Saturday, July 26, 2014

New Panelbase poll shows Yes vote up on last directly comparable poll

A new Panelbase poll has finally been released - I'm not sure yet whether it's the one that we heard about people being interviewed for ten days ago, or whether that was an unpublished internal poll.  Either way, tonight's results are reasonably encouraging for Yes.

Should Scotland be an independent country?

Yes 41% (-2)
No 48% (+2)

With Don't Knows excluded, it works out as...

Yes 46% (-2)
No 54% (+2)

The percentage changes listed above are from the last Panelbase poll, which was commissioned by Yes Scotland.  But it's important to stress that tonight's results are unlikely to be directly comparable to that poll, because the new poll was commissioned by the Sunday Times, and Panelbase use a slightly different question for their Sunday Times series.  It's not a biased question by any means, but there is now quite strong circumstantial evidence that it tends to produce a slightly higher No lead.  You don't have to take my word for it - Anthony Wells (no friend to the Yes campaign) has commented on the phenomenon as well.  If we compare tonight's numbers with the last directly comparable Panelbase poll, this is how they look -

Yes 41% (+1)
No 48% (+1)

And with Don't Knows excluded...

Yes 46% (n/c)
No 54% (n/c)

So no change in the overall headline gap, but with the Yes vote hitting a new record high for the Sunday Times series.  It's also only the second time that the No lead has been as low as seven points.

I almost feel quite sorry for Blair McDougall tonight - he finds himself openly 'gloating' about the No vote being ahead by only seven points in what John Curtice would call an "independently-commissioned poll", even though only three such polls in the entire campaign so far have been worse for No (the two most recent Survation polls and the ICM poll on Easter Sunday).  How the mighty have fallen.

As for what this means for the overall trend, there's good news and bad news.  It further increases the likelihood that the YouGov polls a few weeks ago were just showing margin of error 'noise', as opposed to a real increase in the No lead.  On the other hand, it also slightly decreases the likelihood that the most recent TNS poll was picking up a genuinely big decrease in the No lead.  It leaves us looking at a relatively static position, albeit with the possibility that both campaigns have been picking up a little support as Don't Knows are squeezed (the pollsters are split on whether that is happening or not).

Crucially, however, this is all before the Commonwealth Games - I'm not sure yet what Panelbase's fieldwork dates were, but they almost certainly will have been mostly or wholly before the start of Scotland's extraordinary gold rush.  There's a very strong suspicion that the No lead was significantly boosted in the summer of 2012 as a direct result of Team GB's success in the London Olympics, and if that's true there must be at least a theoretical chance of Team Scotland's success working the same magic for Yes now.  On the other hand, the impact may be diluted by the BBC's rather political choice to place the entire Commonwealth Games within a "British" frame, with viewers being invited (or should I say instructed) to view the distinction between the "Home Nations" teams as a mere formality.  So I genuinely have no idea whether there'll be a Games bounce for Yes or not - we'll just have to wait and see.

Talking of the Commonwealth Games, I've got an early morning ticket booked for tomorrow, with a long journey to get to the venue, so I'll have to cut this short (mainly because I got distracted by an exchange on Twitter with the drongo wing of Blair McDougall's Trolling Army.)  I'll post a Poll of Polls update when I get home tomorrow.

Friday, July 25, 2014

A wild suggestion : why not crowdfund the handing out of free saltires for the Commonwealth Games closing ceremony?

I don't know if anyone has definitively solved the mystery of who was responsible for handing out the blatantly political "two-faced" flags at the opening ceremony on Wednesday, although there have been dark whispers about possible Orange Order involvement.  It was presumably a well-planned stunt, and I'm wondering if there's an opportunity for us to take a leaf out of their book for the closing ceremony.  Nothing political - just free saltires to help the crowd celebrate what may well turn out to be the most successful ever Scottish team at any Commonwealth Games.

