Exclusive: July Holyrood poll by Survation

It’s month five for our rolling sequence of Survation polls, conducted as always in partnership with the Daily Record and Dundee University’s 5 Million Questions. The June results are here, and the Record have the indyref results. The big question shows 47% Yes, 53% No again, the same as last month’s result. Having said that, last month Yes’s 47% was 46.6% rounded up, and this month it’s up to 47.1% rounded down, with No correspondingly down from 53.4% to 52.9%. That makes for an unchanged headline figure, but the No lead at one decimal place has fallen from by 1% from 6.8% to 5.8%. Confusing, but that’s rounding for you.

Onto the Holyrood results. Usual background: I’m comparing vote shares to the previous month’s figures: but seat numbers are still shown as the change on the 2011 result. Seat projections continue to be from Scotland Votes, who don’t include UKIP in their methodology. The ‘kippers would be expected to win a small number of regional list seats at this level, although it remains unclear at which party’s expense those gains would come (roughly likely to be in proportion to list seats, i.e. costing Labour most, then Tories, then Greens). With all that in mind, here are this month’s figures.

Parties Constituency Region Total
Vote share (+/-) Seats (+/-) Vote share (+/-) Seats (+/-) Seats (+/-) %
SNP 44.1 (-2.1) 53 (±0) 36.9 (-2.4) 7 (-9) 60 (-9) 46.5
Labour 30.6 (+2.3) 15 (±0) 25.7 (-0.5) 22 (±0) 37 (±0) 28.7
Conservative 13.3 (+0.3) 3 (±0) 12.9 (+2.5) 13 (+1) 16 (+1) 12.4
Liberal Democrats 5.1 (-1.1) 2 (±0) 7.3 (+1.2) 5 (+2) 7 (+2) 5.4
Scottish Greens 1.9 (-0.6) 0 (±0) 8.1 (-1.9) 9 (+7) 9 (+7) 7.0
UKIP 4.1 (+0.9) 0 (±0) 8.1 (+1.1) 0 (±0) 0 (±0) 0
Others 0.7 (+0.2) 0 0.9 (-0.1) 0 (-1) 0 (-1) 0

Screen Shot 2014-07-11 at 01.00.05The first oddity is that this would see every last constituency go the same way as 2011. Although Labour are a bit up on last month, it doesn’t win them any more seats: they are at best treading water on these results. The SNP, however, would be down enough to lose their overall majority, and, as per the May result, would either need to run a very strong minority administration, or look for any other party to form a coalition with them. Despite that minor dip on 2011′s landslide, it’s an extraordinarily strong position for a governing party to retain more than seven years after taking office.

Looking at the smaller parties, it’s been a better month for the Tories and to a lesser extent the Lib Dems: both would be marginally up on their 2011 score, with the Tories now in a clear third place (last month they were just 0.4% ahead of the Greens on the list). As for the Greens, they’re 1.9% down on the list, and would elect two fewer MSPs than June’s poll indicated. I still think Patrick Harvie and Alison Johnstone would be pretty pleased to have seven more colleagues, though. With these numbers the second slots on the Lothian, Glasgow and perhaps even Highlands and Islands lists would be promising places for Green candidates, and selection will be competitive.

Making sure the panel is just right.

Making sure the panel is just right.

Before that, though, the small matter of the indyref. There’s been a pretty rough squabble about how to poll that. Are Survation right, or are YouGov? Well, YouGov were the most wrong about the AV referendum, the most recent similar vote. And in 2011 YouGov underestimated the SNP constituency vote by more than 3% and their regional vote by more than 9%, well outside the margin of error. You can even get odds on which side of the argument will be vindicated in September.

Sure, I’m biased, given Survation are our house pollsters, but their methodology is transparent, unlike YouGov’s. The latter have a weighting system for “red Nats”, but won’t say what it is, nor whether other segments are weighted for. More generally, Kellner’s argument, despite YouGov’s substantial underestimate of SNP votes in 2011, is that Survation have the wrong sort of SNP voter in their panel.

If you’re still not sure who to back in the battle of the pollsters, here’s a wee graph from @bgreysk on Twitter (precedes this month’s Survation result). The trend lines are the best guide, and from that YouGov look like the complete outlier. On this evidence, I think Ladbrokes would be easy to take to the cleaners given they’re offering 7/4 on Survation to be closest, but any bets are of course to be made at your own risk.

