Friday, February 20, 2015

Nicola and the Amazing Technicolor Vow-Coat

In the light of Nicola Sturgeon urging SNP supporters to "chap every door" in Scotland before the general election, I'd like to propose this as a possible campaign song -

Chap every door for me
Banish Ed Balls from me
Children of Scotland are never alone
For we know we shall find
Our own peace of mind
For we have been VOWED
A land of our own!

OK, it was written by a Tory peer (Andrew Lloyd-Webber) and a former UKIP donor (Tim Rice), but life's full of little ironies...

*  *  *

UPDATE : For those of you who have expressed concerns that I may not be able to make a living as a songwriter, fear not.  One of the great things about being a Twitter user with a name like James Kelly is that you get to try out all sorts of exciting alternative careers that you would never previously have considered.  Just over the last few days, I've been a brilliant young womenswear designer, and a daredevil longboard skateboarder.  Who'd have thought it, eh?  Me, a simple lad from Cumbernauld.

Scottish voters pulverise Cameron's "it's over for a lifetime" arrogance even more comprehensively, as Survation poll shows 59% want a second independence referendum within the next ten years

More details from last night's Survation poll have now emerged, and of particular interest are the findings on when (or if) a second independence referendum should be held...

Want another independence referendum within the next ten years?

Yes 59%
No 41%

Want another independence referendum at some point?

Yes 80%
No 20%

Survation have also asked the direct question about independence for a third time since the referendum.  In spite of introducing weighting by recalled referendum vote (which leads to the Yes vote being significantly downweighted), all three results have shown a race that is too close to call.  One of them suggested an exactly level-pegging contest, while the other two - including tonight's - have shown a narrow No lead within the margin of error.  All three have implied a Yes vote that is markedly higher than at any point during the long referendum campaign - ie. if Survation had stuck with their pre-referendum methodology, and had not brought in weighting by recalled referendum vote, they would now be consistently showing Yes support above the record high for the campaign of 48%.

Survation are one of three firms to have posed the independence question since the referendum, but are the only one to have found No ahead at any point since September.  Part of the reason for that is methodological - YouGov haven't introduced weighting by recalled referendum vote (although Panelbase have and yet still put Yes ahead). It may seem obvious that the case for this new weighting is well-founded, but it's just possible that Survation may be over-compensating, and thus underestimating the Yes vote slightly.  One thing that has to be borne in mind is that they are reliant on a volunteer polling panel, which will include a disproportionate number of politically committed people.  This means that by upweighting respondents who recall voting No, they may be upweighting too many "hard" No voters and too few "soft" No voters (the latter of whom are more likely to have changed their minds over the last few months).  OK, the same thing could be said about absolutely any sort of past vote weighting, but that doesn't invalidate the point - particularly bearing in mind that weighting by referendum vote is a completely untested approach.  It's also conceivable that "buyer's remorse" is at play, and that a few people are claiming to have voted Yes because they wish they had done.  It wouldn't take all that many of them to distort the result of a poll (and ironically distort it in favour of No).

But the bottom line is that, even if Survation's new methodology is bang on the money, a referendum held now would be on a knife-edge, and nobody would be sure of the winner until the votes were counted.

*  *  *

I was interested to hear Michael Heseltine on Question Time say how horror-struck he would be if the Scottish National Party ever had influence on the fate of Britain's nuclear weapons - which is tantamount to saying that Scottish voters have no business taking their own view on Trident.  The Tory message to Scotland over the last few months seems to have gone like this...

"Scotland, you are LOVED.  You are RESPECTED.  You are a VALUED part of our United Kingdom.  PLEASE stay.  Stay until all the seas gang drrrrrry (nice one, Captain Jack).  Oh good, you've stayed.  By the way, just so there's no misunderstanding over this - WE MAKE THE DECISIONS AROUND HERE.  No, seriously, Scotland - SHUT UP."

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Swashbuckling SNP seize 17.8% lead in splendid Survation survey

This month's full-scale Scottish poll from Survation has just been released...

