Archive for category Holyrood

Exclusive: latest Holyrood voting intention

It’s month two of our joint project with the Daily Record, Dundee University’s 5 Million Questions and our pollsters, Survation. The Record have gone with the indyref poll, the figures for which I intend to draw a veil over here. They have to try and not look partisan. I don’t think that applies to me.

Anyway, here are the latest Holyrood voting intention figures. Last month I did the vote shares as a comparison to Holyrood 2011. This month I’m comparing shares to last month’s data: but the seat numbers are still shown as the change on 2011 (I know this is a bit confusing and I am open to other ways of showing the data). I am also giving the first post-decimal point figure, although it’s false accuracy and as usual the margin of error is ±~3%. Seat projections are from Scotland Votes again.

Parties Constituency Region Total
Vote share (+/-) Seats (+/-) Vote share (+/-) Seats (+/-) Seats (+/-) %
SNP 44.9 (+0.3) 50 (-3) 40.6 (+0.7) 13 (-3) 63 (-6) 48.8
Labour 32.1 (-1.9) 18 (+3) 25.1 (-3.1) 16 (-6) 34 (-3) 26.4
Conservative 13.5 (+0.5) 3 (±0) 12.2 (+1.1) 12 (±0) 15 (±0) 11.6
Liberal Democrats 5.7 (+0.7) 2 (±0) 9.0 (+2.3) 7 (+4) 9 (+4) 7.0
Scottish Greens - - 7.3 (-1.1) 8 (+6) 8 (+6) 6.2
Others 3.8 (+0.5) 0 5.9 (+0.1) 0 (-1) 0 (-1) 0

A few things to note here. First, the SNP remain overwhelmingly Scotland’s most popular party, slightly above even where they were last month. If I were off to their party conference this weekend, almost seven years since taking power for the first time, I’d be pretty pleased with these figures. It’s a little off their peak, sure, and the absolute majority would presumably be replaced with another round of minority, or a coalition with the Lib Dems or the Greens. But it’s still very impressive.

Second, that would obviously be Labour’s worst ever Holyrood result – very marginally up on the first vote but paying for it on the list. There are some who think “Labour hegemony is normal setting” (sic), but if that’s true still (it isn’t) we’re a long way from normal right now. Outflanking the SNP to the right and a constant diet of negativity: these tactics are not working. In fact, much as the point of the referendum is that it’s beyond party politics, if I were to look for current non-indyref numbers that are good straws in the wind for September, it’s this: Labour are currently only appealing to about a quarter of the Scottish people, and only 69% of that 25% core vote here is voting Yes (15% No, remainder don’t know). That wider disconnect between Labour and the Scottish electorate can only help Yes.

The coalition parties have had a wee bump since last month too. It’s consistent with UK-wide polling, especially for the Tories, much as I can’t see how the last month has been any good for them.

The Greens aren’t quite at the high point we saw last month: but I’m pretty sure Patrick and Alison would be quite satisfied with six additional colleagues in May 2016 and the possibility of office.

Oh yeah, and UKIP are down to 4% in that regional “Others” vote, at the point where they need a serious target region or two to win seats. Which I don’t think they have, or if they do, I haven’t noticed.

See you again next month!

Margo Macdonald: a very brief obituary

MargoThe Scottish Parliament today lost one of its few true icons, the independent (former SNP) MSP Margo Macdonald. Long unwell with Parkinson’s, she kept working on right to the end, despite the very obvious toll the disease was taking on her. The tributes from all parties today will be genuine and heartfelt. 

Over her time at Holyrood she became associated with three issues above all, three things she campaigned on fearlessly: the right to die in the manner of one’s own choosing, the safety of sex workers, and of course independence. There would be no better tribute to her work than to make progress on all three issues this year.

Here’s her opening speech for the Stage One debate on her Bill on the right to die, from the end of 2010. When she spoke, no matter how regularly they disagreed with her, everyone in the Chamber stopped to listen. Her unique position as an independent MSP elected through a regional list means she will be unreplaced as well as unreplaceable.

