Archive for the 'Scotland' Category


The EU Referendum demographic battlegrounds and boost for SNP in latest Holyrood TNS poll

Thursday, November 12th, 2015

The pollster was James Morris whose firm polled for LAB at GE2015 and has featured in PB/Polling Matters podcasts. His article linked to above is well worth reading. REMAIN had 3% lead but so much, Morris argues, could depend on Cameron.

In Scotland the latest TNS face to face survey on next year’s Holyrood elections provides more good news for the SNP and it’s leader.

Mike Smithson


The Sunday Trading vote: Dave/Osbo’s problem is not the SNP but the rebellion on the issue by 20 CON MPs

Tuesday, November 10th, 2015


Aside from the EU a developing story at Westminster is the decision by the SNP to vote against the planned changes on Sunday trading that Osborne announced in the budget for England and Wales. In Scotland this is a devolved matter with decisions being made at Holyrood.

Inevitably this will raise the whole English Votes for English Laws (EVEL) debate because of the devolved nature of such a measure.

    But before we get too deep into this let’s remember that the reason that the 55 SNP MPs have any influence is that Cameron/Osborne do not command the support of the full contingent of Tory MPs on the matter.

If there was no threatened Tory rebellion then the measure would have got through the Commons. This wasn’t in the Conservative manifesto and soundings should have been taken in the party before Osborne made his announcement in the budget.

Sunday trading is a hugely controversial issue as we saw in the early 90s when big supermarkets were allowed for the first time to open for a limited number of hours on Sunday.

Governments should be able to get their measures through the Commons with, if necessary, their own MPs alone.

Mike Smithson


The future of Scottish LAB and Holyrood 2016: This week’s PB/Polling Matters podcast

Friday, November 6th, 2015


And what about a 2nd IndyRef?

On this week’s PB / Polling Matters podcast Keiran discusses all things Scotland with Kate Devlin of The Herald. How bad are things for Labour? Are the SNP unstoppable in 2016 and when might we see a second independence referendum? Meanwhile, what implications might the upcoming EU referendum have on politics in Scotland and UKIP’s long term prospects in the rest of the UK?

You can follow Keiran on twitter at @keiranpedley and Kate at @_katedevlin


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.