Usual caveats apply

Survation have put out a new poll, the topline voting intention figures are CON 24%(-5), LAB 35%(-1), LD 11%(-1), UKIP 22%(+6). The 22% for UKIP is the first poll to show them breaking the twenty percent mark.

In many ways the high UKIP score here shouldn’t come as a surprise, for methodological reasons Survation tend to show the highest levels of UKIP support so if ICM have them at 18% and ComRes at 19% I would have expected Survation to have them in the low twenties. Striking it may be, but the increase in UKIP support is actually in line with what weve seen elsewhere, just using a method that is kinder to UKIP.

More interesting is the drop in Tory support, down five points on Survation’s poll in April. The poll was conducted on Friday and Saturday so at least partially after the “swivel eyed loon” story broke (it came out in Saturday’s papers, so broke about 10pm on Friday night). All the usual caveats I apply to any poll showing sharp or unusual results apply. Sure, it might indicate a shift in support, but just as likely its a blip – wait to see if it is reflected in any other polling. As Twyman’s Law of market research says “anything surprising or interesting is probably wrong”.

Two further comments, I’ve written before about people making the error of looking at the changes in a poll over a month and assuming that events in the last few days are the cause. Survation’s last poll was at the end of April before the local elections, so changes are just as likely to be down to the local elections and the Conservative infighting over Europe as anything more recent.

Secondly there is a tendency for the media and the denizens of Twitter to get all excited about unusual polls that give newsworthy stories when this is, of course, the exact opposite of what you should do if you actually want to understand public opinion. The correct approach is to look at the broad underlying trend and ignore the odd looking polls, the media normally do the opposite. The trend is that UKIP support has jumped substantially following their local election success, and that the Labour lead has been narrowing. The Conservative figure here may yet suggest a new direction, but let’s wait and see.

277 Responses to “Usual caveats apply”

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  1. Fascinating attacks on the SNP economic strategy today. While there is always a certain logic to Salmond’s arguments, the currency issue keeps coming back to haunt him. His insistence that ‘it’s our currency too’ is quite correct, so an equitable division of assets and liabilities is in order, but he then insists that Scotland can have separate tax and spend policy.

    I’m with him up to this point, but currency areas need full economic and political union. If he wants to use sterling, he won’t be able to insist on controlling his own tax and spend policies without sign off from Westminster.

    I guess the legalities are complex, but if he declines to accept this, I would take the view that he has walked out of the currency voluntarily, so his argument that Scotland wouldn’t be responsible for any of the national debt become invalid.

  2. Re the SNP’s recent repeated claims to have “paid more in taxes than received in spending in every one of the past 30 years”, these two graphs on the Scottish Government website suggest otherwise:

    Public Spending v Tax Receipts:

    Annual deficits:

    And these are the result of the SNP’s own interpretation of economic statistics (ie. do not include the full geographic share of liabilities, such as the massive bank bailouts in 2008/09).

  3. @Statgeek
    Yes, while the EU may not be interested in the oil fund per se, they will look at Scotland’s finances to determine contributions.

    We are told how rich Scotland would be if independent. 6th richest in the world, according to John Swinney. Certainly the oil would massively increase GDP per head.

    If Scotland joined the EU, they would certainly not retain the UK rebate – the EU wants to get rid of that more than most things, and that would be an ideal opportunity.

    In terms of GDP per head, Scotland would would be one of the richest countries in the EU – richer than the rUK. It would be a massive net contributor to the EU – figures suggest that EU contributions per head will treble.

    So yes, the extra money Scotland will have will be eyed up by the EU -and potentially redistributed to the rUk….

  4. @Steve2

    Are you seriously suggesting that Scotland take more debt than it generated? If the name of the bank decides where the debt lies, then does Northern Rock’s debt belongs to Shetland Isles?

    P.S. – Do those graphs include oil revenues? Many do not.

  5. Do the scots or welsh want to leave EU? If not what happens if England does?

  6. Just done a quick experiment with the Survation poll on the Electoral Calculus calculator – with UKIP on 22%, CON on 24% and LD on 11%, Labour can win a very slim majority with just 27% of the vote. In fact, that 377 they’d win on 35% doesn’t significantly drop until you get down below 30%.

    Ed is very safe right now.

  7. Anthony;

    This question:

    “If you had the DECISIVE, CASTING vote to decide the government for the next five years would you vote:




    Lib Dem,


    Scot Nat.

    Not Vote.

