The SNP continue to drip-drip the findings of their YouGov poll into the public arena – today’s press release has the constituency voting intentions for the Scottish Parliament, and show a daunting SNP lead over Labour. Topline voting intentions are CON 13%, LAB 25%, LDEM 14%, SNP 44% – a nineteen point lead for the SNP.

If repeated at the next Scottish elections this would produce a stunning landslide for the SNP on the constituency seats. On a uniform swing they would take 57 seats to Labour’s 8, with 6 for the Liberal Democrats and 2 for the Conservatives. Of course, they haven’t released the data on how people would cast their second vote were Labour would pick up a large number of seats due to SNP domination of the constituency MSPs, so we can’t project an overall result based on these figures.

93 Responses to “SNP storm ahead in Scotland”

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  1. So it needs proportional representation to save the union! What happens if the SNP get a big majority of seats in Scotland at the next general election with just 44% of the vote?

  2. Then-at last-there will be overwhelming (and overwhelmingly hypocritical) support from Labour, Conservative and Lib Dems for a referendum :-)

  3. A majority in the Scottish parliament is 65 seats, so 57 is spectacularly close. If the greens makke a gain or two, and the socialists get their act together, 2011 may turn out a majority of parties in favour of independence. If I were a high-heidyin in Labour, I’d be pretty worried right now.

    Can’t wait for the regional figures!

  4. Whilst I have no doubt that the SNP will be polling strongly at the moment, I’m suprised at some of the detail. For instance, I very much doubt that the LibDems are really ahead of the Tories in voting intentions. Are the SNP really depressing the Tory vote as much, if not more, than the LibDems? The Glasgow East result points in a very different direction. Take this poll with a large pinch of salt.

  5. Due to the nature of the SP would we expect the SNP to gain no proportional seats if they won so many constituency ones?

  6. I have to agree with NOTHBRITON – somewhat of a POLL against the actual real votes in Glasgow & other POLLS taken – but let the SNP enjoy their POLL – after all they paid for it.

  7. No doubt that a poll paid for by a political party is interesting, if only to demonstrate their proficiency at fiddling nominally-independent figures.

  8. Oh Mike!

    It’s perfectly in line with the Glasgow East result. The SNP out in front, Labour a stunned second and the Tories and the Lib Dems left holding the jackets. That was the story in Glasgow, and it would appear to be the story across Scotland.

    I was highly amused by Tory spinning after Glasgow East, as if there was anything positive to say except “we didn’t do as badly as the bunch in the gold”.

    I am sure the methodology used by Yougov is no different to that which would have been used if the poll had been commissioned by a newspaper. It’s also, for what little it’s worth, in line with the most recent Scottish sub-samples. They would indicate a comfotable SNP lead for Westminster. Surely you’re not having a pop at Yougov now, too?

    Any chance you’ll revise your 12 Tory seats prediction?

  9. YouGov is a member of the British Polling Council and all its polls are done professionally regardless of who is paying.

    Mike should withdraw his allegation of bias and accept that currently the SNP is flying high and depressing the Tory vote in Scotland. Almost all the anti-Labour vote in Scotland is migrating to the SNP as similarly all the anti-Labour vote is migrating to the Tories in England.

    Why is it that the polling in England is spot on but the polling in Scotland is suspect? Mike, can you answer this without the blue tint?

    I am looking forward to the regional breakdown on the numbers to see the seat projections. If the SNP has 57 constituency seats, they need only 8 regional seats. At 44% on the consituency, anything similar in the regional percentage would make it very close to an SNP majority.

  10. I don’t think that either Lib Dem or Tory supporters should concern themselves too much one way or the other about this poll coming as it does in the aftermath of Glasgow East.
    What it does confirm however is that Labour have a mountain to climb before they can hope to regain office in Holyrood. As the 2011 Scottish Parliament elections will come in the wake of the 2010 General Election then it is hard to see what the new Labour leader in Scotland can hope to do to reverse the situation over the next 2/3 years.

    None of the 3 candidates for that post could be described as larger than life or sufficiently charismatic enough that they might aspire to buck the trend. Can it get any worse for Labour?

