The Settled Will

How do you understand the latest polling from IPSOS which puts the SNP ahead of Labour by seven points and predicts they would pick up 40 seats in the next General Election?

At the last general election IPSOS predicted the SNP would win 48 seats (and were the most accurate pollster to predict the result). The SNP would indeed later win 48 seats. If the ‘extinction event’ that is predicted for the Conservatives this would mean the SNP taking 70% of available seats in Scotland. If Labour annihilate the Tories in England as looks very likely, there’s a possibility of the SNP becoming the official opposition.

The wider party prediction seat prediction is:
SNP 40
Labour 13
Conservatives 2
Lib Dems 2

Emily Gray from IPSOS Scotland said: “The SNP lead by 7 points on General Election voting intention, but Labour are narrowing the gap. There’s a Rise in public trust in Scottish Labour, including on the NHS and the economy – though SNP still the most trusted party.”

What’s going on?

All of the public discussion had suggested an imminent SNP wipe-out. The stage is set for the coronation of Keir Starmer and the ascension of the Labour party to power. All they have to do is not **** it up, stay safe, neutralise everything. But there is a problem. For some people the constant hollowing out of Labour policy and proposals is a turn-off not a turn-on. They are giving few special reasons to vote for them.

Second, the ‘get the Tories out’ vote has other options in Scotland, and Labour’s failure to take a clear moral stance on the actions of Israel in Gaza is in stark contrast to Humza Yousaf’s position. This matters.

Third, people may have noticed that the Labour party has quietly dropped the much lauded much fanfared constitutional changes being hatched by Gordon Brown. The constitutional crisis doesn’t just go away and the promise of change (any change) remains undelivered.

Fourth, people remember Scottish Labour’s role in Better Together and the need for them to be rehabilitated under estimated, largely by Labour’s friends behind the desks of papers, magazines up and down the land. So there is a gap between the feel-good factor in the media and the feel-good factor on the street.

Fifth, it may that the Branchform Inquiry into the SNP finances have dragged on so long that it has lost its impact to put people off voting for the party.

Conscious Uncoupling

But given the state of the SNP, the shambolic lack of strategy and the surround-sound of negativity from every corner of Scotland, how is it possible that independence is polling at 53% given that there is no clear direction for arriving at that destination?

Already this year we’ve had five #Indyref2 polls with Yes % ranging from: 48% (Survation) 49% (Redfield & Wilton) 50% (Norstat) 52% (Find Out Now) and 53% (Ipsos).

But now we are at 53%. It may be the relentless awfulness of Tory Britain – but that in itself is not enough. It surely isn’t the performance of the SNP which seems bogged down in policy crisis, lack of direction and uninspiring leadership at the end of a long time in office.

No. If these results are to come to fruition – still a big IF – it is because people are scunnered and despite the incoherence of a credible road map to independence it is becoming the ‘settled will’ of the Scottish people in much the same way as devolution became.

Comments (37)

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  1. Micheal MacGilleRuadh says:

    ‘But given the state of the SNP, the shambolic lack of strategy and the surround-sound of negativity from every corner of Scotland, how is it possible that independence is polling at 53% given that there is no clear direction for arriving at that destination?’

    A logical conclusion is that the more distant the prospect of an actual referendum 2 is, the more comfy the ‘feart-hearts’ are about indy.

    1. Another is that the performance of the SNP and the idea of independence have separated and people support independence despite the actions of the party.

      1. Brian McKaig says:

        It is also possible that the majority of the don’t knows are in fact not independence supporters and as in 2014 will not vote YES on the big day.

        1. That is possible, although the reality is any campaign would now start on a picture of 53% in favour which is a completely different from 2014.

          Would you like to campaign on how great Britain is?

        2. John says:

          Brian – you may be correct and I will be more assured when the decided Yes vote shows >50%.
          The problem is that the electorate of Scotland have to await for consent from Westminster (in effect electorate outside Scotland) to express their democratic decision.

    2. John says:

      Nonsense- support for independence has been higher prior to Supreme Court decision.
      Support for independence was around 33% prior to 2014 campaign but rose during campaign.
      If support for independence has not reached the 60% level many think is needed to make independence inevitable this is not fault of wavering voters but shows more work needs to be done in explaining benefits of independence.
      I am absolutely sure that sneering at electorate of Scotland, as you appear to do, will not advance the case for independence one iota.

