote collapses in Tain by-election

I'm not quite back from my travels yet (although I'll be darkening your doors very shortly), so apologies for being a couple of days late with the intriguing result of the Tain & Easter Ross by-election...

Independent - Rhind 49.4% (+33.1)
SNP 23.9% (n/c)
Liberal Democrats 14.5% (-5.0)
Conservatives 9.1% (-6.9)
Independent - Holdsworth 2.7% (n/a)
Scottish Libertarians 0.5% (n/a)

Obviously the main story here is an outstanding personal triumph for Mr Rhind, who returns to Highland Council after losing his seat only a few months ago.  But I think it's fair to say this is also a very solid result for the SNP, who simply by standing their ground enjoy a 2.5% net swing from the Liberal Democrats, and a 3.5% net swing from the Tories.  Unlike in the by-elections at the start of September, the good news for the SNP in the Panelbase opinion poll hasn't been contradicted in any way - although the obvious health warning is that there was no Labour candidate, and Tain & Easter Ross isn't the sort of ward that could tell us anything about the Labour v SNP battle in any case.

Technically Mr Rhind has gained his seat from the Liberal Democrats - the vacancy was caused by Jamie Stone standing down from the council to concentrate on his work as an MP.  (Highland Council's gain is Westminster's loss, etc, etc.)  However, that's just another of the meaningless quirks of STV by-elections - the Lib Dems finished third in the ward in May, and have done so again this time.  One fewer Lib Dem councillor in the world can't be a bad thing, of course.

Note: The normally reliable Britain Elects account on Twitter reported completely inaccurate percentage changes for this by-election.  The changes I've listed above are the correct ones.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Davidson's despair deepens as latest batch of subsamples shows the SNP ahead across the board

I'm still in foreign climes, so I haven't been staying on top of the Scottish subsamples from Britain-wide polls.  But here's a round-up of the subsamples that have been published since my last update...

ICM: SNP 38%, Labour 27%, Conservatives 23%, Liberal Democrats 6%, Greens 5%, UKIP 2%

YouGov: SNP 36%, Labour 32%, Conservatives 22%, Liberal Democrats 8%, Greens 1%, UKIP 1%

Opinium: SNP 40%, Conservatives 31%, Labour 20%, Greens 6%, UKIP 2%, Liberal Democrats 1%

Ipsos-Mori: SNP 48%, Conservatives 23%, Labour 19%, Liberal Democrats 7%, Greens 1%

Survation: SNP 41%, Labour 23%, Conservatives 23%, Liberal Democrats 12%, UKIP 1%

There are two omissions from that list.  I can't find the datasets from the BMG poll, and there was another poll from Survation where there doesn't seem to be any Scottish figures in the datasets.  If anyone can fill in those gaps, please let me know.

As far as the five listed above are concerned, obviously there's no consistency on how far the SNP are ahead, or which party is in second place.  But it's really striking that the SNP are ahead right across the board, just as they were in the last batch of subsamples.  We seem to be getting back to the point where it will be quite unexpected to see a subsample with the SNP behind Labour or the Tories, whereas during the summer it was a fairly frequent sight.  This lends some support to my theory that the full-scale Scottish poll from Panelbase (showing an enormous SNP lead) took us by surprise not because the subsamples during the summer had misled us, but because the political weather has since changed, and the SNP have recovered from their post-election mini-wobble.  That reality now appears to be showing up in the subsamples, just as it did in that sensational full-scale poll.

The snag with my theory remains the same as before.  If the SNP are back to having a substantial lead over Labour, and indeed a bigger one than they had at the local elections in May and the general election in June, why did Labour do so well in the Fortissat and Cardonald by-elections earlier this month?  I still can't really offer an answer to that question.