Unionist ranks to be thinned by sheer exhaustion?

You don’t have to look beyond my last blog post to know I’ve just spent a week outside Scotland. Before we dashed for our airport taxi on the way out I grabbed the morning papers and somewhere over the South of France got to an interesting article in The Scotsman of 21 July by Bill Jamieson entitled A serious case of referendum fatigue.

It’s a thoughtful piece for all sorts of reasons, not least for his analysis of what the first minister was up to when she declared after her meeting with Theresa May that another separation referendum could be held as early as the first half of next year. Jamieson goes on to cite a then current article by George Kerevan on the need, post-hypothetical independence, for ‘fiscal consolidation’, every economist’s favourite euphemism for government cuts. There were two, not necessarily conflicting, views about Kerevan’s article: either it was a welcome dose of nationalist realism, or it was one of many opening gambits in a renewed push for separation.

I mention the Kerevan article because it’s an example of how febrile nationalist politics is in Scotland (see my pinball wizards post for more examples). A mere ten days later, amidst all the other fervour for or against this, that or the other, who remembers it?

Jamieson’s concluding sentence is worth quoting in full:

And whenever it [a second independence referendum] comes – whether the first half of next year, 2017 or beyond – the ranks of unionist supporters will have been thinned by sheer exhaustion.

This had me tutting and sighing audibly, to the consternation of the Frenchwoman next to me on the plane. No Bill, I thought, we will not have our ranks thinned by sheer exhaustion.

I wasn’t sure if or how I could use my objection to Jamieson’s conclusion on my return from a break when the parochialism of Scottish politics was far from my mind, but I tore the article out anyhow and brought it back with me.

I was glad I did because yesterday the excellent Neil Lovat (@neiledwardlovat on Twitter), who specialises in objective analysis of facts and claims about facts, posted this graph on Twitter:

indyref trend to july 2016

A brief explanation may be helpful. What he has done is take the average of opinion polls every month since the independence referendum and shown the percentage of respondents who would vote Yes or No in another referendum (blue = No, orange = Yes – he excludes Don’t Knows). He’s then used a statistical technique called regression analysis to get a ‘best fit’ line through the data over time. Put simply it’s the trend of all those monthly averages.

If you’ve got this far and can take the data and analysis on trust, the conclusion’s pretty obvious – the trend not only shows a greater proportion of ‘Nos’ throughout the period, but the gap between Nos and Yesses is widening. As Lovat puts it in the tweet that accompanied his graph ‘indy continues to lose ground.’

Before anyone gets too precious about the detail of the data, yes I know individual months show a different conclusion, and I know that throughout the period the No line is below the 55% achieved in the referendum, and the Yes line above the 45% it achieved. But it’s the trend that’s important after the initial post-referendum euphoria (for the Yes camp), and the gap is widening.

It’s widening despite all the many complaints, real and imagined, that the SNP in particular continue to pump out against anything to do with the UK.

So amidst all the marching and flag waving (notably a Yes rally in Glasgow yesterday) don’t forget to touch base with the cold hard reality of facts. I hope Nicola Sturgeon and her advisers do, otherwise they’re likely to get the most almighty shock in the highly unlikely event of another separation referendum in ‘the first half of next year.’

And, Bill, I do rate your journalism highly. But please, no more unionist ranks thinned by sheer exhaustion. It ain’t going to happen.

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6 Responses to Unionist ranks to be thinned by sheer exhaustion?

  1. james donnelly says:

    jamieson one of the cult ?


  2. Roger White says:

    I try, at least here, to avoid dubbing SNP supporters/nationalists as members of a cult although I do believe a proportion are uncritical followers. Someone has suggested to me on Twitter that Bill Jamieson supports separation. I don’t know and I’m prepared to take his journalism at face value. But I’m sure you and I would agree on one thing in this case – he’s wrong!


