2007 - 2021

The Meaning of the Ashcroft Poll

The latest Lord Ashcroft polling (‘Yes to Independence takes the lead’) has sent one section  of social media into howling meltdown, and others into a state of euphoria.



People are rightly saying three things: first the obvious point that this could be a rogue and what you’d really want is two or three consecutive polls to confirm (or deny) this direction; secondly that the prospective for independence needs to be not just based on ‘isn’t Boris Johnson terrible’; thirdly that other issues remain preventing a mass pro-indy majority.

All of which are true, none of which are particularly interesting.

What does come out of this is not just a possibly significant shift in opinion, but that it completely undermines everything for the Conservatives, and Unionists.

While the commentariat have been lining up to write-up Ruth Davidson’s obituary, the news is worse than to have a fatally wounded leader.

It’s true its all very bad for Ruth Davidson

Andrew Tickell writes:

“She arrived in the right place, at the right time, with the right set of communication skills to exploit the moment. She may have no evident policy commitments, almost no core convictions, no pl;ans about how to govern Scotland and no shame about reversing those few policies she has publicly committed herself to, but these are vices few political hacks will hold against you.”

But what the poll does – or will do if it’s repeated – is really destroy the core argument that the Unionist tribe have been rallying around.

That is: “we said no and we meant it” – and revolves around an assumption of moral and democratic certainty. It assumes that ‘they’ represent the solid and quiet majority of people in Scotland, and that the dreaded Nats are the wayward and wild minority. It’s not so much a coherent political argument or stance as just a feeling of superiority, often reinforced by age, class or education. It’s often articulated by people who don’t (and haven’t) had their own views challenged much in real life and who bring to the table a combination of a bristling visceral hatred of the Yes movement, and a sense of cultural self-hatred born from an entire lifetimes experience.

All that self-importance and incomprehension deflates like a flan under examination but also under pesky things like facts and polling data.

The Hubris of Unionism depends on the cultivation of two myths: first that Britain is an infallible construct that is eternally magnificent and unique; and it’s mirror, that Scotland is uniquely incapable and incompetent. The first myth is utterly destroyed, the second is the task facing Scotland’s democracy movement.

The people who voted for dependence in 2014 are seeing their idea of Britain fading into humiliation while the idea of a vernal Scotland rising is more alluring than before.

If Conservatives and Unionists have to base their politics on actual ideas and arguments rather than a sense of self-importance, they lose.

Comments (19)

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  1. tcrosbie says:

    Looking very ominous for the Tory’s, that’s what you get for riding rough shod over the democratic will of Scotland. Ignoring and insulting the people of Scotland doesn’t work. Bring on independence, this Great Britain crap is a scary place.

  2. Millsy says:

    While this poll is welcomed , it is simply a confirmation ( to me at least ) of what I believe has been the position for some time – that a majority in this country wish to see another referendum on our increasingly unequal ‘partnership’ in the UK .
    The unionist politicians supported by the overwhelming unionist media have been engaging in a project of simply ignoring all the signs of increasing dissatisfaction with the Union , and they have indulged in their equivalent of a child putting their fingers in their ears and screaming ”Lah, Lah , Lah , Lah ! ” to avoid hearing unpleasant news in the hope that it will somehow magically disappear .
    Welcome to reality !

  3. William Brown says:

    If only those Scots who fear Independence could see that they can still vote for their own favoured party, only it would be a genuinely Scottish version of that group. Not a branch of westminster, and therefore not dictated to by Westminster. They never know, they might even increase their following in that situation?? In the meantime they must be unique in being possibly the only citizens of a homeland that do not wish for their country to be self governing??

  4. James Sinclair says:


    On behalf of those people who support independence for Scotland I would like to invite you to take part in the March for Independence in Aberdeen on Saturday 17th August starting at Albyn Place 1.30pm. I do hope that a high profile SNP politician would be only too glad to take part in this event, There appears to be a feeling that the SNP have been too long sitting on the political fence and that their support for those who wish to raise the profile of Independence has been severely lacking. So I would urge you and your fellow SNP politicians to come out from behind your net curtains and join us in the March in a hopefully sunny Saturday in Aberdeen.

    1. Gordon Bickerton says:

      I have been on many marches for independence, some on foot and some with the Yes Bikers.
      Senior SNP MP’s and MSP’s have been with us, on the majority that I’ve been on.

  5. Dougie Blackwood says:

    We must not forget the Scottish Cringe. All too many believe what anybody with a little authority has to say.

    Last time the Chancellor said ye canny use the pound and many took that as a burst baw. Next time something else, equally spurious will be thrown up.

    Independence is not a hard and fast plan with all the steps laid out. It is the power to make our own decisions and decide on what WE want rather than being told what we will be given by a grudging Westminster.

  6. Meg Macleod says:

    holdfast Scotland..stormy waters ahead……tie yourselves to the mast……keep your ears closed to the beautiful siren songs of Boris`s carrots….m…..oh Boris..you said it all before…or have you forgotten. .?……..snp…..get your act together and lets hear some real purpose to your future plans….something different, brave and creative..Scotland deserves something better than a carbon copy of Westminster.

