What price a Scotsman’s vote? About £500 apparently. Beneath a headline claiming ‘New poll gives Yes campaign hope’ The Scotsman reports that support for independence, as measured by ICM, rises to the giddy heights of 47 per cent if voters are told that they will be £500 a year better off in an independent Scotland.
If this seems a disappointingly mercenary reason for voting Yes the same poll finds that many supporters of independence have their price. Only 18 per cent favour independence if, hypothetically, it were to leave you £500 a year worse off. The Incorruptible 18 per cent! Almost everyone else, it seems, has a price. Upon such things does the fate of nations hang.
The trouble with all this – and if narrow pecuniary concerns are a mildly shabby reason for voting Yes they’re just as grasping a reason for voting No – is that it does rather confirm something we’ve long suspected: there is no grievance or injustice for which independence is the only reasonable, logical or necessary answer. Few folk find themselves in the independence at any price camp. This is no struggle for national liberation. Many people are just not that bothered. (This may be depressing too. There it is.)
ICM’s poll, by the way, was championed by some Yes supporters because it, er, shows them trailing by a mere 17 points. ICM report 49 per cent of voters will vote No and 32 per cent Yes.
So, to recap: we have Panelbase showing a one point lead for Yes, Angus Reid reporting a No lead of 13 points, ICM a No lead of 17 points, TNS-BMRB showing No up by 22 points, Ipsos-Mori finding a No lead of 28 points and YouGov claiming a No lead of 30 points.
And still some Yes supporters claim it’s YouGov, not Panelbase, that are the outliers here. I fancy YouGov overstates the likely No lead but that’s not as daft a notion as claiming that there’s no No lead at all. Only the truly deluded can think that.
There are times, mind you, when the whole damn campaign resembles nothing so much as a gruesome Radio Clyde football phone in dominated by Celtic and Rangers supporters trying to outdo one another in an endless, mirthless, game of Whatabouttery.
Parsing polls for evidence of Unionist bias has become a minor hobby for some Yes supporters. It’s all rather reminiscent of the demented reaction some Republicans had to polls which showed that Barack Obama was going to defeat Mitt Romney. Since this did not fit their reality, too many conservatives leapt off the deep end and concluded that the polls were wrong – or, rather, skewed - against their candidate and, thus, against reality. A micro-movement sprang up to unskew the polls.
Of course the polls were right all along.
There is no reason to suppose Scottish independence polls conducted by some of the same organisations that have been polling all around the world for years now are uniquely inaccurate. No reason at all.
There is a methodological difference, mind you, between Panelbase and other pollsters. Panelbase like to weight their polls to the Holyrood election in 2011 in which the SNP won their surprise majority. That’s their prerogative. But it seems problematic to me, not least because we all know many people lent their votes to the SNP because a) Alex Salmond and co seemed reasonably competent and b) say what you like about the SNP but at least they weren’t the Scottish Labour party. Handing Labour power would have been like giving power to a dead halibut. Be that as it may, these were not votes for independence. Many of them were, in fact, votes for a strong Scotland within the United Kingdom. Which is still where a plurality of Scots seem to be today. Which, in turn, explains why the SNP are still polling above 40% in the Holyrood polls.
And the turn-out was only 50%. Which does rather change things. Not least since, in general, the higher the turn-out the worse the SNP are likely to fare. As I wrote for The Scotsman last week:
62 per cent of Yes voters would be utterly certain to vote in a Holyrood election held tomorrow, but only 47 per cent of No voters would definitely go to the polls. This is not surprising, but it is a reminder that Holyrood polls are an inadequate basis upon which to make predictions for the independence referendum and that Scottish Parliament elections are treated differently to Westminster elections or plebiscites.
This is one reason why the SNP have a kind of structural advantage in elections to the Scottish parliament. (Another is that everyone knows who Alex Salmond is).
Now that does not mean weighting polls to the 2010 general election – in which the SNP got just 19.9 per cent makes much sense either. That probably understates support for independence (the SNP vote, mind you, being similar to the percentage of diehards who support independence even if it impoverishes them).
This race is not, of course, over. Not yet. There is still a year to go. And it is certainly true that if the SNP can win an argument on economics then the Yes campaign will be much better placed to win. (Conversely: it also shows that a scorched earth No campaign could persuade Scots independence would just cost too much to be a gamble worth taking. This might be effective; it would probably also be ignoble.)
Even so, you can tell which side is losing – at least for now – and which is not pretty easily. It’s the side that finds encouraging signs in a poll reporting their side is only losing by 17 points.Tags: Alex Salmond, british politics, Scotland, Scottish independence, SNP