2007 - 2022

Scot Goes Off

Since 2008, Scot Goes Pop! has been the pro-indy opinion pollster.  But, with a flawed survey on gender reform and the promotion of Alba beyond its vote share, has James Kelly’s blog lost its sparkle? 

Done right, opinion polling is an accurate science with strict rules about sample size, selection of participants and margins of error. Dave Roos How Political Polling Works      

Are opinion polls objective?  You can’t argue with numbers.  If a poll shows a greater percentage in favour than against, doesn’t that prove the more popular option? 

In the case of Scotland’s future, it couldn’t be simpler: literally a Yes/No question.

Yet unionist media interpret polls according to their own political tilt.  Last April, the Sunday Times was disappointed at its Panelbase survey which showed nationalists on course to win a supermajority.  The recent 55% Yes from Ipsos Mori was headlined by the Daily Express as not necessarily indicative of what’s going on.  

The BBC, who claim to report trends not single polls, pronounced a No lead decisive, but played down the run of Yes majorities throughout 2020.  In 2017, Ruth Davidson crowed over a supposed 60% against indy, based on a ridiculously leading question, phrased to beg people to say “no”.

Step forward, Scot Goes Pop!  The pro-indy blog, run by James Kelly, is a corrective to the slew of No-friendly papers and broadcasters.  The site doesn’t pretend neutrality – instead it steers a forensic analysis of polls, parties and press.

As well as reporting and interpreting results, Scot Goes Pop! drills down into the methodology – probity of the questions, weighting of the samples, how and when the poll was run and who by.

More, Kelly has an exhaustive grasp of different electoral systems.  Defying flak, he’s made it his job to explain how Scotland’s voting schemes – first past-the post, d’Hondt and STV – work in practice. 

When he thinks there’s a gap – say, a long while since Yes/No has been tested – Kelly crowdfunds and commissions Scot Goes Pop’s own research, giving the initiative to a pro-indy voice.

Last October, SGP’s political journey took an interesting turn when it commissioned a poll about gender reform.  Past SGP! polls focused on independence and related matters, like a plan B for indy, Brexit and the handling of the pandemic in Scotland and England.

Panelbase (who ran the poll) shows that 23 questions were asked, 9 on gender and the rest on voting intentions, broadcasting, the EU and the royals. ScotGoesPop-Full-Tables-for-publication-261021.pdf  

While the questions on voting etc. are short – as few as 9 words – the gender questions are long, up to 155 words.  Some are hypothetical.  Others ask respondents to pick the most persuasive from a range of set answers. 

According to Kelly, his poll asks straight-down-the-line questions.  But is that true of this one, for example?

If a woman requires an intimate medical examination after being sexually assaulted, do you think she should have the right to ask to be examined by a doctor who has been biologically female since birth, or should she only have the right to ask to be examined by a doctor who is legally regarded as a woman, regardless of that person’s biological sex at birth?

How likely is that situation to actually play out in the way this question supposes?  Does it reflect reality, or is it phrased to evoke an uneasy reaction in respondents’ minds as they try to answer?

The questions and answers on voting etc. are straightforward (Which party will you give your first preference vote to?) and give the respondent a choice from simple responses (yes/no/don’t know/wouldn’t vote/a political party).

The gender questions are circuitous.  They start with a contentious point-of-view (Some people argue that…) and end with an open question (Which point of view do you find more persuasive?).  The set options are not the respondent’s own and use emphatic phrases like it is wrong; should and it is unacceptable.

Some of the gender questions set up a split between two strongly worded points of view.  For instance:

Some people argue that it is bigoted or transphobic to ‘misgender’ a transgender person – for example to refer to them as ‘he’ or ‘him’ if their preferred pronouns are ‘she’ and ‘her’.  Others argue that forcing people to use particular pronouns when referring to a transgender person is an unacceptable attack on free speech.  Which point of view do you find most (sic) persuasive?

So, on the one hand bigoted or transphobic, on the other forcing people and an unacceptable attack on free speech.  But do these stark terms chime with the natural impulses of people trying to use the right word?  Again, the question bludgeons real-life experience into hard-line contrast rather than engage respondents in a thoughtful and authentic reply. 

In answer to that question 29% said they didn’t know.  Don’t know responses to the gender questions are strikingly higher than the number of neutral replies to voting intentions.  (There’s no well, it’s a complicated issue, it depends option!).

Previous SGP! polls raised the money needed fairly quickly, yet – despite constant appeals on the site – funding for this one sticks at just over £4000 of its £6500 target, 3 months after it was run.  Kelly used his own money to cover the shortfall.  Future polls won’t happen until the funding is fully nailed down.

Kelly describes running this poll as an extremely stressful and bruising process.  

He says he’s heartbroken by the way the SNP leadership’s obsession with this issue has needlessly opened up a rift in the independence movement.  He claims his poll on this thorniest of questions aims to point the way to a much-needed resolution.  

As if this particular Gordian knot could be untied by 9 loaded questions!  

Summing up the results, Kelly writes: The Scot Goes Pop/Panelbase poll has convincingly demonstrated the public are strongly opposed to gender self-ID.

I, for one, am not convinced. 

Another interesting turn in Scot Goes Pop’s political journey came in March 2021.  Kelly, antsy (like many of us) for indyref2, quit the SNP and joined Alba.  In September, Kelly was elected to the new party’s national executive committee.

This isn’t just personal.  The site has long weighed the case for another party to spur the SNP.  It charted the fortunes of the Scottish Socialist Party, Solidarity, Rise and others trying for electoral success in the Scottish parliament. Only the first, led by pre-perjury Tommy Sheridan, managed it.

Since 2003 – apart from the SNP, the Greens and individuals like Margo MacDonald and Dennis Canavan – no pro-indy group has won representation at Holyrood.  

