As I write there is still one council to declare, but the maths mean that the overall result is going to be Yes 45%, No 55%. So, how did the polls do?

The final pre-election polls had all tightly converged around the same figures – Yes 48%, No 52%, with every company was within one point of this. In fact the level of No support was three points higher than this. For a single poll a three point error would be within the margin of error, but every poll being off in the same direction suggests some systemic error.

A possibility is the shy noes/enthusiastic yesses we discussed before the referendum, but on the face of it a simpler explanation is just late swing. The YouGov recontact survey on the day, going back to the same people they interviewed in their final survey found enough movement between final survey to actually voting to take the figures to YES 46%, NO 54%, one point from the actual result and enough to explain the apparent divergence. From that it looks as though no was going to win anyway, but there was a further movement from yes to no when people actually got to the polling station.

838 Responses to “Scottish referendum post-mortem”

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  1. @Mbruno – I think it will be far more complex than that. It isn’t going to be Cons for excluding Scottish MPs from English votes vs Lab for no change.

    Lab is likely to have a far more coherent set of plans for local devolution, plus probably reform of the West Lothian question, elected Lords, etc etc.

    If this is all the Tories promise, then they will end up looking partisan, out of touch, and weak.

  2. Alec.

    Yeah true about William Hague, maybe he put him in charge to keep him busy prior to retirement. It was the oddest of choices. I hope Ed gets a chance next May, he will have a chance in live debates etc to show how he handles himself, let’s hope he changes around all those negative opinions of him, if he does Labour will win by a large margin.

  3. “However, it may be a sufficientlly important issue to some voters to give the Tories the two or three extra points they need.”

    Well he’s not proposing an English Parliament but if he was I don’t think it would be worth a point. And I don’t think it would be that popular once people had given it any thought.

    Good article about the complexity of the matter here by Dr Andrew Blick of King’s:

  4. Spearmint: under Cameron’s proposals as the papers are reporting, Scottish MPs would continue to have a voice in choosing the British PM as the UK government would still be formed based on the overall membership of the HoC. Scottish MPs wouldn’t have a say though in picking the English first minister, who would be selected by the English parliament, which iwould physically coincide with the English subsection of the HoC, but would be technically a different legal body.

    I must admit it is a very ingenious response to the “two class of MPs” question. The “school debate club” paid off for those “effy Tories”.

  5. “However, it may be a sufficientlly important issue to some voters to give the Tories the two or three extra points they need.”

    Well he’s not proposing an English Parliament but if he was I don’t think it would be worth a point. And I don’t think it would be that popular once people had given it any thought.

    Good article about the complexity of the matter in the DT by Dr Andrew Blick of King’s College. (Unfortunately including a link sent my comment into moderation but worth searching out IMO.)

  6. ” The Survation poll you quoted seems to support that inference, especially if Ed Miliband goes against the wishes of 59 % of the people in England (plus the undecideds) !”

    But he’s not going to. Alec’s right. The idea that things can carry on as before is almost certainly dead. What’s up for debate is the form of English devolution. At the GE the likely split will be Tories arguing for some variant of English MPs only voting on England-only legislation and Labour and Lib Dems arguing for a a constitutional debate, maybe followed by a referendum. The wildcard is UKIP, but I’m not sure that they’ll see much merit in a Westminster-based FPTP sub-committee of the HoC.

  7. Has there been any confirmation of an earlier post that suggested that Cameron’s plan was to create an English Executive with actual “Devo Max” powers, selected by English MPs.

    That seemed a hugely radical proposal.

  8. An English Parliament drawn from within the Westminster Parliament is self-evidently a recipe for gridlock and disaster. If the Tories won in England but not nationally you would end up with two opposing administrations in direct competition for each other’s seats, with the capacity and the incentive to sabotage each other’s administrations in order to score points for their own team.

    This is a phenomenon known as “Washington D.C.” in political science circles and something to be avoided at all costs.

    A separate English Parliament elected along the lines of the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly is another matter. I think there are still clear problems with the idea of unified federalism for England because of its size, which is why regional federalism would be preferable, but at least it doesn’t manufacture perverse incentives for politicians to be pettier and more partisan than they already are.