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Taxi for Lamont

Thanks to an anonymous (but definitely Labour) Labour person for today’s insidery guest post.

The precarious situation of Johann Lamont
lamontLeading Scottish Labour in this session was never going to be easy. Whoever led the party would have to deal with a Holyrood full of gloating Nats, and a Scottish Parliamentary Labour Party composed primarily of duds and d-listers.

Johann Lamont is in a precarious position. Since becoming leader two and a half years ago, she has failed to build a core of support around her. Upon reflection, this, perhaps, seems inevitable. Johann won the leadership thanks to the support of unions and parliamentarians. Little more than a third of ordinary members voted for her (a level of support that would embarrass even Ed Miliband). Unions are notoriously unpredictable with their support (remember when Unite backed Iain!) and parliamentarians are notoriously, well… treacherous.

Johann’s parliamentary support for the leadership was a strange ragbag of members ranging from Richard Baker on the right to Katy Clark on the left. While on the one hand, this can be indicative of a broad base of support, on the other it might also suggest that her support was built around her being the least-worst option. Since becoming leader Johann has built an inner circle that appears to consist of Margaret Curran, Duncan McNeil, and Paul Martin – hardly enough to keep the circling wolves at bay. In addition to not building a solid inner circle, Johann has also isolated a number of key figures, including Hugh Henry, Ken Macintosh, and Jackie Baillie. And despite having an MP for a deputy, Johann has done little to heal the rift between the Scottish leadership and the Westminster group.

Rumours are rife that Johann isn’t in it for the long-haul, and plans on resigning the leadership within the year. Having cleared a lot of the deadwood out from John Smith House, and, presumptively, having led the Labour Party through a victorious referendum campaign – Johann perhaps expects that she can step down with the gratitude of her party, rather than face the onslaught of another election against Salmond. Alternatively, Johann might not plan on going anywhere, in which case the rumours emanating from “party sources” might be designed to undermine her leadership and fan the flames of speculation. Either way, it looks increasingly likely that Johann will either jump, or she’ll be pushed.

So if Johann does go within the next twelve months, who are the contenders to succeed her?

Anas Sarwar
sarwarIt has been reported that there has been a breakdown in the relationship between Anas Sarwar and Johann. It certainly appears that, while once Anas was said to be “leading” Labour’s campaign against independence, his role has been somewhat downgraded to being a Prescott-esque grassroots favourite touring around on a bus.

Anas is undoubtedly ambitious, having become Deputy Leader of the Scottish Party barely 18 months after first being elected to Parliament. There is no denying that Anas is extremely popular with members the length and breadth Scotland, and spending most of 2014 touring around on his “battle bus” is only going to broaden his appeal.

Rumour has it that, were Anas to run for leader, it would be on a joint ticket with Jenny Marra. Such a ticket has undeniable attractions: east-west balance; gender balance; and ethnic diversity. Both benefit from family-connections, yet both are fairly new to the scene.

However, such a ticket also has severe drawbacks. Anas could be charitably described as “somewhat light on substance”, while one comrade recently described Jenny as being “insufferable”. A Sarwar-Marra ticket also lacks any discernible left-wing element which, as Ken Macintosh can attest, will be a barrier to winning support both in the Unions, but also amongst the MSP group.

Anas is extremely likeable. He has a warmth and charm which is more sincere – or more convincing – than most politicians. However, it is questionable whether Anas’ personal popularity can be converted to political support. It may be that Anas is destined to be another Prescott – someone whom we love as a navigator, but we would never really want in the driver’s seat.

Jim Murphy
murphyUntil recently, Jim Murphy’s political career has been on an extremely slow but nonetheless upwards trajectory. It is, perhaps, because of this unfaltering upward momentum that Jim previously appeared entirely uninterested in leading the Scottish Labour Party. Following Ed Miliband’s demotion of Jim, from shadowing Defence to shadowing International Development last year, his career has, for the first time, gone into reverse. With the class of ‘97 being increasingly overlooked by the Labour leadership and the media, it would be natural for many, including Jim Murphy, to start cultivating other options.

I have little doubt that Jim is interested in the job. Recently, a “senior source” told Paul Hutcheon at the Herald that Jim has “star quality”, while another “party insider” described him as a “first-class politician”. Now, Jim’s alright, and he does have his supporters within the party; but the only person with that lofty an opinion of Jim Murphy is Jim Murphy! Perhaps, having recently reached the conclusion that he’s never going to be the biggest fish in the big pond, he has decided that being a shark in the Scottish political loch isn’t so unattractive after all.