  11. Steven F,
    Shouldn’t you be worried about a polled result that’s perfectly in line with a by-election?

    In any case, good luck to the SNP. If Scotland truly wants to drink deeply of the SNP view of world history, they can have it, and the oil, and their sink estates (that testimony to socialist-style welfare in Scotland), and their 2 left-wing parties who will sit there whilst the oil money pours in and waste it whilst they have it, then blame the rest of the UK when it runs out. In some ways, it will be the future of the economy of Saudi Arabia in fast-forward.

    One can hardly celebrate Labour’s treatment of the urban Scotland as a hereditary fiefdom and the Tories’ rigid fear of interfering with Scotland since the collapse of Unionist Party support, but believing that some nationalism that somehow takes all the positives and rejects all the negatives is going to turn Scotland into the new Ireland too true; the Irish in the RoI suffered for 60 years before they worked out how to help themselves out of poverty.

  12. According the Scotland Votes predictor, 44% constituency vote would give the SNP 57 seats.

    In the last election, all of the major parties lost an average of 2% to the minor parties with the Greens getting about half of the minor party vote

    Using the constituency vote minus 2% for the major parties and Greens with half of the minor party vote, the regional list could be expected to be similar to this and the totals to this

    Scottish Parliament (129 seats)
    73 Const. seats, 56 Reg seats, majority is 65 total

    Party (Reg) (Const) (Total)

    SNP 42 (6)(58) (64)
    Labour 23 (24) (8) (32)
    LibDem 12 (9) (6) (15)
    Tories 11 (12) (1) (13)
    Green 6 (5) (0) (5)
    Others 6 (0) (0) (0)

    It is currently showing the SNP one seat short of an overall majority. With currently one independent, Margo McNab, a former SNP member, could that single vote be the difference?

  13. It would be helpful to see voting intentions for Westminster at this stage too – I would imagine they would be better for Labour and the Conservatives and worse for the SNP and the LibDems than this one?

  14. Brian,

    Margo MacDonald isn’t going to run next election.
    The Scottish Greens are pro-independence, however, so five Greens boosts the SNP’s ultimate goal.

  15. The High SNP vote and a low tory one in constituency intentions isn’t that unexpected. A lot of tories who live in seats where the tories can;t win would rather vote SNP for Holyrood than Labour.

    So in effect the constituency Tory vote is depressed while the SNP’s rises. As to the seat prediction that assumes that the national swing is recorded in every seat and we know that just won’t happen. This is particularly true of the libdems where we would expect as in glasgow east for their vote to collapse in seats they are unlikely to ever win while fairing far better in their stronghold like up here in the Highlands.

    In effect what my party has done is what all parties do look at the results given by yougov and released those that show them in the best possible light and have highlighted the most favourable electoral outcome.

    Using these figures and a predictor could give you a result of the SNP a couple of seats short of a majority but somewhere in the mid fifties is far more likely given regional variations and the PR system.

    Having said that these are still remarkably good figures for us and i am more than happy with them. I might have held it back till the Labour party conference but as any SNP story would probably br drowned out by the larger Uk perspective and ballot papers for a new Scottish Labour leader are going out this week a poll that can be made to show all three contenders would lose there seats was probably just to much of an open goal not to take a shot.

    It will be interesting to see the full tables when they are up.

    As to Mikes comments. If he produces any more mince he’ll be able to open a butchers.


  16. The key to Scotland’s future lies in the Labour, Tory and LibDem supporters who also support Independence. This is a fairly substantial proportion and on most polls, for instance, at least half of Labour supporters. In that circumstance the proposition that Scotland’s Labour, Tory or LibDem will remain totally unionist when the cards are down is wishful thinking.
    There have already been several high profile movers to the Independence cause from each of these parties.
    The presumption that independence will only happen on a SNP vote is false.

  17. A change of leadership by Labour will probably have no effect in the GE in Scotland – I doubt if this is a factor in their choice of vote. So any discussion of benefit from a change, as regards Scotland, will be irrelevant. This should be taken into account in assessing GE seat numbers, if and when a change is made.

  18. Now we have the full data sheets published by YouGov, so we can also see the previously unavailable Westminster voting intention figures (and the Holyrood PR regional list vote).