For the avoidance of doubt, I'm not suggesting I would be the person to run this potential initiative - for one thing I haven't the first idea of how to go about bulk-buying flags at very short notice, or indeed if it's even feasible at all.  However, the crowdfunding element is certainly doable, because a Paypal-only Indiegogo campaign would enable the funds to be accessed instantly.  So if there's anyone out there who feels capable of taking the task on, I think it would be a great idea.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Come On In, Scotland! (Or 'My trip to the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony, plus yet another rubbish photo of the Queen')

So, yes, I'm just back from Celtic Park.  I hadn't been planning to go to the opening ceremony until a few weeks ago, when I got an email offering restricted view tickets for only £20.  I thought to myself, "well, you get what you pay for, so I'm bound to be right behind a pillar", but as it turned out it was fantastic value for money - I could see pretty much everything.  And having just read through some of the comments on Wings, it's probably just as well I was there in person, because I don't think watching it on the BBC would have been good for my health.  Was Cameron really a guest on The One Show? I mean, seriously?  How the hell did they justify that, given that we're now in the regulated campaign period, and especially after they banned Alex Salmond from appearing on a rugby broadcast a couple of years ago?  And what was the logic for it anyway?  Scotland is the host country, not the UK, and as I understand it the London government has contributed absolutely nothing to the costs of the Games - 80% came from the Scottish Government, and 20% from Glasgow City Council.  (Contrast that with the 2012 Olympics when we were all required to stump up for London's party.)

Before I set off for the ceremony, I had a good look at the list of items that were not permitted, and one of them was the flag of any non-participating country.  This is presumably a more-or-less identical rule to the one at the Olympics that leads to the banning of Scottish flags on the grounds that they are "political" (the Union Jack being totally fine and "non-political", naturally).  But with delicious irony, the UK is of course a non-participating country in the Commonwealth Games, and so on a strict reading of the rules, the Union Jack should have been verboten, with everyone being required to wave the non-political saltire instead.  I was intrigued to see whether that rule would be enforced with the the same zeal that we've come to know and love at the Olympics, and the simple answer is that it wasn't.  It goes without saying that saltires very heavily outnumbered Union Jacks, but there was a small smattering of little flags with a saltire on one side and a Union Jack on the other.  I now gather that those flags were being handed out for free.  Who was responsible for that, and what was their political agenda?  Did they check in advance whether it was in adherence with the rules?

It's always said that stadiums look much smaller in real life than on TV. True enough, I was very slightly underwhelmed when I arrived, and the initial set-up with the Irn Bru cans (which was there hours in advance) looked incredibly tacky.  I thought to myself "all we need is a giant haggis and John Barrowman, and the twee vision of 'Scotland the Cringe' will be complete".  I really must be more careful about thinking these thoughts, but we didn't get the giant haggis, so I suppose that counts as some kind of result.

I recall being a bit frustrated with the uninspiring music that was used for Glasgow's little presentation at the end of the Delhi Games in 2010.  When I thought of the almost unbelievably good Scottish traditional music that I hear year in, year out at Celtic Connections, it was heartbreaking to realise we'd thrown away a golden opportunity to showcase all of that to the world.  But I thought "surely when the Games are actually in Glasgow, we'll get it right on the night".  Well, the first few minutes gave us Barrowman and Donald Where's Your Troosers.  Surely it could only get better from there?  Thankfully yes, although I never would have predicted that Rod Stewart's appearance would mark the moment when the quality improved.  Nicola Benedetti was spellbinding, and everyone around me immediately started to sing along to Loch Lomond.  I found I could hardly get the words out after a while, because I had a lump in my throat.  And then finally when the Queen's Baton arrived, we got a precious few minutes of the type of music that the evening had been crying out for all along, and the hairs on the back of my neck stood up.  I couldn't even see who was singing in Gaelic, and there was no name announced - could it have been Julie Fowlis, perhaps?  Whoever it was, take a bow - you made my night.

Where was our national anthem, by the way?  I can't claim to have a photographic memory of previous Commonwealth Games opening ceremonies, but I'm fairly sure Advance Australia Fair was heard at some point during the 2006 ceremony, for instance, and it would have been extremely odd if it wasn't.  When we were invited to stand and sing the "national anthem", and it turned out to be God Save the Queen rather than the national anthem of the host country, I can tell you that there was genuine bemusement all around me.  Some people did sing it, but it was probably one in five at the absolute most, and they weren't doing it with much gusto.  I got the impression they were mainly singing it for the sake of the Queen (and Prince Imran, whose name everyone misheard as Prince William!).

So it was a mixed night, but thankfully there was much more good than bad (there's no getting away from it, though - the Barrowman introduction was absolutely, unspeakably atrocious, and I'd say that even if he wasn't anti-independence).  I'm so glad I went, because I've seen so many opening ceremonies over the years on TV, and there was a real touch of magic to being able to wave back at the athletes as they marched past.  Oh, and I can imagine that the London media must be quietly seething that no-one booed the First Minister.

I wonder if the words "Come On In, Scotland" might resonate in a few weeks' time?  You know, in a "Stop the world, Scotland wants to get on" kind of way?