  3. wujeanty says:

    For what it’s worth, Roger, I think ‘independence’, is finished. I believe that many, if not most, people who have voted SNP up until this point have done so because of the apparent safety net of the UK’s membership of the EU – ie, it could be argued, fairly legitimately, that if an independent Scotland and rUK remained in the EU, not a lot would change. However, with an independent Scotland out of the UK, but in the EU, EVERYTHING would change – not least because there would almost certainly have to be a border wall between the two countries, and Scotland would have no alternative but to establish its own currency. Moreover, at the next referendum, provided the Government does not botch the negotiations, the Scottish electorate will be forced to choose whether or not to cede control of all of Scotland’s fishing waters to the EU – control which should have just been repatriated to the Scottish Parliament. I think the majority of the Scottish electorate – including quite a few nationalists – would not vote for that in a million years. Thus, if I was Theresa May, I would announce that I would be prepared to offer the SNP another referendum as soon as the Brexit terms have been negotiated. I think in that vote the separatists would be lucky to hit 30%. Then it’s bye bye SNP, and not a moment too soon.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Sam Duncan says:

      I remember, not long after I’d changed my mind about the EU after Maastricht etc., talking to a senior SNP official who happened to work with my father. I told him (I can’t remember my exact words, obviously), “Why are you in such a hurry? If you just sit and wait, eventually ‘independence’ will be about as disruptive as local authority reorganization. Few will oppose it, because it won’t really mean anything beyond a few symbols of nationhood.” I was trying, I suppose, to point out the absurdity of the “Independence in Europe” policy, which was still relatively new at the time, but he just looked at me as if to say, “This kid’s figured out the plan”.

      The “construction of Europe” has proceeded less quickly than I feared back then, not least because of our non-participation in EMU. (It’s worth noting, because it illustrates my point quite well, that if the UK had signed up, Brexit, with the need to re-establish Sterling or dollarize the Euro, would have been a harder sell than Scottish “independence”.) But I could see faint hints of what I foresaw back then when arguing with younger “Yes” supporters in 2014. They couldn’t articulate it, but it was obvious that they just didn’t appreciate the difficulty of creating a new state and a new international border in the way they surely would, say, 30 years ago. We already have Holyroood; its ministers would get to sit on the Council, and we’d all wave saltires and cheer. Big deal.

      The Nats know fine well that, while there’s a faction within their own ranks in favour of true independence, it’ll never fly with the public. So they’re stuck with pushing statehood within the EU. But the “simple” redrawing of internal boundaries is no longer an option. We’re now faced with the choice between two unions: one in which Scotland represents around 10% of the total population, with which we share and island, that has devolved power to its constituent nations over the last couple of decades; or one in which Scotland is about 1% of the population, that’s in the process of accumulating power in “the spirit of ever closer union”.

      No wonder Sturgeon’s running around like a wet hen.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. nothanks5545 says:

    All the flag waving and undercurrent of xenophobia won’t bring about Indy. The small, but very visible, minority on yesterday’s march & on Twitter would accept Indy at any cost. As that cost more than likely involves unnecessarily loading future generations with debt it seems a strange definition of patriotism.

    At the other end of the scale there are those who would reject Indy in all circumstances, even if there were clear economic benefits. I don’t think this is particularly enlightened either.

    The key is reaching those who like the prize of Indy but aren’t prepared to pay the price of Indy. Anyone with a rudimentary understanding of public finances knows the current, and certainly near term, state of an independent Scotland’s finances would be dire. That’s not talking down Scotland, it’s basic arithmetic. And all it takes is a rudimentary understanding. Which is why crackpot blogposts appear by wishful thinkers, merrily retweeted as gospel by the small minority that want it to be true. Is there an updated ‘Scotland’s Future’ or paper on currency options, written by an academic economist, or credible financial journalist, out there?

    The public are coming around to understanding things like oil isn’t a bonus but integral to the economy. People like Kevin Hague need our thanks; the vitriolic personal abuse he receives for doing no more than presenting the Scottish Government’s own data in an easily understood format (I’m not trying to sell you short here if you read this) stands in stark contrast to the lack of forensic challenge to his analysis. Which is testament both to his work, and the work of the Scottish Government’s own statisticians.

    Unless there is a dramatic upturn in Scotland’s economic prospects Indy will only be achieved by a massive campaign of smoke and mirrors to obscure the underlying issues. If that succeeds the impact will be brutal beyond the comprehension of many who thought that things could only get better than they are now.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Island Girl says:

    I think all that has happened Roger is that Unionists have returned to getting on with their lives – quietly! I dare say if the sleeping tiger is prodded again it will respond accordingly – rested and with renewed vigour. Only a nationalist fool would consider that numbers have thinned due to fatigue!

    Liked by 2 people

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