    Westminster voting intention
    Fieldwork: 6-8 August 2008
    Sample size: 1028
    (% change from YouGov/Daily Telegraph 8-10 July 2008)

    1. SNP 36% (+3%)
    2. Lab 29% (n/c)
    3. Con 18% (-2%)
    4. LD 13% (-1%)
    oth 5% (n/c)

    Pump those numbers into Baxter’s Electoral Calculus Scottish Westminster seat predictor and you get:

    1. SNP 26 seats (+20 seats)
    2. Lab 21 seats (-19 seats)
    3. LD 7 seats (-4 seats)
    4. Con 4 seats (+3 seats)
    5. Speaker (M Martin) 1 seat (n/c)

  19. The breakdown of the YouGov data is interesting. It shows why the Conservatives are doing so much better in Scottish Westminster voting intention compared to their continuing poor showing for Holyrood voting intention.

    Of the respondents who said that they would be voting Conservative at the next UK GE, only 69% of those same people plan to vote Conservative at the next Holyrood GE. 21% plan to switch to the SNP for the Holyrood constituency vote, 7% to the Lib Dems… and even 4% to Labour!

    That is by far the poorest ‘retention-rate’ of all 4 parties. By comparison 96% of SNP Westminster voters intend to stick with the SNP for the Holyrood election, 85% of Labour voters will stay true, and 82% of Lib Dems.

    Conversely, the Lib Dems have the poorest ‘retention-rate’ in regard to the next UK GE. Only 77% of Holyrood LD voters intend to vote for Clegg’s party at the next Westminster election.

    Another tidbit is that the SNP are actually doing better among women than men! That is a reversal of the usual poll findings. The Scottish Tories are also doing better with female Scottish voters, whereas Scottish Labour are struggling to persuade women to vote for them. Straw in the wind?

  20. Interesting that they did not ask a question on the referendum…

    To those who say the SNP win is not crucial to independence (ie there are many Lib DEm and Laboue seratists) I think they have a point, but also it needs to be remembered that many SNP voters do not support independence. All the polls show a majority in favour of keeping the union (although this does vary widely), but interestingly people are relaxed about it. A fair number don’t care, and those who do want the union are not too afraid of voting SNP and talking the risk..

    Still this is a good result for the SNP, damn it!!

  21. Shame they didn’t asked for Holyrood list vote. But in any case I’d agree with Brian and ZX, these figures would probably lead to a pro-independence majority in the Scottish parliament.

    I am unconvinced by Peter Cairns’ argument that the Liberals will hold better in their Highlands strongholds – just look at the Grampian TV figures (or Gordon or A&B in 2007 for that matter).

    Meanwhile 5 out of 6 Labour/Lib Dem leadership contenders are still in denial. Anyone believing Labour can hold Central Fife?

  22. On most polling over 90% of SNP supporters support independence but this changes when there is tactical voting in play, particularly at by-elections.
    The crucial point, mentioned in a previous post, is that the vast majority of Scots are now totally relaxed about the prospect of independence and there are a lot more people determined to work for it than there are people determined about the union.
    Scottish Independence is now inevitable and all we are talking about is the timescale and how long the process can be held up. It might not be very long at all. Some of our convenience unionists in our unionist parties will see the very large writing on the wall fairly soon is my forecast and when they start walking towards the SNP or an independence position the game’s up.
    Ant bets this will start to happen before 2009?

  23. Clearly this is an excellent poll for the SNP and reflects a fairly long-standing change in the political landscape. A lot of this is down to a tightly run, transparent and genuinely accessible Holyrood administration. I think that Scots also enjoy Salmond’s well-chosen spats with the Uk Govt.

    I think the obsession with ‘Independence’ whipped up by many commentators and contributors is somewhat of a Red Herring however. I agree that Scotland will inevitably gain far more control over its economic levers and will play a much stronger part in international affairs – even the canute like Labour party now accept this. But Independence is a process not an event, the question is where will that process end? A stronger and more powerful EU will make Union with England less relevant to many Scots. Greater autonomy in decision-making for Scotland will also help England overcome its current democratic deficit and makes an English Parliament inevitable.