Overheard on the way back -

Official : "Twenty minutes' walk to the city centre straight ahead.  Or five minutes if you're Usain Bolt."

Sarcastic pedestrian : "Hashtag Topical."

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Wisdom on Wednesday : Knowledge is power, in more ways than one...

"An independent Scotland could now expect to have massive surpluses both on its budget and on its balance of payments and with the proper husbanding of resources this situation could last for a very long time into the future."

From the 1970s McCrone Report, that was unsurprisingly suppressed for decades by successive UK governments.

I wouldn't have thought this was possible, but I've just lost even more respect for Craig Reedie

There's been a perception for quite some time that, in broad brush terms, and perhaps because of the personality traits that drive people to go down a certain path in life, creative types such as artists, writers and musicians are voting Yes, and elite sportspeople are more inclined to vote No.  The most useful thing about John Beattie's documentary on the relationship between sport and politics is that it challenged that perception, and reminded us that there are a great many sportspeople out there who have already firmly nailed their colours to the Yes mast, including household names such as Alex Arthur.

For the most part, it was an admirably even-handed programme, which was perhaps surprising given the extent to which it entered into "a personal view by John Beattie" territory.  But there was just one particular bit that left me absolutely fuming, and that was when the factual basis of Craig "Apolitical" Reedie's drivel about Scotland having no chance of entering a team to the Rio Olympics went unchallenged.  Indeed, it was worse than unchallenged, because Beattie went on to ask judo star Connie Ramsay if she would still support independence even if it meant passing up the chance to compete at the Olympics (answer : yes, she would).

The reality is that, even in the highly unlikely event that it did not prove logistically possible to enter a Scottish team for 2016, the top Scottish athletes would not miss out.  They would be able to take part via one of two methods, both of which have clear precedents in recent Olympic history -

1) Team GB, possibly under a different name, would continue on a transitional basis for one more Games.  The precedent for this is the 'Unified Team', which represented twelve of the fifteen ex-Soviet republics at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona.  Yes, the BOA could theoretically veto Scottish involvement, but does anyone seriously think that such a glory-seeking organisation would turn down the chance to boost their team's medal haul?

2) The best Scottish athletes would compete outside any formal team as 'Independent Olympic Athletes'.  There are several precedents for this, most recently London 2012, when athletes from the new state of South Sudan and the freshly-dissolved territory of the Netherlands Antilles competed as independents.

But this is all ridiculously hypothetical, because whatever fairy-tale Reedie tries to weave, the overwhelming likelihood is that a Scottish team would go to Rio.  Unlike the collapse of the Soviet Union in the second half of 1991, independence will not be a bolt from the blue that nobody sees coming until just a few months before the Games - there will be lots of time to put arrangements in place.  It's worth remembering that international recognition of the independence of the three Baltic states was deemed utterly unthinkable until the Soviet coup of August 1991, and yet less than a year later all three countries were represented in Barcelona - they didn't even need to take part in the Unified Team on a transitional basis.

So much for Reedie's transparently agenda-driven 'predictions'.  But just when you thought the man couldn't sink any lower, he made what I can only describe as an utterly shameful comment.

John Beattie : So in a word, do you think Scotland, should there be a Yes vote, would have a team in 2016?

Craig Reedie : No, I think they would miss on the basis of adhering to the Olympic rules, and because simply I think they'd be timed out.

John Beattie : As a Scot, though, would you not fight very hard to get them in?

Craig Reedie : No, I wouldn't, because I was proud to be President, or Chairman, of the British Olympic Association, and I think the elite athletes from Scotland have been served very well by membership of Team GB.

Hang on, hang on.  That is a perfectly legitimate argument to deploy before the referendum in an attempt to persuade people to vote No.  But surely after the referendum, once there's nothing anyone can do to change the outcome, we all revert to being on the same side - we're all part of Team Scotland, and we'll all do whatever we can to make sure the nation's interests are protected and advanced.

Apparently not.  Apparently Reedie will take revenge on his own country if it makes the 'wrong' choice.  Let me make clear that I have absolutely no time for people who use the word 'traitor' about opponents of independence, but it's very, very hard to see Reedie's petty and vindictive stance as being anything other than a betrayal of this country's elite athletes, and indeed of the sport-loving population at large.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Is this the best put-down of the campaign so far?

Jonathan Jones (in his "On Art" Guardian blog) : Scotland's art is doing brilliantly as an inflection of British art.

Bredei685 (in a below-the-line comment) : When I was wee, I always wanted to grow up so I could be an "inflection" of somebody else.

