Where to find Salmond in deep water
When I started writing this blog I made a semi-conscious decision that I would keep it pretty light-hearted and not enter into too dangerous territory. For this reason I haven’t thus far written about anything remotely political as this is an area which is always controversial and subjective.
Today, however, I just can’t help myself when I hear that Scotland’s First Minister, Alex Salmond, has been caught out, yet again, with what he terms a “mistake” but which the opposition would call “misleading parliament”.
He had to apologise yesterday for saying that referendum expert Dr Matt Qvortrup had endorsed the SNP government’s plans for a two-question vote on Scotland’s future. He later corrected his comments, saying he had used information at Holyrood which was “wrong”. Prof Qvortrup had told the Times that a two-question referendum was untenable.
We don’t have to look too far to find some other “howlers” from the man himself.
In 2009 his comment in a Spanish television interview that “sterling is sinking like a stone” is indefensible from a UK government minister and could have had serious repercussions on Scottish jobs.
In 2010 during a live television debate he conceded that the perpetrator of the Dunblane massacre would have been treated differently to Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi by the Scottish Government had he survived. Mr Salmond admitted Thomas Hamilton would never have been freed on compassionate grounds had he lived and later contracted terminal cancer. Political opponents called for an apology and the US families of the Lockerbie victims said the remarks were “astounding”.
The First Minister has a habit of grandstanding and he will say anything to please an audience.
On this latest debacle, Mr Fraser, the deputy Tory leader, said: “It speaks volumes about this government that, when it comes to their flagship policy of an independence referendum, they mislead, manipulate and manufacture evidence in support of their stance and they browbeat and bully those who dare to take a contrary view.”
The First Minister wants to put two propositions on the ballot paper, one that would mean Scotland becoming an independent country and the other that would preserve the Union with England, albeit with Holyrood being handed all tax powers.
Confusingly, Mr Salmond wants Scots to vote ‘yes’ to both questions. This could give him the consolation prize of more financial powers if he cannot convince people to back full separation.
But the Liberal Democrats questioned what would happen if a majority of Scots did as he wished and supported both propositions, despite their contradictory positions on the Union.
The First Minister’s senior special adviser responded that Scotland would become independent, even if more people backed the second question advocating extra powers but remaining part of the UK.
But what do the people of Scotland really want?
The vast majority of opinion polls conducted post 2006 show support levels for independence at between 20% and 40%. Despite the large number conducted on the issue, it is difficult to gauge definitively Scottish public opinion on independence because of the often widely varying results. Poll results often differ wildly depending on the wording of the question, with the terms such as “breakup” and “separation” often provoking a negative response. For example, an opinion poll published by The Scotsman newspaper in November 2006 revealed that a “Majority of Scots now favour independence”. However, a poll conducted by Channel 4 only two months later reported that “The figure in support of Scottish independence had seemingly dropped”. A third poll by The Daily Telegraph claimed that a significant proportion of Britons would accept the breakup of the United Kingdom. Research conducted in early 2007 revealed a rise in support for nationalist parties across the UK amongst younger voters. A notable comparison made was that in 1981 55% of respondents claimed to be ‘Very proud’ of Britain whereas in 2007 that number had dropped to 45%. In a poll in 2007 commissioned by The Scotsman newspaper it said support for Scottish independence was at a 10 year low with only 21% of people in support for it. Conversely, a 2008 opinion poll commissioned by the Sunday Herald newspaper, showed that support for independence was 41%. When polls give three options, including an option for greater devolution or a new federal settlement but stopping short of independence, support for independence significantly declines. In a poll by The Times, published in April 2007, given a choice between independence, the status quo, or greater powers for the Scottish Parliament within the United Kingdom, the last option had majority support.
Polls show a consistent support for a referendum, including amongst those who support the continuation of the union. Most opinion polls performed have a figure of in-principle support for a referendum around 70–75%. In March 2009, The Sunday Times published the results of a YouGov survey on Scottish support for independence (mirroring the earlier 2007 poll). Support for a referendum in principle was found to have fallen to 57% of respondents, with 53% of respondents stating they would vote against independence and 33% stating they would support independence. The Times reported that the fall in support for independence was likely linked to economic recession.
In August 2009, a YouGov survey with the Daily Mail asking if Scottish voters would support independence found that 28% would vote Yes, 57% would vote No, 11% did not know and 5% would not vote.
Another YouGov poll in October 2010 showed 34% saying Yes, and 50% not in favour of independence, with the other 16% not sure how they would vote.
A December 2010 face-to-face poll by TNS-BMRB showed 40% supporting independence, 44% opposing, and 16% unsure.
In June 2011, after the SNP majority election win, a poll by TNS-BMRB, with a 1,022 sample, showed independence support up 6% from 18 months previously, with 37% favouring independence in a potential referendum, with 45% against the proposal, and 18% not sure. The poll indicated 46% of people in Glasgow, and 51% of people under 24 supporting independence.
In August 2011, according to a TNS-BMRB/Herald poll, support for independence overtook opposition to independence for the first time since 2008, with 39% of voters saying they would vote yes, 38% saying they would vote no and the remainder of 23% was undecided or refused to say. This poll was the first one out of a series of ten conducted which all showed support for independence greater than outright opposition and as such was celebrated by the SNP as a positive sign that they may be able to reach the 50% mark.
Confused? You should be … guess we’ll just have to wait and see what happens ….. but remember this … theoretical opinion polls only tell half the story. What matters is who actually turns out to vote.