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.