While we are waiting for Populus tonight here’s some bits and bobs from the last few days. Over the weekend there was a new System Three poll in Scotland showing voting intention in a possible referendum on Scottish Independence. The poll showed support for YES at 38%, for No at 40%. It’s a narrowing of the gap since the last time System Three asked the question in October 2008, but in pretty much the same territory as the previous times they asked the question.

Notably there is a huge difference between this and when YouGov asked a similar question in Scotland last week. They found support at 29% for YES and 55% for NO. There’s no obvious reason for the difference. The two questions are:

YouGov: The SNP wishes to hold a referendum on Scottish independence in due course. Voters would be asked whether they agree or disagree ‘that the Scottish government should negotiate a settlement with the Government of the United Kingdom so that Scotland becomes an independent state’. How would you vote if such a referendum were held tomorrow? I would vote YES (i.e. for Scottish independence)/ I would vote NO (i.e. against Scottish independence)/ Don’t know/ Would not vote

System Three: The SNP have recently outlined their plans for a possible refrendum on Scottish independence in future. If such a referendum were to be held tomorrow, how would you vote? I AGREE that the Scottish Government should negotiate a settlement with the Government of the United Kingdom so that Scotland becomes an independent state/ I DO NOT AGREE that the Scottish Government should negotiate a settlement with the Government of the United Kingdom so that Scotland becomes an independent state/ Don’t know

The YouGov version is a bit bolder – it spells out the YES (for independent) and NO (against independence) a bit more clearly, and perhaps makes people think rather more about the independence rather than the negotiations – but they are pretty much in the same ball park.

On other subjects, there is a YouGov poll for the Jewish Chronicle here asking about support for a boycott of Israeli goods. Only 29% of people think it would be a good idea, with 41% opposed. On the wider issue of Israel’s behaviour, 22% think Israel is doing all it reasonably can to live in peace with Palestinians, 47% think Israel is being too harsh towards Palestinians.

Moving on, ComRes have done some polling about belief in evolution for Theos. I may come back to think properly later, but I think Theos’s own report on the polling figures, and evolution, creationism and so on, which can be downloaded here, is well worth reading.

Later on today we should get Populus’s monthly poll for the Times – it normally shows up at around 7.30pm or 8pm. I expect a lot of people will be waiting to see if it shows an increase Lib Dem support comparable to ICM’s at the weekend.

117 Responses to “Things you may have missed”

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  1. Dean

    If it is safe to come out now the naval war is over, can I point out to you that Britain isn’t unified by religion and culture and even Scotland itself has regional differences. Left-ish Scotland has its egalitarian roots in the reformation.

  2. @John B. Dick

    Your point on cultural differences, this is sematics- after all if we were to follow this logic there would be no ‘Scottish culture’. Celtic tradition is regionally different from Brition Strathclyde, or Piccish East coast.

    My point is that the ‘British culture’ so far as there is one is actually distinguishable. It orientates around a combination of all of these regional differences to create a very distinct ‘British’ set of cultural traditions.

    As for religion, again sematics at best. It is unarguable that the British are unified majority wise around religion. Protestantism is still the majority bond across the UK by a tune of approx. 61%- religion is a unifiying factor in discourse concerning Britian.
    Yes, there are regional differences, but these tend to form a minority, historically the ‘dissenters’. I am not commenting on the merits, right or wrongs, but this is inviolably the case.

    As for the exact reference you make about the differing nature of Scottish Protestant traditions it is entirely irrelevent, as the Scottish Kirk is an ‘established’ faith along side the Anglican Communion- they both form the ‘established’ Protestant British factor I was refering to. The exact nature of the differing protestantisms again is largely a question of semantics.

    Again, no comment as to whether this is right or not, suffice to aaccept that it is a reality around the concept that is ‘Britian’.

  3. Dean

    “My point is that the ‘British culture’ so far as there is one”

    That about sums it up, as far as there is one. What exactly is this British culture ,how far does it go, what does it entail?

    If we can draw cultural borders and I think most people think we can, why a British one and not a Scottish one.

    What makes British culture different from Canadian, Australian or even, as today Gordon Brown like all UK PM’s highlighting shared values, America.

    John Major used to wax about women on bikes on warm days cycling by Cricket on the village green, but that image would be more at home in india than Scotland.

    But then Norman Tebbit had his cricket test that said, someone with India parents but born here who shouts for England at the Oval is British, but if they shout for India, they are….. something else.

    Well I doubt if I’d go to a cricket one day international if Pakistan visited, but i did then i suspect that like a lot of Scots I’d be tempted to cheer on Pakistan rather than England, if only just for the fun of it.

    So on the basis of the “Cricket Test” what does that make me and what does it say about “British culture”.


  4. Peter,

    Your central question is perhaps rather revealing as to how you view ‘culture’ and national identity.

    “That about sums it up, as far as there is one. What exactly is this British culture ,how far does it go, what does it entail?”

    The basis of the line of questioning would require a personal identity and cultural life centred around nationalism, ethnicity and ‘belonging’. Now this may in itself not be a bad thing. But civic-nationalism is one course. It is I believe your SNP one.

    My vision is removed from the concept of nationalism. This is our main division. Why should our state be defined by ethnic nationalism? I favour a more broad state based around the central theme of practicality rather than the undeniable romance of nationalism (civic or otherwise).

    You ask what is British culture- Its a state of practcality. We enjoy higher standards of living under the Union. We enjoy better funded schooling and hospital systems. This is Britishness, a parnership based on practicality and national interests. It may not be romantic but its the reason a person like I can enjoy the standard of living, and societal multi-ethnic and multi-culturalism to which one is accustomed.

