Archive for the 'Scotland' Category


One year on from the Indyref: Why Scottish Independence might be in Labour’s best interests

Friday, September 18th, 2015

Sturgeon Pocket

Exactly one year after Scotland voted to remain in the United Kingdom it might now be better for Labour if Scotland left.

One of the key elements in my opinion that helped the Tories win a majority in May rather than just being the largest party in a hung parliament was their ruthless approach when it came to Ed Miliband and the likelihood of the SNP propping up a Labour led coalition. As the above poster shows, the Tories managed to make it appear Salmond & Sturgeon were effectively the Mephistopheles to Ed’s Faust.

Speaking as a Unionist the Tory campaign that sought to portray a government featuring the SNP as illegitimate was wrong as the SNP have as much right to be a part of government as any other party, that’s democracy. But Labour should realise this was an inevitable consequence of Labour’s failure to answer the West Lothian question when they came up with the devolution settlement for Scotland & Wales whilst ignoring England. Nature abhors a vacuum and the Tories filled that vacuum to the detriment of Labour.

Given the current electoral geography and the swings required it seems unlikely even that Labour will win a majority in 2020 even if Corbynmania is as successful as his most fervent supporters hope. Any hopes Corbyn has of taking power in 2020 will very likely have to rely on a coalition containing the SNP

If Ed Miliband being propped up by the SNP was unappealing to English voters then I’m fairly certain Jeremy Corbyn being propped up by the SNP won’t be any more appealing to English voters.

Right now Scotland is a millstone* around Labour’s neck for as long as the SNP maintain their stranglehold over Scottish politics which currently shows no signs of abating. For Labour it might be Scottish independence can’t come quick enough if they want to take power at Westminster as they will have no longer have to deal with the Scottish question that so alarms English voters.


*Though what is currently seen as a millstone might not be a millstone in a few years time, as Alex Salmond will attest to.


A second poll in a week has the Scots voting for Independence

Wednesday, September 9th, 2015

This will be great news for supporters of Scottish Nationalism, though on the Holyrood voting intention questions the SNP see their lead slip but they still retain formidable leads in both categories.

In a poll of 1023 adults over 16 in Scotland, 58% of those who expressed a preference would back the SNP in the constituency section of the vote for the May 2016 Scottish Parliament elections, down from 62% a month ago. Labour rose three percentage points to 23%, Conservative support stood at 12% (unchanged) with the Liberal Democrats on 5% (up 2 points). This represents a seven point cut in the SNP lead to a still formidable 35 points.

In the regional vote, 51% of those expressing an opinion supported the SNP (down 3 points) with 24% for Labour (+4), 11% for the Conservatives (-1), 6% for the Liberal Democrats (+2) and 6% for the Greens (-2).

So if the polling is correct, in the next fourteen months or so we could see Labour electing Jeremy Corbyn as leader, Donald Trump becoming President of the United States of America, the UK voting to leave the European Union and Scotland voting to leave the United Kingdom, what interesting times.

The full data tables are available here.



One year ago today we were given a reminder that opinion polls are a snapshot not a prediction

Sunday, September 6th, 2015

A year ago today The Sunday Times published a YouGov poll that had Yes ahead in the Scottish Independence referendum campaign. In the history of no other opinion poll has generated quite so much comment and reaction.

It wasn’t only PBers who reacted to this poll, it led to the three Westminster Unionist parties offering The Vow to Scotland. After the indyref some asked “Did this poll cost Britain £45 billion?”

My own belief is that this poll actually ended up harming the Scottish independence movement as it helped galvanise and focus the minds of the Unionist movement as they could see the Union slipping away.

So what to make of today’s poll by Survation for the Mail on Sunday which has leaving the EU ahead? With the upcoming EU referendum some consistent polling showing Leave ahead might help focus minds on the continent and strengthen Cameron’s negotiating position. I suspect the EU will not want any member to leave as it will send a bad signal to the world about the EU, nor will they want their second largest net contributor to leave. Though I’m not expecting the likes of Bild to run a front page entitled “Der Gelübde.”

Right now I’m exercising caution with any polling until the British Polling Council inquiry into the polling failure at general election has reported, but anyone who thought Remain was going to win comfortabtly will have to re-evaluate that position. Whoever wins the economic argument about leaving or remaining in the EU will win the referendum in my opinion.

The full Survation data tables are available here.



The pollster that was first to pick up the scale of the SNP surge now has and IndyRef YES with 9% lead

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2015


It takes a nation of millions to hold us back

Monday, August 17th, 2015

Indy Result

Antifrank asks should the SNP commit to a second independence referendum?

