Shut up and leave us alone. Or if you won’t, at least get it right!

I sometimes wish outsiders would just shut up and leave us to fight it out alone in our misery.

If you’re a habitual reader you’ll probably know what I mean, but if not here’s the translation:

  • outsiders – people not in Scotland
  • us – people in Scotland
  • it – independence/separation
  • misery – needs no translation but for the avoidance of doubt it’s what most of us think most of the time about politics in Scotland.

The point about outsiders is that they so often make the wrong judgements about Scotland.

I came across a classic example recently, tucked away in the introduction to a publication from the London-based Electoral Reform Society (ERS) – It’s Good to Talk. Doing referendums differently after the EU vote.

It’s a long and serious report – 57 pages with extensive polling commissioned from BMG Research. It includes analysis of the Scottish 2014 referendum (pp.47-50) that I may return to because I think it draws some wrong conclusions from that event and indeed some wrong conclusions about referendums generally.

Today I just want to concentrate on that introduction and one statement in it:

The UK is in an extended period of constitutional flux, and is showing few signs of coming out the other side any time soon … Scotland looks ever closer to independence …

Whoa, hang on! ‘Scotland looks ever closer to independence’? Where did they get that information from and when? What a disappointment in a report otherwise so thoroughly researched and evidenced.

It’s the sort of mis-interpretation that repeated often enough can assume the ring of truth. Except it wouldn’t be true.

In 2014, the Scottish electorate rejected independence by 55% to 45%. The most recent poll published, by YouGov and based on fieldwork carried out on 29-31 August, asked the question ‘Should Scotland be an independent country?’ 54% of those with an opinion said No, 46% Yes. Typically with polls of this sort any estimate could be up to 3 percentage points wrong in either direction. In other words, the true percentages for the electorate as a whole could be:

  • No 51%-57%
  • Yes 43%-49%.

So in the most extreme cases in this poll, No still has a majority and Yes still a minority. And that’s after two years of relentless campaigning by the SNP to make every political issue in Scotland a trigger for another referendum.

The same poll also contains some other interesting titbits:

  • the most popular party leader, by a whisker, is not Nicola Sturgeon but Ruth Davidson (net popularity ratings of +20% and +21% respectively), and
  • 50% would oppose holding another Scottish independence referendum before the UK leaves the EU; only 37% would support one (on current information the UK is highly unlikely to leave the EU formally before the end of 2019).

I always caution against drawing firm conclusions from one poll. But when you consider these latest estimates with all the other polls since 2014 (here for example), it doesn’t look good for those who want separation. It’s certainly not a case of ‘The tide is turning!’, as one nationalist taunted me online recently.

Until yesterday, this was to have been a more comprehensive analysis of the current evidence around what the SNP chooses to make the central question of Scottish politics. Then I discovered an article on the subject in today’s Scotsman by Brian Monteith – Honeymoon set to end for SNP and angry voters. I’d urge you to read it.

More to the point, I’d urge the authors of the Electoral Reform Society to consider all the facts and review whether their glib judgement about Scottish independence was correct. For an organisation that is so evidence-based, their erroneous conclusion was more than disappointing.

It’s why I’m tempted to say to some people and organisations outwith Scotland, shut up and leave us alone. Or if you won’t, at least get it right.

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20 Responses to Shut up and leave us alone. Or if you won’t, at least get it right!

  1. Nice try, but no cigar Roger. One might almost think the reason you are so exercised by the ERS’ findings, and their conclusions, is that you just disagree with them? Perhaps it worries you all the more that they can hardly be said to have a dog in this fight? It’s amusing that whilst paying lip service to not taking the findings of one poll too seriously, you then proceed to build what passes for your case on that basis. The average of all polls on the What Scotland Thinks site (from Oct. 2014 to Jun 2016, encompassing 41 polls) shows No at 51.5% and Yes at 48.5%. So, even by your own standards, the direction of travel in polling with respect to independence is a steady growth of the Yes vote.

    Perhaps more importantly from the point of view of indyref2, and very much the elephant in the room for No voters, is the fact that the “base” Yes support when the campaign for indyref1 started was around 25%. The 20% increase over the campaign duration has not been reduced by the No camp in the period since, it has (by any reasonable measure) increased. Of course, there is no certainty about what will happen in the period running up to a future indyref2, but the base figure makes a pro-independence majority both easier and more likely to be reached.

    Whilst it is true that the leader of the Ruth Davidson Party (who were so confident of their prospects during the Holyrood elections in 2016 they dared not even use their own name) may have inched ahead in the popularity stakes, we are still talking about a party polling 21%, whose leader won her seat in Edinburgh on the back of unionist tactical voting. Ruth may be popular amongst British nationalists and the Scots mainstream media, but honestly leadership consists of more than driving tanks, riding water buffalo and issuing sound-bites.

    As for 50% opposing holding another independence referendum, the important qualifier there is “before the UK leaves the EU”. Indyref2 was never on the cards in the short term; Sturgeon and her leadership team made it quite clear they wouldn’t call one before they were confident they could win, which specifically meant consistent support of over 60%. The issue now for the UK government, and the proponents of a “hard” brexit, is that the differential result between Scotland and England & Wales in the brexit referendum, is a huge hostage to fortune.