    Cricket and the land of warm beer in the dusk light is indeed one vision of a romantic Britain. But there is more than that example. There is the Britain of mutual benefit, the Britain of rugby, NHS, BBC, Attlee, Disraeli and Gladstone.

    But to refer to civic nationalism requires a different desire from ones culture. And I genuinely believe that this is where we shall eternally differ. For myself nationalism is sometimes counter to our national interest as Scots.


    Note that if it were ever in our own interests economically, multi-culturally, and societally then certainly Independence might for oneself become acceptable. But for a romantic civic nationalism in its own sake, no. Sorry.

  5. Peter:-

    “What makes British culture different from Canadian, Australian or even, as today Gordon Brown like all UK PM’s highlighting shared values, America. ”

    Any Canadian , Australian, or “American” could tell you.
    Though Quebecois, TopEnders, Alaskans-and some Texans might have slightly different versions from their compatriots.

    “If we can draw cultural borders and I think most people think we can, why a British one and not a Scottish one.”

    Why not indeed -it’s up to you.
    If you don’t feel comfortable with the culture we all recognise as our own-draw that border & start churning out the Kilts.

    The thing about ones “culture” is that you know it by it’s absence. It’s like “Home”-it’s where you feel comfortable.
    If your not comfortable it may just need a few St.Piran’s flags, or Saltairs around the place…..or you may actually be in the wrong country.

    Only you tell what your “culture” means to you-and no-one can tell what anothers culture means to them.

    Shared values are fine & dandy-particularly if they stop wars.
    But they are not the same thing as “culture” .

    A Spaniard & a Pole could both explain their shared values to you, their ideas of “European-ness”.
    Neither could explain to the other what their cultures mean to them-except for the Spaniard’s idea of “food” perhaps.

    ps actually the Pole would probably have a very very different version of “european-ness” just now-it remains to be seen whether those particular “shared values” stand the test of time.

  6. When one starts into the detail of what forms a culture – or perhaps a national identity – then two things quickly come to the surface.

    Firstly, culture is generally formed around language and religion. The first is a more important unifier, but the second can act as both a unifier or a divider ( by defining what you are not as opposed to what you are).

    Secondly, nationalism is not formed just by a shared culture, but also by the fires of history. Wars, alliances and enemies, historic victories and defeats all have their part to play.

    Finally, one cannot divorce culture or nationalism from geography. Physical geography defines the historic origins of a nation, both in terms of its economic strengths (and weaknesses) and in its traditional enemies and allies. Having clear boundaries also helps.

    Taking Colin’s example of a Spaniard and a Pole, we can see that both share a strong catholic tradition, the countries have a similar size & population, both once had extensive empires centuries ago, now lost, neither have an established tradition of democratic parliamentary government, and both were more recent members of the EU.

    However, there are many contrasts.

    Spain’s empire was vast and powerful. Its decline was long and slow, and generally fell apart rather than being stripped from it by its enemies. Poland’s was destroyed by the rise of the Russian empire in the east and the Hapsburgs in the west.

    While Spain still enjoys strong links with its former colonies, which have provided lucrative markets for Spanish companies, Poland has few economic interests in its diaspora.

    Spain has long benefitetd from a clearly defined territory, modern day Poland bears little resemblance to its historic borders, being unrecognisable from its boundaries just 70 years ago, still less in centuries past .

    Apart from a short spell in the Napoleonic wars, Spain has not been overrun by foreign powers who first divided it, then dominated it as Poland has suffered under Prussia and Russia for over 200 years.

    Thus, Spain can rightly claim to be a once-proud nation seeking to rebuild its place in Europe and the world after a couple of centuries in which it could be said to have lost its way. Poland still bears the scars of an oppressed people struggling to keep their independance and come to terms with its powerful neighbours. (This latter explains why they are less tolerant of EU rules perceived as imposed from Paris and Berlin.)

    The fundamental flaw at the heart of the ever-closer union is that it seeks to displace existing cultural and national values and replace them with a single European nationalism. In recent years it has shown itself impatient of an evolutionary approach, and has sought to impose its vision, in defiance of the democratic will of the constituent nations.

    The EU is unlike any other empire in history, in that it does not have a dominant nation at its heart, but is composed of a political class (a self selected “elite”) who have much in common with each other, but little interest in or respect for the various peoples of Europe. So long as that political class can control the levers of power, it can pursue its vision. But, because it has no cultural or national core, it has no praetorian guard on which to fall back when it encounters resistance. There is no precedent for the collapse of such an empire, and we will soon be entering uncharted waters as internal tensions rise, not just between member states, but also within them.

    Then the inherent contradiction of the SNP position, Scotland independant of Britain but within the EU, will be stripped bare. Does teh SNP want a truly independant Scotland or do they merely desire to swap domination by England for domination from Brussels ?

  7. Paul-I agree with much of your post-particularly the EU analysis.

    On “culture” though ;your interesting histories of Poland & Spain , whilst clearly playing into “culture” are not enough in my view to explain what it is to be a Spaniard or a Pole.

    Only a Spaniard or a Pole can tell what it is, because it will encompass myriads of factors -big & small-many of which non-Spaniards & non-Poles would neither know about nor understand.

  8. Gentlemen Paul’s point is what I was attempting to outline to Cllr Peter. That SNP understandings of Scottish ‘culture’ orientate around a civic nationalism which seems to focus upon ethinicity of Scots as celt. I was attempting to outline the fudamental flaw in that possition- that any Scottish cultural identity need not actually centre around celtic tradition, as the Pics and Britions and Viking traditions all contribute to our ‘Scottish culture’.

