UKIP in the leaders’ debate? Broadcasting must be devolved!

Britain's PM choices - screenshot

Britain's PM choices – screenshot by Scorpions and Centaurs, on Flickr.

As many other people, I’m absolutely appalled by the announcement that the BBC and the UK’s other main broadcasters will host a leaders’ debate in the run-up to the General Election that includes the Tories, Labour, the LibDems and UKIP, but neither the Green parties nor the SNP.

This is simply ludicrous! I blogged recently about how the pollsters should stop treating Great Britain as one unit, given that the party political systems are very different. In Scotland, the SNP is either the incumbent or the main challenger in most constituencies, and UKIP is nowhere to be seen.

The purpose of a leaders’ debate is to guide people on what to vote, and this selection of parties gives voters in Scotland the misguided idea that UKIP is more of a real party than the SNP. It’s barking mad!

On the other hand, I can understand that people in England don’t really think it’s very relevant to see Nicola Sturgeon in such a debate, given that they cannot vote for her party.

At the same time, the BBC’s idea about a Scottish debate simply doesn’t makes sense, because they want to invite the people leading their parties at Holyrood. However, the Westminster election is about the non-devolved subject areas (e.g., foreign policy, the military and pensions) — exactly the ones that the Holyrood politicians don’t have any influence on.

I hope the BBC and the other broadcasters will change their minds as a matter of priority, but the best way to avoid failures like this in the future is to get full devolution of broadcasting, so that England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland can have completely separate debates hosted by their national broadcasters.

In this way, the English leaders’ debate could include whoever they thought were important (and that might include UKIP), but the Scottish debate would replace the English debate, not supplement it, and so the debate up here would most likely include Nicola Sturgeon (or maybe the SNP’s Westminster leader, Angus Robertson), David Cameron, Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg and perhaps somebody from the Scottish Green Party, and everybody would be happy.

If broadcasting doesn’t get devolved, I guess the SNP will need to start putting up candidates in most English seats, even if it leads to a lot of lost deposits, simply so that it cannot be dismissed as a mere regional party.

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Posted in media, Westminster | 5 Comments

Which Westminster seats can the SNP realistically win?

[London] Westminster

[London] Westminster by Fabrizio Sciami, on Flickr.

It’s very clear that the best way to ensure that Westminster keeps paying attention to Scotland and to the promises they made during the referendum campaign is to elect as many Yes MPs in May 2015 as possible.

I’d love to see some Scottish Green MPs elected together with a strong SNP contingent, and a Yes Alliance might be the way forward. However, given the weak Green performance in 2010, I’ll concentrate on the SNP’s chances in the following.

How many seats can the SNP realistically win? To find out, I decided to look at the question from three different angles.

Firstly, I implemented a uniform swing based on Scot Goes Pop!’s latest poll of polls (SNP 35.6%, Labour 31.3%, LD 5.8%, Con 17.2%).

Secondly, I took the constituency votes cast at the 2011 Holyrood election and calculated the equivalent Westminster result. For instance, my calculations showed that Banff and Buchan consists of 74.8% of Aberdeenshire East plus 90.2% of Banffshire and Buchan Coast, so I simply applied these percentages to the 2011 results.

Thirdly, I took the independence referendum results, assigned the results to the Westminster constituencies (in a way similar to the above, just based on the council areas instead, except for Glasgow, which published the results for the Holyrood constituencies, and Edinburgh, which used Westminster ones), and mapped the Yes vote to SNP votes and the No votes to Labour, LD and Conservative votes according to their distribution at the last UK election. Of course the referendum was very different from an election, but it shows what a united Yes Alliance could potentially achieve.

Finally, I calculated the average of the three predictions described above and the actual 2010 result, which should take the incumbency effect into account.

The results are very interesting:

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 6 24 45 56 28
LAB 41 30 12 1 27
LD 11 3 1 2 3
CON 1 2 1 0 1

A map of the constituencies showing my rankings. The white ones are formidable, and the dark yellow ones are safe.

A map of the constituencies showing my rankings. The white ones are ‘formidable’ and the dark yellow ones are ‘safe’. Based on this map.

This means that according to uniform swing, the SNP stands to win 24 seats, but if we can convince the voters to vote like they did in 2011, the SNP will get no less than 45 seats, and if we can replicate the referendum result, a total of 56 seats is possible. However, if we look at the average of the predictions and of the 2010 result, the SNP will get 28 seats, one more than Labour.

I’ve listed all the Westminster constituencies below, ranked from formidable ones (where the SNP is not in the lead according to any of these measures) to safe ones.

