Archive for the 'Scotland' Category


The biggest loser. How Nicola Sturgeon did even worse than TMay

Thursday, June 15th, 2017

Alastair Meeks who correctly predicted the SNP tsunami of 2015 and that the SNP would lose their majority at Holyrood in 2016 looks over last week’s Scottish general election results.

General elections are like forest fires for party leaders.  Within 24 hours of the 2015 election, Ed Mliband, Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage had all resigned.  Paul Nuttall resigned as promptly after last week’s election, after the disappointing but expected loss of UKIP’s sole MP.  Tim Farron resigned before a week was out despite increasing the Lib Dems’ seat tally by a third.  Theresa May clings on by her fingernails, having lost 13 seats and the Conservatives’ majority.

Yet Nicola Sturgeon, the party leader who unambiguously did worst in the 2017 general election, remains in office, apparently untroubled.  Last Thursday the SNP lost 21 seats, just under 40% of their 2015 total.  In the last 50 years, only Nick Clegg for the Lib Dems in 2015, John Major for the Conservatives in 1997 and William Wolfe for the SNP in 1979 have seen worse declines for their parties.  All three lost their jobs in the aftermath, as you would expect – political parties should not reward failure.

Nor was this a narrow defeat.  In just two years, the SNP mislaid more than a third of their voters and a quarter of their vote share.  Angus Robertson, the leader of the party in Westminster, was among the casualties.  Alex Salmond, their reincarnation of Braveheart, was hewn down.  In Scotland at least, the Conservatives’ decapitation strategy worked.

There have been murmurings.  There have been calls for Peter Murrell, Nicola Sturgeon’s husband, to be stripped of his role as the party’s chief executive.  For now, however, the membership have been remarkably quiescent about a defeat that from the outside at least looks to be largely of Nicola Sturgeon’s making.

For now, the SNP still hold a majority of the seats in Scotland.  Beneath the surface the position looks considerably worse than that suggests.  22 of the SNP’s remaining 35 seats are held by a margin of 7% or lower.  In almost all of those seats, the SNP faces a clear unionist challenger.  The omens for the SNP in the next general election look grim.  Even if their vote share stays the same, they might lose a lot of seats simply from increased tactical voting by better informed electorates in each constituency.

The safest SNP seat in Scotland would fall to a swing of under 8%.  They suffered swings against them of more than twice that in some constituencies last week.  The volatility that worked so well for them in 2015 has left them looking potentially vulnerable everywhere.

All this leaves Westminster’s Nats in a vice.  They really cannot afford an early election: they need to wait for the polls to turn and that will take some time.  So they must manoeuvre to avoid the government falling.  Equally, they have sworn for decades never to do deals with the Conservatives, who on the current numbers in Parliament are the only party capable of forming a stable government.  If they break that vow, their supporters will turn on them with fury and Labour will receive an enduring polling boost.

So somehow they need to contrive to ensure that the Conservatives remain in power until their fortunes turn, but not to be seen doing so.  This is good news for the Conservatives, who can probably treat the SNP as reliable enemies in Westminster.  It is also good news for Labour, who should be able to contrive plenty of opportunities to show themselves to Scottish voters as more reliably anti-Tory than the SNP.

Unless the polls in Scotland move fairly quickly, this Parliament looks set to be harrowing for the SNP.  They could easily find themselves being pulled apart by Labour and the Conservatives.  They need to develop a new strategy fast.  They seem to think they can do so under a leader who has just taken them rapidly backwards.  You have to wonder why.

Alastair Meeks


How much of Scotland and will still be in SNP hands on June 9th?

Tuesday, May 16th, 2017

DavidL looks at the prospects and the betting

In 2010 Scottish politics look set in some Jurassic age. Not a seat changed hands. Scottish Labour dinosaurs ruled the roost and played on the national stage. In 2015, post referendum, the asteroid struck; an astonishing SNP tsunami, whose power was foreseen by few except Alastair Meeks, swept the SNP to a stunning 56 seats. The old Labour dominance was destroyed forever. What does 2017 hold for us?

We have a few clues. Into the vacuum created by the implosion of SLAB came Ruth Davidson and the Scottish Tories. They finished a creditable second in the Holyrood elections in 2016 depriving Nicola of her majority. They repeated the trick on 4th May taking second place again in the local elections from a Labour party that did not quite implode the way people had been predicting. But FPTP is a sterner test. The SNP remain the dominant party in Scotland vulnerable at the margins but certain to win the vast majority of the Scottish seats.

