It seems that the anti-independence media is desperate for two things. Firstly after a long run of some two dozen opinion polls showing majority support for independence, it’s desperate for an opinion poll that unequivocally puts opposition to independence ahead by a clear margin. Secondly it is gagging for some evidence that all the incessant focus on the intricacies of the dispute between Nicola Sturgeon and her predecessor is having a negative impact on the electoral prospects of the SNP. After all the story represents all their SNPbad Christmases come at once, and if they can’t get this episode to gain traction and reduce the SNP’s vote share, it’s likely that nothing else will.
Trying to damage the SNP’s standing among its own supporters and fomenting division and disputes within the independence movement is the only card that the British nationalists and their allies have got left to play, after all, it’s not as if they have suddenly come up with a new and compelling positive case for the Union. There is certainly no improved devolution offer on the table which might attract the indy-curious who would be satisfied with some version of devo-max. Brexit hasn’t suddenly gone away, and although the vaccine roll-out is now well under way it remains a fact that the UK has fared worse in its handling of the epidemic than just about any other European state.
Although you’d be hard pressed to find any acknowledgement of it in our overwhelmingly anti-independence media, the Scottish government has performed rather better in its response to the pandemic than its Westminster counterpart. The prevalence rate of the virus is lower in Scotland, and despite lacking the full panoply of financial powers available to an independent state and hence forced to follow Westminster’s lead in some key respects, Scotland’s death rate is lower than that in Conservative controlled England.
So naturally the Scottish media has focused on the Salmond-Sturgeon dispute in the hope of getting some traction for the parties opposed to independence. That’s not to say that this should not be an important story, of course it’s going to be a big story, but even observers who have no sympathies with the independence cause have been struck by the double standards of the British media and its unwillingness to devote even a fraction of the same attention to the myriad scandals which envelop the Conservatives.
Speaking to the Herald newspaper recently, Alistair Campbell, the former spin doctor for Tony Blair, said that the saga had exposed the double standards of the British media, noting that it seemed “less well disposed to covering in quite such detail, and with quite such force, scandals involving the UK government in London”. He added that “[his] complaint with the BBC and other broadcasters is not that they are inherently biased, but that they are overly influenced by the agenda set by these politically motivated organisations posing as voices of the people”, and noted that “If the London media applied the same judgements and standards to Johnson and his team, as they did to Labour in power, or are doing to the SNP in Scotland now, I suspect he would have been so shredded he’d have gone back to writing columns for the Telegraph and Spectator by now.”
So you can imagine that the vultures of Scottish unionism might be desperate for some evidence that they were indeed pecking at the safely dead corpse of the SNP and the prospects for Scottish independence.
That can be the only explanation for the rush into print on Sunday morning of an opinion poll from ComRes purporting to show that opposition to independence had finally overtaken support for it among the Scottish public. British nationalists – the same people who have spent the last year asserting that opinion polls are meaningless because neither they nor their pals in the flute band had been asked, took to social media to crow about the first opinion poll in a year that put no in the lead. This poll was followed in rapid succession by another which apparently showed another lead for no.
But it soon transpired that all was not as it seemed. The figures from the Comres poll turned out to be unweighted figures, which to simplify somewhat means that they were figures which had not been put through the polling company’s normal statistical procedures to ensure that the poll represented a statistically balanced sample of the population which is likely to vote. In fact the raw numbers in this poll were identical to the those in another poll carried out by the same company in February , which after being processed for weighting had Yes ahead by 53% to 47% once undecideds were excluded.
None of this means that Yes must also be ahead on the weighted numbers in this new poll, but it does mean that we simply have no idea what the true picture might be. It is possible that there could be a Yes lead, or there could be a lead for no, or there could be a tie between the two. What we can be quite certain of is that the British nationalist crowing that it’s all over for the independence movement and the SNP was decidedly premature.
Meanwhile polling guru John Curtice tweeted that the true result of the Panelbase poll which had been reported as putting no on 51% in fact showed a dead heat with yes and no on 50% each.
Of course by the time this all came to light the false news that no was allegedly in the lead had already been widely reported, not least by the BBC. Yes, that BBC which tells us that it doesn’t report on single opinion polls, unless that is, it’s an opinion poll which apparently reinforces an anti-independence narrative. Then the BBC is extremely keen for Sarah Smith and Andrew Marr to tell us all about how the Salmond -Sturgeon story has broken the back of the SNP and the independence movement.
It ought to be clear to everyone by now that the BBC in Scotland is not a neutral and unbiased observer and reporter of the political facts in Scotland, it is an active participant in helping to shape and propagate an anti-independence narrative. You’d have looked in vain for any announcement from the BBC that the poll it had so gleefully reported on was inaccurate.
It was always obvious that the British nationalists would throw everything at us as they fought to get back on the front foot now that they can no longer lazily assume that they can count on a solid majority of opposition to independence. We should now realise just how dirty they are prepared to fight.
There won’t be a blog article tomorrow as I have a hospital appointment in Glasgow. This is the appointment I was supposed to have last week but which had to be cancelled because both me and my other half were unwell. The appointment has been rescheduled for tomorrow.
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