List of formidable constituencies

Dumfries and Galloway

The MP elected in 2010 was Russell Brown.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 6419 14610 14401 24503 14983
LAB 23950 18367 14273 24914 20376
LD 4608 0 1473 4793 2719
CON 16501 16762 15805 17165 16558

Orkney and Shetland

The MP elected in 2010 was Alistair Carmichael.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 2042 5079 3178 10552 5213
LAB 2061 0 1078 2557 1424
LD 11989 9455 7374 14876 10924
CON 2032 2129 1016 2521 1925

List of challenging constituencies

Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk

The MP elected in 2010 was Michael Moore.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 4497 12192 15017 23593 13825
LAB 5003 0 5830 5366 4050
LD 22230 15809 9772 23844 17914
CON 16555 16800 14937 17757 16512

Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill

The MP elected in 2010 was Tom Clarke.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 7014 13551 19277 32998 18210
LAB 27728 23273 21580 25319 24475
LD 3519 0 789 3213 1880
CON 3374 3582 2870 3081 3227

West Dunbartonshire

The MP elected in 2010 was Gemma Doyle.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 8497 15133 12197 33720 17387
LAB 25905 21383 12618 22880 20697
LD 3434 0 1402 3033 1967
CON 3242 3453 3208 2863 3192

Dunfermline and West Fife

The MP elected in 2010 was Thomas Docherty.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 5201 12886 19510 29281 16720
LAB 22639 17402 19912 18830 19696
LD 17169 10757 6570 14280 12194
CON 3305 3550 3519 2749 3281

Glasgow East

The MP elected in 2010 was Margaret Curran.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 7957 13007 20441 54143 23887
LAB 19797 16355 22619 40260 24758
LD 1617 0 879 3288 1446
CON 1453 1614 2269 2955 2073

Glasgow North East

The MP elected in 2010 was Willie Bain.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 4158 8775 26476 66750 26540
LAB 20100 16953 28657 45916 27907
LD 2262 0 2627 5167 2514
CON 1569 1716 3907 3584 2694

Inverclyde

The MP elected in 2010 was David Cairns.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 6577 12466 12244 27243 14633
LAB 20993 16979 12705 18809 17372
LD 5007 93 1952 4486 2885
CON 4502 4690 2187 4034 3853

Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath

The MP elected in 2010 was Gordon Brown.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 6550 13741 18831 29281 17101
LAB 29559 24658 19664 27831 25428
LD 4269 0 1590 4019 2470
CON 4258 4487 3083 4009 3959

Motherwell and Wishaw

The MP elected in 2010 was Frank Roy.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 7104 13246 16154 31261 16941
LAB 23910 19724 17139 22798 20893
LD 3840 0 662 3661 2041
CON 3660 3856 2933 3490 3485

Paisley and Renfrewshire South

The MP elected in 2010 was Douglas Alexander.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 7228 13508 22327 30254 18329
LAB 23842 19562 23695 25517 23154
LD 3812 0 2493 4080 2596
CON 3979 4179 6069 4258 4621

East Renfrewshire

The MP elected in 2010 was Jim Murphy.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 4535 12570 9922 24287 12829
LAB 25987 20511 15343 23413 21314
LD 4720 0 980 4252 2488
CON 15567 15823 11254 14025 14167

Rutherglen and Hamilton West

The MP elected in 2010 was Tom Greatrex.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 7564 14940 19438 31812 18439
LAB 28566 23539 19769 28289 25041
LD 5636 0 1634 5581 3213
CON 4540 4775 3911 4496 4431

List of tough constituencies

Airdrie and Shotts

The MP elected in 2010 was Pamela Nash.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 8441 14069 21107 30104 18430
LAB 20849 17013 20215 22369 20112
LD 2898 0 921 3109 1732
CON 3133 3312 2984 3361 3198

Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock

The MP elected in 2010 was Sandra Osborne.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 8276 15481 15964 26432 16538
LAB 21632 16721 11780 19771 17476
LD 4264 0 844 3897 2251
CON 11721 11950 10572 10712 11239

Central Ayrshire

The MP elected in 2010 was Brian Donohoe.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 8364 15259 20998 27249 17968
LAB 20950 16251 15654 19987 18211
LD 5236 0 1106 4995 2834
CON 8943 9163 10778 8532 9354

Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East

The MP elected in 2010 was Gregg McClymont.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 9794 16255 20724 27927 18675
LAB 23549 19146 16364 23478 20634
LD 3924 0 1667 3912 2376
CON 3407 3613 3375 3397 3448

Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale

The MP elected in 2010 was David Mundell.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 4945 12150 19752 21473 14580
LAB 13263 8353 19143 12611 13343
LD 9080 3068 4607 8633 6347
CON 17457 17686 12650 16598 16098

East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow

The MP elected in 2010 was Michael McCann.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 11738 19737 23910 33832 22304
LAB 26241 20790 19369 28246 23662
LD 5052 0 521 5438 2753
CON 6613 6868 4923 7118 6381

East Lothian

The MP elected in 2010 was Fiona O’Donnell.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 7883 15601 17771 27467 17181
LAB 21919 16659 16776 24346 19925
LD 8288 1848 2392 9206 5434
CON 9661 9907 6316 10731 9154

Edinburgh North and Leith

The MP elected in 2010 was Mark Lazarowicz.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 4568 12003 19947 28813 16333
LAB 17740 12673 19526 18790 17182
LD 16016 9812 7526 16964 12580
CON 7079 7316 6174 7498 7017