Jim Murphy has a number of obstacles to overcome – least of which is the fact that seat selections are already well underway. The perception that Ken Macintosh was in Jim’s pocket was a major drag on Ken winning support amongst MSPs, and I see no evidence that the Scottish Parliamentary Party will be any more receptive to the principal than the agent. Jim might have some support within the MPs’ group, but I doubt MSPs would take kindly to having a leader foisted upon them by Westminster. Furthermore, while Jim might have enthusiastic (some might say “cult-like”) support in certain constituencies (his own constituency, along with Labour Students, worship him like a god), his support within the broader party is more limited than many think. Even if the party did unite behind him, his avowed centrism will do little to win back votes votes from the Nats.

Finally, timing may be a problem for Jim. As a front-bencher in a party that’s in the lead in the polls, Jim may well be a cabinet minister with a foreign affairs brief within a matter of months. Unless the polls begin to paint a clearer picture of the outcome of the next election, then Jim will have to weigh-up the risks of staying put against the risks of abandoning ship. A post-May 2015 election would be eminently more suitable for Jim, for a number of reasons. First, he won’t have to gamble his career on the outcome of the 2015 election. Second, MSPs might be more receptive to being led from Westminster were it only for a short period in the run-up to the Holyrood election in 2016. Finally, if in 2015, as I fearfully predict whatever the outcome UK-wide, Labour loses seats to the SNP in Scotland, and wins few from the Lib Dems (taking Ochil off Labour is not a tall order for the Nats in the present climate, while Argyll, East Dunbartonshire, Edinburgh West, and Inverness could all be snatched from Labour’s grasp by the SNP) then the party may well go into panic mode and seek a “game-changer” to unite around. This, in my opinion, represents the best chance for Jim Murphy.

Kezia Dugdale
dugdaleKez Dugdale is already a candidate for leader. Whether she knows it or not; whether she likes it or not. The prominence that she has been afforded lately suggests that there are some within the party organisation (although, if sufficiently senior, then possibly as few as one) that see Kez Dugdale as the future of the party. Kez was recently placed on a BBC Question Time panel, a rare privilege afforded to few Labour MSPs (only two Labour MSPs outside of the leadership have ever appeared on Question Time – Hugh Henry, and Kez). She was proffered as the co-host of the BBC’s new “Crossfire” programme, and has recently been given a column in the Labour-supporting Daily Record. In a Stella Creasy-like way, Kez has built a higher profile in two years than most do in ten.

Kez has incredibly sharp political antennae. She is highly intelligent, though she doesn’t go around telling everyone that she’s highly intelligent (unlike Jenny, or Wendy, for that matter  - and it worked well for her!). As a parliamentary researcher, she was incredibly diligent. Her forensic use of parliamentary questions and FOIs made her a valuable asset to the parliamentary party. In some respects, Kez has actually been an MSP for seven years – because while George Foulkes may well have been the giant head, everyone knew that it was Kez behind the curtain.

Once upon a time, Kez’s naked ambition caused her to be looked upon sceptically by many. Like so many of Labour’s youthful staffers, she appeared only to discover her lifelong love of the Labour party when she was looking for a job. However, becoming an MSP at a comparatively young age appears to have satisfied Kez’s ambition for the time being, and she appears more comfortable, natural, and more likeable as a consequence. And whatever anyone thought about her ambitiousness, it was hard to deny that Kez is a grafter.

Kez commands considerable support amongst younger members. She runs a structured internship programme that pays a living wage. She previously worked for NUS Scotland and the Edinburgh University Students Association, which has endeared her to many in the party’s centrist student movement and its alumni. However, it is that centrist tag that may harm Kez most. Kez has been, somewhat unfairly, labelled a ‘Blairite’ for her involvement with David Miliband’s ‘Movement for Change’ – a tag that will endear only the very few remaining believers.

One asset that Kez might have is her association with John Park. The now-former MSP was crucial in securing the support of Unite for the most unlikely of candidates – Iain Gray – in the 2008 leadership election. And with it, others followed. While it’s a longshot that a centrist will be able to pull-off that one again, and Park now works for the much smaller ‘Community’ union – if Kez did manage to win some union backing then I’d make Kez the hot favourite for the job. And while she may not be an avowed Trotskyist –  she might not need to be. One way or another, unions and affiliates will cast a third of the votes, so Kez only needs to be more union-friendly than her competitors – and in a leadership fight with Anas and Jim, Kez may well be.