    A week may be a long time in politics, so none of us know how the next few years will pan out politically or economically. It’s quite possible that if May’s government doesn’t get a deal which squares the circle between access to the single market and free movement of labour, it will face collapse. Similarly, an economic downturn &/or the prospects of another 2 Tory election victories in 2020 and 2025 if the Labour party continues its electoral seppuku, may concentrate the minds of “soft” No voters in Scotland when it comes to indyref2.

    In conclusion, you may not “like” the ERS’ conclusions, and you may not believe that the SNP and the Yes camp are in a relatively strong position, but your analysis of the numbers looks a lot like you wear rose tinted spectacles.

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  2. Roger White says:

    So many words and such a big misunderstanding. I was not seeking to analyse the ERS report’s conclusions (as I said, I may return to that). My point was about the casual assumption of that one statement in their introduction. As for your What Scotland Thinks average, I’ll take that on trust from you, not having noticed that figure before. But it fits *precisely* within the 3% margin of error of the latest YouGov poll. You make my point for me! Essentially no change in two years despite (as you’d presumably see it) everything.

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    • Errm, no it proves the opposite of your point. Numbers not your thing huh Roger? you should have a word with your pet supplies mate Kevin? Happy to share the spreadsheet showing the figures, not that actual proof of your error would change your mind I suspect!? Despite “everything” the average of over 40 polls shows an increase of 3.5%. The margin of error for individual polls may be +/- 3%, but you can’t dismiss the trend line of > 40 polls quite so easily.

      I wouldn’t have expected any better than this level of deflection from you Roger – you can’t actually argue against the fact, so you simply assert that your point of view still holds…laughable really but same old, same old, huh?

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      • Roger White says:

        Sorry. All this demonstrates is my experience of another series of comments you made on a post of mine a while ago – rapid descent from a reasonably argued point to something else. Huh? As you’d say. Feel free to post further comments if you wish. I’ll not be responding. Not an acceptance of defeat but life’s too short for sarcasm. Thanks at least for commenting.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. nothanks5545 says:

    Leaving aside the polling data, I’d hazard a guess that the arrogant language and ad hominem jibes employed by Andy is worth several percentage points to the Union side at the ballot box.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Roger White says:

      Hah! Only read this after my second and final response to him but thanks!

      Like

    • So, since you can’t argue with the actual polling data (which supports ERS’ case and is the opposite of what Roger asserts) your contribution amounts to whingeing about my language and ad hominem jibes? Really?

      That’s your best shot? Hmmnn…you really must be a delicate flower. It is of as we’ve seen par for the course for britnats to “other” the opposition and any disagreement (however moderate) as vile cybernat abuse. Such hyperbole does nothing to advance debate, but then as we’ve seen in this thread, those capable of arguing black is whit in relation to polling statistics can’t be expected to argue in good faith.

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      • nothanks5545 says:

        I started by saying I wasn’t going to discuss the polling data. That doesn’t mean I concede anything you say on it is accurate.

        My sole point was ad hominem attacks and the tone employed by you and others does the Yes cause no favours at all. You then go on to reply with more of the same. You can’t help yourself, can you?

        No, in case you’re wondering, that doesn’t need a reply.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. David Cushman says:

    I downloaded the 45 poll results from Oct. 2014 through August 2016 that are on the What Scotland Thinks website. The average Yes percentage is 44.6 and the average No is 47.2. The figures are hardly any different if we stop in June, and thus strangely contrary to the figures reported above by Andy Ellis, although the difference between Yes and No is about the same. In addition to being negative on average, the trend in the Yes-Minus-No difference is somewhat downward; and Yes is clearly trending downward. No is also trending downward, but only by a tiny amount. The trend in Don’t-Know is rising. It would thus appear that Yes’s are turning in Don’t Knows. Overall, I see no support here for “Scotland looks ever closer to independence.” (Yes, I am in Scotland.)

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    • The averages you quote include “Don’t knows” and “Refused responses” which should be excluded, giving an average for all 45 polls since indyref1 of Yes: 48.56 vs. No of 51.4.

      The average of the 5 polls since brexit is Yes: 50.2 vs. No: 49.8.

      What it is easy to observe is that the average Yes support is significantly higher than the indyref1 result, both across the whole 45 poll average, and even more so for those carried out since brexit (indeed it is even possible that the Yes figure since brexit is higher than represented above as some of these polls reportedly did not include 16 & 17 year olds who are as an age cadre strongly slanted towards Yes).

      Anyone without an ideological axe to grind can see from these figures that the trend since indyref1 is a growth of the Yes vote, and that this appears to be accelerating since brexit. so looks like ERS are correct, however fervently Roger might wish it was otherwise.

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      • Mike says:

        You sound a little desperate Andy.