Scottish voting intentions for the May 2015 UK general election (Survation, 12th-17th February) :

SNP 45% (-1)
Labour 28% (+2)
Conservatives 15% (+1)
Liberal Democrats 5% (-2)
Greens 3% (n/c)
UKIP 3% (-1)

The SNP lead is actually much closer to 18% than to 17%, but is reported as 17% due to a quirk in the rounding.  On the unrounded figures, the SNP have 45.3% of the vote, and Labour are on 27.5%.

If you look at this month's poll and last month's in isolation, you'd conclude that there's no reason to suppose that the SNP's colossal lead has contracted even marginally, because the small percentage changes are consistent with margin-of-error noise.  However, we do have to bear in mind that - incredibly - last month's 20% gap was the lowest SNP lead Survation had recorded since the referendum (unless you count the September 19th telephone poll).  So a further small narrowing does open up the possibility that Labour have made some paltry inroads over the last two months - but it certainly doesn't prove that beyond all doubt.  It's still conceivable that there's been a steady SNP lead of roughly 20 points since October, and that the variation between 18 and 24 points that Survation have recorded has been caused by the margin of error.  One reason for thinking that might be the case is that the last poll from the firm saw a drastic upweighting of a very small SNP-heavy sample of under-25s, and that sort of thing can increase the chances of volatility from one poll to the next.

The other important point to make is that the evidence for the SNP's vote having dipped is significantly weaker than the evidence for Labour's vote having recovered slightly.  Survation's first post-referendum poll for the Record put Labour on 24%, so a 4% increase since then might just be statistically significant.  But the SNP were on 46% in the same poll, and the 1% drop since then is utterly meaningless.  Nicola Sturgeon's party have been hovering at 45% or 46% in three of the four polls in the Record series to date, with their 48% showing a couple of months ago looking like the obvious outlier.  So on the face of it, what we're seeing is the SNP's support remaining more or less untouched, while Labour hoover up a few soft votes from the smaller parties - perhaps from people who are impressed by Jim Murphy's Tory Lite credentials.

If there's any truth in that, it means there's a big danger for Labour - because even assuming a small recovery has occurred at all, it may have occurred in the wrong geographical areas.  The potential for "Murphy Tories" or "Murphy Kippers" to turn things around for Labour in Glasgow or North Lanarkshire is obviously pretty limited.

The ticking of the clock was of course the Yes campaign's greatest enemy during much of the referendum campaign, but it's become a bosom friend for the SNP now.  If the recent polls from Survation, YouGov, ICM and Ipsos-Mori have been accurate, then the odd 2% trimming of the lead here and there isn't going to be anything like enough for Labour with only two-and-a-half months to go until polling day.  The unholy trinity of Murphy, McTernan and McDougall are going to have to hope that one of two things prove to be true - either a) the intensity of the official campaign period will offer an opportunity for a game-changer that has so far eluded them, or b) the two Labour-friendly pollsters (Panelbase and TNS-BMRB) are right and all the other firms are wrong.  If Labour were only 10 points behind in January rather than 20, then obviously a 2% narrowing of the gap would be more significant, especially given the way the electoral system works in Labour's favour when the popular vote is relatively tight.  The next Panelbase poll will be fascinating - if it shows a single-figure SNP lead, perhaps Labour can justifiably feel that there is a small glimmer of hope.  But in truth, we all know that the last Panelbase poll used a very dubious methodology, and as long as there's no repeat of that, a very plausible case can be made for thinking the SNP's lead will actually increase markedly.

As usual, the Survation poll also contains voting intention numbers for next year's Scottish Parliament election...

Constituency ballot :

SNP 48% (-2)
Labour 28% (+2)
Conservatives 13% (+1)
Liberal Democrats 5% (-1)
Greens 4% (+1)
UKIP 2% (-1)

Regional list ballot :

SNP 39% (n/c)
Labour 22% (-1)
Greens 13% (+3)
Conservatives 12% (-2)
UKIP 6% (n/c)
Liberal Democrats 6% (-1)

I was about to say that this is the entirely familiar pattern of the SNP being threatened most by defections to the Greens on the list, but in fact there is something unusual here - it's been rare of late to see Labour falling back so sharply on the list.