Edinburgh South

The MP elected in 2010 was Ian Murray.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 3354 10231 24887 20340 14703
LAB 15215 10528 21613 14727 15521
LD 14899 9161 10826 14422 12327
CON 9452 9671 12304 9149 10144

Edinburgh South West

The MP elected in 2010 was Alistair Darling.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 5530 12668 30824 24659 18420
LAB 19473 14609 24440 19884 19602
LD 8194 2238 15761 8367 8640
CON 11026 11253 19254 11259 13198

Glasgow North

The MP elected in 2010 was Ann McKechin.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 3530 8179 18436 44811 18739
LAB 13181 10012 18693 21010 15724
LD 9283 5404 2339 14797 7956
CON 2089 2237 3158 3330 2704

Glasgow North West

The MP elected in 2010 was John Robertson.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 5430 11016 19257 45552 20314
LAB 19233 15426 19239 28055 20488
LD 5622 961 2339 8201 4281
CON 3537 3715 3462 5159 3968

Glasgow South West

The MP elected in 2010 was Ian Davidson.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 5192 10182 12713 31076 14791
LAB 19863 16462 12466 21405 17549
LD 2870 0 612 3093 1644
CON 2084 2243 1645 2246 2055

Glenrothes

The MP elected in 2010 was Lindsay Roy.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 8799 15158 26004 27296 19314
LAB 25247 20913 21924 26983 23767
LD 3108 0 1489 3322 1980
CON 2922 3125 3647 3123 3204

Lanark and Hamilton East

The MP elected in 2010 was Jimmy Hood.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 9780 17089 29748 31812 22107
LAB 23258 18277 23492 25145 22543
LD 5249 0 744 5675 2917
CON 6981 7214 7350 7547 7273

Paisley and Renfrewshire North

The MP elected in 2010 was James Sheridan.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 8333 15195 18931 25212 16918
LAB 23613 18936 17879 19258 19922
LD 4597 0 1581 3749 2482
CON 6381 6600 7086 5204 6318

Ross, Skye and Lochaber

The MP elected in 2010 was Charles Kennedy.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 5263 10733 14956 21292 13061
LAB 5265 1537 4335 4522 3915
LD 18335 13771 9603 15748 14364
CON 4260 4434 2904 3659 3814

List of average constituencies

North East Fife

The MP elected in 2010 was Sir Menzies Campbell.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 5685 11975 14469 28289 15105
LAB 6869 2582 6006 7136 5648
LD 17763 12515 8595 18453 14332
CON 8715 8915 6037 9054 8180

Glasgow Central

The MP elected in 2010 was Anas Sarwar.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 5357 10158 29409 63792 27179
LAB 15908 12636 25020 38414 22995
LD 5010 1004 2091 12098 5051
CON 2158 2311 4235 5211 3479

Glasgow South

The MP elected in 2010 was Tom Harris.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 8078 14373 21763 43576 21948
LAB 20736 16446 16692 26783 20164
LD 4739 0 1608 6121 3117
CON 4592 4792 3796 5931 4778

Kilmarnock and Loudoun

The MP elected in 2010 was Cathy Jamieson.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 12082 19391 21489 32251 21303
LAB 24460 19479 14615 25578 21033
LD 3419 0 827 3575 1955
CON 6592 6825 4730 6893 6260

Midlothian

The MP elected in 2010 was David Hamilton.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 8100 14261 12657 26370 15347
LAB 18449 14250 8363 21017 15520
LD 6711 1570 3329 7645 4814
CON 4661 4857 2640 5310 4367

List of easy constituencies

Aberdeen North

The MP elected in 2010 was Frank Doran.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 8385 14304 26484 28781 19489
LAB 16746 12712 17538 24019 17754
LD 7001 2062 4752 10042 5964
CON 4666 4855 5841 6692 5514

Aberdeen South

The MP elected in 2010 was Anne Begg.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 5102 11858 19273 24213 15112
LAB 15722 11117 12483 14626 13487
LD 12216 6579 5752 11365 8978
CON 8914 9129 5692 8293 8007

West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine

The MP elected in 2010 was Sir Robert Smith.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 7086 14182 24404 25907 17895
LAB 6159 1323 5720 6530 4933
LD 17362 11441 10603 18408 14454
CON 13678 13904 11002 14502 13272

Argyll and Bute

The MP elected in 2010 was Alan Reid.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 8563 15660 18885 26324 17358
LAB 10274 5437 10360 10772 9211
LD 14292 8370 3652 14984 10325
CON 10861 11087 6555 11387 9973

North Ayrshire and Arran

The MP elected in 2010 was Katy Clark.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 11965 19205 23346 35304 22455
LAB 21860 16926 15561 23845 19548
LD 4630 0 931 5050 2653
CON 7212 7443 5361 7867 6971

Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross

The MP elected in 2010 was John Thurso.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 5516 10033 12423 24840 13203
LAB 7081 4003 4880 8696 6165
LD 11907 8138 5730 14623 10100
CON 3744 3888 2633 4598 3716