Scot Goes Pop! has consistently argued that such a party needs one thing to make a breakthrough: a weel-kent face.  

Step forward, at the eleventh hour, Alex Salmond.  In the 7 weeks between its launch and the 2021 Holyrood election, Alba got plenty of coverage on SGP!: Alba ascendant on course for 6 seats. Campaign hard and make sure that Alba reach at least 5%.  Seven good reasons to vote Alba.  The site urged its co-belligerent, Wings Over Scotland, to stop wasting time on trans rights and campaign for Alba.

Alba won no seats at Holyrood.  Its vote share was 1.66% of the regional list.  The low result may in part be due to Alex Salmond’s exclusion from all 5 TV debates; SGP! argues that outcomes hinge on these set-pieces.  

Despite the setback, the blog thinks it would be realistic to persevere and pressurise the SNP because Alba boasts two MPs and a good number of local councillors.  But all these were defections from the SNP, none elected under the Alba banner.

Kelly stayed open towards his former party, urging people to vote SNP on the constituency ballot, an attitude unreciprocated by Scotland’s dominant party.  The SNP ignored Alba.  Or, in some cases, spat venom at it.

Now, nine months after the Holyrood vote and three before local government elections, SGP! still thinks Alba could be a mainstream party.  

He’s surely right in seeing space – and need – for forces more radical than the SNP, in power for 15 years and with enough to do keeping the show on the road.

Maybe such forces could come from a schism in Scottish Labour who finally realise how dead-end their party’s position has become.  The grassroots independence movement, wings clipped by Covid, might produce a group to stiffen the SNP’s resolve.

But a party led by Alex Salmond?  Whatever your view, there’s too much baggage.  Perhaps if a less Marmite figure – say, deputy leader Kenny MacAskill – took over, the party might cut through, but, as things stand, it’s hard to see how Alba will gain many council seats.  

As a seasoned pollster, is Kelly’s optimism an accurate reflection of the likely results?  Or is he kidding himself?

We’ll find out in May.

Comments (74)

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  1. Topher Dawson says:

    James Kelly has made a conscientious attempt to gauge public opinion on gender politics. The long questions reflect the fact that most ordinary people have not thought much about gender questions, not surprising since UK government Census information indicate that trans people are less than half of one percent of the population.

    I do think that the SNP, my former party, and the SGP, my current party, have taken a stance on trans issues like gender recognition which is not going to be supported by voters when those voters find out what the stance means. This policy on a very minority issue is going to have serious repercussions for the large questions like global warming and Scottish Independence and is an entirely unforced mistake.

    On the Alba Party I agree Salmond does have a lot of baggage which kind of puts me off, and it reminds me of the Monty Python “splitters”.

    1. carthannas says:

      Part of Alex Salmond’s “baggage” is to have been cleared of false charges set against him in the hope of destroying him. Not to mention his a gaining a referendum and substantially increasing support for independence. Neither of which stands a cat in hell’s chance of being achieved by either your current, or former, leader.

      1. Mr Chips says:

        Salmond was not “cleared of false charges” because there no false charges.

        The prosecution did not convince the jury beyond reasonable doubt that Salmond’s behaviour met a precise definition of criminality. We cannot state any more than that and remain in the world of facts.

        Do you believe that all trials that fail to result in a guilty verdict involve acts of perjury?

        1. Fishnchips says:

          Defending people who lie in court as part of a conspiracy to send Salmond to jail is not a good look for anyone.

          1. @ Fish Supper says:

            But do you have any evidence that such a conspiracy exists, or is its existence just being asserted as innuendo?

          2. Mr Chips says:

            Can you show me the perjury charges?

            Not guilty and not proven verdicts are not evidence of perjury. Juries are asked to answer very specific questions about criminality to a high bar of beyond reasonable doubt. If every case that ended in a not guilty or not proven verdict resulted in perjury trials, nobody would ever accuse anyone of anything and we’d have no justice at all.

          3. Fishnchips says:

            “Can you show me the perjury charges”

            Well obviously you know that there are none at present so a pretty pointless statement. That does not mean that they did not lie. Oh and the silly do you think everybody who loses a case lied and perjured themselves is just as silly a comment. The British state does not prosecute its little helpers if it can help it.

  2. Jacob Bonnari says:

    This is an odd article. It starts off praising SGP’s contribution to the Scottish political scene, then criticises it for engaging on what is a controversial, complex and topical issue (see EHRC comments over the weekend) and then finishes with a discussion about Alba’s leadership and how that may have impacted on its electoral performance.

    Three articles in one! Each would have been better as it’s own.

    No doubt James Kelly will be along with a response soon.

  3. @ Bella Caledonia Editor says:

    I love the way the issue is presented not as an issue of justice for transgender people, but as an issue of whether supporting justice for transgender people will attract or alienate support for the independentista parties at the polls.

    How unprincipled have we become?

    1. Alec Lomax says:

      Welcome to Planet 1.6% !

    2. Kenny says:

      Well, it IS unethical to claim popular support for a policy, as Maggie Chapman has this week and numerous other campaigners have in previous months, when several polls show the opposite.

      Since you raise the question though, what right does any of us have to change accurate, official, legal records of properly observed, objective facts? Why?

      1. @ Kenny says:

        Transgender people are claiming the right to change the record when the facts change.

        BTW What do you mean by a ‘properly observed’ fact? Are you suggesting that some interpretations of fact are to be privileged over others? If so, whose and why?