    So I think we should talk about functional indepence rather than the more traditional rhetoric about armies and Border controls (shenzen agreement would render this irrelevant now anyway). And yes it will happen. But the strong performance of the SNP is more down to sound Governance and listening to people in Scotland.

  24. The last poll with a question on support for Scottish Independence was Yougov only a month ago . 38% were in favour 46% against , 77% of SNP supporters were in favour , the other 3 parties all had a majority against 60% of LibDems 73% of Labour and Conservatives .

  25. One thought:

    As we’re getting polls through from Scotland, wouldn’t it also be useful to get them from Wales, NI, and the equivalently-sized regions in England?

    I think it would be interesting to see how the voters of NI might react to the mooted idea of the “Unionist and Conservative” ticket currently proposed.

  26. This is an interesting poll because the actual figures show how weak the SNP is.

    The ‘retention rate’ shows the SNP maxing out its base support and depending on tactical voters to reach predicted levels of seats.

    In particular the dependance on right-wing support must be a concern for the nationalists as they will be more sensitive to fluctuating power positions than any policy announcements that could be made.

    It also highlights the dependence of SNP popularity on the personality of their leader, Alex Salmond.

    So one wonders exactly what the less-than-full disclosure of the figures was attempting to hide? That they are reaching their high-water mark and it is now or never to secure their dream of independence before devolution preceeds to the point where they and their independence movement is irrelevant?

    The oil revenues and ‘needs and interests’ questions also provides insight into the over-hyped boost to quality of life issues financial independence would bring, so it must be considered whether this poll adds weight to the internal SNP argument to place less emphasis on the independence question and shift the framework of debate onto real political leadership from political difference and artificial separatism.

    How very Salmond-esque, and what better example of why he is held in such high regard!

  27. Sorry Thomas but another attempt to cast aspersions at the result of a poll one doesn’t like. All political parties drip feed results that are good for them, your economic analysis is minimal and biased etc.. Here is a place for poll analysis. It does get tiring when peopel who dislike positive SNP results so not ever seem capable of accepting them for what they are– a major shift in Scotland. yes, the SNP is a political party and will maximise the impact, but that does not deny the result– a certain non-oracle should still apologise to this site for the implications in his comment.

  28. As usual, I agree with Peter. The LibDems and won’t do quite as badly in their Highland strongholds as this poll suggests, and the Cons and SNP won’t do quite as well when it comes to counting actual votes in individual constituencies for Westminster.

    What’s significant about this poll, and every other bit of news about Labour or the SNP Government is not where we are at, but the direction in which we are moving.

    As has been said above, this is not about independence. Nonetheless the contrast between what Christiian has called “bog standard competent government and a few minor gimmicks” and the Greek tragedy being played out at Westminster will further weaken support for the Union.

    There is a tiny miority of crazed Braveheart natoinalists who make a lot of fuss, and not many more of the loyal and uncritical members of the three unionist parties who follow the party line, but the vast majority (whether they are pro- or anti- independence) are unsure.

    The SNP are determined to keep a steady course, but the behaviour of the Westminster front benches is what will determine how Scotland votes in the Referendum.

    Whichever side of the border, and whichever side of the debate you are on, if you have as low an opinion of their competence as I do, you will think it is time to work out what difference an independent Scotland will make to the way you live your life.

    Peter: Surely my arithmetic must be wrong? It isn’t just 33 months til independence day is it? There was a plan announced in 2005, and I don’t think it has slipped behind yet, has it?

    Can the SNP Government be ready on time?

  29. North Britain:

    “Are the SNP really depressing the Tory vote as much, if not more, than the LibDems?”

    No they are not, because it has very little to do with the SNP.

    The LibDems do very well where they do well and are holding onto their votes where it matters to them. It shows up more in a Scottish poll than a UK poll. The Cons are losing voters (but not very many) on a long term 50-year trend thanks to the Grim Reaper’s cull, and they aren’t getting any new ones.

    The thing that matters is how the ex-Labour vote breaks. Some of it may go to boost the LibDems, virtually none to the Conservatives. The Socialists have shot themselves in the foot. The SNP is the obvious party of preference for ex-Labour voters.