*  *  *

Political Betting are running a general election prediction competition - amazingly, my entry was accepted, although doubtless it's only a matter of time before I'm disqualified for being too left-wing, or for having too many Irish ancestors, or for the inappropriateness of my eyebrows, or something.  But the interesting thing is that everyone's entry is publicly viewable, and Gerry Hassan (assuming it's the real Gerry Hassan) has made the following prediction -

Labour 291, Conservatives 275, Liberal Democrats 38, SNP 25, UKIP 3, Greens 1

That means he's expecting the SNP to drop back significantly between now and May, and Labour to retain their familiar place as Scotland's largest party in terms of seats (albeit possibly not in terms of votes).  I think he's probably wrong about that, but it does help to put in context some of the bewildering Ian Smart-esque commentary that Gerry has produced since voting Yes in the referendum.

*  *  *

I can't claim to be on the best of terms with the supremo of Better Nation, but as far as I can recall I've never had a cross word with the blog's other regular writer Dom.  To be honest, I'm not entirely sure who he is, but he's undoubtedly an excellent writer.  Just to prove that point, his very funny valedictory post has effortlessly pulled off the supreme feat of insulting virtually every single person in the Scottish political blogosphere, including (indirectly) James Mackenzie himself -

"A few years ago I was invited to become a regular part of Better Nation, at a time when it was the only blog in Scottish politics that did not exist entirely to massage one person’s ego or to cheer-lead religiously for a particular political party...Scotland is a much more complex place than anyone would really care to admit, and what needs to happen now in reflecting that cannot come in the form of a blog, however well intentioned its authors might be. I have never been the kind of person to salivate over polls or write insight pieces just to cultivate my own sense of performative hackery...There are still things to be written, not least over at the Scottish Review and The Conversation, but not here any more."

We love you too, Dom!

SNP lead by 21% in new Poll of Polls

Today's update of the Poll of Polls is based on ten Scottish subsamples from Britain-wide polls - four from YouGov, two from Populus, one from ICM, one from TNS-BMRB, one from Ashcroft and one from ComRes.  It has to be said that some of the last week's subsamples are as mad as a bucket of frogs, ranging between these two extremes...

ComRes : SNP 59%, Labour 13%, Conservatives 11%, Greens 6%, UKIP 5%, Liberal Democrats 5%

TNS-BMRB : Conservatives 34%, SNP 24%, Labour 23%, Greens 6%, UKIP 5%, Liberal Democrats 5%

OK, freakish results can happen in small subsamples, but this is in fact the second time since the referendum that TNS have had the Tories ahead of the SNP.  When taken together with the fact that the full-scale Scottish poll from TNS also produced a result well out-of-step with other firms, you do start to wonder if there's an issue with their methodology.

However, put all the discordant results from the various firms together, and this is what you're left with...

Scottish voting intentions for the May 2015 UK general election :

SNP 43.8% (-0.8)
Labour 23.0% (-4.0)
Conservatives 17.8% (+0.1)
Liberal Democrats 7.0% (+3.6)
UKIP 4.5% (+1.5)
Greens 2.9% (-0.5)

(The Poll of Polls uses the Scottish subsamples from all GB-wide polls that have been conducted entirely within the last seven days and for which datasets have been provided, and also all full-scale Scottish polls that have been conducted at least partly within the last seven days. Full-scale polls are given ten times the weighting of subsamples.)

Poll results : Flower of Scotland is your choice for an independent Scotland's national anthem

Many thanks to the 507 people who voted in this blog's national anthem poll over the last 24 hours. No great surprise that the current de facto anthem was the clear winner - I suppose it's arguable that a 35% to 26% margin was a bit less emphatic that might have been expected, although I think if you look at the songs that finished second and third, you can begin to see the huge problem faced by those who want to oust Flower of Scotland from its perch. Freedom Come All Ye, in spite of its celebrated outing at the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony last summer, just isn't a particularly well-known song, which leads me to strongly suspect that if this poll had been conducted among the wider public and not just the readers of a political blog, the second-placed song would instead have been Caledonia, complete with its home-spun lyrics like "lost the friends that I needed losing". Assuming it's unlikely that such a song would ever be put forward as an official national anthem, where is Flower of Scotland's true rival to be found?