  9. RogerH,

    I must leave now, but, just as a final thought: I agree it is complex and might not work, but, yes, Dave is proposing an English parliament. The fact that it overlaps with the HoC doesn’t change the fact that it will be an English parliament with restricted powers that Westminster will grant it under some sort of “England Act”.

  10. AC

    “I’ve never been a big fan of social media when it comes to politics…”

    “I’m reading quite a lot of content on social media regarding Labour in Scotland (from ordinary people) and from what I gather they are heading into political oblivion.”

    I’m on the edge of my seat here spadger. DO you pay any attention to social media when it comes to politics or DON’T you?

  11. @MBRUNO

    That’s not an English Parliament. It’s some members of a UK Parliament splitting off to vote on English matters. It’s more like an English committee of the HoC. The idea’s a non-runner and fortunately Cameron isn’t going to have the votes to follow it up.

  12. @Oldnat – hello, and sorry for your disappointment. We haven’t exchanged since the result and I guess it must have been painful. I hope plenty of good still flows from the experience.

    It looks like that is what Cameron is proposing, but it really is daft on so many levels. The first and most stark staringly obvious flaw is that maybe voters want to choose their UK representatives separate to their home nation government.

    What Cameron appears to be proposing actually disenfranchises English voters. Scots, Welsh and NI voters get two votes, for different administrations. We would have to elect one MP to do do two jobs. Maybe I want a Green MP for national matters, but a Labour one for UK affairs?

    Utterly and completely constitutionally dire idea. Purely got up for partisan gain.

  13. I heard Salmond on TV tonight seeking a different variety of solace to soothe the sour taste of the grapes he was being forced to eat. The only reason No won, he implied, was because of Brown’s eleventh hour pledges on increased powers. This denied Yes a certain victory persuading many in the Yes camp to defect to No. Now the Unionists in Westminster were going to renege and cheat the voters they’d conned. This was his gist.

    The purest poppycock. Yes’s goose was cooked from way back when and I’d be amazed if the prospect of further devolved powers persuaded anyone to switch votes, beyond possibly consoling some Yes’s if they failed to win. The reason No won was that a clear majority of Scots want to remain in the United Kingdom. They always did and I suspect always will

    Pretty simple stuff and the losers should get over it.

    Roll on Clacton, I say!


  14. Superficial polls on manifestly complex issues are clearly a waste of time.

    Worse they tend to reinforce the most simplistic viewpoint to a ridiculous degree.

    “Should there be an English Parliament?”

    Jerk your knees all together folks and say “yes.”

    Don’t say “I won’t know the answer until we have full details of how it would operate and alongside whatever other changes are to be implemented.”

    Good grief.

  15. @ Mbruno,

    I know. It’s an alternative proposal that’s been put forward by, eg. Mike Smithson. It’s terrible.

    @ Muddy Waters,

    Farage has already called for a constitutional convention. So far the line-up for the proposed English devolution process is:

    Constitutional convention: Labour, Lib Dems, Ukip, Greens

    Backroom committee run by William Hague: Tories

    I’m not sure this dividing line is dividing in the place Cameron intended…

  16. lefty

    A cynic [pas moi] would think it all depended on what the social media says…………………………..

  17. @Spearmint: “Farage has already called for a constitutional convention. ”

    Aha. Thank you. I didn’t know that. Like you say, with that line-up, it’s not at all clear that the Tory position is going to be much of a pull.

  18. Even if they did it, all the UK parliament would have to do is repeal it if there was a split administration. The political cover would be giving devolution in a better way.

  19. @RAF

    Thanks, that’ll do nicely !

  20. @britainelects: National Opinion Poll (YouGov):
    LAB – 36% (+1)
    CON – 31% (-2)
    UKIP – 16% (+2)
    LDEM – 7% (-1)
    GRN – 5% (=)

    Highest UKIP score on YouGov for some time. Absolutely no sign that I can see in any of the polls that Nige’s Peoples Army is in decline.

    And old Dougie C will be stirring the pot in Clacton soon too.