      2. Mr Chips says:

        The European Court of Human Rights is the source of the right to legally change gender. It is a well-established right going back to Rees v United Kingdom 1986 with incremental amendments easing the burden of change right up to Goodwin v United Kingdom 2002. It was the UK’s loss of Goodwin v United Kingdom led to the Gender Recognition Act 2004. More recent rulings mean that gender reassignment surgery may no longer be a pre-condition of legal recognition of gender change. Article 8 ECHR has been the principle argument employed throughout.

        1. @ Mr Chips says:

          The issue is not whether one’s reassignment of one’s own gender identity (‘him/her’) should be legally recognised, but whether one’s reassignment of one’s own sexual identity (‘male/female’) should also be so recognised.

          The argument against legal recognition seems to be:

          a) that it shouldn’t be legally recognised because to do so would increase the risk of harm being visited on women by predatory men who masquerade as transwomen; and

          b) that, in any case, one’s sexual identity isn’t one’s own to change but is rather something that’s ‘given’ God or Nature and, as such, something that’s fixed and incapable of being reassigned.

          Niemand and I have been debating this argument at length over many threads.

          1. @ Mr Chips says:

            There’s also the more recent argument, advanced for the first time on this thread, that one’s reassignment of one’s own sexual identity shouldn’t be legally recognised because to enact such recognition could jeopardise support for the Scottish government and its mission to become independent of the UK government.

          2. Mr Chips says:

            That’s not the position taken by ECtHR.

            If self-id was somehow contrary to ECHR, we’d already see cases proceeding through ECtHR claiming that self-id represented an unlawful balance of rights. We’ve not seen that happen from any jurisdiction within ECHR that adopted self-id.

            If Scotland was outside ECHR other arguments would be valid. However, for as long as Scotland remains legally bound to ECHR, those arguments have no legal force.

          3. @ Mr Chips says:

            ‘That’s not the position taken by ECtHR.’

            Then perhaps, if the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill goes through unamended, this will be an avenue that activists can subsequently pursue in opposing the right of people to have their self-identification as ‘male’ or ‘female’ legally recognised.

            Would the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill, if enacted as it stands, create in fact an unlawful balance of rights? Is this another argument that could be made against legal recognition?

          4. Mr Chips says:

            The position of ECtHR is that

            a) there is a right under ECHR Article 8 to a legal change of gender.
            b) the administrative burden should be borne by the state and not by the applicant.
            c) surgical intervention is not a pre-requisite of gender change

            There is no possibility to repeal any of the above so there is no possibility to challenge anyone’s right to change gender. Self-id is already a feature of law in many countries that uphold ECHR and it has not been challenged on that basis so far. It is hard to imagine how a change to the law that reduces further the burden on the applicant could ever be successfully challenged on a human rights basis. We already know ECtHR guidance on that from Goodwin vs United Kingdom 2002.

            If there was a change to the law that changed the rights acquired as a consequence of gender change, it would be a different matter. Simplifying the process of gender change does not have that effect.

    3. Pontifex Minimus says:

      I want Scotland to be an independent democratic country. To me that is the most important issue facing us today, by far.

      Because I care about indy, I obviously also care about things that might make pro-indy parties popular or unpopular. The sooner indy happens, the sooner we can begin the real job of building a society that works for all its people, and not just the rich as the Tories want.

      Furthermore, indy Scotland must be democratic. By definition, this means the government does what the people want. Regardless of whatever the will of the majority of Scottish people in on transgender issues is, that is what should happen, as that is what is democratic.

      If some feel that all the above makes me “unprincipled”, so be it.

      1. @ Pontifex Minimus says:

        Ah, but the fly in your ointment is that the real job of building a society that works for all its people begins with the manner in which independence happens. If we’re going to sacrifice the rights of unpopular people on the altar of independence, then that’s the sort of society we’re going create through the struggle for independence: a society that doesn’t always work for unpopular people.

        It’s not only unprincipled but also morally repugnant to treat any people and their rights as expendable.

        1. Paddy Farrington says:

          “The real job of building a society that works for all its people begins with the manner in which independence happens.” Indeed, to which I would add, a society that oppresses others cannot itself be free.

          On the issue of gender self-identification: this is hardly a novel idea. Why is the debate on it (if one can call it that) in Scotland so parochial? Self-ID has been adopted in many countries in Europe and the world over, from Ireland to Portugal, from India to Argentina. Have the predictions of those opposed to self-ID come to pass in these countries?

          1. @ Paddy Farrington says:

            No idea. But surely the reason we should give people the right to self-identify is that it’s right rather than because other jurisdictions do it.

          2. Pontifex Minimus says:

            > On the issue of gender self-identification

            Frankly IDGAF about what gender you identify as. It simply doesn’t concern me. I won’t discriminate against you because of it nor will |i treat you more favourably because of it either. Nor should it concern the state. Elizabeth I said she did not want to make a window into men’s souls, and i think that’s the right attitude for a state — what people think should not be a reason for the state to treat them better or worse in any way. It’s simply none of the state’s business.

            What’s so special about gender, anyway?

            If Rachel Dolezal identifies as a black woman does that make her one? If you say no, I would argue that race is a *much* more loosely defined category than sex. All societies agree there are 2 sexes (some have other categories as well) but societies are all over the place on what they think about race.

            If I self identify as a doctor, do I get to perform surgeries? If I identify as an old person, am I eligible for an old age pension? if not, why not? Again, what’s so special about gender?

            Anyway, getting back to the original question:

            > If a woman requires an intimate medical examination after being sexually assaulted, do you think she should have the right to ask to be examined by a doctor who has been biologically female since birth, or should she only have the right to ask to be examined by a doctor who is legally regarded as a woman, regardless of that person’s biological sex at birth?

            If someone with a vagina (regardless of whether that person identifies as a woman) has just been sexually assaulted by a person with a penis (regardless of whether that person identifies as a woman) then they might not want to be medically examined by a person with a penis (again, regardless of whether that person identifies as a woman). And the people in the survey were asked about that they think of that situation.