The two songs that have previously been considered unofficial national anthems - Scotland the Brave and Scots Wha Hae - achieved no more than respectability in this poll, and I suspect the majority of people these days don't even know the tune to Scots Wha Hae (although more of that later). My own dark horse pick in the unlikely event that Flower of Scotland is displaced would be the nationalist-yet-conciliatory Both Sides The Tweed, but that finished even further down the rankings.

Which of these songs should be the national anthem of an independent Scotland?

Flower of Scotland : 182 (35%)
Freedom Come All Ye : 133 (26%)
Caledonia : 95 (18%)
Scots Wha Hae : 61 (12%)
Is There For Honest Poverty : 57 (11%)
Scotland the Brave : 40 (7%)
Highland Cathedral : 35 (6%)
Auld Lang Syne : 33 (6%)
I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles) : 26 (5%)
Both Sides The Tweed : 16 (3%)
Loch Lomond : 13 (2%)
The Dark Island : 6 (1%)
The Skye Boat Song : 4 (0%)
A Man Without Love : 4 (0%)
Land of Light : 4 (0%)
The Thistle o' Scotland : 1 (0%)

The percentages are calculated by dividing the votes for each song by the total number of voters (as opposed to the total numbers of votes), so they add up to more than 100.

There were also a number of 'write-in votes', some of them more serious than others -

Smeòrach Clann Dòmnaill : The song performed by Julie Fowlis at the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games. I was there at the time, and I do remember the hairs on the back of my neck standing up. It's hard to imagine a Hampden or Murrayfield crowd belting this one out, although it does boast a lovely understated patriotic verse, which translates as...

"If every other bird praises its own land
Why then should not I?
Land of heroes, land of poets
The hospitable, generous land of plenty"

Marche des Soldats de Robert Bruce : The French name for Hey Tuttie Taiti, the ancient tune Robert Burns used in slowed-down form for Scots Wha Hae, and which was reputedly played by Robert the Bruce's army just before the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314. The reason it has an alternative name in French is that Joan of Arc's Scottish soldiers also played it a century later during the Siege of Orléans. I must admit the original faster version of the tune sounds much, much more plausible as a national anthem than Scots Wha Hae (judge for yourself HERE), and it can't be denied that no other song has a hope of matching it for historical significance.

Scotland Will Flourish by The Corries

Theme for the Early Days of a Better Nation

The lyrics of Scots Wha Hae set to the tune of War Pigs (by Black Sabbath)

Calum's Road by Donald Shaw

Weather With You by well-known Scottish band Crowded House

Teenage Kicks by well-known Scottish band The Undertones, or possibly Teenage Dream by well-known Scottish singer Katy Perry.

No Limit by 2 Unlimited (you get the idea).

The Chicken Song

Hearts of Olden Glory by Runrig

Scotland's Story by The Proclaimers

Dashing White Sergeant

The Ball of Kirriemuir

Fan Dabi Dozi by The Krankies

(At least no-one suggested John Barrowman's butchering of 80s pop classic Baby Give It Up.)

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

VOTE : Which of these songs should be the national anthem of an independent Scotland?

As I said in a comment on the previous thread, the notion that there is some kind of doubt over what Scotland's national anthem would be after independence is something that's only really clung to by a political and cultural elite who can't quite reconcile themselves to Flower of Scotland.  That includes senior people in the SNP - Alex Salmond, for instance, always notes that Scotland has "many anthems".  The reality is that the public made up their minds decades ago, and any attempt to impose a "worthier" alternative from on high simply won't wash.  In any case, sporting organisations are now pretty much unanimous in using Flower of Scotland as the anthem, and it was even heard at the Cricket World Cup just a few hours ago.

However, as this topic provoked such a fierce debate on the previous thread, let's have a good old-fashioned voodoo poll and see what the readers of Scot Goes Pop think.  The voting form is at the top of the sidebar, and I've tried to include all the suggestions that people made, plus a few other obvious options that weren't mentioned.  The selection is as follows -

Flower of Scotland
Scotland the Brave
Loch Lomond
Both Sides The Tweed
Auld Lang Syne
A Man Without Love
The Dark Island
Scots Wha Hae
Freedom Come All Ye
Is There For Honest Poverty
The Skye Boat Song
I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)
Land of Light
Highland Cathedral
The Thistle o' Scotland

I've naturally included the only Eurovision entry to be performed by a man in a kilt, and if you don't know which one that is, shame on you.  It finished in a sensational ninth place in 1966.