    It just keeps gets better and better for them.

  21. @ Lefty,

    It won’t fly. He hasn’t the votes in this Parliament and he won’t have them after 2015 either.

    It’s daft (typical, but daft) the way he’s played this. He had to make some commitment to greater powers for England to appease his backbenchers, but to just announce plans like this without consulting the other parties or proposing a constitutional convention left him wide open to the accusation that it’s a Conservative Westminster stitch-up. And since he proposed plans none of the other four parties want, the flak is going to be coming at him from all directions. He can afford to be attacked by Labour- they have an obvious self-interest in not answering the West Lothian Question and they were going to attack him anyway- but he’s just given Ukip another stick to beat him with.

    And for what? The irony is that a proper English Parliament or regional devolution all help the Tories- at least, they’ll protect them from total electoral irrelevance- so any possible outcome of a devolution process is a good outcome for them. Trying to shove the whole cake in his mouth instead of just taking the biggest piece was a strategic error.

  22. R&D

    Aye. But a pound to a penny that The Sun and/or Times commission polls this week that ask the question “Should Scottish MPs be able to vote at Westminster on devolved issues?”

    And then we have a string of senior Tories on the TV/radio plus front page headlines trumpeting the results in a “for us or agin us” stylee.

  23. Alec

    Not that disappointed, since I always thought my side would lose. Obviously, I’d have preferred the margin of victory to have been less than it was, but we are where we are.

    There is an opportunity to reconstruct the UK into a state that actually works for its citizens, but I fear that is not on the agenda of any UK politician!

    Incidentally, Jack Straw’s idea that the UK should unilaterally abrogate the British-Irish Agreement of 1998, and tell Republicans that they won’t be able to leave the UK through a democratic process is criminally stupid.

  24. Whilst I was around 5% out with the respective yes/no totals I was absolutely right in my conviction that NO would prevail, and do so clearly.

    I feel the same about the GE in 2015: it WILL be a Labour overall majority.

    There are two main reasons: firstly the alternatives just aren’t there. Even the core right wing vote is not guaranteed to go just to the Tory party as there will be UKIP. and the Lib Dems will struggle badly as people won’t listen to their side of the story.

    Most importantly [and I have no real knowledge of any particular policies being prepared] all my instincts tell me that a Miliband led Labour party really will come up with bold, new ideas which will appeal to a lot of the centre ground as well as those on the left.

    A final thought, touched on previously be myself and others: if there is early evidence that Cameron won’t win the support will slip away even further to UKIP. They will still end up with virtually no MPs but will hole the Conservative party below their already low low-water mark.

    And so………. to bed.

    Daisie will be two tomorrow but, to her, it will be just another day of normal pampering – like all the others

  25. @ Old Nat,

    Well, it is Jack Straw.

    (Commiserations, btw.)

  26. Spearmint

    Thank God for that. Back up to 120/80 now.

  27. @ Old Nat,


    Your information is 4 years out of date. The shadow DPM is Harriet Harman. Straw left the Labour frontbench in Miliband’s first reshuffle, back in 2010.

    I agree with you about his intervention, however.

  28. “He is the Shadow Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.”

    No, that’s Harriet Harman. I think he is just a backbencher.

  29. Spearmint


  30. Correction accepted – but then the Republican nutters might just do what I did, and look him up on Wiki!

  31. @jmc007

    “I hope Ed gets a chance next May, he will have a chance in live debates etc to show how he handles himself,”

    He won’t ! And not because he’s ot a good debater (I have no doubt that he is).

    He won’t cos there will be no debates. To have them, there needs to be all party agreement. I suspect Labour would want them, as they have nothing to lose and plenty to gain; and UKIP would love them. (For purposes of this post I’m assuming they are still performing well in the polls).

    But Cameron won’t; he’ll remember the weak performance he put up last time. And he, of all people, won’t want to have to either (a) face Farage in debate, or (b) explain why and how he prevented Farage’s participation. And the Cleggster won’t want one either; the last time round he was the new boy with the clean hands and the promise of a golden future; now he’s soiled goods in the second-hand car salesman league.