Neil Findlay or Drew Smith
findlaysmithWhile the last leadership election was effectively a two-horse race between, on the one hand the establishment candidate (Johann), and on the other the members’ favourite (Ken), making union support the decisive factor; the next leadership election offers plenty of scope for being more open. I am considering Neil Findlay and Drew Smith together as they both occupy similar political space: Neil is the more likely candidate; where Drew is the more plausible.

Neil Findlay is well known and well liked on the left of the party, having previously served as a councillor in West Lothian. Being the only candidate ever to have served as a councillor may well help Neil win support amongst Labour’s 400 councillors, and the associates and relatives that come with them. As Shadow Health Secretary, he is undoubtedly more senior than Drew, however he has failed to make the same impact in his role as Kez has in hers.

Though even younger than Kez, Drew Smith has all the hallmarks of an extremely plausible candidate. He is intelligent (although he does like people to know it), he is a good communicator, and you can be certain that Drew would attract union support. He has key allies in Dave Moxham (STUC) and Lynn Henderson (PCS); and having served on the STUC Youth Committee in the past, it is understood that both Unite and Unison are both strong supporters of Drew.

As a Glasgow list MSP, Drew has the advantage of representing the largest number of Labour members of any candidate. However, while Drew may be well connected, he can often come across as smug and/or aloof. Despite constitutional matters being at the very forefront of political debate, he has been practically invisible in his role as Labour’s Constitution spokesperson.

The role of unions is crucial in these elections for more than just their votes. Their endorsement is often key to demonstrating to constituency members that you are a credible, left-wing candidate. Union support also brings with it resources, including direct mails to members. There is a spillover effect too, as union members who vote often also cast a vote in the constituency section.

However, while union support might swing a close election your way (hi Ed!), you cannot win anything without support in the other sections, which is what makes Neil and Drew long-shot candidates. It is difficult to see from where either Neil or Drew would draw support within the Parliamentary parties – beyond the usual awkward squad. I cannot see either of them mounting serious leadership campaigns: however,  if either of them were to stand they might still play an important role in drawing union support away from the other candidates.

Long shots

Margaret Curran is always worth mentioning, having been a senior figure in the party since Jack McConnell’s leadership. However, Margaret has passed on three leadership elections thus far, and there is little to suggest that she has changed her mind this time. Astonishingly, it might well be that she doesn’t want the job!

Hugh Henry has flitted back and forward from the front bench more times than I’d care to remember. Well liked by much of the press, Hugh could draw support from both members and unions. He cuts a somewhat lonely figure around Parliament these days. If Hugh had the appetite he could be a serious contender, but all the evidence suggests he has no interest in the job.

Douglas Alexander appears confident enough that his Westminster career is safe enough, though, like Jim, much depends on what happens in 2015. If Labour remain in opposition then the election co-ordinator for two consecutive humpings may suddenly be in need of an exit plan! Douglas is a close ally of Paul Sinclair, Scottish Labour’s chief spin-doctor, who could be extremely useful in any leadership bid. Douglas is smarter and more conciliatory than most contenders, but I doubt he has either the desire nor the malevolence to knife his buddy Jim.

Our Islands Our Future

Thanks to Neil Gray for today’s guest post. Neil is an Orcadian, who for the last six years has worked in the Scottish Parliament for Alex Neil MSP. He is also active in the Yes campaign in West Lothian.

Orkney in the gloamingRegardless of the referendum result, Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles have guaranteed themselves greater recognition at a government level than ever before, thanks to the Our Islands Our Future campaign.

Last June the three island authorities saw an opportunity within the independence referendum conversation and formed a joint task force to lobby the Scottish and UK governments for enhanced decision making which would enrich island life. This week, with the publication of the Scottish Government’s proposals, that campaign won the proverbial watch with the promise of all Crown Estate revenues being returned to the isles should Scotland vote Yes in September.

That is the big prize for the isles in the 82-page Empowering Scotland’s Island Communities, but there are other proposals that will happen regardless of the referendum result.