    This is why Paul is entirely correct when he states (as I was attempting to) that culture is centred around religion and language.

    It was my contention to Peter that British culture does exist in this frame. It is English/Scots language with Protestant religious bindings.

    Again no comment on the rights and wrongs of this. But I believe on this basis there is such a thing as British culture which is entirely fair the Scottish ‘culture’. If not more inclusive than Scots culture is.


  9. Dean,

    I suspect that the issue you have with Peter in defining Scotland / Scottishness in cultural terms may stem from the fact that you are a lowlander (am I right there ?) while he is a highlander.

    If you look at the history of the SNP and where it has derived its electoral strengths, you will find a pattern that reflects the internal tensions within Scotland.

    For so long as Scotland was dominated by a Labour voting Central Belt which could champion its oppostion to an Anglo-centric Tory government in London, those tensions could be brushed under the carpet and the SNP confined to the (ex-Tory) fringes.

    Post devolution, and after a decade of Labour government in London and Edinburgh, the pretence that Scotland’s ills are all the fault of English Tories has worn thin. This is why the SNP can look to displace Labour even in places like Glasgow East.

    But, while Salmond is playing the role of Scotland’s champion well now, those internal tensions will re-appear should Scotland gain independance.

    Then questions about how broadly-based is Scotland’s economy and who will fund its state dependance will gain greater prominence. It would be foolish indeed for the SNP to pin their hopes on EU support – especially as the reality of EU limits on national sovereignty begin to sink in.

    For example – who is more likely to get the EU to abandon the CFP – an independant Scotland or the UK – which could back it up by a credible threat to cecede.

  10. You are right, I am a lowlander, but also a Tory.

    But certainly your points about the EU are entirely correct, an independent Scotland must be self sustaining as just that- not as a dependency upon the European community.

    My points concerning the size of Scotlands oversized public sector, and current budget deficit remain unanswered by Peter…

  11. Dean,

    Sorry to disappoint you but even though I live on the Black isle, i was born and brought up in the east end of Glasgow.

    “You ask what is British culture- Its a state of practicality. We enjoy higher standards of living under the Union. We enjoy better funded schooling and hospital systems. This is Britishness, a partnership based on practicality and national interests. ”

    That boils down to British culture being nothing more than economic convenience. I doubt there would be many people who would argue that there is nothing more to Britain that being a bit better off.

    ” That SNP understandings of Scottish ‘culture’ orientate around a civic nationalism which seems to focus upon ethnicity of Scots”


    Civic nationalism is about a set of shared values which have nothing to do with ethnicity, the SNP are open to all races creeds and orientations and all you need is to want to live a free life, in a free country where those around you are free to make their own choices like you.

    I am amazed that you can have been involved in a discussion with me for this long and come away with nonsense like that.

    By definition the civic nationalism the SNP adheres to is the complete opposite of the type of ethnic nationalism you seem to think it is.

    “My points concerning the size of Scotland’s oversized public sector, and current budget deficit remain unanswered by Peter…”

    Oversized compared to who, France, Germany, Sweden.

    Yet again we get back to “Britain is Best”.

    The only way in which Scotland has an oversized public sector is in that it is bigger than the average for the UK.

    International comparisons can be made but as different countries do things differently the comparisons rarely tell the whole story.

    The public sector in the UK comes out as larger than the US, but that is mostly because we have the NHS while they have medicare. If you look at health spending the US spend a far larger share of GDP than the UK and there are few indications that it is a better system.

    As to the budget deficit as I have already said on at least two occasions all the arguments about the supposed Scottish deficit have been blown out of the water by Browns tripling of the national debt in one year.

    Scotland’s dreaded £6bn deficit that was supposed to make Independence impossible works out as less than Scotland’s share of the £75bn that Brown has just decided to let the Bank of England print.


  12. “That boils down to British culture being nothing more than economic convenience.”

    You may well ignore the economic reality but for the majority of Scots households what you denounce as ‘economic convenience’ is vital to their quality of life. Independence may matter more than Scots qaulity of life, standards of life but to me the People make Scotland, not some romantic notion about ‘….freedom…’

    Look at this reality Peter! You can’t just dismiss it as economic mumbo jumbo and ‘been counting’- an independent Scotland would surely require high taxes roughly par to Norway and Sweden? After all the Scots economy last economic session produced £86 billions (GDP), however this is approx £5.4 billions short of Scotlands expenditure over that same financial year (April to April), so what I’m saying is that there would have to be high taxes to cover this short fall.

    Plus, such high rates would have the consequence of driving away Scotlands financial investors and rich entrepreneural ‘wealth creators’.

    Plus remember your much vaunted oil revenues? Well they don’t cover it either-
    Unfortunately the reality is that Scotland’s oil fields are very much in decline, and it is clear that within the next 50 years they will assuredly run dry. Furthermore, the oil revenues would be required to plug the budget deficit of £5.4 billions, and whether we get 90% or 95% of the oil fields upon independence matters a great deal, as the financial difference between the two would be at least £2.2 billions!

    (Source stats: The Scottish Executive (2006). “Scottish Economic Statistics”- http://www.scotland.gov.uk/stats/ses/ses-00m.asp )

    So sorry Peter, you sare right when you said “Britain is Best”, but not as you intended it, as somehow construding me as being less of a Scot than you are. The truth is that I am more loyal to my identity as a Scotsman that you are, as to me the welfare of the people come first as the people ARE Scotland. You prefer politics over people, and ignore the fact that you advocate not freedom but subservience to the EU.


