We’ve had yet another opinion poll showing a substantial majority for Yes. Today’s poll for the Scotsman, carried out by Savanta ComRes, has Yes on 57% and no on 43%. When the don’t knows and undecideds are removed, there’s still a majority for independence, Yes is on 51%, No is on a mere 38 %, and don’t knows/ undecideds on 10%. The headline figure of 57% for yes is a 1% drop on the 58% recorded for yes in the previous poll for the Scotsman by the same polling company , however this is not statistically significant. Polls are usually carried out with a margin of error of 3% and a confidence level of 95%. What this means is that that in a poll which reports, say 50% ,for yes the true value for yes is +/-3% around 50%, so the true value for yes support in the population would be in the range between 47% and 53%. the confidence level of 95% means that if the poll was repeated, then 19 times out of 20, we’d see the same result. One poll out of twenty is likely to be a so-called rogue poll, which gives a result outwith the usual 3% margin of error and which is unlikely to be a true representation of public opinion.
So the previous poll for the Scotsman which returned 58% for yes was really reporting a value for yes between 55% and 61%. Today’s result of 57% is comfortably within that range and therefore by itself the apparent drop of 1% is not statistically significant. It most certainly does not mean that support for independence has decreased.
There are two important lessons to be drawn from today’s poll. The first is that this poll and the previous poll have both put Yes ahead of No by more than the margin of error and that even when the margin of error of 3% is taken into account, No is still polling below 50%. This means that we can be confident that independence really does enjoy majority support amongst the wider population. This confidence is reinforced by the fact that we have now had 18 polls in a row placing yes in the lead. That run of consistent results means that it is implausible that we are dealing with a rogue poll with today’s poll, as both it and all the previous 17 would have had to be rogue polls too. This is statistically highly unlikely. Yet this is the phantom straw which many British nationalists on social media are clutching at.
Yet others are refusing to accept the results, dismissing them as coming from “Angus Robertson’s polling company,” It seems that in the imaginations of British nationalists in Scotland, Angus Robertson owns and personally controls every polling company whose polls produce a result that they don’t like. In fact today’s poll was carried out by a company, Savanta ComRes, which has no connection to the former Westminster leader of the SNP. Moreover the poll was commissioned by the notoriously anti-independence Scotsman newspaper. It should be noted however that any polling company which consistently and deliberately produced poll results skewed to reflect the political opinions of one of its shareholders is a polling company which would be kicked out of the British polling Council and would not remain in business much longer.
Angus is a director of Progress Scotland, an organisation which commissions polls, but which doesn’t actually carry out the polling itself, the polling itself is undertaken by the Survation company, a member of the British Polling Council.
Today’s poll is a disaster for the Scottish Tories. It is the first poll carried out in Scotland since The Johnson Government’s Brexit deal, yet far from giving the Conservatives a boost in Scotland, this poll shows that the party of British nationalism is haemorrhaging support. The Tories are down 1% in the constituency vote and down a whopping 4% in the list vote – a figure which is greater than the standard margin of error. the SNP is on 53% in the constituency vote, down 2% on the previous poll and 44% in the list vote, up 2% on the previous poll. Translated into seats, this would give the SNP 71 MSPs, a clear majority, The Conservatives would lose 14 of their existing 31 seats and be left with just 17, being pushed out of second place in terms of seat numbers by Labour, which is projected to lose only three of its current total of 24 to be left with 21. So even though Labour would regain its place as Holyrood’s second largest party, this doesn’t exactly represent a boost in the party’s fortunes. a large segment of Labour’s remaing support is in favour of independence and is quite likely to defect to the SNP if Labour is foolish enough to double down on opposition to independence and support for Brexit. Meanwhile The Greens are projected to end up with 11 MSPs, meaning that there will be an overwhelming pro-independence majority in the next Scottish parliament with 82 seats in the 129 seat chamber being held by pro-independence MSPs.
The other information we can glean from this and other recent polls is that neither the new fringe independence parties nor George Galloway’s latest anti-independence vanity project are picking up sufficient support to even register in the polls. Equally it now seems certain that the great majority of people will not be swayed in their voting intentions by the twists and turns of the Salmond/Sturgeon saga, no matter how consumed by it some sites or sections of the media appear to be.
Of course this will do nothing to quieten the woe woe and thrice woe faction, who will just keep asking what use it is voting SNP if Johnson just keeps saying no to a section 30 order. However, that’s the wrong question to ask.
The real question to ask is what happens if the SNP does not do well in May’s election. The narrative in the media will not be that the SNP did poorly because the independence movement thought Nicola Sturgeon wasn’t sufficently aggressive in her pursuit of independence. It won’t be because some independence supporters were unhappy with her role in the Salmond affair. It won’t be that the SNP failed to secure a majority because there was no plan B for achieving independence. It most certainly will not be because the independence movement didn’t trust Nicola Sturgeon to deliver on a referendum. All we will hear from the media and the anti-independence parties will be that the voters of Scotland don’t really want independence, and that is the narrative that will become entrenched.
Politics is not primarily about facts, it’s about stories. It’s about who can tell the most compelling story. If politics was really about facts, Brexit would never have happened and Donald Trump would still be just a reality TV star. Politics is not about facts, it’s about establishing a dominant narrative. It’s about stories. If the SNP do poorly no one will care about your reasons for not supporting them, all we will hear is that Scotland doesn’t want independence. That might not be fair, but that’s what will happen.
Following May’s election, the dominant narrative we must establish is that Scotland wants independence. Everything else flows from that. The only way this can be achieved is by ensuring that the main pro-independence party does very well, and the Conservatives and Labour do poorly. The polls strongly suggest that we are on course to do just that.
I’ve recently been having severe issues with post-stroke fatigue. According to my physiotherapist it’s the most debilitating effect of a stroke, experienced by some 40% of stroke survivors. It means I just don’t have the energy to post a new piece every day, or to keep on top of the comments when (a small minority) don’t behave. So please, when commenting, try to think about that 10% of don’t knows and undecideds. If your comment won’t help to bring them to supporting independence, then maybe think twice about posting it and refrain from commenting at all.