Picture yourself for a moment as Nicola Sturgeon. Right now, she presides over a hegemony.  At every level of Scottish politics, the SNP has routed its opponents.  It has 56 out of 59 MPs.  It has an absolute majority in the Scottish Parliament.  It has more local authority councillors than any other party.

And the SNP is strengthening its grip.  In the most recent local authority by-elections, it is recording bigger swings even than it achieved in the general election in May.  In the most recent opinion poll, the SNP polled 62% support for the constituency section of the Scottish Parliamentary elections for 2016.  Its dominance in the area is surely unprecedented anywhere in the United Kingdom.

For most politicians that would be more than enough to be going on with, but the SNP has a higher purpose: independence, and so far it has remained out of reach.  Alex Salmond has declared another referendum to be inevitable, a view shared by Angus MacNeil MP, who expects one before 2020.  One might think that Nicola Sturgeon would be gearing up for another referendum pledge for the Holyrood elections.  Yet she has so far been surprisingly chary about committing to this.

We know that Nicola Sturgeon is reserving the right to make the decision whether or not to include a manifesto commitment for a referendum for herself.  Before the May election, she told us that there has to be a substantive change in circumstances before a second referendum would be called.  But recently she stated that “if in Scotland we faced exit from the EU, effectively against our will – something which the polling suggests could happen – it would not be at all surprising if that caused a swell of demand for a further independence referendum.”

Given that it is far from clear that the terms on which a referendum on EU membership will be conducted will have been settled by the time that the Scottish Parliament elections take place next year, that suggests that Nicola Sturgeon is inspecting a hurdle that will not have been jumped by the time that the SNP manifesto comes to be drawn up.  If she is weighing a second referendum pledge in the next manifesto, that’s a decidedly odd thing to be doing.  So what exactly is she doing?

A picture tells a thousand words and this picture (courtesy of What Scotland Thinks) tells it all:

What Scotland Thinks

No retains a small but consistent lead in nearly all the polls taken since the last independence referendum.  The SNP’s huge popularity as a party has not translated into additional support for the idea of an independent Scotland such as would get them to Yes.  The SNP’s political hegemony would increase its chances but set against that the continuing low price of oil would make the economic case harder to put across.

Not only that, much of the public is in no hurry to think about the subject again.  There have been five polls since the last referendum asking respondents when, if at all, they thought the next referendum should take place.  In all five polls, around 60% of respondents who gave an answer preferred a date that is at least five years away.

So to call for a referendum in the course of the next Scottish Parliament risks alienating voters who really don’t think now is the time to look at this again and who in any case on balance are currently inclined to give the same answer.  Maybe the SNP’s superior campaigning would get them over the line, but failure would surely rule out further referenda for a generation, the length of which this time would definitely be determined by the unionist parties in power in Westminster.

Right now, calling a second referendum in short order looks like an odds-against strategy.  When you’re leading a hegemony, you don’t want to follow odds-against strategies.  Far better to try to advance incrementally, using your dominant position to frame the debate and change opinion over time, turning the odds in your favour.

This potentially gives Nicola Sturgeon a big problem because the one group of voters who really want a referendum as soon as possible are the SNP core voters.  If the manifesto for the Scottish Parliament does not include a pledge for a referendum, there will be uproar among the #45.  George Kerevan, SNP MP for East Lothian, has advised us to “Expect the SNP conference to fizz with the question of putting a mandate for independence into the 2016 manifesto.”

So Nicola Sturgeon has to decide how to keep her supporters happy while if possible avoiding a commitment to holding a referendum that she is more likely than not to lose.  Given her comments about the EU referendum, it seems that she may well be thinking about copying a technique drawn up by Gordon Brown and Ed Balls.  In order to forestall any attempt to take Britain into the Euro, they drew up a five point test to assess Britain’s economic readiness.  By placing conditions before the case could be made to the country, they put off the time of reckoning.

Unlike Gordon Brown and Ed Balls, who were privately opposed to joining the Euro, Nicola Sturgeon is undoubtedly keen for Scotland to go independent as soon as possible.  If, however, she puts conditions in the manifesto that need to be met before a referendum can be held, she can defer the decision until such point as she feels a referendum would have good enough chances of being won.