    One election’s debates is not yet a precedent. In the US, after Nixon/Kennedy in 1960, they had to wait four elections and 16 years before any more TV debates.

    I’ll take a level tenner with all comers that there won’t be televised debates next year.

  32. @ Old Nat,

    Hopefully the Republican nutters are not listening to Jack Straw? He is dead boring.

  33. Spearmint

    Hopefully they aren’t reading the Times either – for the same reason.

    However, it would still be sensible for UK politicians to condemn his intervention, and reaffirm that the UK has no intention of abrogating the British-Irish agreement.

    Of course, Labour might need to explain why they thought he was a great choice to have appointed as Home Secretary and Foreign Secretary.

  34. Might Cameron be starting out with a high offer, and plan on bargaining down?

    The leadership of Labour want English regional governments, at least for the North East and North West; many of them have wanted this for some time. Many Tories want an English parliament, and Cameron may be among them. If Cameron begins by seeking what is effectively a co-opted English parliament, then English devolution becomes the compromise position.

  35. @Old Nat (not, this time, Gnat)

    Thanks for calming down. Since Thursday the sniping and sneering has gone, and I’m by and large enjoying your posts.

    Straw was probably picked for high office on the grounds of his undoubted debating abilities, and his reputation from his firebrand student politics leftie days. Sadly, however, he is one of the not inconsiderable number of left-wingers who moved (as do most, myself included) to a more moderate position, but forgot to stop moving in middle age.

    I suspect you’re from my generation. Remember Desmond Donnelly and Woodrow Wyatt? (the mutts will love the quadruple alliteration with pike).

    Anyway, compared to Frank Field he’s still a leftie!

  36. For avoidance of doubt – I’ve just spotted the lack of clarity in my last post – I did stop moving rightward in middle age!

  37. Bill Patrick

    I always thought that the failure of the UK Government to do contingency planning for a Yes vote was foolish.

    However, that UK politicians didn’t even do contingency planning for the far more likely No vote suggests that they are actually incompetent.

  38. Back from my holiday and I would like to discuss the effect of the referendum campaign on the Scottish economy. From this point of view the voters chose the least worst option, but still there is a downside:

    a) From now on, investors will be mindful of the ongoing risk of independence in their business plans. This risk is particularly big for UK-wide businesses basing their operations in Scotland because if there is independence at some point in the future they will be stuck with the business located in the wrong country. So while I don’t expect to hear of plans to relocate existing business, it will be a different matter with *new* investment. Naturally as organisations evolve, some facilities are closed and new ones opened. No-one is going to admit to this as policy, but I think we will find a slow drift of major businesses towards England as this happens.

    b) The Barnett formula is toast. This delivers higher public spending per head in Scotland than elsewhere. Probably without the referendum it would have carried on by default but now it is in the spotlight, the chances of it surviving long-term are very slim. Thus public spending in Scotland will have to reduce (in relative terms, at least).

    c) Devolving powers and budgets to Scotland might sound like an unalloyed good thing but it isn’t. The responsibilities get devolved too, and if the budget does not suffice, then harsh cuts are required. The strength of a unified state is that the rich parts subsidise the poor parts as necessary but once the budgets and responsibilities are devolved that will no longer happen. This will be particularly sharp if welfare is devolved. Whilst in the past it was possible to grandstand about how much more generous a country Scotland would be, it is going to look a whole lot different when the alternative to cuts is raising Scottish taxes.

  39. *Sigh* it appears this thread has descended into another “Cameron is an idiot. Tories are rubbish” fest.


    I think you’re being a bit disingenous about not being “in any way opposed to English devolution” when you are also completely against any situation where the UK government is controlled by Labour and the English government isn’t, as that would mean “gridlock”.

    What you really mean is that you have no problem with Labour run regional governments in the North of England. It’s a great way to channel loads of public money (taken from southern England) into state-run corporatism and prevent the Tories from implementing their policies in the North of England.

    Besides, why should a split government between England and the UK cause gridlock? They would have different competencies. Scotland doesn’t suffer gridlock, despite the Scottish and UK governments being pretty much as far apart as any two groups could ever be.