However, clearly it is the Crown Estate pledge which is the most significant proposal for three very important reasons; the economy, the environment and for the politics of the referendum.

The Crown Estate controls the seabed out to 12 nautical miles as well as having significant land holdings and raises revenues from aquaculture, harbours, fishing and leasing the seabed for energy projects. It is notoriously difficult to extract figures from the organisation, but it is estimated that returning the aquaculture finance alone could be worth millions to the three local authorities. Regaining 100% control of that level of finance is a potentially massive windfall for the respective island economies given their growing renewables capacity. It will give Orkney and Shetland in particular an income stream bonus to allow them to plan and invest for life after oil. We have already seen some communities take stakes in renewables projects as a form of investment, with the returns being spent on community resources. Devolving the Crown Estate revenues will free up more capital for communities to invest in projects which can accrue further growth and provide greater scope for higher spending on public services. This will see our natural resources really work for the people. In remote and rural areas, where the delivery of public services can be a costly challenge, this could breathe new life into communities that heavily depend on them.

Providing cheaper, faster and more frequent transport and communications links would be obvious places to start. The Island Councils could also use the guaranteed revenue streams from the aquaculture and other developments already in place to do the UK government’s job for them and lay the much needed subsea grid interconnector.

By controlling the revenues from the seabed and Crown lands, the island communities will have an even greater vested interest in seeing the renewables sector boom. This draws obvious benefits, not just for our island groups, but for the whole of Scotland, as we strive to achieve our ambitious and world leading climate change targets. The Northern and Western Isles have massive potential for wind, wave and tidal power and we all have an interest in that taking off. With the European Marine Energy Centre based in Orkney giant strides are already being made into the commercialisation of marine renewables. The added impetus of controlling our own destiny and directing our resources for our own benefit, could be a game changing moment for this fledgling industry.

It is little wonder then that the Scottish Government’s proposals have been warmly welcomed by Cllrs Heddle, Robinson and Campbell, who have led the Our Islands Our Future campaign. Politically this could also be very significant in the referendum campaign. The reactions of the three constituency representatives for the Northern Isles – Liberal Democrats Liam McArthur, Tavish Scott and Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael – hint that they may have been outflanked and that the Crown Estate proposals will not be matched by the UK government. This is hugely significant as the Liberal Democrats have talked about the iniquity of the Crown Estate for time immemorial, but have allowed an SNP government to finally promise what their constituents have long desired. The line from the Liberals that this was a “referendum bribe” by the Scottish Government has not resonated, with one influential and politically unaligned Orcadian telling me it was not just weak, but “terrible” and that the last few days have been a “tour de force” for the First Minister as he “sliced the ground from under the unionist camp”. As a Yesser this is obviously welcome news to me, but these proposals were drawn together because devolving these powers is the right thing to do – by our islands and by Scotland.

It will be interesting to see what the UK government, which is due to publish its proposals soon, promises to deliver for our island communities if there is a No vote. What we do know is that the islanders have already embraced what this referendum campaign is about and started to look at what they want to see their communities looking like in the future. They already know that the Scottish Government will give them a far greater say even with a No vote. And while some islanders may not quite be ready to return a Yes majority, there is already a sense that decisions about their communities are best made by the people who live there. The decision islanders have on the 18th September is whether they can match the ambition the Scottish Government has for them, or whether after coming this far they retreat back from greater local decision making.

pic credit

Yes Together: Robin McAlpine, Wings Over Scotland, and the progressive whitewashing of misogyny

Thanks very much to @pastachips for today’s fierce guest post.

The transmisogyny of Stuart Campbell, aka author of pro-independence blog Wings Over Scotland, has been pretty devastatingly documented here. Edinburgh Eye did an excellent overview of his misogyny, homophobia, and other problems here.

Then I read Robin McAlpine’s piece in defence of Campbell. (Ugh, I know – if only political debate in Scotland passed the Bechdel test more.) McAlpine, founder of the ‘progressive’ Reid Foundation, and whose project the Common Weal is supposedly “for the wellbeing of all”, wrote: “I don’t write in support of Wings anything like enough”. He continues, “Wings …  is widely loved … because it is clear and unashamed in making our case. I have been following Wings for quite a while and have yet to come across any reason to quarantine it.”