Where, at the fringes, are they vulnerable? Probably at the fringes of Scotland. The 3 border seats look very likely to go to the Tories. Orkney and Shetland looks nailed on for the Lib Dems with reasonable prospects in Charlie Kennedy’s old seat of Ross, Cromarty and Skye and Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross. The Liberal Democrats are 7/4 in the former and 11/10 with Ladbrokes in the latter, both quite attractive to my mind and a better bet than the favoured East Dunbartonshire where Jo Swinson starts off more than 2,000 behind and yet is favourite or Edinburgh West where the Lib Dems start more than 3,000 behind and yet are 2/5.

Beyond this the sheer scale of the SNP tsunami in 2015 daunts. What should have been marginal seats have huge majorities. In Perth and North Perthshire, for example, the Tories are odds on with Ladbrokes but Pete Wishart sits on a majority of 9,641. This seems an extremely unattractive bet for me at those odds. West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine looks very good for the Tories but 1/7? East Renfrewshire requires the Tories to come from a fairly distant third but again they are odds on. It demonstrates another problem in Scotland with the Unionist vote split between the competing parties. My expectation is that in several cases, notably in Edinburgh, this will result in the SNP coming through the middle and holding on. Bet365 has the SNP at 5/6 for more than 46.5 seats. Much though it pains me that looks a buy to me. My guess is that the Tories will get 6 plus some close seconds, Labour maybe 2 (Edinburgh South and East Lothian being the most likely) and the Lib Dems 3 leaving the SNP on 48. I’d love to be wrong.

DavidL is a long-standing poster on PB


Caught in the backwash. The SNP subsides and the Conservatives surge

Saturday, April 29th, 2017

Alastair Meeks who accurately predicted the SNP tsunami of 2015 looks at the best Scottish seat bets

In 2010, not a single seat in Scotland changed hands.  Electoral politics north of the border has got a bit more dynamic since then.  2017 will not be as wild as 2015 but the polls suggest a fair amount of movement.

The SNP already have 56 out of the 59 seats that they compete in, so their room for progress is limited. Indeed, the SNP have a job on their hands keeping what they’ve got.  Recent polls suggest that they have fallen back to the lower 40s while the Conservatives are polling something around 28% or so.  Scottish Conservative backers, never a reticent bunch, are getting excited again, this time with some reason.  Not much less than in England, there appears to be a wave election going on – not so much as in 2015 in Scotland, but still substantial.  The polls this month are suggesting a 10 to 12% swing to the Conservatives from the SNP.  Such waves are never distributed evenly and some seats will swing much more heavily than others.  How to pick them?

We have a recent example and I intend to follow it.  In 2015, the SNP didn’t so much have a wave election as a tsunami.  There is a strong correlation between SNP performance in 2015 and its absolute vote share in 2010, at least at the bottom end.  The seats with the ten lowest SNP vote shares in 2010 included all three of the seats that the SNP did not take in 2015 and four of the five most marginal SNP seats for this election.  It seems that we should look to prior vote share rather than swing required.

Using that measure, odds against bets on the Conservatives in Perth & North Perthshire, Moray and perhaps even Angus and Banff & Buchan seem worth considering.  Sure, they’re all already two way marginals but if swing is going to happen somewhere it’s going to happen in areas where the Conservatives are already strong and which are decisively anti-independence. 

If you disagree with me then you need to identify where the apparent Conservative rise is coming from (or conclude that it isn’t happening in reality, which is hard to reconcile with the recent polls).  I may be stereotyping wildly but I can’t picture Glasgow proving fertile territory for them.   If the Conservatives aren’t gaining much traction there, then they must be doing disproportionately well in other areas.

The Conservatives will in all probability hoover up in the Borders and they may take some other outside prospects but the odds now seem too short to me.  One possible exception is East Renfrewshire.  While they start with a relatively low vote share of 22% in 2015, they had tallied 30% in successive elections suggesting that Jim Murphy had got a lot of Conservatives to vote tactically for him.  He’s not standing this time and I expect the Conservatives to return home, bringing some friends with them.  In a very unionist seat, even 8/11 might be fair value.  I’m still not backing them, mind.

The Lib Dems haven’t shown progress in the polls, but hope springs eternal among the Scottish sandalistas.  Just by standing still, they potentially benefit from a swing towards them from the SNP as the SNP high tide subsides a little, while the 2015 election at least clarified which seats the Lib Dems are in best contention for representing the tactical unionist option.  Uniform national swing suggests they might take Dunbartonshire East and Edinburgh West, and you hear persistent murmurs about Fife North East based on their Holyrood performance last year.

