Saturday, 4 February 2012

If you want Independence; plan to take a neighbour.

There was a rather interesting tweet from Humza Yousaf on the 31st of January, “presenter tells me Peter Robinson urging Ulster Scots get to Scotland for no vote” presumably referring to the lead person in Northern Ireland’s assembly instructing Northern Irish unionists to travel to Scotland and make sure they were eligible to cast a “No” vote in 2014.

This attempt to subvert democracy has a potential to call into question any possible outcome involving a vote against the Scottish government’s proposed question.

If the comment is factual, and we’ve no reason to believe it isn’t, why are the supporters of the Union giving Holyrood a cast iron reason to call down any failure to pass their primary motion; independence. What has unionists panicking at this very early stage and how is it that they appear to be already expecting to lose?

We understand that David Cameron basically threw in the towel last weekend with his “in or out” ultimatum; with the appetite for increased enfranchisement and democracy that’s self-evident in Scotland, the UK PM’s action has no other interpretation. This followed by the blatant slight of Alex Salmond by the BBC over an appearance before the Calcutta Cup, the Union is destroying its own cause.

Let us be very clear, “Do you agree Scotland should be an independent country” is a question being asked by a sitting government of its electorate and it’s there because we asked for it. Democracy in action has been a rarity in this Scotland, and the taste is rather pleasing when a democratic deficit has been the norm.

Incidentally, another interesting point for those who argue semantics about Holyrood being a Scottish Executive is the wording of the 1997 poll “I agree that there should be a Scottish Parliament”. A Scottish parliament is what was voted on by the electorate. It was the will of the people, it was democracy; anything else is confabulation.

The 1997 referendum also used the word “agree”, to find fault with that terminology now would be ludicrous. It is Westminster’s nit picking its own electoral commission’s approved phraseology, period.

The thoughts engendered by the tweet and Cameron’s actions required looking at the polls again, but looking at them in a different light. It’s been an interesting 2012 so far. Barely a month in and the polls for the independence referendum are showing a reasonable surge for the yes campaign.

It’s not the surge that’s so important, or the polls, but who will actually turn out and vote. Who will that 60% to 70% of the populace represent? For if they’re primarily independence supporters, Westminster’s position is justifiably in trouble.

This may be what lies behind Salmond’s confident smile.

Polling for independence around the time of last year’s Holyrood elections had support for a full restoration of Scotland’s rights in the low 30% area. From there it took a little spike after the election and has now settled into a slow upwards creep.

January 2012 saw the anticipated flurry of polls around the time of the announcement of the consultation document. While most show independence neck and neck with unionism, in some cases it is actually nudging slightly ahead for the first time in years.

Since the advent of approval for a parliament at Holyrood there has been a significant fluctuation in independence support, a Scotsman ICM poll on June 5th 1998 showed 52% in favour with only 41% against and 7% undecided. These heady heights were balanced by another poll, the Telegraph’s Yougov survey on March 1st 2010 showing support for Holyrood’s motion down to 27%.

The low support poll was a potential aberration, it was taken in the middle of a Westminster election and it was done by Yougov who have a distinct track record of inaccuracy in Scots polling numbers, so much so, that they’ve actually had to acknowledge their errors themselves.

Working on the fact that the low Yougov result in 2010 is a reasonably pessimistic estimate of the bottom end of hard core independence support and that hard core support will walk through Hades itself to cast a ballot, the Scottish government can conservatively expect some 25% of the electorate to endorse its motion for independence.

We know there are about 4 million voters in Scotland.

It’s reasonable to estimate using polling and prior referendum results, which about 25% or 1 million are hard core nationalists upon whom Scotland can count to actually vote for her march to restoration.

In 1997 we know that 74.3% believed there should be a Scottish parliament and that 63.5% of those who turned out thought it should have tax raising powers. Both are almost 10% above where many polls had the numbers. We also know that almost 26% didn’t like the idea of a Scottish parliament at all, let’s call these 26% the hard core unionists of 1997.

An interesting poll that’s not been done, perhaps because our mainstream media wouldn’t like the result, is one asking the 1997 referendum questions of those who have become eligible to vote since then. It would certainly help identify the hard core “no” vote.

It is a reasonable hypothesis based upon polling demographics, that if the same questions were to be posed today the relative numbers would be over 80/20. With many of our younger generation who have known nothing other than Holyrood shaping their lives not being able to conceive of life without a Scottish parliament. We may therefore have a hard core 20% no vote.

In 1997 there was a turnout approaching 2.4 million, it’s reasonable to postulate we’ll see the same again, perhaps a hundred thousand more with our population increase.

Based upon 1997 data, on a referendum taken before the SNP had fully begun embrace social media and wrap its arms around the most comprehensive voter demographic identification system in these islands, quite possibly anywhere, those favouring home rule still managed to swing a 3:1 victory.