East Dunbartonshire

The MP elected in 2010 was Jo Swinson.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 5054 12582 23227 25751 16654
LAB 16367 11237 22009 14939 16138
LD 18551 12270 3573 16933 12832
CON 7431 7671 6013 6783 6975

Dundee West

The MP elected in 2010 was James McGovern.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 10716 16545 22082 28124 19367
LAB 17994 14022 10005 15155 14294
LD 4233 0 1453 3565 2313
CON 3461 3647 3497 2915 3380

Edinburgh East

The MP elected in 2010 was Sheila Gilmore.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 8133 14392 34167 27500 21048
LAB 17314 13048 31765 18025 20038
LD 7751 2529 11578 8069 7482
CON 4358 4557 10928 4537 6095

Edinburgh West

The MP elected in 2010 was Michael Crockart.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 6115 13407 30985 22615 18281
LAB 12881 7911 24096 13716 14651
LD 16684 10599 15814 17765 15216
CON 10767 10999 15468 11465 12175

Falkirk

The MP elected in 2010 was Eric Joyce.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 15364 23336 26936 33659 24824
LAB 23207 17774 18391 26306 21420
LD 5225 0 1220 5923 3092
CON 5698 5952 3965 6459 5519

Gordon

The MP elected in 2010 was Malcolm Bruce.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 10827 18485 27569 24418 20325
LAB 9811 4592 6273 9810 7622
LD 17575 11185 7724 17574 13515
CON 9111 9355 7026 9110 8651

Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey

The MP elected in 2010 was Danny Alexander.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 8803 16196 22437 31937 19843
LAB 10407 5369 8678 10417 8718
LD 19172 13004 7443 19191 14703
CON 6278 6513 4868 6284 5986

Linlithgow and East Falkirk

The MP elected in 2010 was Michael Connarty.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 13081 21159 33053 36981 26069
LAB 25634 20129 24516 29501 24945
LD 6589 0 1789 7583 3990
CON 6146 6403 5162 7073 6196

Livingston

The MP elected in 2010 was Graeme Morrice.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 12424 19945 30256 33191 23954
LAB 23215 18089 21458 28163 22731
LD 5316 0 1464 6449 3307
CON 5158 5398 3992 6257 5201

Ochil and South Perthshire

The MP elected in 2010 was Gordon Banks.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 13944 21868 18612 31212 21409
LAB 19131 13731 6635 22543 15510
LD 5754 0 2077 6780 3653
CON 10342 10594 8533 12186 10414

Stirling

The MP elected in 2010 was Anne McGuire.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 8091 15445 23251 25010 17949
LAB 19558 14546 15295 19321 17180
LD 6797 661 1941 6715 4029
CON 11254 11488 6827 11118 10172

List of safe constituencies

Angus

The MP elected in 2010 was Michael Weir.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 15020 20980 15487 24969 19114
LAB 6535 2473 3561 9409 5495
LD 4090 0 1256 5889 2809
CON 11738 11928 6050 16901 11654

Banff and Buchan

The MP elected in 2010 was Eilidh Whiteford.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 15868 21907 29768 27408 23738
LAB 5382 1266 4105 10403 5289
LD 4365 0 4033 8437 4209
CON 11841 12033 7290 22888 13513

Dundee East

The MP elected in 2010 was Stewart Hosie.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 15350 21719 29102 35571 25436
LAB 13529 9188 9983 17616 12579
LD 4285 0 1588 5579 2863
CON 6177 6380 6160 8043 6690

Moray

The MP elected in 2010 was Angus Robertson.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 16273 22711 18467 27232 21171
LAB 7007 2620 3839 10945 6103
LD 5956 584 1421 9303 4316
CON 10683 10888 6324 16687 11146

Na h-Eileanan an Iar

The MP elected in 2010 was Angus MacNeil.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 6723 9034 8496 9195 8362
LAB 4838 3263 3724 7750 4894
LD 1097 0 228 1757 771
CON 647 721 563 1036 742

Perth and North Perthshire

The MP elected in 2010 was Peter Wishart.

Party 2010 Swing 2011 2014 Avg
SNP 19118 26696 23577 26613 24001
LAB 7923 2758 3999 11142 6456
LD 5954 0 1948 8373 4069
CON 14739 14980 10835 20727 15320
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Posted in opinion polls, SNP, Westminster | 87 Comments

Polling companies have to stop treating Britain as one unit

General Election 2010

General Election 2010 by poppet with a camera, on Flickr.

I’m starting to get seriously annoyed when the polling companies conduct their General Election opinion polls and report the results for England, Scotland and Wales together, e.g., Con 29 (+1), Lab 35, (nc), LD 10 (+1), UKIP 15 (-2), Others 11 (nc).