            If they say the examination should instead be carried a person without a penis, then yes, this restricts (by a very tiny amount) what work opportunities are available to people with penises. But is that really so very big a thing? You say:

            > It’s not only unprincipled but also morally repugnant to treat any people and their rights as expendable.

            Do you really think that people with penises have a “right” to perform intimate medical examinations of rape victims? Really? That that issue really so important to you, that the question of Scottish independence must be sacrificed on the altar of it? If this the hill you wish to die on, you go die on it; Scotland won’t.

            If, as this survey suggests, the majority of Scots disagree with you on this, does that really make us all “morally repugnant” (your term) bigots who’re unworthy of self-rule? If so, why do you live in Scotland (presuming that you do)? I mean, to you, we’re little better than Nazis or people who torture puppies and kittens for fun. Why not just leave? After all, you must really hate living in a country full of such morally repugnant people.

          3. @ Pontifex Minimus says:

            ‘It’s simply none of the state’s business.’

            The interest that the state is taking in this is that of ensuring the right of its citizens to self-identify rather than have their identities assigned to them by others.

            Isn’t it part of the business of the state to ensure the rights of its citizens?

            ‘What’s so special about gender, anyway?’

            Nothing: the issue is not about gender; it’s about everyone’s right to self-identify rather than have her or his identity assigned to them by others.

            ‘Do you really think that people with penises have a “right” to perform intimate medical examinations of rape victims?’

            No, but I do think they should have the right in law to self-identify rather than have their identities assigned to them by others.

            ‘[Do you really think] That that issue really so important to you, that the question of Scottish independence must be sacrificed on the altar of it?’

            The human rights issue is important, and it’s inseparable from the issue of independence. For what is independence if not the right to self-identify (as a nation) rather than have that identity assigned by other nations? And in any case, what would be the point of an independent Scotland if it didn’t ensure the rights of (all of) its citizens?

            ‘[T]he majority of Scots disagree with you on this, does that really make us all “morally repugnant”…?’

            No. People themselves can be neither morally repugnant nor morally acceptable; only actions and propensities to act in certain ways can be so demonised. Demonising people – and denying their human rights (e.g. to self-identify, to live where they choose, to hold opinions that are contrary to your own, &etc.) on that basis – is itself a morally repugnant propensity.

            But if a majority of Scots take the view that a section of the population (however small) may be denied their rights for reasons of political expediency, then – yes – they are taking a view that’s morally repugnant.

            ‘[M]ost Scots do not regard is as a human right to perform intimate medical examinations on people who’ve just been sexually assaulted. Nor does the Human Rights Act, or the UN declaration of human rights, or as far as I am aware, any other human rights document.’

            Nor do I. But I do regard it as a human right to be able to self-identify rather than have one’s identity assigned to them by others. And so does the UN and the EU and soon (hopefully) the Scottish government.

      2. Alec Lomax says:

        Ah yes, the GRA, the topic that takes priority over independence, damage from Brexit, climate change, the escalating cost of living etc.

        1. @ Alec Lomax says:

          Are you suggesting that human rights in Scotland should be given less priority than those other issues?

          1. Pontifex Minimus says:

            Alec Lomax can speak for themself, but most Scots do not regard is as a human right to perform intimate medical examinations on people who’ve just been sexually assaulted.

            Nor does the Human Rights Act, or the UN declaration of human rights, or as far as I am aware, any other human rights document.

            Your framing of it as a “human right” is thus an attempt to manipulate consensus reality. Or to speak in common language, an attempt at bullshitting.

          2. Mr Chips says:

            The European Court of Human Rights has not published opinion that would bestows a right to specify the gender or sex or ethnicity or sexual orientation of a medical practitioner. There are domestic laws that provide answers to some of these cases in some circumstances. These are typically guided by ECHR non-descrimination principles.

            The reason that sex vs gender is such a contentious issue is because the kinds of circumstances you outline have not been tested at ECtHR. Until that happens, we can only guess at the outcome. The poblem with your post is that you assert a certainty that does not yet exist.

          3. Niemand says:

            As has been pointed out many times, the problem here is a conflict of rights.

            Some women say they wish to keep the right not to have male-bodied people in spaces currently protected by law not to allow them in. The law recognises a women’s human right to this and upholds it. The law does allow for those who have either lived a lengthy time as a transwoman (and can show this) or had ‘sex change’ treatment to enter such spaces. Self-ID will do away with this, as male-bodied people (transwomen) would only have to declare themselves trans and have the same rights as women to enter these spaces. What would become a transwoman’s human right to such access would remove the lawful current right of women not to allow them access.

            In fact, what is actually happening in quite a few of these spaces is that transwomen are already being allowed access, to the great consternation of some women. One of the most controversial being women’s refuges and rape crisis centres where it was declared victims who objected to this would not be accommodated or even tolerated, but ‘re-educated’ for their error (Rape Crisis Scotland, headed-up by a transwoman – self-ID’d, as far as I know). Women who have just suffered terrible violent traumas and rape at the hands of men that is.

            So the idea this is simply about upholding the human rights of transpeople is wrong in a very fundamental way.

          4. @ Niemand says:

            ‘Self-ID will do away with this, as male-bodied people (transwomen) would only have to declare themselves trans and have the same rights as women to enter these spaces.’

            No, it wouldn’t. No one – transgender or cisgender – has the right to invade another’s privacy. Ensuring the right of people to self-identify would not deny ciswomen the right to be protected from predatory men who masquerade as transwomen to gain access to their personal spaces.

            In any case, isn’t excluding women who happen through some accident of nature to be male-bodied from women’s communal spaces a form of body-shaming? And isn’t treating all transwomen as potential predatory men fundamentally unjust?

