Forgive the rather Cybernat headline, but I am taking my lead from a source as independent as YouGov.
Between Oct 10 and Oct 12 the polling company conducted a survey of ~1,000 Scots and asked, amongst other questions, the following:
Which ONE of the following people do you think would be best at standing up for Scotland’s interests?
Alex Salmond 43
Johann Lamont 6
Ruth Davidson 5
Willie Rennie 2
None of these 24
Don’t know 21
I find the above result really quite incredible and there are many talking points to be extracted from this one single question alone.
There’s no good reason why the above poll results shouldn’t follow the voter intention party breakdown. But there it is, the First Minister is greater than 700% more preferable as Scotland’s political guardian than his nearest challenger and 300% more preferable than the three nearest combined.
There were no Holyrood or Westminster polling results attached to this poll that I could see but 43% isn’t far off the 44%(constituency)/45%(list) who voted SNP at the last election which suggests a reassuring pat-on-the-back for the First Minister from the people who put him there.
It is interesting to note that Salmond is seemingly not adding to his 2011 support base which, given the derisory results for other leaders, is in a way somewhat disappointing and evidence that he really is a love him /loathe him politician. 43% is, of course, well short of 50% and I probably don’t need to explain why that may be a problem.
Many derided Iain Gray for his lack of profile amongst the Scottish public in the last parliamentary term and one could be tempted to do the same here given Johann’s low figures above. I’m not going to do that but the question of why there is such a disintegration of respect for each of the unionist party leaders from their own would-be voters really does beg to be scrutinised.
The main conclusion that one comes to is that the public believes that Scotland is not currently devolved enough. That doesn’t mean that everyone is suddenly pro-independence, or will be in the future, but the public are watching and listening to the arguments that each party leader is making and, while many still clearly haven’t made their minds up as to what future they wish to see for Scotland, many more are finding the unionist leaders wanting.
There has been a meek unwillingness from each of these three leaders to push their individual party’s visions forwards. Johann Lamont personally announced a Commission on further powers but it is barely off the ground and won’t report its conclusions until after the referendum, Ruth Davidson has fallen into line behind David Cameron’s woolly ‘jam tomorrow’ promise of some sort of constitutional change after the referendum (if they still feel like it come then) and Willie Rennie has bizarrely ceded any Devo Max or federal initiative to Ming Campbell despite this quite possibly being the orange bullet that would salvage the Lib Dem’s reputation in Scotland, and Willie Rennie’s.
The Lib Dem leader occasionally states that a federal UK has been his party’s policy for over 100 years, but what have the Lib Dems actually done to advance that policy since the Scottish Parliament was up and running? Not much that I can remember and the party activists will only accept such atavism for so long.
It is particularly strange that all three unionist parties each have constitutional outlooks that are in theory closer to where the Scottish public seems to be right now but none of them can find a way to seize the agenda, elucidate their preferences and make a breakthrough in this area. If they did, and the ball is very much in their court with Yes Scotland visibly flummoxed, then they’d be a lot higher up the charts in poll questions like the one above.
Power wins prizes
To give the unionist party leaders their due, they haven’t had the opportunity to stand up for Scotland as none of them have held a position of significant power. How can they showcase to what extent they would defend the nation’s interests if their job is to hold a Nationalist Government to account?
Well, for me, this is still pretty weak as any of them could, at least in theory, defend Scotland’s interests from the opposition benches just as well as one can from within the Cabinet. Consequently, specifically for Johann Lamont, this poll is a warning that opposition to the SNP, on areas such as universal provision, council tax freezes and tuition fees, are simply not finding their mark within the public. Similar warnings apply to Ruth Davidson and Willie Rennie on, for example, contributors to the Scottish economy and cashing in on Scottish Water.
Scottish Green Party
They really aren’t getting a look in are they? The Lib Dems must be thanking their lucky stars that they still get included in these types of questions, and called upon so regularly at FMQs, when they have a mere taxi cab of individuals at the Scottish Parliament against the Greens’ tandem bike of representation. (suggested photo op for Alison and Patrick there…)
I’m not saying that Patrick Harvie would have rocketed to near the top of this chart had he been included but the Greens at least have something different and relatively radical to add to political debate in Scotland, from proposing revenue raising measures to Land Value Tax, and plenty more besides. They also took a lead in ‘standing up for Scotland’ through being the primary opposition to Donald Trump’s golf resort so they deserve being placed inside the public’s collective mind as a political option. After all, how would a Green voter answer the above question? Presumably acting the idiot with ‘None of these’ (see below).
I don’t know how the Greens are going to push their way into getting the recognition they deserve, but polls like these with an arbitrary limit of party options don’t help.
People are idiots
I’m sorry, that may be a bit harsh, but they are. The question asks “which one” of the party leaders is best placed to stand up to Scotland. The idiotic answer, “None of these”, which 24% of respondents went for, isn’t even an answer and YouGov should really remove it as an option. “Don’t know” is more understandable, if still nonetheless a moronic (moronic being officially preferable to idiotic) option for those that claim to have no clue who is leading them politically and how.
It is despairing that so few people are interested in what happens at Holyrood. That 45% of people are basically saying ‘don’t know’, ‘don’t care’, ‘they’re all a bunch of numpties’, ‘can I go now please?’ just disappoints me so very deeply.
Politics is about going for the least worst option, picking the cleanest dirty shirt, and the longer people mump and moan waiting for things to be perfect then the worse off we all are. (No offence James). It is a two way street though and our political leaders need to strive to inspire as best they can. Salmond is doing his bit and the quickest way for Johann, Ruth and Willie to boost their numbers by taking votes away from ‘None’, ‘Don’t Know’ and even the ‘Alex Salmond’ votes is to do as follows:
(JL) – resist opposition for opposition’s sake and join the SNP in standing up to the UK coalition where genuine cross-party agreement exists on behalf of Scotland, be it Trident, minimum pricing, council tax freezes, UK cuts (their not SNP cuts when it’s a block grant, let’s get serious), tuition fees or free care for the elderly. We’re stronger together and weaker apart, apparently. Also, arrive at a party decision on what type of Scotland you want to live in and don’t look back.
(RD) – use accurate arithmetic and clear figures to outline why Scotland would benefit from less Government rather than more. Explain and defend Osborne’s decisions in a Scottish context or loudly argue against them. Silence is not an option there.
(WL) – go for it wholeheartedly on extending devolution beyond the status quo, putting into words this apparently long held belief that the UK should be federal. In the absence of any other policy options given the Clegg-Cameron coalition mauling received in 2011, this should be an easy decision to make.
(PH) – keep pounding the SNP on their light green policies and lip-service to climate change despite policies towards oil, cars and roads. Also, keep the radical edge of being anti-Nato and for a Scottish pound under independence.
Some may wonder aloud how any party leader can outdo Salmond when it comes to standing up for Scotland but when it is a person’s job to do so, my sympathy for that plight diminishes as sharply as the polling gradient above. I genuinely hope for better from Lamont, Davidson and Rennie, but, whether they are successful or not, don’t forget Harvie.
And what else was in the poll? Nothing to get excited about, only that Yes Scotland would be ahead by 9% if they successfully persuaded Scots that they’d be economically better off to go it alone…