Surely the purpose of an opinion poll is to predict the outcome of the next election, but this doesn’t enable us to do so. It’s completely clear that the two things that are important for predicting May’s election in Scotland is the extent the SNP can take seats from Labour and whether the LibDems will retain any seats outwith Orkney and Shetland. In other words, the only really important figures for a Scottish prediction are SNP, Lab and LD — whether Con and UKIP are up or down is really not likely to make any difference north of the border. However, you cannot work out where the SNP is at from “Others 11″ (which conflates the SNP with PC and the Greens and other parties). You can’t even work it out if you look at the regional breakdown in the tables because the sample size for Scotland is almost always too small to give us statistically significant figures.

At the same time, including the Scottish figures is likely to make the Tories and UKIP appear less successful than they really are in England, which must distort any predictions made on this basis. Furthermore, it’s completely conceivable that Labour might be dropping like a stone in Scotland while rising gently in England, but these two movements will to some extent cancel each other out.

The pollsters have as far as I know always excluded Northern Ireland from their British polls because the party-political system there is completely different. It’s also easy to understand why it made sense to include Scotland in the main polls in the days when the SNP was a minor party and the Tories still had a sizeable following up here.

However, it’s becoming increasingly clear that the divergence of Scotland’s political system is here to stay, and the No in the referendum hasn’t changed that at all — if the massive increase in the Yes parties’ membership figures is any guide to such matters it’s likely to become even more different in the years to come.

I’m not entirely sure whether Wales should be treated separately from England too, but I cannot see any justification for continuing to conduct political polls for England, Wales and Scotland as one unit.

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The ratchet effect

A guest post by Gerald Baird.

Spirit of Independence

Spirit of Independence by Màrtainn MacDhòmhnaill, on Flickr.

Of course I would rather there had been a Yes vote, but I don’t feel gutted and empty like so many, and here’s why.

All along I have been unhappy with the timing of this referendum; Salmond was over a barrel; the unexpected landslide in 2011 made it well-nigh impossible not to go ahead with the referendum in the current session of parliament, and that’s what the SNP conference decided that year, although Salmond was too clever an operator not to realise the problems. Wendy Alexander’s notorious “Bring it on” call was just one example of the pressure on him to call it, but of course he knew that the population was not yet ready.

The Yes campaign, fascinating and revolutionary as it has been, always seemed to me to have something a bit febrile, a bit attenuated about it. It lacked the breadth-in-depth needed for its position to be incontrovertible. Though the White Paper did a remarkable job, there were too many openings for malevolent opponents to aim at and to nail with a lying headline.

It’s all to do with education, in the widest sense, and the process is only half done. It has developed amazingly quickly, but it does need time for new ideas to be introduced and for people to become aware of them and go through the stages of shock, ridicule, knee-jerk opposition, growing understanding, admission of possibility, passive acceptance and finally active endorsement. The awareness of the issues is vastly more widespread than it was even a year ago, and above all, the idea of independence has become naturalised within the political landscape as a perfectly legitimate option available to Scots if they wish to take it.

The sudden realisation in England that the Union might soon have been over without their being able to do a thing about it is a further indication of how things have moved on. This is an enormous advance, and given the universal hostility of the corrupt press, the unspeakable BBC Scotland, the unanimity of the official parties in Scotland, Labour, LibDems and Tories, Cameron’s calling-in of debts from folk like Obama and other worthies, all the scare stories from business, banks and supermarkets … and yet, given all this, forty-five per cent of the population voted, not for the SNP, but for independence! That’s a barely credible change that has taken place in a very short time, and it seems to me a very healthy base indeed on which to work for a final push.

I think the situation will have changed radically again in two or three years (it’s changed pretty fast in two or three days so far!) There’s no chance at all of Westminster being able to satisfy the needs of Scotland with their insulting back-of-a-fag-packet “More Powers” legerdemain, as their current (highly diverting) disarray demonstrates, and the best recruiting officers for independence are already taking up their positions: Cameron, Miliband, Boris and Farage.

The genie is out of the bottle, and although I won’t say all we have to do is sit back and wait, really the best arguments for control of our own affairs are going to be displayed in front of us. An enormous number of No voters are putting their trust in Westminster to come up with the goods, and that’s just not possible. I can sympathise with the English on this; if I were an MP for somewhere in Norfolk or Hereford, my reaction would certainly be, “What? Still more Westminster time for the Jocks? They had their chance and bottled it; time to move on.”

When widespread disenchantment sets in among the No voters, as it inevitably must, we will be told that we can’t have another referendum. Westminster, having made the mistake once, will not assist in the legitimising of a democratic vote a second time. So what’s the procedure? There are two ways of doing it: one is for the Scottish Government to have a referendum anyway, and stuff Westminster. It would have to be supervised by international bodies, of course, but I don’t see a problem.

Secondly, my last resort proposal is what I call the Sinn Fein option, not a helpful title, since it immediately makes folk think I’m advocating violence. Not at all; in the UK general election of December 1918 Sinn Fein stood in every seat in Ireland on a manifesto of declaring independence; they won a substantial majority of seats and immediately declared themselves to be the Dáil Éireann, packed their bags and left Westminster. The UK government declared this to be an illegal move, and the Dáil said effectively, “So what?” (I’ll say in passing that one of the things about life in Britain which really irritates me is the near-universal failure ever to consider the experience of other societies in dealing with similar problems. Whether it’s education, health policy, local government or whatever, the debate is conducted largely by assertion on both sides rather than thinking, What do they do about defence in Finland? How do the Germans provide health services? How important are private schools in Italy? How did Czechoslovakia manage the split? More to the point, how did Ireland?)