  13. Further Peter,

    The UK defict can easily be repaid through careful economic management for a couple of years and loans can be borrowed at better rates than an Independent Scotland would be affordable to gain.

    Sorry, but its a rather mute point as the UK deficit is fleeting whilst Scotlands has been there year after years for decades.

    You can’t avoid it.


  14. Dean,

    The IFS is putting the time to pay off what we are borrowing at around 2030, hardly a few years. I think you should do a bit more reading of what independent economists are saying before you describe a debt that will need tax increases for up to 20 years as “fleeting”.

    Secondly with a poor balance of payments and a floating currency without oil I don’t think you will in any way have access to cheaper borrowing or repayments than an independent Scotland in the Eurozone. Indeed there are already those speculating that the UK could end up defaulting on it’s debts.


  15. I hope I’m not intruding on a family squabble, but all the talk about Scottishness, Highlanders, Lowlanders and the EU reminded me of the 1975 referendum.

    The only regions of the UK to vote against membership of the EEC (as it was then) were the Shetland Isles and the Western Isles. I seem to remember that it was thought at the time that they felt that Edinburgh was remote enough for them.

    I believe that Orkney voted against Scottish devolution, possibly on the grounds that they did not consider themselves particularly Scottish.

    What are your views on this? Does it mean that the Islands have a different culture to the rest of Scotland? Does that mean they should be independent? After all, most of the Islands did not come under Scottish rule until the late 1400s, just over 100 years before the unification of the crowns of England and Scotland.

  16. Nice one PETE B !

  17. ;)

  18. It starts before Orkney.

    People in Caithness have an equally independent bent, some would say parochial. It comes largely from the fact that these have long been isolated communities who are very self reliant and proud of it.

    For all of the north of Scotland localism is very alive and very well.

    Caithness councillors on the Highland Council are constantly on their guard to any perceived loss of power to the “officials” in Inverness and close to a majority don’t even want to be part of the Highland Councill.

    Equally I have colleges in Lochaber around Fort William who resent having to have a joint planning committee with Rossshire and Skye.

    As to Independence I suspect that in many areas of the far north you wouldn’t get a majority for Independence but if the overall vote was yes they would go along with it.

    They would for ever complain that it wasn’t what they wanted and they got a rotten deal, but given the proximity to Scotland their economies would be so intrinsically tied to Scotland that i doubt they would choose to remain part of the UK or to become micro states.

    Apart from anything else there are people in Wick who don’t want to be told what to do by Thurso and those in Lewis who are wary of Harris.

    Of course if they did decide on UDI off some sort then we’d just have to accept it. it wouldn’t be the end of the world.


  19. Pete B

    The willingness (or not) of the Okneys and Shetland islands to be part of an Independent Scotland is a subject which is often suppressed, especially in any argument over “it’s Scotland’s oil”.

    The reason can quickly be discerned by plotting the putative territorial waters in the north sea and where the productive oil fields lie.

    Whereas most N Sea oil is indeed landed around Aberdeen, a pretty large chunk of that oil comes from fields which would be in English waters. If Orkney & Shetland declined to join Scotland and opted to remain in the United Kingdom, then the share of oil from productive fields which lie in Scottish waters would be a mere fraction of what is landed in Scotland. No doubt Scotland could charge a tax on “foreign” oil landed and distributed through Scotland, but if the fee were too high, one could easily see new pipelines to land it elsewhere – thus diminishing Aberdeen’s main industry.

    This of course has nothing to do with Scottish culture or Scottishness, but is a major factor in the economic viability of an independant Scotland – which does have a bloated public sector, including thousands of jobs which are effectively outsourced from England – why else does my London employer process my PAYE through Cumbernauld ?

  20. “Does it mean that the Islands have a different culture to the rest of Scotland? ”

    But that will be irrelevant, since they will be voting for “Civic Nationalism”-which as I understand it excludes questions of culture.

    No doubt they will be required to ” vote often -vote yes”

  21. Absolutely, good point Pete & Paul. The arguments over seperation would inevitably leave us all financially a lot poorer off. And as I’ve said before the SNP with their talk of self rule and ‘Braveheart syndrome’ cannot escape the financial realities that through unifcation we have all, Scot English Orkney dwelling- wherever, have become wealthier. To me this ought to be central to any discourse on independence- it aint dismassable as ‘mere bean-counting’.

  22. Just out of interest, what is the SNP attitude to the monarchy? I’ve looked on their website but couldn’t see anything. I’ve always vaguely assumed that they were republican but I’m open to correction.

    If they are in favour of the monarchy, would that put them roughly on the same constitutional basis as, say, Canada? If they are against, would there be any difference in the relationship between rump-UK and Scotland and. say, rump-UK and Germany?

  23. Well thats their europe as it were.

    Salmond outlines a vision of a Scotland with the Queen, while other branches of thought within their party are deeply republican. There is no consensus in their ranks- unofficially I believe they would hold referendum on it (?)

  24. Dean Thomson

    Lumping together the two main churches as “established” as a shared classification which describes them is misleading.

    The English church was the pre-reformation church nationalised by the king, with leaders organised top-down.

    The Scottish one is bottom up. The Convener of the GA of the Cof S is no archbishop, chairman or CEO, he role is to bring together his equals in time and place and of one mind and he serves for one year only.

    From that and related differences comes the respect for free unversal education in Scotland, and the fact that deference to priest or peer is a concept many Scots struggle to comprehend.