This wooden IKEA is how you sell reduction

Being back in Sweden for the first time in a while, I’ve been able to watch Labour’s devolution proposals unfold from afar. What struck me most is that Labour still want the Scottish parliament to have less control over taxation than Swedish regional government does. Having tried to explain it to a journalist friend inquisitive about the referendum she was amazed that they would even attempt such a damp squib (from a Swedish perspective, some of the logical inconsistences of the Holyrood settlement are painfully obvious)

Within a few days of the independence referendum Sweden will go to the polls for its municipal and general elections, with expected gains for the Green and Left parties and perhaps even the first seats in parliament for the Feminist Intitiative party. The strategy of the Social Democrats in Sweden at the moment is to do absolutely nothing and ride the wave of disenchantment with the Cameronite Alliance for Sweden with whom they actually share a great many polices.

The Swedish Social Democrats, once one of the most respected and successful progressive movements in global politics, has become an intellectual void in the same way as the British Labour Party. Unable or unwilling to act decisively, time after time it produces reforms and reports they fail to either honour its past or develop any coherent vision for its future. Anas Sarwar’s doxological addiction to ‘fairness’ would be well at home in contemporary Swedish social democracy, just as it would be in that erstwhile heavyweight the German SPD. Drifts to the right are one thing, but drifts into directionless tokenism and policy by policy compromise and point scoring are almost worse.

The upshot of this could be that come October of this year Sweden will have a progressive government of Greens, Socialists, Feminists and Social Democrats in which the biggest party lacks any purpose whatsoever. It is strangely reminiscent of what one Labour insider said before the last Holyrood election when a Green-Labour coalition briefly appeared to be a possibility: “It’d be great. You’ve got the ideas and we’d get to be back in power.’

Splitting yourself between two similar but also very different political systems is a fantastic way of exploring political alternatives. The question for both Sweden and Scotland come September will be whether their social-democratic heritage can help to positively influence the future or whether they end up rudderless and unambitious in a tokenistic race to tick the right boxes without knowing why.

Who do you not hate?

In addition to the independence question and the Holyrood voting intention put as part of our first monthly Survation poll (with the Daily Record and Dundee University’s 5 Million Questions), I also get to ask another question, and I can be more partisan than they are. So I asked the following:

Irrespective of how you personally vote, which of the following parties would you like to see as part of a future Scottish government (for example, as part of a coalition)?

The results were pretty striking (I’ve changed my mind since last week, incidentally, and will show the arbitary precision in these numbers: bear in mind that just one more person picking a particular party has a one in ten chance of increasing their result by 0.1%). The figure in brackets here shows how far above each party’s list vote in the same poll their result  is.

SNP: 48.8% (+8.9%)
Labour: 46.9% (+18.8%)
Green: 22.5% (+14.1%)
Lib Dem: 19.7% (+13%)
Conservative: 18.1% (+7%)
UKIP: 8.9% (+4.3%)
SSP: 1.6% (+0.8%)

I read this question primarily as “which other parties do you not hate?”, and so if I were Labour I’d find a crumb of comfort in these figures – although the actual Labour list vote we found is pretty low, there’s a substantial section of the public who don’t currently vote for them who are not against them being back in office. The SNP, on the other hand, (with much stronger actual voting intention figures) look like they are closer to the top of their maximum achievable vote. But hey, actual votes certainly trump a reservoir of broader non-voting sympathy. And overall, it’s perhaps unsurprising to see almost half the country want to see each of those two parties having a role in office.

But the picture is a bit more complicated than it looks. The detailed tables show that about a quarter of Labour voters think the SNP should be part of a future Scottish government, and vice versa, which may be a recognition by a good chunk of the public of the broad similarity of the two parties’ positions on much of the policy agenda. Conversely, roughly 10% of both parties’ own voters do not want to see their chosen party in office, which seems a touch odd. That number is even higher for the Lib Dems, with more than 15% of remaining Lib Dem voters not wanting the party to have a role in government.

At the bottom of the list, the SSP do figure, but only one person in 125 would vote for them, and only another one in 125 thinks they should be in office. The damage Sheridan did to the party shows no sign of going away, which I personally regret. I’d like to see Holyrood return to rainbow days again, with a good group of SSP MSPs as well as more Greens. But that looks a long way off. Above them, UKIP are in the area where they might pick up a regional seat or two if their vote were to be well-focused enough, but a pleasingly small proportion of the Scottish public don’t hate them.

The middle order is also interesting. On the actual regional voting intention, the three smaller Parliamentary parties were bunched pretty closely – the Tories on 11, Greens on 8, and the Lib Dems on 7. Of those three, the Tories remain the least well-liked beyond their actual voters, the Lib Dems retain a perhaps surprising reach, and the Greens come in third overall, greatly helped by the 30.7% of SNP voters who would like to see us in office (18.5% of Labour voters also felt that way).