            Maybe we should be looking to redesign our communal spaces to make them safer for all women rather than, to the same end, deny transwomen the right to self-identify as women.

          5. Alec Lomax says:

            Angel dancing on a pin. The biggest threat to human rights in this country are the Tories who are trying to dilute, not to say abolish the Human Rights Act.

          6. @ Alec Lomax says:

            ‘The biggest threat to human rights in this country are the Tories who are trying to dilute, not to say abolish the Human Rights Act.’

            No, the greatest threat to human rights in Scotland is our propensity to deny them in our dealings with one another. It’s this propensity that the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill is intended to curb and bring into line with international best practice.

          7. Niemand says:

            @@Niemand.

            We have rehearsed these arguments before and will get nowhere as you don’t recognise any meaningful difference between women and transwomen. You are not alone in that of course but there can’t really be any debate as all arguments will be at cross purposes since in my view (and many others) there are crucial differences (and when it comes to people’s biology incontrovertible ones – the most obvious example being that a transwomen will suffer the same lifetime medical problems that are unique to men)

            One thing though regarding ‘In any case, isn’t excluding women who happen through some accident of nature to be male-bodied from women’s communal spaces a form of body-shaming? And isn’t treating all transwomen as potential predatory men fundamentally unjust?’ One could say the same thing about men – why should they be excluded as they are also male-bodied by an accident of nature? Is that also body-shaming? As for treating transwomen as potentially predatory the same applies – one reason men are excluded is just that. I think the point is not that we see all men as a problem but just the tiny minority and those are the problem and why all men are excluded.

          8. @ Niemand says:

            We have indeed. And I do recognise the salient difference, which is between ciswomen (women who identify with the sex they were assigned at birth) and transwomen (women who can’t identify with the sex they were assigned at birth).

            ‘One could say the same thing about men – why should they be excluded as they are also male-bodied by an accident of nature?’

            Indeed, why should they? I can see why male-bodied people should be excluded from any space if they are predatory, but not just because they are male-bodied.

            I can see why the exclusion of ‘the tiny minority’ who are the problem is justified. But excluding ‘all’ on the basis that a tiny minority are a problem has its own problems in relation to social justice. Imagine if all gay people were excluded from children’s spaces because ‘a tiny minority’ proved to be a problem: would that be justified?

          9. @ Niemand says:

            Sorry! That last sentence should read: ‘Imagine if all gay people were excluded from children’s spaces because ‘a tiny minority’ proved to be predatory: would that be justified?’

          10. Niemand says:

            @@Niemand

            You position is at least logical – there should be no spaces that can be designated single sex / gender. This would indeed remove the problem of how one might designate a transwoman (for the avoidance of doubt, personally I do not recognise the idea I am ‘cis’. This is a construction based on the theoretical idea of ‘trans’. I am happy that for some this distinction is clearly meaningful but unhappy that it should be imposed on me or worse, that somehow I don’t see it because my sex and gender ‘match’. For me there is no match as I don’t ‘have’ a gender, it is a societal construct – my sex is male and that is it. At the end of the day this is all ‘theory’ though I would argue it is more philosophy and none of it is scientifically provable).

            But regarding single sex spaces / places there is a legitimate argument that says, yes you keep some groups out for the safety of others, simple as that. If some get offended at that so be it, the safety of others matters more than hurt feelings and ‘rights’ to access regardless. When someone is harmed by a predator, and men (including transwomen many of whom call themselves ‘lesbians and are male-bodied), can be predators, on women, I would find it very difficult to defend that in the name of trans ‘rights’ since what about the right to not be assaulted which will be lessened / virtually eliminated by the women-only designation? Being gay has no bearing on this that I can see since gay people are no more likely to be predators than a straight person.

      3. Mr Chips says:

        “By definition, this means the government does what the people want.”

        That is not how democracy works in representational democracies. The government may do whatever achieves consent in parliament. Parliament may give consent to, or reject, anything it wishes. The electorate may choose to vote in a different set of representatives at the next election so that a new government may be chosen and different choices made. For the duration of each parliament, however, the government is not compelled to do “what the people want”. Apart from anything else, it is rarely clear what the people actually want.

        Governments cannot be compelled to do anything; parliament cannot be compelled to vote for it.

        1. Pontifex Minimus says:

          Mr Chips:

          > That is not how democracy works in representational democracies. The government may do whatever achieves consent in parliament. Parliament may give consent to, or reject, anything it wishes. The electorate may choose to vote in a different set of representatives at the next election so that a new government may be chosen and different choices made. For the duration of each parliament, however, the government is not compelled to do “what the people want”.

          That’s an accurate description of the Westminster system, which has been described as an “elected dictatorship”.

          I want Scotland to be better than that.

          1. Mr Chips says:

            It’s an accurate description of representational democracy. Most of the developed world works on the principle of representation rather than delegation.

            Please outline how you think democracy could work differently in an independent Scotland, if not by represenation.

          2. @ Mr Chips says:

            ‘Most of the developed world works on the principle of representation rather than delegation.’

            Indeed, it does, but it doesn’t do it very well in practice. How representative are our representative assemblies? And of just what are they representative?

            At best, they represent only the majority will of society? At worst, they represent only the will of the most powerful corporate interests (including political parties) within society.

            I, too, would hope that Scotland could do better than either of those and institute democratic structures that would produce legislative assemblies better represented the general will of society. But I’m not holding my breath.

          3. Mr Chips says:

            Expressing a desire a “better” outcome without defining what “better” means or any mechanism that might lead us there is kind of pointless.