The Scottish situation is immeasurably simpler than was the Irish, with an immovable and sizeable Ulster bloc of hostile and implacable bigots ready to take up arms with the less than covert support of half of the UK establishment, and I adduce this evidence just to make clear that, given a properly prepared electorate, whatever may be said (and it will be) there is no problem at all about the future mechanics of producing a legitimate end to the Union. And that’s what it is, of course. I wish the Yes campaign had squashed early on the terminology of “leaving” the Union, as if it would survive, if in a lesser form, after Scottish independence.

It’s connected with all the tedious nonsense one has heard, and will hear, about Manchester, or Yorkshire, having just as much right as Scotland, blah, blah. The whole point is that Scotland, unlike Yorkshire, is one of the two (not four) constituent nations of the Union, one of the two signatories of the Treaty of Union. A marriage ends when one of the participants has had enough; the position of long-term boarders, or live-in aunts, is not a factor, however problematic it may be for them.

Winnie looks on in the campaign war room

Winnie looks on in the campaign war room by Ewan McIntosh, on Flickr.

Ultimately that has been the main problem in the long and complex history of the Union: the fact that the English (and because of non-existent education in these matters, very many Scots) have never seen Scotland as England’s constitutional partner in the enterprise of Union, but as a troublesome province with ideas above its station which has had to be appeased from time to time.

Anyway, to my own surprise rather than feeling despondent I find myself astonishingly optimistic about the future, and the next time, since everyone has been through it before, it will be much better prepared for.

Really since Winnie Ewing in Hamilton all those years ago, the progress of self-determination for Scotland has been a ratchet effect: a bit forward, a bit back, but never quite as far back as it was before. The events of this year have moved the ratchet nearly to its end; I see the current position as a reculer pour mieux sauter, not a setback. As I’ve been saying for decades now, It’s comin yet, for aa that!

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Posted in guestblog, post-No | 7 Comments

Whit wey can we revive the Scots leid?

The following blog post is written in Scots. If you find it hard to read, here’s a dictionary that might help.

Oor Rabbie

Oor Rabbie by alister, on Flickr.

In the 2011 census, 1,225,622 fowks indicatit that thay coud speak, read an write Scots, an this maks Scots a heap muckler nor Gaelic. Houaniver, thair is practicallie nae support for the leid in Scotland — we daena hae TV or radio stations (forby wee programmes on the Internet), thair is nae Scots schuils, an thair is nae leid courses whaur outlins (sic as masel) can lairn Scots. Ye can uise Facebook in Faeroese or e’en in Pirate Inglis, but no in Scots. Google Translate canna help ye wi Scots, an yer phone’s autocorreck will chynge yer perfecklie guid Scots intae braken Inglis.

Forby this, monie (maist?) Scots thinks Scots is juist a dialeck o Inglis, an thay aft feel bad about speakin it. This is ane o the monie things that is creautin the Scots creenge.

We maun chynge this!

At the maument there’s three Scots leid organisations in Scotland: The Scots Leid Associe (SLA), the Centre for the Scots Leid (SLC) an the Scots Leid Dictionars (SLD). The SLA is fecklie concernt wi publishin leeteratur in Scots; the SLC is forderin the interests o Scots speakers (nearlins like a ceevil richts muivement); and the SLD is documentin the leid an publishin academic dictionars. Thay ar aw daein a byous job, but nane o thaim sees is as thair rôle tae staundartise the leid an creaut the tuils needit tae lear Scots tae fowks wha daesna speak it yit.

Whan A say “staundartise the leid”, A mean it. The SLA thinks a normative orthographie wad juist be a hinderance for the makars, the SLD daesna want tae bother the fowks wha gat thair erse skelpit for uisin Scots wirds at schuil, an the SLD is simplie documentin whit awbody is daein. Houaniver, ye canna tell a fremmit lairner or a schuil bairn wha anelie haes passive knawledge o Scots that thay maun juist say whit feels richt tae thaim — the result definatelie wadna be Scots! Ye canna mak a spellchecker that allous ilka spellin variant in uiss — it wadna richtifee oniething ava. An schuils will need guideship on whit tae lear tae the bairns.

This isna about creautin a oppressive orthographie — makars and native speakers can write Scots onie wey thay want. Houaniver, the lave o us needs a norm.

Monie ither leids haes been in the same situation. Scots is gey an siclike tae Catalonian an Icelandic in the wey aw three leids haes a great linguistic past but lost thair status whan the places thay ar spoken lost thair independence.