  25. I’m not impressed with the “Braveheart” arguments and not are most Scots. That sentiment has some currency amongst the longest committed of the SNP membership but it isn’t encouraged by the SNP leadership and shouldn’t be mixed with alcohol or football.

    Pre-Thatcher, It wasn’t Conservatism that was blamed for Scotlands ills but the Conservative party or rather their public school values and London focus. New Labour was just as bad. Their initiatives on faith schools and “choice” were more and more bizzare the further North you go.

    How many faith schools can you have on Barra, an island with a population of less than 1,000, and excess of elderly and a tiny protestant minority in a largely catholic population? The choice is between having the only GP or none.

    Rural populations at some distance from major towns have problems and industries that MP’s from London and the South East neither know or care about. The centralised Labour Party and its dominance in Glasgow also put it at a disadvantage.

    The SNP’s rural strength is because it takes an interest in and has a knowlege of issues in areas of low density population and rural industries. The point about Britain or Scotland having greater clout in the EU over CFP misses the fact that Scotland’s farmers and fishermen have no confidence that English ministers of either governing party will understand, far less care about or stand up for, Scotland’s particular interests where they differ from those of English competitors.

    They would prefer a minister of an independent Scottish Government – who would be very directly accessible – was representing them in Brussels.

    We’ll take our Queen back, by the way, It’s our monarchy, you can get your own.

  26. Correction:

    I said
    “The Convener of the GA of the Cof S is no archbishop, chairman or CEO, he role is to bring together his equals in time and place and of one mind and he serves for one year only.”

    I meant to type “his role” but of course the last one was a “her.” That’s another difference. On every progressive issue of social progress in the last century from colonies, to hanging to homosexuality the Cof S has been a generation ahead of the Cof E.

    I’m not part of it, I’m a Unitarian, but the presbyterian tradition is genuinely democratic and without it we would not have a Scottish Parliament.

  27. Peter:

    I used to think I knew a lot of people from Germany, Italy, Austria and Yugoslavia.

    Then I found out that I didn’t.

    These people thought of themselves as Bavarians, Tuscans, Styrians, Slovenians and Croats and some of the Croats claimed to be Italian.

  28. John

    Well the Bavarians and Tuscans are justified in that their independence was forcibly merged into a “nation” by a more dominant region within the lifetime of their grand-parents’ grand-parents.

    The Slovenes never felt truly part of Yugoslavia, having far more in common with their Austrian neighbours in Styria and Tyrolia.

    The Croats are entitled to a sense of nationality, having fought a bloody war for their independence from Serbian domination less than two decades ago. I take it the Croatians who thought they were Italian come from Istria – Austrian, then Italian, until 1945 ?

    Styrians have the strongest regional “identity” in Austria – the Viennese would say the largest shoulder chips.

    All the “regions” you mention were at one time provinces of the Hapsburg empire, having been chipped away in the two centuries up to 1914, with the exception of Styria.

    The Hapsburg Empire, and its predeccessor the Holy Roman Empire, were both always a collection of provinces whose primary common “culture” was catholicism. It could be argued that the greatest weakness of these Empires was that they never cultivated a homogenous culture or sense of nationality, hence the ease with which it eventually disintegrated.

    Could any of the above be applied to Scotland’s role within the British Empire ?

  29. “the greatest weakness of these Empires was that they never cultivated a homogenous culture or sense of nationality, hence the ease with which it eventually disintegrated.”

    as for the The Han Empire ,USSR, The British Empire ……the EU?

    The idea of “cultivating” a culture is flawed.

    People’s allegiances; feelings of “belonging”; definitions of their culture; cannot be subsumed by edict -or indeed the gun, as demonstrated by the post Soviet Baltic States.

    What the builders of Empires always fail to understand is that people need to feel an identity with something-and remote rulemaking by an unsympathetic Authority is the last thing to engender a feeling of belonging to & identity with it.

  30. John B Dick

    You are dealing in semantics.

    John B Dick

    As I understand it the Queen is Hanover decent, making her a branch from the Scottish Stuarts (Not sure could you correct?).

    As for rural farmers, not entire convinced that their mistrust over how the Labour ministers (and tory before them) have handled their fishing / farming rights at an eu level will automoatically transform into SNP votes. If you look at the UK farming constituencies up here in Scotland, most are represented by Unionist parties, and the Tories are on the march to take over a subatantial number of thse constituencies- the borders, argyll & Bute, Stirling… so not convinced by your argument that rural communities vote Nationalist.

  31. Dean,

    “As for rural farmers, not entire convinced that their mistrust over how the Labour ministers (and tory before them) have handled their fishing / farming rights at an eu level will automoatically transform into SNP votes.”

    The SNP did better than ever before amongst farmers at the last election, including “The Scottish Framer” coming out in support of the SNP in it’s editorial just before the election.


  32. Sorry Peter, but the SNP may have made gains amongst the Scottish farmer, certainly. But so have the Conservatives. Again I point to the polls, the big farming constituencies are turning to the unionist alernative rather than for the SNP (independence). Perthshire, Ochil south Perthshire and Angus the SNP farming holds are under increasing pressure from a resurgent tory alternative. So you cannot argue that the farmers will continue to vote SNP (Whereas the vast majority have not and probably never will).

    But again I shall accept last GE major SNP gains where made amongst the farming vote. However this was down to a poor Tory alternative, and this no longer applies. If anything the SNP future must lay with replacing Labour as a centre belt alternative, as the countryside will probably revert back to Liberal and Tory territory.