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      • Roger White says:

        Mike – I don’t think you need convincing, but I’ve told Andy I’m not going to get locked into an increasingly tetchy and as someone said ‘ad hominem’ exchange with him – it’s happened before. However, I still don’t agree with his interpretation of the polling figures and I don’t invent, as he implies, my ‘own class’ of fact about them (code for calling me a liar). I rely instead on the objective description of the situation on the What Scotland Thinks web site. It hasn’t been updated beyond May but I’ve heard Prof John Curtice (who runs that site) refer to a few subsequent polls showing a higher % for ‘Yes’ as a ‘post-Brexit blip.’ The YouGov end-August polling is back to what the WST site shows as a relatively stable situation, certainly not a trend to Yes.

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  5. @Mike Desperate? Not at all. Simply pointing out the flaws in the previous post. By all means, feel free to respond with some substantive comment, or point out any errors. It’s hardly a difficult concept to grasp, apart it seems for Roger and those who share his views. Either the % in favour of Yes has gone up, or it hasn’t; the only objective way we have to track the progress of that other than actual votes is via opinion polls. As Roger rightly point out, you can’t infer anything much from 1 poll, but averages of many polls are somewhat different.

    Roger insists the ERS’ conclusion is erroneous. Of course he’s entitled to disagree with their opinion, but he’s not entitled to his own class of facts about the polling figures, and neither is David Cushman.

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  6. Gordon Howe says:

    The first Indy ref was when oil price was at all time high and after commonwealth games on date chosen by Scottish govt and it was still a No .

    Liked by 1 person

  7. David Cushman says:

    For the five polls since the Brexit referendum, go to:

    http://whatscotlandthinks.org/questions/how-would-you-vote-in-the-in-a-scottish-independence-referendum-if-held-now-ask#table

    Yes: 47, 47, 46, 40, 40.
    No: 41, 44, 40, 45, 46.
    Don’t know: 10, 8, 13, 14, 13.
    Refused: 2, 0, 0, 0, 0.

    Instead of #table a the end of the web address, put #line and see the graph. Either way, Yes has clearly fallen significantly, and No has risen significantly since June. And the averages for the five polls are not what Andy Ellis claims, so I don’t see how he gets his numbers for the five polls. Nor do I see how he gets them for the first 40 polls – see:

    http://whatscotlandthinks.org/questions/how-would-you-vote-in-the-in-the-scottish-independence-referendum-if-held-now-a#table

    And anyone who combines the two data sets can confirm the averages for all 45 are as I previously reported.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The numbers quoted are from the sources you provide links to, excluding the Don’t know & refused categories (which is common polling practice & why What Scotland Think gives you the option to view the figures and graphs with a filter to exclude these categories.)

      Using that, the figures are:

      Yes: 53, 53, 47, 46, 52
      No: 47, 47, 53, 52, 48

      The caveat relating to the 2 You Gov polls (those showing a No majority) is that they exclude 16-18 year olds (hat tip to Jeremy Blackwell). To do a true comparison of the 5 polls since brexit, you’d have to weight for the exclusion of that age cadre. This would almost certainly increase the Yes vote given the heavy Yes preference amongst 16-18 year olds.

      The average across all 18 polls for 2016 (excluding DK & refusals) is Yes: 48.2, No 51.8. The trend line for the graph of those is up for Yes (from 47 to 49) and down for No (from 53 to 51).

      The average across all 45 polls (Oct. 2014 to Aug. 2016) is Yes: 48.6, No 51.4. The trend line for the graph of those is down overall for Yes (from 49 to 48) and up for No (from 51 to 52).

      How these figures can be spun as flat-lining (still less decreasing) support from the 45/55 result of the indyref is beyond me. In the 45 polls in What Scotland Thinks, average Yes support across each year has been: 2014 – 50.4, 2015 – 48.5, 2016 – 48.2 with an average of 50.2 in 5 post brexit polls 2 of which under-report Yes support by excluding 16-18 year olds. the equivalent No figures are: 49.6, 51.5, 51.8 & 49.8.

      I’m quite happy to share the excel file showing the calculations with anyone who contacts me, given the unwillingness of most on this blog to enter into meaningful discussion.

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      • David Cushman says:

        Huh? Applying the filter Andy mentions (“Remove ‘Don’t Know’ and ‘Refused’ responses”) to the post EU referendum results gives these values:
        Yes: 53, 52, 53, 47, 47
        No: 47, 48, 47, 53, 53
        Except for the first poll, they not the numbers Andy presents, and they show the same trends as when unfiltered.

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  8. ndls61 says:

    @David Cushman

    David, they’re the same figures in a different order (because I listed them from individual polling sites prior to them appearing collectively on the What Scotland Thinks website). 2 of the 10 figures vary (by 1%) due to rounding errors. So your point is…….?

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    • David Cushman says:

      If you’re looking for trends, you can’t change the order.

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      • ndls61 says:

        That wasn’t your point though was it? I wasn’t making a point of the trend relating to the post brevet polls (although the fact is it makes little if any difference to the actual outcome what order they are in given the fact they are all so decisively in favour of indy).

        You already showed yourself up enough David…I’d stop digging now if I were you, or you’ll look like you’re in a similar state of denial as Roger?

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