McAlpine, in somewhat florid style (“to the local campaign whose leaflet is to be burned …”: pal, this isn’t actually Nazi Germany; the leaflet is being discontinued, and spares are more likely to be recycled), “refus[es] to apologise” for any of the “wonderful” Yes-campaigners; grandly vowing he will leave no man behind. Robin, your solidarity with dudes is totally cute and does you credit. No, wait. Not credit. The other thing.

I cried over this last night, and put it down to too much cider; when I found myself crying over it again this afternoon, having only drunk coffee, I figured I might genuinely just be feeling really fucking sad about misogyny among ‘Yes’ many activists in the referendum debate. Care about anything? Want stuff to be different? Hey, meet the new boss, same as the old.

I want to unpick an example Campbell’s virulent misogyny – the Walker case – in more detail than I’ve seen elsewhere, and wonder aloud how exactly so-called progressives still – still, still – vocally support this man, and trust his analysis, and promote his work.

At one end of a spectrum, we have Bill Walker, disgraced former SNP MSP, convicted of multiple instances of domestic violence, a catalogue of abuse spanning decades. Next up, Stuart ‘Wings’ Campbell, embarrassingly overeager to excuse and/or obscure Walker’s violence against women. Next again, we have Robin McAlpine, progressive par excellence, working for “the wellbeing of all”, who ‘doesn’t write in support of Wings anything like enough’. This is how it goes, I guess. Who is included in Common Weal’s definition of “all”? Given this solidarity with Campbell, who writes like a parody of a person excusing domestic violence, perhaps McAlpine doesn’t consider the ‘wellbeing’ of women, survivors of domestic violence, and women-survivors-of-domestic-violence to be a crucial part in his progressive vision. Wait, what?

Not My Comrades

Not My Comrades by suzy_ex

Stuart Campbell has written about the Walker/domestic violence case a couple of times, notably in this blog post, ‘Ugly Witches Are Easy To Hunt’. (‘Ugly Witches’ is a super-interesting choice of first words to put as your title in a blog post about a male politician accused of violence against women, isn’t it?) As I said, his article reads like a parody of someone excusing gendered violence – it’s that crude. Campbell consistently refers to “allegations” against Walker, despite the fact that Walker had by that point admitted to several of the offences in question; he states that he hopes Walker does resign, “because he was a liability to the SNP [due to another issue], and because we don’t think the SNP have anything to fear from a byelection at this stage” – um, priorities?; he criticises the Herald for calling what Walker did to three of his wives ‘abuse that spanned four decades’, on the grounds that this is a “tacky and misleading” phrase, before acknowledging the abuse “does of course in a technical semantic sense ‘span four decades’” (my god, Stuart, in a technical semantic sense? Tell us again how opposed to domestic violence you are, you hero!), before concluding the paragraph by telling us that it all happened a long time ago. Er – and?

It goes on. “There are allegations, as yet unproven” – again, no mention of Walker’s widely-known admission of guilt – “haven’t been and at no point will be the subject of any police action”. Many of survivors of domestic violence never take their experiences to the police, often due to attitudes like Campbell’s amongst both the criminal justice system and the public, but as it happens the Walker case did go to court, and Walker was convicted, and given a custodial sentence, and his appeal was thrown out, so Stuart Campbell’s confident assertion that these “allegations” “at no point will be the subject of any police action” rather reveals his hand here: his intention is obviously to discredit the women coming forward, rather than (as he’d no doubt like to present it) ‘rationally and objectively present the facts’, or whatfuckingever. And then he repeats that this abuse happened in the past and therefore doesn’t matter. Amazing work!

(Also, Walker receiving a degree of opprobrium for beating up three of his wives – so badly that at least one woman required hospitalisation - while having a lengthy and well-paid career, including in politics, is described as “a lynching”, which – just, jesus christ, no. Think of fourteen year old Emmett Till and feel sick.)

Campbell repeatedly parrots ‘innocent until proven guilty’, ignoring that resigning from Parliament is not a prison sentence imposed by the state, and therefore the strictures that apply in a criminal court case do not apply here. Where courts impose civil rather than criminal sanctions – rather more analogous to being asked to resign from Parliament, perhaps, since such sanctions typically are financial, and are not custodial – the standard of proof required to convict is “on the balance of probabilities”. Do we think that a man who admitted to hitting his ex wife; a man about whom three of his ex wives said he hit them, including in official divorce papers which he did not contest – do we think he might, just, maybe, on the balance of possibilities … have hit women? Do we? Does sharpening up the legal analogy to make it more attuned to the actual real world highlight the extent to which Stuart Campbell’s posturing as the last bastion of the presumption of innocence – near overwhelmed by hordes of mendacious, grasping women and yet standing fast – is both entirely ridiculous and entirely a deliberate distraction from the real issue, which is Campbell’s not-even-so-weaselly (!) refusal to condemn violence against women? And I mean, did he mention it happened a long time ago? Nothing that happened in the 1990s matters now, right?