Multiple voting is enabled, so you can vote for as many or as few as you like.  If your favourite isn't on the list, feel free to add a "write-in vote" by leaving a comment on this post.

I haven't run a poll for ages, because the last time I attempted it there was a massive technical fault, and people's votes weren't being recorded (or when they were recorded, they were disappearing again a few hours later).  We'll see how it goes this time.  This blog currently gets an average of 20,000 unique readers per month, and has had a grand total of 148,577 unique readers over the last year (that works out as 3% of the population of Scotland, albeit admittedly a sizeable minority of readers are in reality from outside Scotland).  So put it this way - if we end up with only fourteen votes on a subject that almost everyone has an opinion about, something has gone wrong somewhere!

*  *  *

UPDATE : The poll is now closed - you can see the results HERE.

Monday, February 16, 2015

The Lib Dems' fondness for nuclear weapons makes them either stupid or illiberal

Courtesy of the BBC iplayer, I've finally caught up with Alex Salmond's appearance on Any Questions (appearance is obviously the wrong word for a radio show but I can never think of an appropriate equivalent).  There were quite a few fascinating moments - and one downright chilling moment, when Menzies Campbell explained that he has no philosophical stance at all on Britain's nuclear weapons, and that it's all about "utility" for him.  You'd think he was talking about a screwdriver or a pair of spectacles, but of course the sole function of nuclear weapons is to mass-slaughter millions of civilians - men, women and children without discrimination.  (The American bombing of Hiroshima, using a weapon of trivial destructive power compared to modern Trident warheads, burned countless children to death as they sat at school.)  Campbell sounded utterly furious when Salmond called him out on the grotesqueness of using the word "utility", but I suspect he was protesting too much - perhaps somewhere, deep down, he felt a twinge of shame at such a clear-sighted recognition of the Liberal Democrats' retreat into a moral vacuum.

Shortly afterwards, there was one of those broken record moments when the pro-WMD members of the panel kept pressing Salmond to say whether or not an independent Scotland would be able to sign the agreement stating that NATO is a nuclear weapons alliance, and Salmond kept responding with the SNP's careful formulation of words about how Scotland would simply be joining 25 of the 28 current NATO members in not possessing nuclear weapons.  Anna Soubry in particular seemed beside herself with excitement when she was able to point out that Salmond hadn't technically answered the question, which is true, but that's such a fatuous little triumph.  It shows just how warped the preoccupations of the London media have become that Jonathan Dimbleby allowed the panellists so much time to catch Salmond out on a point of pedantry, while giving a completely free pass to the gargantuan holes of logic in Campbell's own argument.  Apparently, without the ability to annihilate cities at the push of a button, the United Kingdom would be susceptible to nuclear blackmail, and that would be unacceptable.  Er, Ming, isn't that an argument for Finland to have nuclear weapons?  And Mexico?   And Ghana?   Not to mention Iran and North Korea?  What makes the UK so special that it's one of only five countries in the world permitted by international law to use the kind of "protection" that the Lib Dems regard as so utterly indispensable?  There are only really two options here - either nuclear deterrence doesn't work at all, or it only works on the basis of imperial domination of the world by a handful of 'superior' countries.  And by virtue of their dogmatic belief in nuclear deterrence, the Liberal Democrats are therefore either stupid or illiberal.

That said, it would have been easy enough for Salmond to get off his own hook.  For the life of me, I don't understand why the SNP have watered down the emphasis on conditionality that they adopted in the early days after the party's stance on NATO membership was reversed.  We were assured back then that, although an independent Scotland would be seeking to retain NATO membership, that wouldn't happen at any price.  The non-nuclear policy still had absolute primacy.  So why couldn't Salmond simply have answered the question by saying : "We would prefer to stay in NATO, but NATO must change.  NATO has adapted to the conditions of the 21st Century, but not quickly enough.  We want to work from within to make NATO fit for purpose in a post-nuclear era."