    Seems better than a rather vague “how would you vote now” and may at least reduce the tendency for peope to vote in a “bandwagon” manner. Maybe even poointing out what each vote means in terms of Prime Minister.

  8. Statgeek: Are you seriously suggesting that Scotland take more debt than it generated?

    I’m saying that they should take all the debt they generated, not cherrypick the small liabilities and try to discard the major liabilites….such as the £470bn bailout of Scottish banks (and that’s Scottish Parliament figures), of which only a 8.6% population share is claimed in the SG’s accounts.

  9. Couper2802

    If a future right wing (English dominated) government sought to abolish the Scottish devolution, I suspect that would be the shortest way to Scottish independence one could dream up (UDI anyone?).

  10. @Steve2

    Best answer here:

    1. The banks were wholly regulated from London. They were only allowed to change the way they lend money by the Westminster Parliament who were following the neo-classical economic strategy of little or seemingly no regulation, and a no limits on lending strategy as long as the loan is secured against an asset. The joint architect of this economic strategy that helped to collapse the global economy was Alistair Darling now the leader of the ‘No’ campaign.

    2. 90% of RBS and HBoS UK employees were based in out-with Scotland so 90% of employers income tax was paid to Westminster, and not counted as Scottish or Scottish Government revenue.

    3. Likewise 90% of the banks national insurance contributions were paid to Westminster and not counted as Scottish.

    4. 80% of the losses of RBS for example were generated from the banks London based operations.

    5. As with all companies corporation tax is not considered regional and therefore the corporation tax paid by the banks is not considered to be a Scottish Government revenue, it is all paid directly to Westminster. Note: RBS paid £16 billion in corporate taxes from 1998 to 2007, NONE of this was counted as Scottish Government revenue.


    6. (my own add-on) – The bailout was made by a government elected by England, as well as the rest of the UK.

  11. Steve2,

    Is that with or without oil and Gas?


  12. Oh, and I missed the one amusing bit:

    “And if you are still not convinced, Halifax is in England, isn’t it?”

  13. Statgeek,

    A blog written by a nationalist with a background in sales and marketing is hardly a partisan/expert response.

    Okay, answer these:

    How many national governments bailed out foreign-owned banks?

    How many US/French/German/Spanish/etc. banks with major London operations received UK bail-outs?

  14. @ Statgeek & Steve2

    While there will be political negotiations on debt if there was a Yes referendum, the starting point will be per capita allocation of the debt. RBS, devolved tax raising power and alike are irrelevant. Scotland would also get the proportionate international reserves.

    But as Alec rightly points out, it would be a monetary and fiscal as well as customs union (also joint defence and foreign affairs). Now this has been tried – Austrian-Hungarian Monarchy.

  15. Peter, these figures are from the SNP so obviously all such assets are included. Without them, Scotland’s deficit would be markedly worse, as you very well know.

    The point in hand is that they are not including all liabilities.

  16. We are told how rich Scotland would be if independent. 6th richest in the world, according to John Swinney. Certainly the oil would massively increase GDP per head.

    -It rather depends how Oil and Gas reserves were distributed .Currently all Oil and Gas reserves are in United Kingdom designated waters not Scottish waters.

    If the SNP insist that a more than proportionate share of oil reserves is forthcoming during negotiation following a yes vote perhaps a more than proportionate share of national debt might be appropriate as well.

    It would appear that the SNP has completely disregarded the fact that the vast majority of employment and on shore investment arising out of the Oil resources to date has actually already gone to Scotland providing some 150,000 jobs more than 7% of the entire workforce and contributing significantly to it’s above average contribution to the exchequer.

  17. Croftie

    Your question is unfair as it excludes the fastest growing party in the country which recently polled an astonishing 22%

  18. The second paragraph in my previous post tries to show that the debate about debt is inconsequential as Scotland will not have its own monetary or fiscal institutions (less fiscal independence than today probably).

  19. @Steve2 – I don’t think you can legitimately divide liabilities based on geography, and then claim we are already in a union. Especially as you appear to be arguing that this should happen for one very big liability (a bank bailout) but not every other part of the national debt.

    We currently exist in a union, where citizens are regarded equally wherever they live, so the division of assets and liabilities is best done on a pro rata basis based on the population.

  20. AW


    That’s probably as accurate as anything else.

    Have looked at M&S share price history -it responds to Tory VI like UKPR Labour supporters respond to Tony Blair.