  33. Exactly what poll done in Scotland shows the level of detail to let you see a swing from the SNP to the Tories in rural constituencies, because I haven’t seen it and I am sure Anthony would be interested in a poll large enough to give you that detail.

    Given that in recent months the SNP has been moving up, along with the Tories and the LibDems are down, I’d say a better explanation would be Tories that left in the nineties to vote tactically for the LibDems coming back.

    Hardly anything you wouldn’t suspect.


  34. You are not understanding what I am saying, the swing from SNP to Tory will be small- as in most rural constituencies the SNP share of the vote is marginal (see the borders seats) and in the big farming constituencies further north like Stirling, the SNP vote is based not in the countryside, but in the urban centres. This is what I am saying.
    I went on to deal with the Perthshire and Angus examples, by pointing out in the lone cases the SNP were risking loosing their farming voters to a resurgent Conservative party. This is simply factual- and can be deduced, interpreted and indeed read from the basic breakdowns in each constituency.

    I myself come from a rural seat- Stirling and let me tell you, the SNP votes are urbancentric and not rural persay, and in the rural side they were seen as the only countryside vote that wouldn’t require voting Tory or (as is further north) Lib Dem.

    These are the given opinions of most electoral experts such as Iain McWhirter. So your request to see polling breakdowns is entirely beside the point if you (like I do) come from a rural constituency or understnad the general consensus of opinion in this specific area of the topic.

    Sorry but no amount of Nat-Spin can allow you to claim that the SNP are gaining rural votes from Labour (because labour do not have any to loose!) and it is clear from the opinion polls that the Liberal rural votes are being lost to the Tories (as liberal voters are more inclined in the countryside to vote tory over nationalis).

    The only exceptions might be Perthshire and angus and even there you boys only lead by marginal majorities of commonly around 1,600 -800 odd.

    Sorry, but SNP electoral future lies in the cities not in an increasingly Tory or lib dem countryside.

  35. Dean – you said “Again I point to the polls, the big farming constituencies are turning to the unionist alernative rather than for the SNP ”

    What polls?

  36. The internal party constituency polling. Conservative party.

  37. Dean,

    With all due respect it’s pretty much the rule here that, if it isn’t BPC and with a methodology that verifiable and figures that are fully published, then it does in the bin.


  38. But where then are the these rural votes going to come from for the SNP? Liberal?- they’re more likely to vote Tory, labour?-they don’t have any rural votes of great numerical size in constituencies of rural nature?

    So where will these farmers votes come from peter?

  39. Amongst the seats you mentioned the Labour / Libdem votes in 2005 was;

    Angus; 6,580/ 6,660 (18%/ 17.5%),
    Ochil; 14,645/ 6,218 (31.5%/ 13.5%)
    Perth; 8,601/ 7,403 (19%/ 16%)
    Stirling 15,729/ 9,052 (36%/ 21%)

    In all four seats the combined number of votes for Labour and the LibDems amounts to over a third of the vote (in two it is over half). In all four Labour, which you claim “don’t have any rural votes of great numerical size in constituencies of rural nature” have more than the Libdems and indeed hold two with higher votes than the Tories.

    Since then the Labour share of the vote has fallen from 39.5% to 37%,( -2.5%) the Libdems from 22.5% to 12% (-10%) the Tories from 16% to 20% (+4%) and the SNP from 18% to 27% ( +9%).

    Given that Labour has lost least and the LibDem most and the Tories gained less than half what the SNP have, unless there is a huge amount of churn from LibDem to Tory but also from Tory to SNP or from Tory to Labour and then to SNP, it’s hard to support your suggestion that LibDems are more likely to vote Tory than SNP.

    But then none of us have seen your internal Tory polling have we…..


  40. “the SNP from 18% to 27% ( +9%).”

    Might there be an element of the Salmond bounce in this rather large increase however? And surely following LIT, Student debt failure and a coming defeat on Independence referendum (that is if Tavish doesn’t change heart) this will definately finish off the rather exceptionally high SNP popularity.

    Just a strategic thought on party political standings is all.

    Further the Tory to Nat change I doubt will apply this time round, I expect that there is a perception that at the approaching GE a Tory vote in these constit. in question will not be waisted. And Camerons ‘moderate’ (I use the term loosely) conservativism will appeal more to Lib voters than SNP does surely?
    And remember your political history, a large proportion of Lib voters in these constit. were ex-Tories from the 80’s and 90’s… it would be more in their nature to return to us than opt for a centre-left party like the SNP.

  41. Dean,

    “Might there be an element of the Salmond bounce in this rather large increase however?”

    Given that it is the trend that has seen us win the holyrood election, be the first party to beat labour in Scotland for almost fifty years and it’s now more than two years old, it’s a bit miserly to call it a bounce.

    “And Cameron’s ‘moderate’ (I use the term loosely) conservatism will appeal more to Lib voters than SNP does surely?”

    Two comments,

    Firstly if that is the case then why aren’t the polls showing it.

    As I said unless there is a huge amount of churn all the indications are that the SNP is doing far better in capturing Libdem votes than the Tories.

    Secondly…. don’t call me Sheryl….


  42. Dean,

    Historically the SNP has been very adept at picking up former Tory votes/seats in rural constituencies – just look at the records, and how else did they get the epithet “Tartan Tories”.

    At the same time the SNP have also been succesful at picking up Labour seats in the Central belt where they did better in the 1970s than they did in the Highlands.

    One could even say that the SNP have proved better at chameleon politics than the LibDems themselves.