While the Lib Dems obviously have good chances in all of these constituencies if they can harvest tactical unionist votes, their prices at present look too short in all of them.  The position is still clearer in Caithness, Sutherland & Easter Ross, where the Lib Dems are 4/6 favourites despite an 11% deficit behind the SNP, few Labour or Conservative voters to squeeze and with their former incumbent unable to stand.  I’m on the 11/10 with the SNP here and feel these odds should be at least the other way around.

All three of the holdouts against the SNP are marginals, but only one looks in serious jeopardy.  In the feverish aftermath of the 2015 election, SNP supporters sought to oust Alistair Carmichael judicially and despite failing to do so, hopes remained high for a while that the SNP could take his seat at the next election.  The moment, however, seems to have passed and while the SNP will try hard to take both Orkney & Shetland and David Mundell’s constituency of Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale, both seem unlikely to fall, with the unionist majority in each seat now knowing clearly who to back.

The remaining seat, Edinburgh South, also has a clear unionist majority.  However, it also has a Labour MP and Labour have continued their freefall in the polls in Scotland since 2015.  The Conservatives will fancy their chances of taking the seat from third as the replacement unionist party and the SNP could yet slip through the middle.  Betfair Sportsbook prices all three almost identically, with Labour and the Conservatives at 13/8 and the SNP at 8/5.  Given the low prior Conservative vote share in 2015, they seem unlikely winners to me.  If pushed, I’d back Labour.  But I’m staying out of this one.

Alastair Meeks


New YouGov Scottish poll suggests the Tories could make 7 gains in Scotland

Friday, April 28th, 2017

Graphic – The times

And the LD could triple their Scottish seats

The main General Election polling news overnight has been a YouGov/Times survey of Scotland which suggests that the Conservatives could start to win back some of the seats in Scotland that they held more than a quarter of a century ago.

The Lib Dems could also stage a small recovery tripling the Scottish total to three seats.

Labour, which at GE2010, won 41 of Scotland’s 59 seats, is still projected to be down at just one. It was that Scottish wipeout that was the dominant feature of the 2015 election and enabled the Tories to portray Ed Miliband as being in the pockets of the SNP.

We will get a better idea of opinion in Scotland next Friday when we have the results of the Scottish local elections which were last held in 2012.

Mike Smithson


PB/Polling Matters podcast on Brexit, Article 50 polling, Scotland and the return of GfK

Thursday, March 30th, 2017

After a momentous day in British politics, Keiran and Rob discuss public opinion on Brexit and  Keiran looks at Scotland’s future with Ipsos Mori Scotland Research Director Mark Diffley. Finally, Keiran talks more about the new GfK political polling that has Corbyn’s approval rating among Brits being as weak as Donald Trump’s. More on that polling (including methodology and data tables here).

The segment on Scotland dominates this week’s episode and is a particularly wide ranging discussion including new information on why the polls are not moving towards Independence at this stage. Keiran and Rob also unveil new Polling Matters / Opinium numbers showing party cross-breaks that might surprise you.

Follow this week’s guests:




How you can help the Podcast

Please vote for the show in the British Podcast Awards for ‘Listeners choice’. Just go here  search for ‘Polling Matters’ and click on the avatar with the graph (not the one by Frank Newport). Shortlisted shows get featured on The Guardian so it really helps grow our audience if we make the cut.


Don’t get complacent – Scotland’s future in the Union is hanging by a thread.

Sunday, March 19th, 2017

The case for Scottish Independence is full of holes writes Keiran Pedley but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen.

Since Nicola Sturgeon’s bombshell speech last week, where she indicated her intention to ask for a second referendum on Scottish Independence, the conventional wisdom appears to have been on something of a journey. The original reaction was one of panic. This was it. Just as we all feared, Scotland was heading for Independence as a consequence of the Brexit vote. Then Theresa May just said ‘no’. Now was not the time. There was a collective sigh of relief. ‘It’s not as bad as we feared’, the argument went, the SNP have overplayed their hand and this will all backfire on them.

The case against

I acknowledge that those arguing that Scottish Independence won’t happen have a reasonably strong case. First and foremost, Theresa May controls the timing of any vote. She will argue that a second vote will have to wait until after Brexit negotiations are finalised and there isn’t a great deal Nicola Sturgeon can do about it. In theory at least, that means that May can ensure that a future referendum takes place at the most helpful time for a ‘No’ campaign possible. Meanwhile, there is no obvious sign of a surge in support for Scottish Independence right now, nor an immediate desire for another vote on the subject.

Furthermore, it does seem that the ‘No’ side, led by Ruth Davidson, is getting its arguments in early against a ‘Yes’ vote next time.