    It doesn’t mean that they all want independence (though many Labour voters do) but voting SNP for many could be breaking a habit of a lifetime, and maybe its the the first time that is most difficult.

  30. The Independence Referendum is timed for 2010. There has of recent been an influx of new support to the SNP who appreciate the SNP administration without being convinced yet of the benefit of independence. They will come eventually. I know of no SNP member (and I know thousands) who is not in favour of independence.
    Two very reputable polls have put independence/status quo running neck and neck in recent months but this goes up and down five points each way. The SNP hasn’t started an Independence campaign yet but when this begins it will be prosecuted with the same competence as everything the SNP does. It is by far the biggest and best organised outfit in Scottish politics today and all the momentum is with it.
    Be assured those in favour of Independence will turn out in any referendum in much more enthusiastic numbers than those who aren’t bothered much one way or the other. Remember polls had Labour 17% ahead of the SNP in Glasgow East the same week the SNP won the seat.
    The big difference today from say 10 or 20 years ago is that the core of SNP support now lies with high achievers, the well educated and opinion formers and the main opposition, apart from a diminishing group who see their own interst best served by the union, lies in the red top audience who will eventually follow the better informed. That and the fact that there is a completely new cadre of the young flooding ino the SNP for the first time since the early seventies. The writing is on the wall.

  31. jack,

    politics is a much deeper subject than you seem to appreciate and so falling meekly in line with the crowd over whether a result can be analysed as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ is conceding the limitations of the forced-choice option you are presented with.

    There is so much more information to be disintered from any poll than whether it is generally favourable or otherwise to one group or another as to make any such pronouncement virtually meaningless, despite what the headline-writing sub-editors may prefer you to think (like their jobs depended on it – as if!).

    So while you’re here, why not indulge yourself in a little free thought and debate and allow the whole truth rise to the surface.

    If you can back up your interpretation that the SNP represent a major shift in scottish opinion and not a return to longer-term trends then I will retract my claim that you are making the assertion of a fanatic. And although I fail to see where in this poll there is any information which could support such an assertion I am perfectly willing to concede in advance if you can live up to the challenge you set yourself.

    At this point in time it nonetheless remains an open question whether current polling results will be matched at any election, therefore I hope you’d agree that discussion of trend patterns is essential to informing their movement between now and then.

  32. I don’t think this lead will be sustained, but a near 30-33 each is likely at the General Election, and of course, the sad by-election will probably turn the screw on Labour further.

  33. I like the point about strength of conviction on the independence question. My suspicion is that the Unionism of many Lib Dems and Labour supporter is shallower than the Unionism / Nationalism of the Tories / SNP. I wonder if there is anyway this can be filtered out by a poll, Anthony?

    Or perhaps ‘shallow’ is the wrong word? Maybe within Unionism we should to distinguish between Unionism primarily based on conviction (most Tories) and Unionism primarily based on functional considerations (mostly Labour, the functional consideration being a UK Labour government.

    And if in 2010 there is a secure and potentially long-lasting Tory UK government, what does that mean for Labour functional Unionists? The Nats certainly believe these voters will vote for independence in such a situation.

    (And I guess that Wendy Alexander understood this threat very well, and thus wanted to ‘bring it on’ before 2010.)

  34. Very perceptive post from Christian Schmidt.
    What also has to be taken on board is that the Union elicits emotional support for historical reasons (nothing wrong with that) but this applies mainly to an older set of voters and is of steadily diminishing value to the unionist cause.
    My own observation encourages me to believe that well over 50% of those under 25 will vote for independence when the time comes, though the vast majority of them don’t vote at all in elections at the moment. They are also not generally available on landlines so they are excluded from phone canvas. In fact phone canvas result is now seriously unbalanced as only a limited percentage of the electorate are now accessible on phone and they do not represent an accurate cross-section of the population.
    Online discourse gives a more realistic picture of the enthusiasms and arguments around the Scottish Constitutional question.
    And, of course, Wendy was right but her political judgement should have followed through on this and allowed her to consider what honest democratic function she was fulfilling by trying to frustrate a referendum vote at a later and more sensible date.
    Unless it completeley destroys itself by blindly toeing the London line on the constitutional question (and it making a decent fist of this at the moment) Scottish Labour has potentially most to gain from an independent Scotland. But time is running out for it at the moment and the dire,directionless and idea-free contest for Scottish Labour leadership is a product of a system which routinely neuters Scottish Labour.
    No leader of any substance would suffer the restraints that London forces on Labour’s Scottish leadership.