            OK, you want something free of commercial interference but that is not hardly unique to representational democracy. I live in Switzerland, a direct democracy. I can assure you that referendum campaigns are driven by big money with vested interests in the outcome, as are the National Councillors and Councillors of the two chambers of the National Assembly.

            What, specifically, would you advocate instead of representational democracy and how would that satisfy your requirements?

          4. @ Mr Chips says:

            Sorry, I thought ‘better’ was defined implicitly by what it was being compared with; i.e. representative assemblies that represent only the majority will or, even ‘worse’, only the will of the most powerful corporate interests (including political parties) within society; namely assemblies that represent the general will of society.

            I’ve discoursed extensively here, over many discussion threads, on possible mechanisms through which our assemblies could possibly be made more representative of the general will, but it’s not a matter that many independentistas are much interested in debating. My fluid thoughts have tended recently towards a radical decentralisation of decision-making away from national assemblies like the Scottish parliament towards local neighbourhood assemblies, with decision-making over matters of common concern being ‘escalated’ to more general assemblies (or citizens juries, selected from among the populace concerned by random sortition – I veer between one and the other from one day to the next – or maybe some combination of the two), as required, in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity.

            ‘Liquid democracy’ some political theorists call it, I believe, in contrast to both representative democracy and direct democracy.

          5. Mr Chips says:

            Federalism is not an alternative to representational democracy. It merely adds more layers of representational democracy. I am definitely pro-federalism but, as I already pointed out, it is not orthogonal to the principle of representation.

          6. @ Mr Chips says:

            Indeed! But perhaps our system of government needs more ‘layers’ of subsidiarity to help ensure that our legislative assemblies represent the general will of society rather than just the majority will or (*worse* still) just the will of the most powerful corporate interests (including political parties) within society.

            (And the scheme I currently have in mind is perhaps *better* described as ‘confederalist’ rather than ‘federalist’.)

          7. Mr Chips says:

            I’m uneasy with unaccountable randoms lacking domain expertise assembling on citizens panels, only for the loudest loudmouths to dominate proceedings and make bad decisions based on confirmation bias without a hint of responsibility. At the very least, I know the identity of my MP so I can avoid voting for them again because of all the bad decisions they made.

          8. @ Mr Chips says:

            ‘I’m uneasy with

            And yet we’ve no great with unaccountable randoms, who lack domain expertise, assembling on juries in other contexts to hear evidence and make decisions on the basis of that evidence on our behalf.

          9. Mr Chips says:

            Scotland has a civil law tradition and is currently a mix of civil and common law. I’m perfectly happy to use independence as an opportunity to shift the balance further to civil law in order to reduce the circumstances that result in a jury trial. In fact, becoming more European in this regard is one reason I support independence.

      4. David B says:

        If democracy was simply rule by the majority then Westminster would be entirely right in refusing a S30 order – assuming that’s what the majority of the UK electorate wanted them to do.

        Thankfully democracy isn’t the tyranny of the majority. There are basic principles of human rights and democratic consensus which (in a functioning democracy) limit the power which a majority can exert on a minority.

        1. Mr Chips says:

          @David B

          In a strictly legal and consitutional sense, the UK government is entirely within its right to refuse a S30. Nothing can compel the government to bring a Bill to parliament and nothing can compel parliament to vote for it. Parliament ceding control of the order paper to the government is a key part of the UK’s constitution: it is even a defining characteristic of government. That power remains with the government until parliament takes it back in order to give to a fresh government.

          Legislation may be rejected by parliament or HoL on the basis that it is in conflict with either domestic legislation or international commitments. Alternatively, the Supreme Court may reject legislation on that basis immediately prior to Royal Ascent status. The only thing stopping UK governments clearing the bottleneck with further amendents to exsisting law is that clearing the bottleneck is either politially contentious or in confict with foreign policy objectives. It is these types of pressures that stop governments in their tracks rather than legal constraints.

          You might believe that the UK’s commitments to the UN or ECHR or OECD means that Scotland has a right to a secession referendum. Any such belief is wholly wrong. This is typically based on a conflation of self-determination and secession. In the language of the UN, Scotland exercises its right to self-determination through Holyrood, which is considered an exercise in internal self-determination.

          There exists no law, internationally or domestically, that can compel any UK government to do anything. The only pressures on the UK government with regard to a secession referendum in Scotland are political. That’s why voting is so important because you’re stuck with your choice for some time.

          1. David B says:

            @Mr Chips

            Indeed. Essentially you’re making a moral argument for why a majority (the UK electorate) should not overrule a minority (Scottish residents who voted for a second referendum). I’m not debating the rights or wrongs of having another Indyref – rather pointing out that democracy is not simply a case of enforcing majority rule (which @Pontifex seemed to say above).

          2. Mr Chips says:

            @David B

            I am definitely not making a moral argument 🙂 I’m not even making a political argument. I just wanted to point out that majority rule is not a feature of representational democracy. Direct democracies are rather different but even in direct democracies there can be mechanisms for parliament to override or significantly amend the effect proposed by a referendum question.

            If I was to make a moral argument, I would say that the UK would have brought back capital punishment by now if it was simply a matter of majority rule. For that reason alone, I am quite glad that majority rule is not typically a thing in the UK. Brexit also springs to mind.

    4. Fishnchips says:

      “How unprincipled have we become” well lots of people seem to think it is ok for people to conspire to send someone to jail and lie in court. That seems pretty unprincipled to me.

      1. @ Fish Supper says:

        Indeed it is.

        (Who did that? Did you have anyone specific in mind? And what’s your evidence against them?)

        1. Fishnchips says:

          ” Who did that.” Plenty of people on blogs. People who support Sturgeon’s pals/husband.

          1. @ Fish Supper says:

            If you’ve any evidence of such a conspiracy, you should take it to the police.