      1. 240209 says:

        Only 38% of the total Scottish electorate voted to leave the UK in the last referendum (1,617,989 out of 4,283,392). If the current polls are suggesting that 53% of the electorate is now in favour, then this bodes well for the cause of Independence.

        1. John says:

          I agree but until decided voters are regularly registering >50% & overall yes vote around 60% I do not think you can talk about it being the settled will.

          1. 240209 says:

            The general will of society is never ‘settled’; it’s a forever evolving set of pragmatic compromises. Democratically, we need to develop forms of public decision-making that reflect this.

  2. SteveH says:

    Don’t write off the Reform UK party in England just yet. Who knows, they may even grab a few in Scotland and Wales.

    Look at Europe. Populist parties are on the rise.

    Watch out!

    1. John says:

      Watch out!????
      Reform Party want to cut public spending and privatise the NHS.
      That is really going to help the poorer sections of society.
      I don’t see them making much of an impact in Scotland although there are probably a few nutters who have been duped into thinking that transgender people and immigrants are the most important issues in their lives.
      These few nutters probably hate all graduates as well!

      1. Wul says:

        It is weird that some people can be persuaded that their society’s ills are cause by those minorities with the least power, status and wealth.

        You would think it was kinda obvious that the powerful, wealthy people who run the country and control the political agenda are responsible for the state of the country and the state of our political agenda.

        Perhaps there are examples of successful, modern, equitable democratic countries with high levels of citizen happiness and trust that consistently blame and punish their poorest and most marginalised groups as a matter of government policy?

    2. Grab a few what Steve? Are you suggesting the Reform UK party are going to win seats in Scotland?

    3. Grab a few what Steve? Are you suggesting the Reform UK party are going to win seats in Scotland?

      1. Graeme Purves says:

        UKIP have had seats in the Welsh Senedd and BBC Scotland managed to get David Coleman elected to the European Parliament, but Reform ‘grabbing a few’ is a pretty long shot in a first past the post election. I doubt even Rishi Sunak would put a bet on it.

        1. 240209 says:

          You mean David *Coburn*.

          And how did BBC Scotland manage to engineer the election of 2 SNP, 2 Labour, 1 Conservative, and 1 UKIP candidate to represent us in the European Parliament in 2014? Wasn’t it rather the ‘fault’ of the D’Hondt method of party-list proportional representation that UKIP won one of the seats?

          1. Graeme Purves says:

            I do.

          2. Graeme Purves says:

            Quite extraordinary!

  3. SleepingDog says:

    But even by Ipsos’ own figures, expressed support for Scottish Independence is only 46%, using their weightings and contrivances.
    while ‘no’ gets 44%. And by their own margins of error, the projected results could be reversed.

    1. Graeme Purves says:

      …and if you turn the page upside down it gets more difficult to understand what is written on it.

      1. SleepingDog says:

        @Graeme Purves, I’m not sure what you are getting at, but on p11, Support for Scottish independence: January 2024, the Ipsos text reads:
        “If a referendum were held tomorrow about Scotland’s constitutional future, how would you vote in response to the following question: Should Scotland be an independent country?”
        the results are (pre-rounded for some reason):
        Yes: 46%
        No: 44%
        Undecided: 8%
        Lead for “Yes”: +2
        and the qualifying text is:
        “Base: All Scottish adults aged 16+ (1,005); All Scottish adults 16+ who are at least 9/10 likely to vote in a Scottish independence referendum and expressing a voting intention (804). Margin Source: Ipsos | Scottish Political Monitor of error is displayed at +/- 4%.”

        Now, as someone trained in political science, I could reel off a slew of reasons why opinion polls typically have all kinds of biases, and are frequently used in ways which are unhelpful to democracy. There is no such thing as an unbiased opinion poll. And polls have a feedback effect on voting.