    And of all the combinations, Labour at Westminster and Tories in England would be the least contentious, as Labour could be expected to hand England a larger block grant to spend than the Tories would. The other way round (austerity from Tory Westminster being opposed by Labour England) might cause some discontent (but not gridlock). However this is obviously not arithmetically possible.

  40. MOG

    In my 70th year – and happily more interested in living my remaining years in a society that rejects the inequalities that Tory and Labour governments have combined to condemn this country to.

    I have every intention of continuing to distrust politicians and their paymasters. I’ll also distrust those who have faith in politicians to change things for the benefit of the people, as opposed to for themselves.

    I’ll remain a happy cynic! :-)

  41. @Oldnat,

    Other than SNP politicians, presumably.

  42. Hal/Neil A

    Happy circumstance that your posts follow one another

    Hal : “The strength of a unified state is that the rich parts subsidise the poor parts as necessary”

    Neil A : “It’s a great way to channel loads of public money (taken from southern England) into state-run corporatism and prevent the Tories from implementing their policies in the North of England.”

    I totally agree with Hal. My choice of “state” would be different from his, but the same principles apply.

    The three richest areas in the UK are London (although the figures are inflated by including the economic activity from other parts of the UK in their HQ taxes), South East England and Scotland.

    In a unitary state, both “identifiable expenditures” and the actual location of spend for “non-identifiable expenditures” need to be taken into account, when calculating the transfer of resources from one are to another.

    For London to get a greater share of spending that even Northern Ireland is a bizarre way to run a country.

  43. Neil A

    “Other than SNP politicians, presumably.”

    Nope. Your presumption is wholly wrong. I do hope you don’t approach your professional life with the same disregard for evidence.

    I have frequently said that I distrust all politicians. Currently, I have less distrust in those who are arguing for independence. The greatest trust I have for any politician at the moment, is Pat Harvie,

  44. @OldNat

    Believe me, I’m every bit as much a cynic regarding politicians as yourself. After a lifetime in the public sector (apart from 14 years privatised, when my “customer” was my previous public sector employer) how could I not be.

    And I equally loathe the inequality that both major parties, as you say, have with the exception of 1945-51 perpetuated (and in the last 30 years intensified).

    However, I don’t fancy anarchy, so politics is the only alternative. And politics – sadly – entails politicians. So whilst it may always be a choice of a least-of-evils, that choice still needs to be faced.

  45. Sorry Oldnat, my detective skills clearly aren’t up to recognising the contempt in which you hold the SNP.

  46. For what it’s worth, I too agree with that part of Hal’s post.

  47. Neil A

    Your detective skills are really poor! I doubt that my Grandad would have let you join the CID in his day.

    I have contempt for some politicians – Jack Straw for example. I distrust the rest, but they are people we need to use – not to be used by.

  48. Wow. I’ve been reading this site for well over a year but never considered joining before.

    how the other half think.

    i’m what you would call real working class, as in never earned more than £300 a week in over 25 years of work.

  49. At last it seems we have a National Coalition calling the shots – at least on Scotland’s bid for freedom and devolution for all. This must be the first time things have been challenging enough for all three parties to work together on anything since 1945.
    However, the next Parliament will not be bound by this one, for as we all know one Parliament cannot bind its successors.
    We must move fast and work hard in the remaining eight months. We all agree that we must all agree before anything as dramatic as changing the constitution can be done. Agreement takes time, lots of it..
    Is there anything that could actually be done in so short a time to begin to honour the pledges that have been so kindly given to the Scots, Welsh, Northern Irish and the English during the last few days and weeks?
    Everything posted here since the referendum result was declared looks as though it calls for much more time than we have left in the life of this Parliament – except for one suggestion. The proposal (p5, September 19th 5.56pm)for giving to all the people – not the politicians, the people – in the UK equally and even-handedly a stronger voice and much more power to persuade and influence all future politicians’ decisions on all subjects, including of course the constitutional ones.
    The proposal describes the new bodies, one for each country within the UK, as Permanent Consultative Conferences.
    But what’s in a name?

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