  21. Paulcroft
    Will you be poointing at the poppoies tonight when they give their prediction?

  22. Steve

    If the Scottish people hadn’t been lied to in the 70s about the likely revenues that the oil would generate they might have embraced independence sooner leaving the rest of the country up the proverbial creek

  23. Laszlo,

    A geographic share of assets but a per capita share of debts is precisely the cherrypicking I am talking about.

    When it becomes clear that an independent Scotland’s assets and liabilities will be calculated in the same manner, we will undoubtedly see a swift downwind swing to the ‘Team Yes’ polling figures.

    Let’s be mature enough to admit that, per capita, Scotland’s financial downturn was considerably worse than both Ireland’s and Iceland’s.

  24. The economy of Scotland (excl oil – but even that is very complex) would depend on the EU question and its fiscal and monetary policy. It would need to retain FDI which requires EU membership and maintain the state sector, which requires independent fiscal policy (power to raise money in open markets).

    The SNP doesn’t admit, understandably, that it has a problem.

    There are other nuances. If it is a new member, it has to work towards the Euro which is tricky if you don’t control your currency. If it is a succession membership, there is a problem with fiscal policy.

    The SNP by insisting on the pound (as far as I can see they do) are essentially voting for DevMax. The rest is political theatre.

  25. @Steve

    “How many national governments bailed out foreign-owned banks?

    How many US/French/German/Spanish/etc. banks with major London operations received UK bail-outs?”

    No idea. Tell me.

    Are Scottish banks foreign now, or do you concede they are UK banks with the debt and the profits being up for per capita sharing?

    I look forward to 8.5% of the publicly civil service-owned property in London. ;)

  26. Statgeek

    Are you having a change of heart on independence?

  27. Surely the key thing from today’s economic YES launch is that it is second top of the UK news.

    I’ve had a look at the document on line and it seems pretty impressive but above all the launch on TV looked commanding,impressive and above all positive about Scotland’s potential.

    It all increases my feeling that this referendum is all to play for and not at all cut and dried.

  28. Disecting the UKIP VI is useful. Say this happens (out of 14):

    UKIP from Tory: 7
    UKIP from LD: 3
    UKIP from Labour: 1
    UKIP from beginning: 3

    This could provide a buffer for the tories as votes return home nearer the election. Saying that some ‘others’ also return this could give the Tories a boost of something like eight percent. Taking this from 29 shown in last poll this takes them back up to 37. It only takes Labour up to about 35 or 36. This is if there was an election in a month or so that gave people time to think. This would lead to another coalition. If the Tory vote starts to come back from both LD and UKIP then they still have a good chance of forming a government (not neccesarily with big majority).

    Please be reminded that I am BNP so this post is impartial.

  29. MrNameless

    “Em very safe now”

    When there was only a 3% gap a few days ago did you feel the same way.

  30. RinM
    I am miffed with you for wasting my time. :-) I’ve just turned up that polemicist to whom you linked. The only saving grace was the lack of faux vernacular (it is the Telegraph after all).

  31. Good Evening All.
    Lots of amazing polls.

    I wish to share some news. After eighteen years of having a part time contract, following loss of Deputy Headship of a large school, I today, have got a proper full and Ethics. When the school offered me the job i broke down in tears, being old fashioned, it has been quite humiliating being only a ‘part timer’ . It made me think a lot about the plight of the unemployed and under employed.

  32. Turk

    Yes, because my point was that even with only a 3 point gap he can still win!

  33. I’m surprised that the SNP is pursuing a policy of currency union with rUK post-independence, given the sacrifice of financial sovereignty this would involve. The travails of the southern Eurozone countries should surely provide a salutary lesson in this regard.

    IMO a better option would be for an independent Scotland to issue a new Scottish pound, but if necessary, in the early years at least, to tie this at parity to the £sterling. IIRC, this was the policy followed for many years by the Irish Republic. When the Punt eventually floated free, it rose against the £sterling.

  34. CL1945

    Congratulations (if you need the money). What I don’t get (if you will forgive me) is that you constantly write about how grateful you are when school breaks up and you can get away from the little horrors. Is this a teacher’s common room type of humour?

    Well done anyway.

  35. @RiN

    Not really. My ‘heart’ has always been on pro-Scottish, pro-British answers. However, the propaganda floating around from both sides of the debate is plentiful, while the factual evidence is sparse.

    I’m happy to be convinced by either camp, but will oppose any amount of twaddle. If it makes me look as if I’ve made a decision, I apologise. :)

  36. CB11

    @”sn’t it ironic that at a time when a batch of indicators are suggesting, albeit very belatedly, that some sort of long overdue economic recovery may be setting in (FTSE record, house prices, inflation, growth forecasts and past revisions etc), that the Tory Party is engaged in another one of its intermittent cultural internecine wars?”