Campbell concludes “doubtless we’ll be accused by hysterical idiots of misogyny” – yes! hi! – ‘hysterical’ being a pretty obviously loaded word to use in this (or any, but especially this) context, and also interesting for being a favourite word of noted perpetrator of violence against women, Bill Walker, who in his acknowledgement that he did indeed hit his ex-wife, stated that he did it only because she was “hysterical.

Maybe the all-time most disgusting instance of Campbell’s essentially pro-violence-against-women approach to writing about Bill Walker, though, is under the article ‘Your Rules, Our Rules’ (yeah, no kidding pal, we live by a different moral code and no mistake). Campbell writes in the comment section – in response to a comment pointing out that Walker admitted to hitting his ex-wife and his former stepdaughter, the latter with a saucepan – noting with regards to the step-daughter: “Didn’t Walker essentially claim self-defence with the cooking pot?

The stepdaughter in question, Anne Louise, was sixteen years old at the time. Walker was an adult man, reported to be 6’2” tall. He stuck her with a metal implement. In “self-defence”. (In Bill Walker’s trial – at which he was convicted – it was revealed that Anne Louise frequently attempted to intervene to stop Walker from beating her mother). Self-defence. That was what Stuart Campbell thought the most germane issue, the first thing to bring up, when discussing a 6’2” man hitting a schoolgirl with a metal implement.

When women raise the issue of Campbell’s entirely non-secret misogyny, they are often  dismissed as “unionists”. Imagine thinking that was an acceptable response? Imagine, though? Elsewhere on the internet, gross men patronisingly scold Yes-voting women for thinking that misogyny might be somewhat important, as if the aforementioned women were children (“So let us see less negativity from you …”). At 4pm on Friday afternoon, Robin McAlpine’s ‘In Support of Wings’ post on Bella Caledonia had over one hundred comments (the vast majority left by men) in support of McAlpine’s gushing praise of Stuart Campbell, with Edinburgh Eye constituting the only dissenting voice. Morag Eyrie, a Yes-voting woman (so you can’t even call her a unionist! Maybe accuse her of ‘splitting the movement’, eh? That’ll be fresh and new), wrote about McAlpine’s post “I literally feel like crying from the punch in the stomach of that article right now”, and summed up McAlpine’s position as “let’s just throw the LGBT and other recipients of his bigotry under the bus for the sake of indy”, concluding, “fuck that”.

Bill Walker’s lack of remorse was considered an aggravating factor in his sentencing. The judge commented, “in the few incidents where you acknowledged the use of physical force, you believed you were entitled to or justified in its use”. I wonder where Walker could have picked up that sense of entitlement, hmm?

Perhaps the same culture which fostered that sense even now gives space and support to Wings and other men who condone domestic violence? Some people may think a degree of progress has been made since Walker’s offences were committed, but we still live in a culture in which a commentator, widely feted by self-identified progressives, entirely ignores a male perpetrator’s own admission of violence against women, preferring to vociferiously defend the perpetrator as if the question of his culpability was ever in doubt.

Imagine if we could hold people on “our side” (gag) to the actually-not-very-high-standard of not defending a grown man beating a schoolgirl: fucking imagine that. Imagine if women – or people of any gender opposed to violence against women – who raised this got actually listened to, rather than being accused of being unionists or accused of splitting the movement. It is so so so telling that you see those who object to perpetrators and to excusers of violence against women as being the people who are splitting the movement, Yes-crowd, rather than say, ooooh, men who hit women and the men who support them. Like, have you ever considered that that might mean your movement is actually shit anyway?