There is a fly in the ointment.  When Gordon Brown established his five economic tests for joining the Euro, Labour were in full control of any decision whether to hold a referendum on the  subject if the tests were passed.  The SNP do not have the same control over any decision to hold a referendum on Scotland remaining part of the United Kingdom.  So even if Nicola Sturgeon declares that the hurdles have been cleared, David Cameron may disagree.  Even before the Holyrood elections next year, David Cameron has indicated that he is opposed to a second referendum taking place.  Without the clearest of mandates for the SNP to call for one, he will almost certainly feel that he can hold the line against one.   So a conditional manifesto commitment for a referendum is probably no better than no commitment at all.

So perhaps Nicola Sturgeon in the end will feel that she has to include an unequivocal manifesto commitment to demand a referendum on independence after all.  If she does, she will have been trapped into doing so by her party’s most fervent supporters.  If she felt that a second referendum was a worthwhile proposition in the short term, she would already have committed to giving the public the chance to vote for one next year.  That she hasn’t done this tells its own story.

It may take a nation of millions to hold the SNP back, but that nation is not England.



Good news and some potentially worrying news for the SNP in latest TNS Scotland poll

Monday, August 10th, 2015

Salmond & co should be doing better on the NHS

But a big 2016 Holyrood result looks on the cards


How SNP supporters could sabotage the EU referendum

Sunday, July 19th, 2015

Could tactical Scottish Nationalist voters win it for OUT?

Panelbase polled 1,002 voters in Scotland and 956 voters in the rest of the UK from June 26th to July 3rd and got the above results on the forthcoming EU referendum, so this isn’t an analysis of English and Scottish sub-samples but a properly weighted poll.

A few weeks ago Nicola Sturgeon said

“I previously stated my view that if Scotland were to be taken out of Europe despite voting as a nation to have remained, it would provoke a strong backlash amongst many ordinary voters. Quite what the result of that would be no-one can perceive but I’ve stated before that this could be one scenario producing the kind of material change in circumstances that would precipitate popular demand for a second independence referendum.

Bluntly, I believe that the groundswell of anger amongst many ordinary people in Scotland under these circumstances could produce a clamour for another independence referendum that may well be unstoppable.”

In light of these comments by the First Minister, I wonder if some supporters of Scottish independence might vote tactically for OUT in the EU referendum, to ensure the UK as a whole votes to leave the EU, but ensuring Scotland votes to remain in the EU, purely for the greater good of ensuring a second Scottish independence referendum.

Scotland voting to remain in the EU whilst the rest of the UK voted to leave, would also amplify the differences between Scotland and the rest of the UK, which would also be good for the Scottish independence movement.

An informal UKIP/SNP alliance would be the most unlikely alliance since the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, but politics, like war, breeds strange allies. If the focus of the EU referendum becomes about Scottish independence, then the IN side might struggle to come up with a response that satisfies both Scotland & England/Rest of the UK and ends up displeasing both.


The Panelbase poll also brought more good news for the SNP and bad news for Labour in next year’s Holyrood election.


How the economic case for Scottish Independence was weakened in the last week

Tuesday, June 30th, 2015

Oil figures

Picture credit: Twitter

How opponents of Scottish independence may have struck metaphorical oil in the last week.

The top table (table 5) is taken from the Scottish Government’s white paper on independence published in late 2013, whilst the bottom table (table 1) is from the Scottish Government’s Oil & Gas bulletin published last week. As the Guardian notes

The Scottish government has been accused of trying to bury a report that predicts North Sea oil revenues could be £40bn less than the SNP’s most optimistic forecasts by releasing it the day before Holyrood’s summer recess – and after the deadline for emergency questions.

The oil and gas bulletin published by John Swinney, Scotland’s finance minister, reveals that revenues are expected to plummet to well under a quarter of recent forecasts, falling to as low as £2.4bn in total over the next four years.

The bulletin shows a vast gulf between the most optimistic figures given to Scottish voters before last year’s independence referendum by Alex Salmond – then the Scottish National party leader and first minister – who said a future oil boom would underpin a surge in productivity and national wealth after a yes vote.

It will be difficult for supporters of Scottish independence to attack these figures, as they were produced by their own side, no wonder the Scottish government released them on the last day before Holyrood’s summer recess.

I’ve always proceeded on the premise that the Scots will never vote for independence if it leads to them becoming poorer nor will they vote for independence if it leads to economic uncertainty.

Coupled with the Scottish independence movement’s lack of definitive answers on a currency union or the currency an independent Scotland would use, as Greece may well provide a real life example of a country with debt/deficit problems and issues over the currency they may use, might prove to be alarming and illuminating to Scots contemplating Scottish independence.

In any future independence referendum, with the substantial role the oil industry has in the Scottish economy, you can be sure opponents of independence will be reminding the advocates of Scottish independence of their terrible forecasts on oil in the past.