Here’s whit Wee Ginger Dug writes anent Catalonian (in Inglis):

The Catalan Renaixença ‘Renaissance’ arose in response to the sclerotic nature of the Spanish state. The Catalan language came to be seen as a symbol of the frustrated desires of Catalans for their country to become a fully democratic modern European state. A revitalised standard literary form of Catalan was the outcome of this movement, a modern Catalan language fit for all the needs of a modern Catalan nation, but which was solidly linked to the greatness of the Catalan literary past. It was rapidly accepted throughout els Paissos Catalans.

An this is fae the Inglis Wikipedia airticle about Icelandic:

The modern Icelandic alphabet has developed from a standard established in the 19th century primarily by the Danish linguist Rasmus Rask. It is ultimately based heavily on an orthography laid out in the early 12th century by a mysterious document referred to as The First Grammatical Treatise by an anonymous author who has later been referred to as the First Grammarian. The later Rasmus Rask standard was a re-creation of the old treatise, with some changes to fit concurrent Germanic conventions, such as the exclusive use of k rather than c. Various archaic features, as the letter ð, had not been used much in later centuries. Rask’s standard constituted a major change in practice.

We need a Scots orthographie that connecks the modren leid tae its past (makars like Blind Harry, Henryson, Dunbar, Fergusson an Burns), tae its present (the wey Scots is spoken an wrote in Scotland an Ulster the day), an paves the wey for its futur (bi bein consistent sae that it’s easie tae lairn). It is probablie no gaun tae be muckle different fae the spellins promotit bi the Online Scots Dictionar, but a deceesion needs tae be made.

It wad probablie be best tae creaut a new organisation for this ettle, lat’s cry it the Scots Leid Buird (SLB) in the follaein.

Aince the orthographical principles is in place, the SLB needs tae creaut a dataset in electronic format that can be providit tae fowks, companies an organisations wha wants tae mak printit dictionars, Android apps, spellcheckers or onie ither uiss o’t. The dataset soud include place names. The dictionars creautit uisin this dataset wad be great for schuil beuks, dictionars an aw.

Forby, the SLB soud provide advice on hou tae uise Scots an promuive the new orthographie an the Scots leid for ordinar, an thay soud wirk thegither wi the ither three Scots leid organisations aw the time.

In a ideal warld, the SLB soud be fondit uisin government siller, but in the praisent circumstances (wi monie mair cuts comin wir wey fae Westminster) we micht need tae uise croudfondin insteid, least tae get the projeck stairtit.

In ma professional life, A’m a expert in computational lexicographie, sae in anither blog post A micht hae a wee leuk at whit the dataset soud leuk like.

Atween haunds A’ll be awfu interestit in hearin fae yese. Is this the wey forrit? Wha can help?

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Posted in Scots language | 2 Comments

More pandas than Unionist MPs

panda

panda by Camilla Hoel, on Flickr.

The Unionist MPs from Scotland (such as Jim Murphy, Gordon Brows and Alistair Carmichael) dominated Better Together strongly because they were the only people with a strong personal interest in the status quo. The majority of MSPs and councillors didn’t care all that much, and neither did most rUK MPs.

It’s therefore really important that we get rid of as many Scottish Unionist MPs as possible at the next Westminster election in May, because this will weaken as future No campaign a lot. However, how realistic is it?

To find out, I looked at the votes cast for Unionist parties in 2010 and compared it with the Yes vote in the referendum. Unfortunately, at the moment referendum data is not available on a constituency basis, so I had to group some constituencies and council areas together to achieve comparable areas. In the table below, the first three data columns show first the votes cast for pro-independence parties in 2010, then the votes cast for Unionist parties, and finally the votes cast the the largest Unionist party (given that this is a FPTP election); the next two columns provide the referendum results, and the last column lists the difference between the votes cast for the largest No party in 2010 and the Yes vote in 2014:

2010 Election Independence Referendum
Area Yes parties No parties Largest No party Yes No Diff.
Glasgow 41977 177703 128818 194779 169347 65961
Aberdeen / Aberdeenshire 47268 160549 79246 130727 192700 51481
Angus / Dundee 41086 72042 43261 88664 85072 45403
Edinburgh 30797 188849 86426 123927 194638 37501
East Ayrshire / North Ayrshire / South Ayrshire 40687 140919 88902 121236 140705 32334
East Dunbartonshire / North Lanarkshire 37407 166140 114587 146407 159236 31820
Falkirk / West Lothian 40869 106188 72056 103831 123712 31775
Highland 19582 86449 49414 78069 87739 28655
Clackmannanshire / Perth and Kinross 33062 63843 33870 57825 81750 23955
Dumfries and Galloway / Scottish Borders / South Lanarkshire 44943 240783 141702 165510 247392 23808
Fife 26235 145823 95208 114148 139788 18940
Moray 16273 23646 10683 27232 36935 16549
Argyll and Bute 8563 35427 14292 26324 37143 12032
Renfrewshire 15561 66224 47455 55466 62067 8011
Midlothian 8100 29821 18449 26370 33972 7921
West Dunbartonshire 8497 32581 25905 33720 28776 7815
Inverclyde 6577 30502 20993 27243 27329 6250
East Lothian 7883 39868 21919 27467 44283 5548
Stirling 8091 37609 19558 25010 37153 5452
Na h-Eileanan an Iar 8135 6582 4838 9195 10544 4357
Orkney Islands / Shetland Islands 2042 16082 11989 10552 19955 -1437
East Renfrewshire 4535 46274 25987 24287 41690 -1700

As an example of how to read the table, the constituency of Argyll and Bute in 2010 saw 8563 votes cast for Yes parties and 35427 votes for No parties; however, the latter were divided between three parties, and the winning party (the LibDems) only got 14292 votes, which is 12032 votes less than the 26324 votes cast in favour of independence last Thursday.