Again, I wonder where Bill Walker could possibly have derived his sense that violence against women was really no big deal, huh? Any thoughts, Robin McAlpine? And beyond Bill Walker: there are men who are currently in our communities, including our activist communities, who are perpetrating domestic violence and sexual violence, and they’re getting away with it. In part they’re getting away with it because the women – and people of all genders, but mostly women, cis and trans – who are living through that violence know perfectly well that there is almost no social penalty meted out against perpetrators; people might, in the abstract, state that they’re “against domestic violence”, but when it comes to someone they agree with, someone who has “good Yes-politics” (fucking lol), then “oh, maybe it was more complicated”; “maybe it was self-defence”; “it doesn’t count unless it goes to court and we can already tell you it’ll never go to court”; “it was in, like, the past”; … sis, we just don’t give a fuck, actually – he’s got good chat …

Misogynists gonna misogo: I have no illusions that Stuart Campbell will ever give a fuck about violence against women, beyond tellingly sharing with Walker-types a propensity to denigrate women he’s designated “hysterical”. But the rest of you? Fucking Common Weal? He whitewashes Walker and you whitewash him and we’re all good and yay-we-get-a-new-Scotland? Really? I’m actually so fucking depressed by this, still. I get that this will probably be ignored, or I’ll get shouted down, or whatever. I’ve spent long enough in or on the edge of leftwing groups or movements to know how this goes. I don’t have a happier thought to end on, and my analysis here isn’t super complicated or exciting, because this is old fucking news. I’m basically just documenting this, to let you know: I see you. I fucking see you.

Turning 3 missed targets into an opportunity

Thanks to Dr Sam Gardner, Head of Policy at WWF Scotland, who has previously blogged for us on similar things, for today’s guest post on Scotland’s climate targets.

picwwfOn 10 June, to no great surprise but considerable disappointment, we learned that the Scottish Government had missed its third climate change target in a row. Emissions had actually risen rather than fallen between 2011 and 2012, in large part due to our poorly insulated housing stock and a reliance on gas heating. Behind the number crunching and greenhouse gas accounting, a missed target is not only a measure of Scotland’s climate change impact but also a measure of missed opportunities. Opportunities that if seized could cut air pollution and the 1000s of associated premature deaths it causes every year, could cut fuel bills and the stress of living in fuel poverty and create new, skilled jobs in new industries. Tackling climate change is a moral responsibility but it is also the means to a fairer, healthier Scotland that we must take every opportunity to secure.

Back in March after the 2014 progress report by the Government’s statutory advisers, the UK Committee on Climate Change I blogged that now was not the time to take the foot off the accelerator on Scotland’s low carbon journey, and that we must follow the Committee’s advice of increasing our effort across homes, transport, heating and land use. The package of measures announced by the Climate Minister alongside the missed target was a clear recognition that more can and must be done to seize these opportunities and turn emissions targets into a low carbon Scotland.

The Government’s package was welcome for its effort to ensure that no sector of the Scottish economy is left behind in the low carbon transition. As well as a Cabinet Sub-Committee on Climate Change, which will make climate change the responsibility of all relevant ministers, not just one, it included more funding for fuel-poor rural homes and greener travel, efforts to manage fertiliser use on farms and regulation of district heating, which will provide a spur to what is still a nascent industry in Scotland.

However, this package must only be seen as a start of greater efforts to assert policy control over Scotland’s emissions. Our legislation rightly demands tighter targets as we move towards 2020 and so we need to see a parallel step change across all sectors of the Scottish economy if they are to be met and the benefits realised.

The Climate Minister spoke to this challenge when he renewed the Scottish Government’s ‘resolve to meet future targets and ensure Scotland remains a world leader in this field’. This will mean that by the end of October, and according to the Climate Act, the Minister will need to provide a full report on the missed target, why it was missed and what further steps are to be introduced to compensate for the excess emissions. This is the opportunity to build on the cross-party support for additional policy effort that was echoed by all the opposition parties on the 10 June. The cross-party consensus that launched the Act is vital for the essential work of implementation and I hope all parties will take the opportunity to come forward with policy suggestions that will not only allow us to meet future targets but secure the transformative benefits of a low carbon Scotland.

As we move forward together on Scotland’s low carbon journey, we must think critically and act strategically. Are we ensuring that our plans are joined up, so that we’re not undermining with one hand what we’ve been fighting hard to secure with the other? Are we looking at great examples of win-win green projects in other countries? Are we building the low carbon infrastructure we so badly need or are we trapping ourselves in a high carbon pathway? And crucially, are we investing wisely – financially, socially and environmentally – for the future? It is incumbent on all of us – Government, opposition, NGOs and industry – to make sure that we do just that.