    “Ironic” wasn’t the word which I had in mind.In fact I needed two words.

    May I suggest caution over FTSE record=economic recovery.

    There is a mad search for yield as QE worldwide has stoked a bond price bubble & crashed interest rates. The merest suggestion that recovery -however tenuous-heralds the end of the mega monetary stimuli has sent investors scurrying from bonds to equities.

    It’s a great bull run-but I don’t think it derives from what used to be called “the fundamentals”. Not sure they know what those are now in the brave new world.

  37. Nicholson stepping down .

  38. rich in N

    Yeah I was going alphabetically and then forgot. Daft thing is the prompt re possible PM was suggested to make sure people would understand what they were voting for.

    I think too many who answer know are just expressing a general malaise so the figures are just weird. Often its clearly done as a deliberate ploy to make a party nervous – unsualy the cons.


    Congrats and am pleased you are happy about it.

  39. HOWARD.
    Staff humour, but I do not recall being pleased about getting away from the students, they are never the problem.

    And it is not just the money, it is the dignity of full time work, for me. part timer is not a nice term.

    And we do need money. Being a centre-leftie, of sorts, allegedly, we have sent our four children to private schools, and then to univ.

    Politics seems so madly topsy turvy at present.

    Is that with or without oil and Gas?

    Is that not what sixteenth century statesmen used to call ‘the debateable ground’

  41. Howard

    Sorry it wasn’t your cup of tea but I thought the idea that the Tories were planning what to do in if the coalition should break up is revealing


    This could be the very definition of ‘swivel eyed’.

    “I disagree with you so much, I’m going to blow my own head off!”

    If Tory MPs get wind of this, there could be a few awkward by elections coming up for Cameron.

  43. RinN
    What did it really reveal then? Apologies for dimness. If the Coalition breaks up there will be a confidence vote followed by a GE (IMO). It will only break up if one side breaks the Agreement. Who’s that going to be? It won’t be Clegg.

  44. Alec

    Yes he was a right winger and probably was a bit swivelly.

  45. @ Alec,

    To be honest I don’t think they’re selfless enough to blow their own heads off. I suspect they have a very different target in mind (and Witney is a safe Tory seat even in this climate).

  46. @ Howard,

    I think the Tory speculation is that it would be Vince Cable or Tim Farron who broke the coalition agreement. Although if I were Cameron it’s not Clegg’s position I would be worried about.

  47. This is, or ought to be, a scary level of polling for the Conservatives, being so close to the 3rd party (UKIP seem to have assumed that role for now) in a manner not seen since summer and autumn 1993. Back then there were a few polls showing them behind the LD’s (!) I wonder if that lays in store. Or with normal caveats applied, it’s just an outlier.

  48. Spearmint
    I cannot imagine that DC would care about NC’s future for one nanosecond (or vice versa) but if there was a rebellion against the Agreement by those you mention, the only victims would be those who brought it about.

    I just do not see the scenario you postulate. The LDs will be the last to break the Agreement. They are trapped by it (voluntarily). It is their badge of courage and the first to even attempt to promote breaking it would be toast (in the party).

    They don’t need to break it. DC had to promise a referendum on EU in the next Parliament because he can’t promise it in this one (see Agreement). It’s the same with everything else (‘mariage pour tous’) et al.

    Just name me a swivel- eyed policy that DC can implement (even if he wished to, which he doesn’t).

  49. Politics is getting interesting again so I can’t resist joining the fun after watching from the sidelines.

    So, to kick off, I can’t recall anyone comparing possible Scottish exit from the UK with Slovakia’s surprisingly rapid and fairly amicable exit from Czechoslovakia. As I recall, Slovakia immediately set up its own currency, central bank etc. The resulting low exchange rate and EU membership helped it attract a lot of high quality foreign investment (notable automotive) and it subsequently joined the eurozone while its erstwhile big brother hasn’t.

    Ireland, of course, had its own punt, having previously suffered from tying its currency to sterling. So I can’t see why the SNP doesn’t go for a Scottish pound. The canny policy then would be to massage it down against sterling, getting a big competitive advantage over the UK (imagine the cross-border shopping) and maybe manoeuvring it into parity with the euro allowing painless entry at 1:1.

    And what fun to find a name! The Scot? The Rabbie?

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