        A better way might be to conduct secession referenda as a series of actual votes (which has been done elsewhere), maybe even as an annual exercise, possibly taking the results of the last three votes as indicative (dampening bounce and rare-event effects), with higher trigger thresholds. That way, you incorporate the best feature of opinion polling (so an actual result is less surprising and more difficult to contest), but jettison many flaws. And maybe the Scottish government could bring such an advisory system into play, which would be a far better measure of ‘will’ through time.

        1. 240209 says:

          Yep; more direct democracy like the exercise you’re proposing would produce decisions that were more coincident with the general will of the electorate, providing that the deliberation that preceded and succeeded such referendums was conducted in ways that approximated to an ideal speech situation. Without this provision, the decisions reached would only be at best an expression of a majority will (or the will of the larger minority) the imposition of which on society in general would be an exercise in tyranny.

          But why restrict such exercises in direct deliberative democracy to determine the general will of society to the matter of ‘Independence’? Why not extend them to our public decision-making more generally?

          1. Graeme Purves says:

            My dad used to have debates like this with Hector McCrindle.

  4. Satan says:

    Setting up a new State on the back of a 51% vote is for howling nitwits. Scotland: In the EU election 5 years ago, Ukip came second. Labour came fifth. For this year’s general election, I think the Rutherglen by-election is most realistic. Opinion polls completely failed to predict the result.

    1. John says:

      Leaving the EU on a 52% vote (37%) of total electorate when only 2 out of 4 nations of UK voted to leave was also for nitwits as is becoming clearer by the day.

      1. 240209 says:

        This is true, John. But why then would it be okay for Scotland to leave the UK on a similar majority?

        1. John says:

          Personally where you are deciding a major constitutional issue on a change versus status quo option ideally the change should be supported by at least 50% of overall electorate. If people not voting are not sufficiently excercised to vote then they are not that unhappy with the status quo. This would also ensure that any major constitutional change is widely excepted by electorate which would enhance the chance of it being successful.
          I appreciate however that where more people vote for change than those that vote against it this can leave a difficult situation as well. A pre-agreed threshold may be one way to deal with this.
          Although I voted in favour of devolution in 1979 referendum I did not disagree with 40%mandate. Interestingly the Yes vote in 1979 & 2004 referendums both got 37% of total electorate as did Brexit Leave vote in 2016. Make of that what you will,

          1. SleepingDog says:

            @John, a higher bar and smoother path could make the difference between success and failure in transitioning to Independence.

            I’m not a mathematician, but there seems to be a sweet spot around a 2:1 majority for change, which many independence votes seem to have surpassed elsewhere.

            If you have an annual vote (which as part of a package of participatory reforms should be pretty cheap to administer), then, say, the qualifying threshold for YES as proportion of electorate might be three-in-row 60%+, or two-in-a-row 70%+, or one vote 80%+. On the other hand, if the vote drops below 25% YES, an annual vote might become a three-yearly one until a 40% threshold was reached again. Whatever seems reasonable overall, maybe following international best practice if there is one.

          2. 240209 says:

            Still don’t see why we should settle for the tyranny of a majority. We should rather aim for unanimity through a process of negotiation and pragmatic compromise; deliberative outcomes that none will deem ‘perfect’ but that everyone ‘can live with’.

          3. John says:

            What particularly shows up flaw in a one off take it or leave it referendum is comparisons between 2014 independence referendum and 2016 Brexit Referendum.
            Both received the same percentage of total electorate vote.
            Brexit voters were predominantly older voters and indeed by the time UK left EU in 2020 I believe there were more people alive who had voted Remain than Leave.
            Independence voters were predominantly younger voters so the gradual, overall drift upwards in Yes support from 45 to 50% can be partly attributed to demographics.
            This would validate Sleeping Dogs comments on higher thresholds or more than one vote to avoid the ‘chance’ win of Leave and satisfying the continued increasing support for independence.

          4. 240209 says:

            The ‘flaw’ lies in the framing of the matter as a dichotomy (either/or).

            The alternative to this adversarial framing is to frame the constitutional question as a matter of ongoing deliberation rather than a matter to be settled one way or the other (Independence or Union); an ongoing conversation through which we collectively negotiate among ourselves a set of constitutional arrangements that none of us would deem ‘perfect’ but which we all ‘can live with’ in the interests of maintaining a peaceful and productive communal order

          5. John says:

            Majority rule might not be perfect (eg NI governance pre 1974 and direct rule) but minority rule as we currently endure from FPTP at Westminster is considerably less democratic.