It’s tempting as a Green to get excited about these figures, but there’s a sting in the tail for the party, just as there is with the excellent list vote found for the party in the same poll. There may be a substantial pool of potential Green voters out there (enough for the party plausibly to aspire to become the third party at Holyrood, no less), but without bringing in more money, more members, and more activists, we will never be able to convert these figures into a reliable base for the party. That next phase is already happening pretty widely in Edinburgh, and in parts of Glasgow, but beyond that, the critical mass for the Greens exists only in the wards of key hard-working activists (shout out to Martin Ford, Mark Ruskell & Ian Baxter in particular here). As William Gibson said in another context: the future is already here, it’s just not very evenly distributed.

I’m too much of an inactivist right now to criticise, but the party’s problems remain broadly the same as they were even ten years ago. Patrick and others are working hard to try and help see the referendum won while simultaneously promoting the party’s distinctive positions, but the question remains: how can an increased level of interest and warmth be converted into those three vital assets?

New polling, specifically our new polling

Three major Scottish institutions today join forces (well, two major Scottish institutions plus Better Nation) to start a regular monthly series of polls, running at least up to the independence referendum. The other two are the Daily Record, who today report on the independence numbers (Yes: 39, No: 48, or Yes: 45, No 55 if the don’t knows are excluded), and 5 Million Questions, based at Dundee University, who are providing the analysis for them.

The data comes from Survation, a BPC member company, and is (of course) based on a ~1,000 representative sample of Scottish voters. Everyone involved has the option for other questions (I’ve got one more I’ll be writing up later this week), and we’ll be offering a crowdfunding option shortly if you have burning questions in mind. Organisations wishing to take out questions should contact Survation – the omnibus format means there’s room for many more to be asked.

Each month we’ll be doing a Holyrood voting intention as well. So, without further ado, here are those numbers. Changes are to the 2011 result (with those results rounded to avoid false precision), and seat numbers are derived from Weber Shandwick’s Scotland Votes site – that will be the case until we have the capacity to do a seat predictor ourselves.

Parties Constituency Region Total
Vote share (+/-) Seats (+/-) Vote share (+/-) Seats (+/-) Seats (+/-) %
SNP 45 (±0) 44 (-9) 40 (-4) 15 (-1) 59 (-10) 45.7
Labour 34 (+2) 24 (+9) 28 (+2) 17 (-5) 41 (+4) 31.8
Conservative 13 (-1) 3 (±0) 11 (-1) 8 (-4) 11 (-4) 8.5
Liberal Democrats 5 (-3) 2 (±0) 7 (+2) 5 (+2) 7 (+2) 5.4
Scottish Greens - - 8 (+4) 10 (+8) 10 (+8) 7.8
Others 3 (+2) 0 6 (-3) 1 (±0) 1 (±0) 0.8

I’ll be honest, I’m surprised that such a small change in the first vote figures should lead to nine constituency losses for the SNP. Having sought to avoid false precision, though, the rounding does marginally bring down the level of change here (i.e. Labour would be up 2.3%, not 2% etc). But one of these seats has flipped already (Dunfermline), and there were a lot of other pretty narrow constituency wins for the SNP which this projection would see flip: Edinburgh Southern, Edinburgh Central, Clydebank and MilngaviePaisley, Kirkcaldy, Aberdeen CentralGlasgow Shettleston, and the closest 2011 result, Glasgow Anniesland. I’m not really sure about Weber Shandwick’s calculations for some of those, notably Clydebank and Milngavie and also Aberdeen Central, but so be it.

The two other surprising results would be the Lib Dems being up a little but still being beaten by the Greens on the second vote. Again, much as I’d like to see a Parliament full of Greens, I suspect the party’s ground campaign remains too weak to support quite this level of triumph: probably three in Lothian, two each in Glasgow and Highlands, plus one each in North East Scotland and Mid Scotland & Fife, and one in either South or West. Quite the haul.

And in terms of who would form the next Scottish Government, an SNP-led administration would seem inevitable on those numbers, either a numerically stronger minority than the 2007-2011 period or a coalition with their pick of any one of the three smaller parties.

Clearly all of this is over the event horizon of the independence referendum, so it’s just a bit of fun. But for the SNP to be looking strong for a third term despite the coordinated fire they’re taking in the referendum debate is still quite extraordinary: it’s not hyperbole to say that they do look to have forged themselves into the default party of government at Holyrood. More next month!