    While I am sure that a lot of LD voters are ex-Tories who may be persuaded to return under Cameron, I doubt that many ex-Labour voters will be following them. Tory-SNP traffic is likely to be limited in either direction at the next election (may be different at the one after).

    Both SNP and Tories will see their vote rise compared to 2005. The amount will vary significantly from seat to seat, and the origin of those increased votes will equally vary.

    The LD vote will be fragmented, with bits dropping off in all directions. They may well pick up a lot of ex-Labour votes – possibly even the odd seat – but they will no longer be a big beneficiary of tactical voting. Thus they could lose several seats, or fail to make some of their target gains.

    Labour will probably see the biggest drop in actual votes (and seats), though they may squeeze some LD votes where they are fighting off a Tory challenge

    Predicting the outcome in Scotland will not be easy, and we will see different trends in individual seats. In general, I would expect to see the following “churn”, listed in order of votes involved:

    Lab: stay at home
    Lab switch to SNP
    LD switch to Con
    Lab switch to LD
    LD switch to SNP
    LD switch to Lab
    Lab switch to Con
    SNP switch to Con – minimal
    Con switch to SNP – minimal

    Pace Peter, but I suspect that with possible exception of Argyll and Gordon, the LD vote has split as above, but the SNP gains from Lab offset by LD back to Lab have given the impression that there have been more votes flowing from LD direct to SNP.

    When it comes to Tactical voting, the big question is why ? In the past it has been used to great effect to defeat a Tory governement generally disliked in Scotland. But when it is a Labour government to be ejected, is there the same passion ? More importanly, it is not as clear where the anti-Labour voter should go.

    As for the rural constituencies, many of these will end up as either:

    – SNP / Tory marginals – esp in NE
    – SNP / LD marginals – esp in NW;
    – LD / Tory marginals – Fife NE & Borders;
    or 3 way marginals Argyll & Gordon.

    Only in Stirling, Ochil, Dumfries & Galloway and Carrick & etc will Labour have any meaningful say in the matter.

  43. Paul H-J,

    Cheers for that insight. Very useful indeed.

    Question for you and Peter:

    I expect to see the SNP turn seats like Perth North Perthshire into rather firm SNP holds- say a majority above 10% (given that some of the SNP swings have still been above 8.5% in NE, and Tory ones much less at around 2.5ish%) so what I’m interested in is whether seats in the NE will actually become marginal SNP/Tory?

    But as for the LibDem collapse, I’d expect to see them drop from 11 seats to around 9 or so (Dumbarton East I have predicted as a Lib hold by around 600-700 votes)

  44. Paul,

    with all due respect I think you are missing the point.

    After nearly 50 years of domination the SNP has now successfully established itself as the official opposition and alternative government to Labour.
    I am not claiming that as of right or even that we deserve it , although i think we have a lot to be proud of, but be it by our hard work or just luck the polls show that it is how we are probably regarded.

    In that respect where as you seem to cast us in a similar light to the Libdems in Westminster, as a third choice, we are in Scottish terms seen much more as one of the big two.

    We have attracted Labour support with people disenchanted by Blair and Iraq but also a large number of Libdem votes as well because in Scottish terms we have managed to establish the momentum the Libdems never had, the real chance to win an election and form a government.

    In that respect we can campaign realistically as an alternative government in a way the Libdems can’t.

    The next UK election in Scotland will effectively be between the SNP and Labour with Labour campaigning to “Keep the Tories Out” and the SNP campaigning on ” Defending Scotland from a Tory government”.

    If the election looks close Labours vote will hold up, if Cameron is way out in front the SNP will do well and might even eclipse Labour in votes but certainly not in seats.

    In this context the Libdem vote which as the other thread on the topic shows is the most likely to split apart and indeed since 2005 it already has.

    The polls show Libdems have came over to the SNP because we aren’t Labour or the Tories but we are the alternative to them.

    People who vote Libdem do so less through ideology and more rather protest. they are the least likely to stay with the one party and the most likely to vote tactically.

    If we see the LibDem vote as essentially “lent” then they can vote for anybody as it isn’t really an ideological vote to the same respect as Labour or Tory traditionally are.

    On the assumption that this floating component is anything up to half of the potential LibDem top line and they achieved 23% in 2005, then sitting as they are at 12% most of that floating vote has already indicated where it is going to go and it’s 2 to 1 SNP over Tory.

    Like many people who are committed to a particular party you make the mistake of believing that other people cast their votes for similarly strong political reasons.

    They overwhelmingly don’t and least of all if they are LibDems.

    The current polls show quite well how the vote has split since 2005 and like it or not the SNP has benefited most from the fall in Libdem support because it was never that solid.


  45. Peter is prob. right, but I would remind there are always cases that defy such a general norm-

    I point to the cases of West Aberdeenshire & Kincardine, Aberdeen South, Stirling.

    But to accept Peters point- its the SNP as the only real alternative to Labour in most other places such as Ochil & South Perthshire (the Tories are definately looking to finish a good second), and especially running a “keep the Tories out” in Perth, North Perthshire & Angus.

    I’m still not convinced however that across Scotland the SNP will ;at a Westminster General; be the clear second party to Labour- remember if the Scot share vote breaks down as, say, Lab 35% SNP 26%, Con 21%, Lib Dem 12% then thats a seat break down of 38, 7 for the SNP, 6, and 8 for the Libs.

    Not a clear picture at all who might enter GE 2014 as labours real problem. This election will be about possitioning for the SNP (to make signifcant break throughs across seats in 2014) and about the same for the Tories… and for the LibDems… surviving is their priority.