“We have asked basic questions on things like currency, on things like a central bank, on things like whether we would even rejoin Europe as a full member, and Nicola Sturgeon seems unable to commit to that.” Ruth Davidson

The SNP case for Independence seems to rely on a newly Independent Scotland joining the EU, yet there is some doubt as to whether it would be able to. Meanwhile, Gordon Brown has warned that Scotland’s economy would be destroyed if it was a member of the EU and therefore outside the ‘UK Single Market’ when the rest of the UK is no longer a member.  These issues will be the subject of furious claim and counter-claim but it is reasonable to suggest that the case for Independence is built on shaky ground.

But don’t get complacent – so is the case for ‘No’

Yet all of that is of little comfort to me. Those getting complacent about Scotland’s future in the Union would be wise to think again. Whilst it is true that Theresa May can control the timing of any vote she cannot refuse one forever. A second referendum is coming and the context of that vote is that the UK voted to leave the EU but Scotland voted Remain. That has changed the game. So if the Brexit negotiations go anything other than swimmingly, the SNP will have a stick with which to beat the Independence drum alongside the grievance of a referendum withheld by Westminster. This is before we even touch the problematic dynamics of a future campaign itself. What will the ‘No’ campaign’s message be? Who will be in charge? What will Scottish Labour’s role be? And so on.

In truth, there are arguments for and against why Scottish Independence will ultimately happen or not. It was ever thus. That is not the same as complacently shrugging one’s shoulders and assuming it will all be fine. Just because Scottish opinion leans ‘No’ now does not mean that is fixed. We are about to enter an extremely turbulent time politically. If Theresa May does not emerge with a good Brexit deal – or indeed if she does not emerge with a deal at all – then the case for Scottish Independence will look very different in two years time than it does right now. If you are optimistic about the Union’s future, it is wise to be only cautiously so. The conventional wisdom on this issue seems to have lurched into alarmingly complacent territory and that worries me greatly.

Keiran Pedley

Keiran is the presenter of the PB/Polling Matters podcast and tweets about politics and polling at @keiranpedley

Listen to the latest podcast – on Scottish Independence and Northern Ireland’s future – below


As we edge towards the enactment of the A50 Bill Nicola has just made Theresa’s task harder

Monday, March 13th, 2017

The political price of hard brexit could be a smaller UK

TMay’s reaction to Sturgeon’s InyRef2 announcement was that the Scottish FM and SNP leader was “playing politics” – a term I generally conclude to mean that what’s been said has been highly effective.

Certainly the suggestions that TMay might defer invoking A50 until the end of the month suggests there’s a need to look again at her strategy and the rhetoric she will deploy when the formal process of extraction is triggered.

On the politics of the Sturgeon move there’s an excellent analysis by the FT’s Janan Ganesh who notes that the short timetable put formard by Sturgeon is one that is “designed to be rejected, giving her, at the very least, a grievance with which to stoke nationalism.” Ganesh goes on

“..She has also earned herself some leverage over the negotiations themselves. Mrs May cannot sign off on hard exit terms without risking the loss of Scotland, three-fifths of whose electorate voted for the EU. Such terms would not just threaten material harm to a small, trading economy, they would communicate England’s hauteur to the smaller nation. But if Mrs May softens her line, she must forgo the right to make external trade deals (to stay in the customs union) or accept free movement (to stay in the single market). The first would be death to her governing vision, the second would be unsurvivable…”

The threat of losing Scotland and thus creating a much smaller UK is a powerful one.

This is going to run.

Mike Smithson


The opening IndyRef2 odds make it odds-on that it’ll take place and odds-on that Scotland will vote YES

Monday, March 13th, 2017

Lots of activity from the bookies following Nicola Stugeon’s announcement that the SNP is going for a second IndyRef because of the vastly changed circumstances as a result of BREXIT.

The Ladbrokes betting:

Ladbrokes latest betting
Next Independence Referendum
4/6 Before end 2020
11/10 Not before end of 2020
Year of next Independence Referendum
25 2017
7/4 2018
5/2 2019
10 2020
11/10 2021 or later
Result of next Referendum
8/11 YES
11/10 NO
(If held before end 2020)


SECOND SCOTTISH INDIE REF BY END 2020..….4/6 Yes; 11/10 No


OUTCOME OF NEXT SCOT INDIE REF BY END 2024.……………..4/6 Yes to Independence; 11/10 No


To my mind none of the above odds either way are attractive.

The First Minister hads timed her statement for this critical day as the Article 50 bill gets close to becoming an act thus allowing Theresa May to formally tell Brussels that the UK is leaving .

Mike Smithson