Lastly, it was interesting to hear the English audience laugh along with Salmond when he pointed out that it didn't really make sense for the Tories to paint a potential Miliband-Salmond alliance as Middle England's "worst nightmare" only months after begging, bribing and bullying Scotland to remain part of the UK.  Perhaps the audience were recognising a touch of cognitive dissonance within themselves - after all, we have opinion poll evidence suggesting that most people in England didn't want Scotland to become independent, and yet loathe the idea of the SNP holding a share of power at Westminster.  Somewhere along the line that just doesn't add up - if you want Scotland to "stay", you have to take the place as it actually is, and not as the clone of Buckinghamshire that you might prefer it to be.  Scotland votes SNP, not Tory.

*  *  *

I'm very disappointed to hear that the Scottish Government won't be supporting the designation of Flower of Scotland as the country's official national anthem.  The rationale seems to be that the song isn't everyone's cup of tea, but that misses the whole point.  The question should be whether you think Scotland needs an official anthem or not - and if you think that Scotland is a country, surely the answer can only be 'yes'.  For better or worse, Flower of Scotland is the only possible choice for that anthem because it's the only one that commands broad enough support.  The calls for Caledonia or 500 Miles to be chosen can't be taken seriously because no country in the world has an anthem of that sort.  (Although I was a great fan of the petition to replace God Save the Queen with Gold by Spandau Ballet.)

A more serious alternative might be Both Sides The Tweed, which although a nationalist song is kind of the antithesis of Flower of Scotland.  Mind you, it's one of those songs that have to be explained to people, because superficially the lyrics of the chorus make it sound like a happy-clappy Better Together anthem that Dan Snow and Ross Kemp would thoroughly approve of!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Neil "Alligators" Lovatt is beside himself with excitement as the bookies finally prove their predictive brilliance

After the disappointment of the rugby, my mind started turning to Scotland's upcoming appearance in the Cricket World Cup.  OK, we're unlikely to get much joy there either, but I think there's something rather pleasing about Scotland's existence as a country being affirmed in a quintessentially English sport - particularly one in which we were technically "represented" by the England team until 1992.  As an added bonus, I saw national anthems being played before the Australia v England match the other night, so if that happens before every game Flower of Scotland will presumably be getting quite a few outings in a very unlikely setting.

I decided to have a little peek at the Betfair odds for the Scotland v New Zealand match, just to see how impossible the task is rated as being, and sure enough the disparity in the odds is mildly embarrassing.  But you'll be happy to hear that Scotland are much more highly fancied on one crucial measure, namely the outcome of the coin toss.

To win toss?

Scotland 10/11
New Zealand 10/11


I must say that sounds more or less right to me.  It's absolutely uncanny.

Huzzah for the bookies!

Huzzah for the Wisdom of Crowds!

I can't think of any other way I would ever have worked out that there is a 50% chance of winning a coin toss.  My doubts have lifted at last - from now on, I'll definitely be joining Neil "Alligators" Lovatt and his fan club in ignoring scientifically-conducted opinion polls, and instead assuming that the best way of predicting election results is to look at spread-sheets examining the behaviour of wealthy Tory gamblers in minute detail.

(PS.  Do you reckon this post is worth another "Eet Vos A Pleasure To Shrrrrred Eet, James"?)

Stopwatch injustice

I'm not an expert on the laws of rugby, but surely something has just gone terribly wrong.  The decision on whether to blow the final whistle should not be based on how long it takes the referee to get the technology to work, and to ask the other official whether time is up.  The only question should be whether time was up at the moment the ball went dead, in which case the answer was no.  And it's obvious that the Welsh players had the objective of winding the clock down with their actions after the Scotland try was scored, so surely the referee should have stopped the clock for a few seconds anyway?

OK, it's natural to feel a bit raw ten minutes after an incident like that, but this one really does seem like a clear-cut case of injustice.

UKIP if you want to, but the Kipper's not for whipping

In what is possibly the most important poll YouGov have conducted since the historic red trousers one, we discover a fascinating paradox in the attitudes of two political parties towards a topical sexual proclivity...

Taken part in BDSM?

UKIP voters : 7%
Liberal Democrat voters : 16%

Would like to watch the film version of 'Fifty Shades of Grey'?

UKIP voters : 20%
Liberal Democrat voters : 16%

So who'd have thunk it - Kippers like to passively sit and watch, while Lib Dems prefer to live out their dreams. If only that applied to their manifesto pledges.