  35. Christian/ David

    Yes – the constitutional issues will really depend on persuading the federalist wing of the lib-dems and the Henry McLeish (and now Tom McCabe?) proto-nationalist scion of the labour party to go the way of greater autonomy.

    It would be useful to analyse how Lib dem and Labour regional voters at Holyrood elections voted in Tory Vs SNP constituency tussles to gain an understanding of their ‘gut’ unionist/ nationalist sympathies. I had a quick look at this for Perthshire/ Angus where these tactical votes appear to favour the nationalists. (if I get time I’ll go a bit further).

    Although how this would translate in a constitutional referendum may be a completely different matter. Many tactical voters will simply go with the party they detest least out of the two choices. This will be interesting as Thatcher becomes less relevant in the memories of voters, while the SNP have transformed from fundamentalist zealots to (arguably) a professional and competent social democratic party.

  36. Having spent the last quarter of a century making my living amongst the professional and managerial classes in Scotland’s fair capital I can in all honesty state that I have come across very little support for the idea of independence amongst what I term the ‘opinion formers’ in society. Unless this segment of the populace can be persuaded of the merits of casting off the union then-in my view- the dice are always going to be loaded against the success of a ‘yes’ vote in a referendum.
    Essentially the ‘shakers and movers’ in the land are only too well aware of the threat to livelehoods and jobs should Scotland leave the union.I personally know of several businesses who will relocate south if that happens. Why? Because they believe that a social democratic independent Scotland will not be business friendly , that taxes will go up,inward investment dry up and profits go down.
    It is not the case that the support for the union exists mainly on an emotional basis amongst older voters. There is and always has been a strong anti seperation business case which strikes a bell with ‘canny’ Scots of all ages.
    Until and unless the nationalists can engage the business community in debate and convince the latter that a left wing Scotland will not damage their interests then that community will forever be a formidable and implacable foe come any referendum.

  37. David

    “Be assured those in favour of Independence will turn out in any referendum in much more enthusiastic numbers than those who aren’t bothered much one way or the other.”

    You have a very significant issue there and it is very difficult to anticipate. The result could well depend on that. It is likely to be a high poll though if it is thought to be close.


    “Until and unless the nationalists can engage the business community in debate and convince the latter that a left wing Scotland will not damage their interests then that community will forever be a formidable and implacable foe come any referendum.”

    I don’t think the SNP are even making that pitch. Its more a case of competent government is the main thing and left/right, independence/union is secondary.

    Surely the people you are meeting are over-representative of the habitual Conservative voter, who is unrepresentative of the Scottish voter?

    You seem to accept their economic case yourself whereas any rational and objective person would reject the economic arguments on both sides because they are based on selecting the most favourable assumptions and the questionable use of statistics.

  38. Nick,

    One of the funny things about Scottish independence is that opposition is stronger with the ABC1 than the C2DEs. (Though I wouldn’t agree with your reasons.)

    Following on from my earlier comment, I would also suspect that ABC1 Unionist are more likely to be conviction Unionists than C2DE Unionists.

    Oh, and if Anthony ever manages to gets a poll on the strength of Union/Independence views (“Strongly in favour of the Union / prefer Union / no preference / prefer independence / strongly in favour of independence”), I would also not be surprised if the *strength* of Unionist feelings in Edinburgh is stronger than in Glasgow (or up North). For in my living amongst the professional and managerial classes in Scotland’s biggest city I have come across the argument that independence would ruin livelihoods and jobs more often on day trips to Edinburgh than on the banks if the Clyde. (Note the constituencies of McCabe and Gray.)