(I should point out that SNP constituencies haven’t been eliminated — for instance, Na h-Eileanan an Iar currently have an excellent SNP MP.)

It’s clear that almost everywhere, more votes were cast for Yes than for the largest No party. The two exceptions are Orkney and Shetland, where there is a very strong Liberal tradition, and East Renfrewshire, which was a Tory stronghold until recently and so Labour benefits from a lot of tactical voting to keep out the Tories.

In other words, in most of the country it should be possible to unseat the sitting Unionist MP if we can mobilise all Yes voters from the referendum. I do have my doubts about Orkney and Shetland, but I guess it would be quite useful to keep one Unionist MP so that we don’t have to stop telling panda jokes.

Of course, this analysis is rather crude because I didn’t have access to the referendum data on a Westminster constituency basis. If I manage to find this, I’ll publish a new version of this blog post.

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Posted in post-No, Westminster | 9 Comments

Unpredictable prediction errors

Yes?

Yes? by Cams, on Flickr.

Readers of this blog may remember that a while ago I made a prediction of the geographical distribution of a narrow Yes vote, based on the most recent council election and some reasonable assumptions about voter behaviour.

The assumption made was that the following percentage of party voters would vote Yes: SNP — 81.7%, Labour — 25.8%, Tory — 5.9%, LibDem — 26.2%, Others — 50.0%. (That is, I expected 81.7% of the people who voted SNP in the council elections to vote Yes to independence.)

A survey made by Lord Ashcroft (PDF) found that 86% of SNP voters, 37% of Labour voters, 5% of Tories and 39% of LibDem voters voted Yes to independence, but this was based on people’s recollection of their last Westminster vote, not the council elections. Also, this was based on a small sample, so these numbers may not be entirely accurate.

To test this, I wrote a computer program to work out the percentages that would have produced the best prediction of the actual result (still based on the council election results). The results are rather surprising: SNP — 64.6%, Labour — 50.3%, Tory — 9.1%, LibDem — 33.4%, Others — 36.9%. Using these percentages produces a decent prediction of the actual result (although a few council areas are wrong, such as Dundee, which performed much better than the revised prediction, and West Lothian, which performed worse).

I don’t claim that these revised percentages are accurate — you’d need a massive exit poll to make sure — but they show that many strong SNP areas performed much worse than I had expected, and many Labour areas performed much better.

To illustrate this, look at the differences between the old prediction and the actual result (the table has been sorted by the difference):

Council area Old prediction Actual result Difference
Orkney Islands 56% 33% -23%
Shetland Islands 56% 36% -20%
Moray 60% 42% -18%
Scottish Borders 47% 33% -14%
Aberdeenshire 53% 40% -13%
Angus 57% 44% -13%
Argyll and Bute 53% 41% -12%
East Lothian 49% 38% -11%
Na h-Eileanan an Iar 58% 47% -11%
Perth and Kinross 51% 40% -11%
West Lothian 55% 45% -10%
Clackmannanshire 55% 46% -9%
Midlothian 53% 44% -9%
Dumfries and Galloway 43% 34% -9%
East Ayrshire 55% 47% -8%
Aberdeen 49% 41% -8%
Falkirk 54% 47% -7%
Highland 54% 47% -7%
Stirling 47% 40% -7%
Fife 51% 45% -6%
South Lanarkshire 51% 45% -6%
Renfrewshire 52% 47% -5%
East Dunbartonshire 44% 39% -5%
North Ayrshire 53% 49% -4%
Edinburgh 43% 39% -4%
East Renfrewshire 40% 37% -3%
North Lanarkshire 53% 51% -2%
West Dunbartonshire 56% 54% -2%
South Ayrshire 43% 42% -1%
Dundee 56% 57% 1%
Inverclyde 49% 50% 1%
Glasgow 51% 53% 2%

Orkney and Shetland might be special cases, because they are so far away from Edinburgh, but what happened in places such as Moray, Aberdeenshire and Angus? Did the focus on winning over the Labour voters in Greater Glasgow make the rural SNP voters desert independence?

Going forward, we need to ensure that independence doesn’t become solely a left-wing ambition. Independence will be good for almost everybody in Scotland, and next time we need to work harder on making independence the choice of people everywhere, not just in and around Glasgow and Dundee.

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Posted in opinion polls, post-No | 4 Comments