    As for Lib Dem votes not being ideological, I cna’t agree generally that may be true for some Lib voters but they do have ideological positions over tax (see orange book libs) for example.

  46. Dean,

    “This election will be about possitioning for the SNP (to make signifcant break throughs across seats in 2014)”

    Eh No….

    It will be about building up momentum to get the referendum bill through and if successful winning it.

    Failing that it’s all about 2011 and getting in to a position where we can win a Holyrood vote with the support of any one of three parties.


  47. “It will be about building up momentum to get the referendum bill through”

    Well thats just it, the SNP will not get it through Holyrood. Thats increasingly clear. I mean what pert of Tavish Scotts statements as of late do you fail to understand?

    Given that even at a polling share of 28% the SNP would still only make one next gain (baed upon a national swing). This is hardly the “momentum” has you call it.

    I genuinely rather believe that this is the SNP trying to position themsevles as the firm opposition to Labour, not just at Holyrood but also at Westminster (So far as Scottish constit. goes).

    “Failing that it’s all about 2011 and getting in to a position where we can win a Holyrood vote with the support of any one of three parties”

    Peter a smart guy like yourself knows that the SNP will never get more seats than all the unionist combined in Holyrood 2011 elections. You poll ratings have, albiet slowely, but unarguably declined steadily since taking office. For example 44% 08/08/08, now thats changed to 38% 30/01/09. Sorry but given the likely defeat over Independence referendum, the LIT debacle I expect to see that % fall further.

    There I can’t see your statements as anything other than extremely optimistic. Alex Salmond is making the mistake that a Tory govt. will treat Scotland with the contempt Thatcher and Major did, and this is a political miss-step as Cameron has more political neunce that that (and he’s more than able to beat Salmond in a game of political arm wrestling).

  48. Peter,

    My apologies if you understood my chameleon comment to suggest that the SNP are a Scottish third choice alternate like LDs. That was not my intent.

    I do however see that at some point the SNP is going to have to decide whether it is a centre-left or a centre-right party. That will have an impact on where it draws its support, and could lead to a loss of some votes back to the Tories while gaining many more votes from Labour (and LD). (That assumes that you go left rather than right, but in a Scottish context it is a more obvious choice.)

    The difficulty I see for the SNP is that the strategy for Westminster has to be different from that for Holyrood – yet not so different as to open the party to accusations of inconsistency.

    Ultimately, post independance, does the SNP see its opposition being Scottish Labour or Scottish Conservatives ?

    Ironically, it is in a Westmnister election that the SNP can play the nationalist card more easily, since nobody expects the SNP to form even a junior partner in the new government. By the time of the next Holyrood election however, the SNP will have to defend its own track record in Government. While it can argue that perhaps it would have achieved more if Scotland had more power or if the SNP had had a stronger position at Holyrood, voters will be asking to see what the SNP have done rather than what they might do.

    The question then is how the 2011 parliament is likely to be split, and whether a coalition is either viable or feasible. My own view is that we will probably see another SNP minority administration based on a result in the region of: SNP 50-55; Lab 35-40; Con 20-25; LD +/-10 with maybe c5 others.

    Of course both the timing and result of the next GE will have some impact on the 2011 Holyrood election, but if it just a year after a Cameron government I don’t see a big shift back to Lab or LD at Holyrood.

    As for the GE result in Scotland, I think that if it is this year, then the SNP can perhaps feel secure in Angus and Perth, but by next year those seats may well be in the balance. Elsewhere, you can only gain – and may even find Tories voting tactically in support. Equally, would Salmond be that aggrieved if potential SNP supporters voted Tory in the handful of seats where they could oust a Labour incumbent – especially Edinburgh SW and Renfrew E ?

  49. Paul,

    Well the cliché is that the SNP is “Scotland’s Party”, but there is more than rhetoric to that.

    I and most in the SNP just don’t accept that we must be one or the other, positioned by choice or destiny in relation to the two largest UK parties. I am not even particularly happy with us as a Clegg style alternative to “the two tired old parties”.

    The SNP as a broad church nationalist party will put together a policy platform that addresses the issues we face and which, with luck, will put forward positive ways forward.

    In some areas, particularly social policy. they will probably be liberal and left of centre, in others such as economic policy probably pro business and pro market.

    For us this isn’t a problem or indeed a contradiction, far from it , it’s a liberation that puts the needs of the nation and it’s people ahead of ideological purity.

    If as before you insist in saying that the SNP has to be placed within the UK domestic political framework and indeed ultimately defined by it, you aren’t seeing it as we do.

    We are as against being part of the UK political spectrum as we are being part of the UK.

    For us we best place to be is pretty much where we are now, the largest party making the best decisions for the country on an issue by issue basis without formal coalition.

    Sure we’d like to be able to do those deals without the need to put together a multi party majority, but to be honest after looking on from the sidelines for a generation we just don’t think that UK style FPTP one party rule delivers good government.

    But then again we drift back to “Britain is Best” where it is seen as anathema for anyone to suggest that there is a different way to do things let alone, god forbid, a better one.

    The SNP isn’t sure it is a good idea to decide before Independence on a template for our post Independence politics but we are absolutely sure that it isn’t going to be a mimi-me version of the UK’s.


  50. “But then again we drift back to “Britain is Best” where it is seen as anathema for anyone to suggest that there is a different way to do things let alone, god forbid, a better one.”

    Ok, but still for some Britian may be “Best” if we are talking about standard of living, economic base- you accept that there can be an economic argument in favour of union.

    As for a broad church, thats certainly true. But its a difficult balance to maintain….

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