          6. 240211 says:

            Yep; the manner in which we elect our representatives to the UK parliament needs to be reformed to better reflect the general will of the constituency that elects them. At present, those representatives only represent the will of the largest minority in most constituencies and could at best only represent the will of a majority.

            Personally, I’d like to see us move away from representative forms of public decision-making to more direct participative/deliberative forms, whereby decisions relating to our public affairs are made on the basis of the twin principles negotiated unanimity/collective bargaining and subsidiarity. This would require the diffusion of sovereignty throughout a horizontal network of neighbourhood and workplace councils and syndicates thereof.

            As I’ve said on other threads on this media channel, short of world revolution, this diffusion or decentralisation of power from the state to civil society is never going to happen overnight; nor will it ever be realised absolutely. But we can hold it up as an ideal standard against which we can critique or hold to account our existing institutions and towards which we can continually work to reform or negotiate incremental improvements to those institutions.

    2. 240209 says:

      Yep; it’s a problem with our system that a majority can impose its will on a minority. I’d much rather see a system established on the EU model, in which minorities have a right to veto in our public decision-making and simple majority voting is replaced ideally by unanimous voting or, failing that, by qualified majority voting. Our public decisions should be as much as possible an expression of the general will of society, arrived at by negotiation and pragmatic compromise, and not just the imposition of a majority will.

      1. Andrew says:

        Taken to a logical conclusion a Scottish government veto over Westminster would mean there was little need for independence.

        1. 240209 says:

          But why should the Scottish (or any other) government have the power to veto decisions lawfully made by our elected representatives in the UK parliament? The Scottish government shouldn’t even have the power to veto decisions lawfully made by our elected representatives in the Scottish parliament.

  5. Michael Picken says:

    Ipsos use a different polling methodology to the other companies like Redfield and Wilton who published a few hours later and showed a much narrower gap between SNP and Labour and a No majority.

    Ipsos dial geographic landline numbers (in Scotland) at random and then ask participants answering if they will take part in a survey by telephone – which is done entirely by verbal cues and responses. The other companies have self-nominating large ‘panels’ of individuals who they invite by email to take part in an online survey where they click on answers on a screen; some offer rewards for those completing, usually in the form of ‘points’ towards goods where if they take place in enough surveys they can claim. Both methodologies have significant biases: many people don’t have a geographic landline numbers or don’t answer to numbers they don’t know; online panels tend to include more partisan interests with a wider awareness; a telephone/verbal survey will produce a more considered/slower response to reading a screen and clicking to get through the survey asap. Strangely, you would expect younger people to be less likely to have a landline and more inclined to chase rewards through online ‘work’, and therefore the bias to be the other way to what comes out (IPSOS consistently more pro-SNP/Indy than online based surveys). However the results are scaled according to demographics, though that’s only partially accurate at the moment due to absence of demographic data from census 2022 other than gender/age/region – education etc data will become available from May 2024. Neither survey gets easily to under 18s and particularly those who will have a vote in Scottish Parliament/Council/potential Indyref and we should remember someone who is 14/15 or even the Adrian Moles of 13 3/4 will have a vote in May 2026 for the next Holyrood election.

    There is insufficient understanding of the sampling, questioning and weighting methodologies, including the psychology of responding, to be able to say which is best. We also don’t know what the effects of Voter ID requirements or new Westminster constituencies will have on the next UK general election, though even a small effect of 1 or 2 percentage points of change could have a significant effect on what is now a very large number of marginal Westminster seats in Scotland.

    It’s still all too play for and we should be cautious about overinterpreting too narrowly the results. The overall trend however is clear: Labour has won voters from the Tories and has closed the gap with the SNP; the SNP are struggling to turnout their previous voting base and facing more candidates from Alba and Greens will affect their overall vote share relative to Labour; the Greens are winning more votes from young people and could overtake Labour among that cohort; support for independence is still above that in 2014 and an absolute majority among under 60s with higher percentages as you go down the age cohorts.

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