          2. Fishnchips says:

            The police have it already. Just like the police in London knew all about partygate as it happened.

            If you want to kid yourself on about what happened with the persecution of Salmond then that is your prerogative but some of us do not ignore facts because they are inconvenient.

          3. @ Fish Supper says:

            If you’ve presented evidence of such a conspiracy to Police Scotland and they haven’t acted on it, then you should ask a solicitor, your MSP, or your local councillor to take the matter up on your behalf with the Chief Constable, who will be legally obliged to refer the matter to the Crown Office Procurator Fiscal Service and Police Scotland’s Professional Standards Department. If you’re not satisfied with the outcome of your complaint, you (or your solicitor or MSP of local councillor) should then take it to the independent Police Investigations & Review Commissioner.

            I think you’ll find this a more effective recourse to justice than simply griping about it on social media.

            Or perhaps you think that all of the above agencies are also part of the great and seemingly ever-expanding conspiracy against Alex Salmond and his supporters? If you do, then all I can suggest is that you seek psychiatric help for your paranoia.

          4. Mr Chips says:

            Craig Murray claimed he couldn’t get a fair trial in Scotland because there was a coordinated plot against Salmond and his supporters.

            After the Supreme Court rejected his appeal, Murray claimed he’d been denied justice because of a coordinated plot against Julian Assange and his supporters.

            Conspiracy theories only ever grow larger. We should all relax so we can contamplate Occam’s Razor and how to apply it to observable events that happen in the universe.

          5. Fishnchips says:

            Justice in the UK – what a joke that people like you still believe it exists. Next you will be saying the law applies equally to everyone in the UK . Oh and your resort to the conspiracy theory put down is also pathetic. It is not a theory that the Murrells and his/her gang conspired to send independence supporters to jai.

  4. Mr Chips says:

    He was one of the many bloggers and tweeters who supported Craig Murray throughout his trial and imprisonment without really understanding the gravity of Murray’s offence. Let’s not forget what Murray did: he impaired the Article 8 ECHR rights of complainers at a sexual offences trial. When you do stuff like that, prison is an appropriate sanction. Despite this, Kelly believes there is no inconsistency in his new role as one of the “women protectors”.

    His tweets imploring people to vote Alba because they had a good chance of “gaming the system” were either hopelessly naive or deliberately stupid. Alba were polling between 1% and 4%. The statistical variance suggested just noise and no signal. Anyone familiar with statistics knew support for Alba was so small it could not be successfully measured. Despite this, Kelly implored his followers that the system could be gamed with a vote for Alba.

    1. Robert says:

      Craig Murray published nothing that had not already been published by other journalists working at major media outlets (in some cases they published far more). The judge ruled that he, a mere blogger, did not merit the same level of legal protection as did a professional journalist. Hi true crime was to publish the defense case and not merely the prosecution, thus disrupting the trial by media.

      1. Mr Chips says:

        I am not commenting on other journalists. I am only commenting on Criag Murray’s actions. His actions impaired the Article 8 ECHR rights of complainers at a sexual offences trial. The principle of anonymity for complainers at sexual offences trials is well-established within ECHR.

        Craig Murray was openly gleeful that he believed he had found a way to disclose information in a way he believed was compliant with the court order. His fan fiction post springs to mind. I cannot understand how anyone could do this and still identify as a human rights activist. His lack of either contrition or remorse is telling here. He still cannot understand the gravity of his offence. This is shared by his supporters like James Kelly, who believe Murray has been the victim of a coordinated plot.

        Murray commented that he could not get a fair trial in Scotland due to his support for Salmond. He then commented he was not treated fairly by the Supreme Court because he is an Assange supporter. With each stage of his legal process, the conspiracy against him grew another limb. When the European Court of Human Rights rejects his case on the basis that he mounted no human rights defence at trial, will he claim that MI5 have infiltrated the Council of Europe?

        Murray deserved to go to prison. Apart from anything else, it serves as a deterrent to anyone else thinking of doing the same thing. Anyone supporting him is similarly stamping all over the human rights of the complainers at the Alex Salmond sexual offences trial. For that reason, I have no time whatsoever for James Kelly.

        1. Mr Chips says:

          I have read the Court’s opinion on Murray’s conviction and sentencing. At no time did the court treat Murray differently just because he is not employed by the Scotsman. The court was invited to discuss Murray’s credentials as a journalist because Murray claimed journalistic status in his affadavit. Now, this was not part of his defence but the court was bound to consider his affadavit.

          The court considered Murray’s status as a journalist becase Murray invited it to. Is he a journalist? Personally, I do not see the processes of journalism in Murray’s posts. The court shares this view. It noted he works backwards from conclusion to evidence rather than other way around. Is this journalism? It also noted the gossipy and speculative nature of his blog. Is this journalism? It also noted the borderline defamation in his affadavit. Perhaps most importantly off all the court wondered if a journalist would have published something like Murray’s fan fiction post because journalists are aware of the IPSOS Editors Code of Conduct and its relationship with Article 8 ECHR.

          In the end it did not matter. The court is very clear on this point. It did not care about Murray’s credentials as a journalist and it did not care about Murray’s intentions. The only test the court applied was the effect of Murray’s post when combined with public domain information. The test was whether Murray’s posts created a scenario that endangered the anonymity of the complainers. Were Murray’s activities likely to/capable of identification? Did he increase the risk of harm? The court decided he had increased the risk of harm.

        2. Fishnchips says:

          Mr Chips you seem to be very gleeful that Murray was sent to prison for an offence that was all in the mind of Judge Dorrian. No evidence was provided of anyone who stated they found out the identities due to Murrays writings nor could Dorrian state which women were potentially identified. No one should be sent to jail for 8 months on that basis. A travesty of a trial, decision and sentence.