3:1 is a quite incredible result in any democracy for any question.

2014 will see Scotland in a potentially simpler place for nationalist aspirations as the party holding the core tenet of Scotland’s restoration is now the democratically elected party of government. Couple this to Westminster’s knowledge that it lost heavily in 1997 under a several month old popular Labour administration that Scots had voted for in substantial numbers. Consider next that 2014 will see a vote taken after four years of Con-Dem austerity forced upon Scots by a party with a severe democratic deficit and the convergence of fault lines appears nearly complete for destruction of the Union cause.

Round off the argument with the knowledge that Holyrood and Westminster are now diametrically opposed governments with fundamentally different core values. The first is socially democratic and the latter is capitalistic, avaricious and appears determined to undermine the social structures of these islands.

The government of Scotland is still very much aware that 2014 will be a harder sell because now its autonomy and not devolution that is sought. None are presently proposing Westminster’s hard sell of a perceived UK safety blanket be maintained after any “yes” vote.

Conversely 2014 will also see an easier sell by the Scottish government due to the utter lack of any political mandate in Scotland by the present UK government and the four years plus of austerity. Between the two areas it’s reasonable to expect a near balance with what happened in 1997.

Holyrood has a right to be optimistic, and to project that optimism. Based upon historical trends the cause of Scotland restoring her rightful place in the world is a simple game of numbers. That numbers game was only helped by a recent poll which did something other’s had not. It asked if Scots, knowing that they’d be better off would then vote for independence.

The significance of this wasn’t what was portrayed by the media, that of mean spirited, penny pinching rapacious Scots. It was far more reasonable to view it as another type of question, one which asked “If you knew the financial scare stories were rubbish, would you vote for independence”. The “ayes” had it by almost 2:1.

2:1, oddly that’s about the same as 1997’s vote for tax raising powers. The same percentages still wish to reap our own harvest and ring our own till.

In the last year or so Westminster has finally been acknowledging that Scotland isn’t “too poor”, although that argument still gets regularly trotted out. By referendum time it should be well buried. It will take the full two years to deprogram many Scots and for some, sadly, a lifetime may not be enough.

If our elected government’s motion is to pass, it must have somewhere above 1.2 million Scots endorsing it. At a low estimate there are already 1 million plus who will literally crawl to the polls to give that affirmation. Even when allowing for a population rise since 1997 that puts the proposal only 250,000 votes shy of passing.

Working with these numbers it’s possible to acknowledge that the hard core unionists now account for some 20% of the vote, the vast majority of them will show up to the poll. Effectively this means there may be somewhere over 750,000 “no” votes are in Cameron’s swag bag.

These union focused minds can be considered closed to argument; they can also be taken as already having been identified by the “yes” campaign. It can be acknowledged resources are unlikely to be wasted trying to convert them.

This means there are some 2.2 million “open” votes. The Holyrood has only to get 12% of these to the poll as a “Yes” vote and it should see its motion passed. It will take work to achieve the desired result but careful consideration says it really must be Edinburgh’s referendum to lose, not Westminster’s referendum to win.

It’s important to realise that it is not 12% of the electorate which the Scottish government needs to convert from a “no”, just 12% that need to show up, most if not all who might be inclined to vote yes anyway. Expect double or triple number that to be duly identified and ferried to the poll if required.

Add to these numbers the typical demographic where the highest support for independence is found. These are the more moderate earners who typically don’t see the high pay/bonus culture union rewards that those with elevated incomes do. Consider also they are often not hard targets of the pollsters, and the real situation may be even more skewed towards supporting the Scottish government motion than it first appears.

Westminster’s present policies are also dramatically enlarging the demographic from which independence is drawing much of its support; no change is expected in that trend before the poll.

Nothing is certain, and even a week can be a long time in politics, but Alex Salmond, Nicola Sturgeon and the rest of the incumbents at Holyrood certainly seem to have good reason for the optimism being evidenced.

Now, well now it’s our turn to support the government we elected in realizing one of its key policies. If only half of the individuals convinced of the benefits of their government’s motion converts or firms up just one additional vote, and if just half of them make it to the poll then Holyrood has every reason to be confident.

Take a neighbour.


  1. The thing is Scottish people are not some type of rebels , and the Scottish National Party are a politically recognised British party -and all we are asking is for Self Determination fro the Scottish Parliament as a Parliament, -come to think of it Cameron and company are all in favour of self determination for the Falkland Islanders, but Scotland!! So what on earth are they on about, -we do have different politics in Scotland ,and we are not mad on Conservatives , as we only have one member of parliament representing that group. Still it surely is our right.

  2. Great Article Hazel, thanks :)

  3. Great Article Hazel. Your spot on. The election is ours to lose, we must do everything we can to bury the scare stories and ensure as many "YES" votes as we can on the day.