  39. There is of course absolutely no hard evidence that independence would lose jobs or cause any sort of economic loss to Scotland. What we have however is a residue of forty years of unionist scaremongering.
    In actual fact the Scottish economy overall performs rather better than the UK economy and is much harder and fitter. What we do have is a south eastern corner of UK which prides itself on being UK’s “economic powerhouse”. Actually its only the UK’s economic counting house and has been that for over a century. The super energetic Enterprise Minister Jim Mather is engaged on a continuous basis with Scotland’s business community and has had massive success with the top level. I have little doubt that the stolid dullards who make up middle management in Edinburgh will be the last to notice what is happening in political terms. After all they sit in a city that is prospering hugely through the institution of a Scottish Parliament but they haven’t noticed the connection yet.

  40. Denis:

    “Thatcher becomes less relevant in the memories of voters”

    That’s just the sort of factor that fits into my Greek tragedy analogy. Firstly, it’s not so much forgotten as the reader of English editions of the newspapers might think; secondly a Conservative Government is bound to be a reminder.

    Every day we get bad news for Labour, and once a week or so there is good news for the SNP. Whether it be bye-elections or energy costs, “events” consistently favour the SNP.

    If the Scottish Government wins an argument with Westminster, they win votes. If they lose the argument, they win votes.

    The release of news during a bye-election campaign, in Glasgow of all places, about a planned state funeral was an “event” so bizarre you literally couldn’t make it up. Should the funeral itself take place between now and the Referendum, and the BBC takes advantage of cheap archive programming the “memories of voters” will be powerfully revived.

    “Events, dear boy, events”

  41. “If the Scottish [Executive] wins an argument with Westminster, [the SNP] win votes. If they lose the argument, [the SNP] win votes.”

    And as soon as the argument reaches an impasse they will lose votes. And as soon as the SNP lose votes they will no longer form the Scottish Executive. And as soon as the SNP no longer form the Scottish Executive Alex Salmond will be forced from it’s leadership. And when Alex Salmond is no longer leader of the SNP, it will dissolve into petty factional in-fighting.

  42. Thomas, based on the recent polls, the SNP will no longer form the Scottish (Executive) Government, after a couple of post-independence terms of Parliament. The rest of your last post is wishful thinking at best or sour grapes at least.

  43. Not at all, Brian.

    Under John’s envisaged scenario the SNP will continue climbing the polls until long after they gain 101% of the votes, which defies logic, sense or any type of reasoning whatsoever!

    I merely point out the gap in his thinking which enables it to be reconciled with a modicum of reality.

    Salmond simply cannot remain leader in perpetuity, therefore it is only a question of when and under what circumstances he leaves the role.

    As these truths clarify in the mind of the electorate the issue of leadership becomes more urgent for any supporter of independence as it will threaten to destabilise any movement in that direction.

    So the current popularity of the SNP bears no indication of whether Scotland will actually reach independence in the first place and we must therefore ask at what point their high water mark will be reached – before, at or after the Glenrothes by-election?

    Will the interlude between Glasgow East and Glenrothes be enough for the unionists to halt and reverse the trend? If so, will it be a Labour fight-back or an alternate party which steps up to the plate?

  44. It is fairly commoin for those who know nothing about the SNP to imagine that its current success is all to do with Alex Salmond. Alex Salmond is without doubt the outstanding political figure in Scotland. There is however a whole party behind him that has seen since I joined the party support grow from less than 1% in the polls to a permanent base of around 30% and still climbing. No other political organisation in UK can come anywhere near the levels of commitment the SNP exhibits and that will remain – Alex Salmond or no Alex Salmond. When you join the SNP it’s for life

  45. Some of the reactions to my piece have bordered on the hysterical which has only served to convince me that I have hit on a raw spot amongst the nationalists.
    It is a pleasure to debate these issues with the likes of Christian Schmidt but others of his persuasion seem only content to rant on about their prejudices. Phrases like ‘stolid dullards who make up middle management in Edinburgh’ are clearly meant as an insult but merely succeed in exposing the shrill hollow arguements of people with such enormous chips on their shoulder that any rational discussion with them is simply a waste of time.
    For the record my long standing Scottish friends in Edinburgh’s business community are of many political persuasions or none. As for the noble Jim Mather he is a nice enough chap but I’ve not met many people who have met him let alone heard him speak. The fact remains that the business community at large remains opposed to independence. Whether you agree with their views is quite irrelevant and to ignore their views only serves to reinforce their suspicions that an independent Scotland would not be business friendly.