          Anyone defending this trial should be ashamed of themselves.

          1. @ Fish Supper says:

            Wasn’t Craig Murray tried and found guilty of contempt of court rather than breaching the confidentiality of witnesses in another case?

            My understanding is that the Scottish High Court had issued an order forbidding the publication of the names of the women who testified against Salmond or other information that might identify them, and that Mr. Murray was found to have published material that was in breach of that order.

            Again, if you have evidence that the judge who tried the allegation of contempt against the evidence presented to her, the Scottish National Party leadership, the Scottish government, the Crown Office, and Police Scotland all conspired against Mr. Murray to secure his conviction, you should make this evidence known.

          2. Fishnchips says:

            Fish supper

            So tell me when Sturgeon said on TV on a national news programme in the run up to the May 2021 election that a lot of the alphabet women are her friends why is she not being prosecuted by Dorrian.

            The whole business is a disgrace and people who try to defend it should be ashamed.

          3. @ Fish Supper says:

            Lady Dorrian doesn’t prosecute anybody; she’s a judge, not a prosecutor.

            And I don’t know why Nicola Sturgeon hasn’t been prosecuted for contempt for saying what she did? Was what she said on TV in contempt of the court order that forbade the publication of the names or other information that might identify the women as those who testified against Alex Salmond?

            In any case, the fact that no claim of contempt has been pursued against Nicola Sturgeon isn’t evidence of some conspiracy against Craig Murray. To suggest that it is is just plain silly.

          4. Mr Chips says:

            There is a lot of confusion regarding the difference between risk of harm and harm.

            If you arrested for drink driving you won’t get very far at your trial with a defence based on “but I didn’t hit anything”. The arrest was for increasing the risk of harm through irresponsibile behavior. There are many examples in law where irresponsibility is the crime rather than any specific harm caused by that irresponsibility. This is what happened at Craig Murray’s trial.

            Craig Murray’s defence was that his posts did not have the effect averred by the prosecution. This led to submissions from prosecution and defence about how to interpret domestic law with regard to the court order. Should each post be treated individually or as a separate entity? Should they be considered in aggregate? Should they be considered in aggregate as an addition to public domain information? The court came to a firm view after taking guidance from legal precedence.

            The court took the view that the appropriate test was “capable of/likely to” lead to identification when taking all of Murray’s posts together with public domain information. There was no obligation to present any witness in court who could say that reading Murray’s posts revealed the identify of a complainer that had previously been a mystery. That would have been an absurd test, just as “I didn’t hit anything” is an absurd defence in a drink driving trial.

            Under ECHR, we do not have an unlimited right to free speech. Prison is an appropriate sanction for any activity that impairs the human rights of others. Article 10 ECHR is not a defence for impairing the human rights of others. That is as true for journalists as it is for everyone else.

            The court order at the Samond trial was made to protect the Article 8 ECHR rights of the complainers. Anyone breaching the court order has therefore impaired the Article 8 ECHR rights of the complainers . This is a grave offence both morally and legally.

            Craig Murray’s sentence was appropriate because he impared the human rights of others. I am not gleeful about anything. I just think his sentence was appropriate and that it serves as a deterrent to anyone else thinking of doing the same thing. The anonymity of the complainers is an important principle and I want to see it upheld. Anyone chipping away at that anonymity risks imprisonment.

          5. Fishnchips says:

            Clearly people defending this have no shame and try to dress it all up with nonsense about drink driving.

  5. Pontifex Minimus says:

    Incidentally, the link to the poll is wrong.

    The correct URL is https://drg.global/wp-content/uploads/ScotGoesPop-Full-Tables-for-publication-261021.pdf

  6. Pontifex Minimus says:

    > As has been pointed out many times, the problem here is a conflict of rights.

    Agreed.

    > In fact, what is actually happening in quite a few of these spaces is that transwomen are already being allowed access, to the great consternation of some women. One of the most controversial being women’s refuges and rape crisis centres where it was declared victims who objected to this would not be accommodated or even tolerated, but ‘re-educated’ for their error (Rape Crisis Scotland, headed-up by a transwoman – self-ID’d, as far as I know). Women who have just suffered terrible violent traumas and rape at the hands of men that is.

    This is the sort of decision that could only be made by self-righteous individuals (who’re sure in their own minds that they are perfectly virtuous and that anyone who disagrees is evil) obsessed with the idea of pushing their political programme at the expense of common sense.

    I strongly suspect that when the majority of Scots realise this is the sort of thing that is being proposed under the banner of “trans rights” they will object to it.

    My problem is that this is being done by a government of parties backing independence, and might do damage to that cause as a result.

    1. Mr Chips says:

      It was put to the people of Switzerland , hardly the epicentre of woke Europe. They voted to adopt self-id by the majority rule that so many commenters here are keen on. I think you underestimate just how far the public have moved on questions of sexuality, identity and state intrusion into our private lives.

      1. Niemand says:

        The obvious answer is to have a referendum on it then to prove this either way. It would also require people became properly informed about what ‘self-ID’ really requires. If people voted to allow it then so be it. That would be proper democracy and should go ahead. Given that the implication of such a decision is actually based on all of us being required to rethink our entire world view on what it means to be a man or a woman, I would say it merits such attention. What is annoying many is the total lack of transparency on this issue from the SNP who keep claiming there is no conflict of rights and they are blatant liars in this regard. Everyone knows they want to implement this change and will suppress anything that undermines that. And in that sense they reveal yet again their authoritarian character.

      2. Fishnchips says:

        Mr Chips says prison is an appropriate sanction for anyone who impairs the human rights of anyone. Well on that basis I look forward to Sturgeon and her government being charged over her GRA law and banged up in Barlinnie.

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