  7. Andy Anderson says:

    Yes, I must admit I was expecting this. I also expect that the forces which caused this change are still at work and that the positive position on independence will grow.
    This in turn will force the Unionist to finally have to address the real issues rather than rely on what they called ‘project fear’ and this fills me with hope because all the significant fact support Scotland being a normal country and running its own affairs are positive.

  8. squigglypen says:

    Independence is coming ..thanks to the jolly japes of Westmonster..but support the SNP….they are not perfect( who is?)..Nicola still holding her nerve….but we can do without carping and criticising of them – with plenty others waiting to join in and bring them down..Back them up…even if some things they do get up your nose ..they are our best hope and are in the front line of battle..taking a lot of flak as they stand there..so don’t join the a*******s who attack them. They are Scots fighting for Scots…no-one else is qualified to do it better for us. We are in the final battle….schiltrons in place….Nicola at the head with her wee axe….keep your nerve.

  9. Robbie says:

    It means , Its Comin Ome,Indy,s Comin Ome. Scotland’s Coming Home,right.

  10. Blair Breton says:

    Westminster has ignored and neglected Scotland for some years, and the breach of faith on Brexit has hammered home that point

    1. David Allan says:

      it’s no surprise that even after the warning shot fired in 2014 . Westminster thinking failed to react differently -result business as usual on Scotland.

      Their arrogance and continued contempt has altered many perceptions on “UKOK”.

  11. Alinscot says:

    There is too much excitement on this poll, personally I am looking for 60% to feel confident.

    I am mystified:
    a) why are the SNP constantly agitating against the UK having Brexit, it’s what they (England) voted for. If the SNP were actually successful in stopping Brexit, independence would be much more difficult if not impossible.
    b) Why are the SNP not concentrating on an independence campaign which should have commenced at least two or more years ago and it would also take pressure off having an indyref2 date.
    c) Are there ever going to be things like billboards with punchy messages and taking opportunities when live on air to get bullet points out?

    Perhaps there is a great master plan.

    1. Ian S says:

      In terms of a) the SNP are arguing for the best outcome in the current situation for Scotland and the UK, and are not playing the usual political game where they are desperate for a bad thing to happen because it makes them look better. In other words they are showing integrity. In my opinion this is a good thing.

  12. Bill says:

    Now we really need to see the SNP tackling the issues that caused us to fail last time. Developing a new currency, establishing a central bank, developing other institutions that will be required in an independent Scotland. They need to push hard in canvassing in all Scottish Parliament seats on all of these issues, in order to win a substantial majority, and then resile from the treaty of union – with no need for a referendum. Be under no illusion, there will be a ‘hard brexit’ during the election campaign called by Boris. We will crash out of the EU. We need to be independent of that lot in the south


  13. SleepingDog says:

    On top of the problems with such polling, the sizable don’t-know/won’t-vote numbers are excluded in many of the charts (apparently no category for “won’t say” exists). It should be of some interest to discover trends in the proportions of undecided/no-voting-intention/refuse-to-answer electoral segments.

    1. I am enjoying people denouncing the polling as flawed – the same people who use the polling to assert meaning when it agrees with their own views (last week).

      1. SleepingDog says:

        @Editor, actually I was following up on an idea of Adam Curtis’ Hypernormalization, which you mentioned recently, that the world (as relayed to us) stops making sense:
        and whether that will reflect in polling (that is, evidence of greater uncertainty).

        I have studied political science, and there are generally a lot of problems with political polling that various methodologies try and solve. The famous early example of confounding factors we were given was a US Presidential conducted by telephone at a time when telephones were only affordable by the well-off, which gave a false indication. Modern polling is far more sophisticated, weighted and balanced, and has access to modern data science, but is constrained by an unreal choice and a lack of cost, and hampered by false assumptions. For example, it may be heartening to see the Environment rising as a stated priority in UK opinion polls, but unless that is backed by action it is just a statement. The SNP might consider ways in which real and significant choices, steps and commitments towards independence, can be made and measured.

        Actually, I agree with your notion that there may be a tipping point beyond which unionist ideas are no longer the accepted status quo, and increasingly (presumably unavailingly) need to be justified by real arguments. Unfortunately, the only historical united forces I can think of are war and empire, neither of which is beyond the current UK regime’s stated intentions.

    2. Meg Macleod says:

      i am very annoyed at hearing the old chestnut `it was once in a lifetime opportunity` it is brought out every time a politician opens his mouth because he cannot think of another reason to deny Scotland another vote …….there are so many young people who are now old enough and able to vote …THEY have not had that` unique` chance to give their opinion..it is THEIR lifetime that is going to be decided..they should have the chance to vote in another ref…BUT SNP have to become believable with forward looking creative solutions to a world that needs to change ..getting those ideas into the public domain is paramount to convince the undecided and the unionists that there is a better alternative to westminster. One good poll isn`t enough to sit back and relax……. and it could be a disaster to do so

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