Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Back to the future (or forward to the past)

Quite amusing to see a Scottish Labour spokesman (don't worry, it's not Baron George, he's always "a senior Labour MSP" - the only one in existence apparently) leap on Jim Sillars' suggestions for changes in the SNP's stance on defence and foreign affairs as representing "a split in the separatist movement". That's analogous to saying the fact that David Cameron and Gordon Brown can't bury their differences is tantamount to a split in the "unionist movement".

Sillars' prescription is a baffling mixture of some proposals that would arguably bring the SNP more into the 'mainstream' (in the sense that it would bring them into line with the grey uniformity of the three unionist parties on issues such as Trident and NATO), and others that would take the party straight to the lunatic fringe without passing Go. Why start talking up the possibility of a "Scottish pound linked to sterling" when the SNP has already accepted that sterling itself could be retained until euro membership is possible? I can only assume that Sillars hasn't even noticed that. And the notion that switching from the long-held "independence in Europe" pitch to a proposal to join EFTA would somehow represent a 'modernised' stance is, to put it kindly, a touch eccentric. It's EFTA that's an institution of the past, not the EU. Its membership presently stands at an almost embarrassing four - one of which is Liechtenstein. And if, as seems fairly likely, Iceland shortly jumps ship to join the EU (as so many other countries have done before it), people will surely start to ponder whether the organisation is even sustainable at all.

But then Mr Sillars is an 'out of the box' thinker who sees things that few of us do - generally because they aren't there. After all, this is the man who in 1996 confidently prophesied a Tory victory in the 1997 election.

Monday, November 16, 2009

YouGov : SNP close gap to just one point

After a few days of relative gloom, a small piece of good news for the SNP. The Scottish subsample from the latest UK-wide YouGov poll for the Sunday Times shows the party in a virtual dead heat with Labour, with the Conservatives yet again flatlining at roughly the 20% mark. Here are the full figures -

Labour 30% (-2)
SNP 29% (?)
Conservatives 20% (+1)
Liberal Democrats 17% (-)
Others 4% (?)

The reason the percentage change figures are incomplete is that YouGov lumped the SNP in with the 'others' in their last poll. Unlike the ComRes subsample, the fieldwork for this poll partly took place after the result of the Glasgow North-east by-election was known. However, by all accounts most people respond to YouGov polls within a few hours of receiving the invitation, so the chances are that these figures are relatively unaffected by any knock-on effect from Labour's victory.

Incidentally, this subsample is one of the many that flatly contradicts Mike Smithson's repeated assertions that Labour are faring better in Scotland than in the rest of the UK - the party is down nine points in Scotland from its 2005 level, exactly the same drop as in Great Britain as a whole.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

ComRes subsample : Labour retake lead

After last month's unusual ComRes subsample that had Labour languishing in third place, tonight's poll has the party back in a substantial lead over the SNP. The Conservatives slip to third place, with a vote share that, like almost all recent subsamples, gives very little cause for optimism that David Cameron's party will achieve the 24-26% share at the general election that might be seen as vaguely respectable for an incoming party of government. Here are the full figures -

Labour 40% (+18)
SNP 25% (-7)
Conservatives 21% (-3)
Liberal Democrats 9% (-1)
Others 4% (-8)

The fieldwork was carried out on Wednesday and Thursday, so these figures can in no way be seen as a post-Glasgow NE bounce for Labour. In any case, it's always worth remembering that ComRes generally have much smaller Scottish subsamples than YouGov, and the figures are accordingly far less meaningful.