  46. All this talk of there being large numbers of people within the Lib Dems, Labour or Conservatives who would support independence if they thought it would be popular is nonsense IMO. The vast majority of Liberals are solidly for the Union. It seems to me, as an outsider, that Unionism is almost as strong in the Labour party. A large chunk of the people who have voted SNP recently are against independence and simply wanted to give the Labour party a kicking. Alex Salmond could spend FMQs turning water into wine and then walk home to Banff and Buchan across the Firth of Forth and these people still wouldn’t vote for an independent Scotland.

    Also, I don’t see that there’s any greater tendency towards Nationalism amongst the young as opposed to the old. There’s just a tendency not to support Labour or the Tories. From my point of view, as a younger person, your national identity is a private matter, like your religion. There’s no more reason to have a state-sponsored nationality than there is to have a state-sponsored religion. When you start confusing the nation with the state all you end up doing is wasting resources (e.g. by making unnecessary subdivisions of the UK).

  47. I must admit that one of the problems with the idea of shallow / functional Unionists is the lack of an increase in support for independence in line with support for the SNP. For if Labour voters support for Union is based on support for a UK Labour government, then surely once they switch to the Nats they would also discards their Unionism.

    Maybe it isn’t happening because independence is not currently much debated in Scotland (compared to the party politics) and the switch will only start when the campaign starts in earnest.

    Or maybe thomas, Gordon Brown and others are right, it is just a protest vote that will come back to Labour soon as soon as Labour picks itself up.

    But it doesn’t feel like it. Just as opinion polls, by-elections and local elections in Britain in the mid-90s weren’t just a protest vote (to show the Conservative government that it must do better), but a major realignment, my interpretation of recent Scottish opinion polls, by-elections, local and national elections is that this is a major realignment. And in the contemporary Scottish political context I struggle to see how this could mean anything but independence.

    I really cannot think of any good argument against independence – ‘divorce is an expensive business’ might still be believed by some (including a large section of Lothian ABC1s), but I cannot seeing it working again on a national scale. There have been too many lies, and the Nats counter argument (that an independent Scotland *can* be successful *if* it has a competent government – and just look as us) is near-impossible to argue with.

    Neither can I see Ms Goldie’s together we’re stronger-type argument working well (enough), because of a deep mistrust of London politics (all those lies again, English votes for English laws, regular offensive comments, etc).

  48. John – I don’t disagree that Thatcher still plays a part. The point I was making is that now many of the younger generation of voters will not have the same knee-jerk anti-Tory instinct that people like me (whose families were directly affected by the Thatcher years) have.

    Nick – I am unconvinced about your assertion that the ‘business community’ is implacably against the idea of Scottish self-determination. In My Opinion (as the director of a small business with UK wide market) The SNP has made good progress in improving conditions for small businesses – fewer QUANGOs, lower business rates and a more streamlined regulatory structure. My (English Lib Dem card-carrying) MD is hugely impressed with the new economic strategy and transparency of the Government’s approach. I think the sector you speak for is possibly the (characteristically conservative) Edinburgh financial sector. My experience in the West of Scotland is very different.

    Christian – I think you are spot on in your analysis of the re-alignment of Scottish politics. I think the failure of any of the potential labour leadership candidates to grasp the reality of their demise will be one more nail in the coffin. The likely loss of Glenrothes will possibly be the final one. As usual the UK media will miss the big story and start interviewing David Cameron again!

  49. Christian, I agree that a major shift has taken place in Scotland. However, I don’t see Labour being knocked out entirely at the next election. The Conservatives still held enough seats in the South of England in 1997 to eventually regroup and mount a fightback. Unless there’s an electoral pact, I’m sure that Labour will hold enough seats up here to mount a comeback at some point as well. If Labour do mount a comeback then Scottish voters will be voting for whoever their popular new Westminster leader is (if he/she is in Parliament now then I can’t spot him/her) and not for whoever replaces Wendy Alexander.

    Regarding independence, I think the conclusive knockout argument against is that any successful independent government would necessarily be slightly less successful than a successful regional government within the UK. This being due to unavoidable costs associated with having a separate state.

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