Personally, I've always thought of Scotland as a cheeky apostrophe in the middle of a page of stirring British prose, or as a quizzical expression on a noble British brow.

Elsewhere in the blog, Jones tells us - bizarrely - that he sees his decision to write in the English language for a living as a rejection of Welsh linguistic nationalism. Leaving aside the fact that he almost certainly wouldn't have the option of being so handsomely remunerated for writing in Welsh (and how did that state of affairs come about?), it has to be said that he sounds very much like the sort of chap who cackles with laughter every time he eats meat, telling himself that he's only doing it to get back at those ghastly vegetarians. And if by any chance he has a female life partner, he probably sees it as nothing more than a cunning plan to irritate the hell out of gay rights activists.

* * *

Adam "IT'S THE LAW!!!!" Tomkins, quoted in the Sunday Herald -

"For me, that is what the independence referendum is all about - it is forcing me to choose, would I want to stay in an independent Scotland as a No supporter?"

Is it just me, or does the fact that we're even being invited to care about that "dilemma" smack of the most breathtaking arrogance and self-importance? Being a sore loser would be just one out of many possible reasons why Tomkins might conceivably want to leave Scotland at some point in the future, but it would be a free and entirely personal choice, just as it is for him right now.

It's worth pointing out, of course, that many people are already forced to choose as supporters of independence whether they want to remain in a country that doesn't govern itself, and is governed badly from outside. That unpalatable choice would remain in place after a No vote, but at least those people will have had their "day in court" by then - just as Tomkins will have done after a Yes vote.

"...everyone else will act in their own interests. Just because something is in the Scottish national interest, doesn't mean it is in the interest of all of the people an independent Scotland will have to negotiate with."

Which is fine as far as it goes, but it's still a hell of a jump from there to claim, as Tomkins and his ilk routinely do, that the national interest of an independent Scotland will never, ever coincide with the national interest of the rest of the UK. One thing I forgot to mention about John McTernan's talk at Yestival was that he claimed that rUK "obviously" wouldn't vote with Scotland on the Common Fisheries Policy, so we'd need to seek other powerful allies like France or Germany. He just seemed to take it as read that London would act vindictively towards Scotland, whereas others might at least be open to negotiation. Tell me - why in God's name would we want to stay in political union with a country that McTernan clearly thinks is capable of harbouring such irrational ill will towards us?

"...although [Tomkins] insists there has been no credible poll which has put the Yes vote [above] about 45% and the No vote below 55%..."

The word "credible" is presumably supposed to be a dig at Panelbase, and possibly Survation as well, but the reality is that ICM - the UK's "gold standard" polling organisation - have also put the Yes vote above 45% on two occasions so far this year. If Tomkins is disregarding all three of those firms, he's effectively saying that only half of the active pollsters in this campaign are "credible".

Some might question whether that's a credible claim.

Monday, July 21, 2014

A-list, at last

You might remember that a few months ago, the ex-fascist Daily Mail newspaper started running a series of sinister articles that "named and shamed" ordinary members of the public for the heinous crime of expressing pro-independence views on the internet.  The theory seemed to be : "if people are in a constant state of terror about being treated like sex offenders by a mass-circulation national newspaper, they might just be deterred from speaking out in favour of the Yes campaign".  Well, that plan worked a treat, didn't it?  I must admit I was gutted not to make the cut in any of the Mail's articles, but an exciting new development has more than made up for that disappointment.  I've just discovered that I'm on the "watch-list" of a website called CyberNatWatch, which describes its mission in the following terms -

"Fed up with selective CyberNat behaviour?, the high profile abuse of Union supporters?, especially those such as JK Rowling? Tired of seeing the Union Flag being burnt? We thought we'd put this site together to show you all the nastiness at a glance. Click here for the 'watch list'!"

You'll be pleased to hear that while you were reading that quote, I burned no fewer than six Union Jacks. Just twenty-seven more to go and that'll be my quota for the morning.

This "watch-list" is a very exclusive club - a mere twenty-one of us are vile enough to be on it. Of course there are all the usual suspects - Melissa Murray, Dr Morag Kerr,, the Courier Roadshow. Yes, that'll be the same Courier Roadshow that does all those abusive Cybernat ping-pong polls, and that brings us the foul-mouthed Cybernat cutesy tales about dogs in Carnoustie who are planning to vote No.

I hate to admit this, but John McTernan has got a point. Salmond must call off the dogs (and the ping-pong balls) NOW!!!!