Generation Yes (ish)

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YES March & Rally for Scottish Independence.  Image by Ivon BartBy Alistair Davidson

It is something of a tradition, when a radical political movement emerges, to hail the new generation of young people who are rejecting the bad old ways, and trumpet the return of the organised left. When I was a student in the early 2000s, the alter-globalisation and anti-war movements were taken as evidence that my generation were rejecting 1980s “greed is good” values. In 2011, Paul Mason claimed that anti-austerity protests and the Arab Spring were driven by “a new sociological type: the graduate with no future.” Of the independence referendum, Gerry Hassan has written that “Arguments articulated by the establishment and the political Old Guard fail to resonate with a new generation of voter”; Pete Ramand, that “radical Scotland has left its ghetto.”

It is fantastic, and hugely exciting, to see young people engage with democracy, to try to change their country for the better…

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Movement politics v professional politics

Originally posted on :

Over 1000 people protest at BBC news bias

Over 1000 people protest at BBC news bias

by Alistair Davidson

On Sunday, over a thousand ordinary citizens demonstrated outside BBC Scotland against its perceived bias when reporting on the Scottish independence referendum. There can be no doubt that this is a major rupture in Scottish political life – the BBC has until recently been very well-regarded by most Scots, but has been plunged into crisis by contradictions between its role as British state broadcaster and the need to be neutral, and to be seen as neutral, in the referendum.

There has been extensive discussion on Twitter about the effectiveness or otherwise of the demonstration. Some leading Yes campaigners have come out against it, saying that it interrupted their planned PR schedule, and that time would be better spent knocking doors. Some journalists have expressed concern about facing this kind of pressure, and pointed out that no professional PR person would recommend such an action, which after all could alienate any…

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Poll tracker updated for latest Yougov

Mid-way through June, we’ve had a poll from every company. The net effect of the month has a been a small gain to Yes, but generally the polls remain in two groups – three polls showing high-40s, three polls showing around 40.



I’ve re-plotted the Yes Range Tentacle to cover all the polls since the referendum question was announced.


We’ve come a long way, baby

Two new #indyref polls, and a psychological landmark from Panelbase, giving us the highest result (48%) of any poll so far, and a higher raw Yes vote than either Yougov or TNS have for their raw No vote. That isn’t meaningful, but is a moment I’ve been waiting for for a long time.

John Curtice and James Kelly (ICM, Panelbase) have full analysis.

Yes is certainly on the march. Typically, we are 95% certain a poll is right to within 3%, if their methodology is correct. So to get a better picture, below I use a 3-month rolling average of each poll. This also helps with a problem I have with Google Spreadsheet that means the polls are normalised to the nearest month.

Click on graphs to enlarge.


Unsmoothed, that looks like this:

In the raw Yes / No votes with Don’t Knows included, we see a green line cross a red one for the first time!


Only rounding errors prevent the No lead in the poll-of-polls collapsing into single figures


The weird tentacle that is the possible Yes range has narrowed in our direction this month.



Mid-June #indyref polls update

I haven’t written about independence referendum polls in a while. ICM’s absurd leading question from last month completely depressed me. My policy so far has been to not include polls unless the referendum question is the first political question asked. I dropped two polls for this last year – one by the SNP, one by Devo Plus. I was in the middle of excitedly typing up ICM’s stunning swing to No when the news that their May poll was nonsense broke, and it really knocked me back. As a result of all this, the following figures do not include the ICM May poll. The word is their June poll will return to a sensible question order, so if the swing to No was real it will show up in that poll, and a future blog post. James Kelly and John Curtice provide excellent poll analysis as they come in, so from now on I am going to focus on my unique selling point – pretty graphs! Click on the graphs for larger versions.Here’s the per-pollster graph since the start:ImageWe can smooth out the random variation by taking a three-month rolling average of each poll. The following graph includes almost all polls since the referendum question was announced. It shows the polls converging into two groups – ICM/Panelbase/Survation, who think Yes is running between 45% and 50%, and Yougov/TNS/Ipsos Mori, who think Yes sits in the 40%-45% range.ImageThe poll-of-polls, using James Kelly’s method of taking the most recent poll from each company, shows that since reaching a nadir last August, Yes has been on the march in a big way.ImageIf we plot the decline in the No lead over the last year of the campaign, we see a trend that has No winning 53% to 47% on the big day itself. That is too close to call – and any trends will surely accelerate as more people tune in to the campaign. That said we should be wary of a late bounce to No, as some people lose their bottle.ImageThe next one is a new idea. Given the big gaps between different polling companies, poll-of-polls based on averaging lose a lot of information. The dark green line is the highest Yes vote from any current poll plus 3% (the usual margin of error), and the dark red line is the lowest Yes vote from any current poll minus 3%. The brighter green and red lines are respectively the mean average of the highest 3 and lowest 3 polls. The gold line is the mean average of all polls, and the yellow line is the mean average of internet polls (ICM, Yougov, Panelbase, Survation). Ipsos Mori uses phone polling, and TNS knock doors.This graph shows that yes is at record highs by all measures, and could even be ahead, but probably isn’t.Image

It’s the jobs, stupid: how we’re going to win the referendum

Today’s Sunday Herald front page makes me almost deliriously happy. I’ve written about reindustrialisation several times now. I think it is the key message for the yes campaign.


Basically, the Scottish people voted Labour while Labour protected Scottish jobs. The shift towards the SNP happened after Blair, and it wasn’t caused by nonexistent WMDs or dodgy dossiers. The Tories were the big enemy who took away the jobs, communities and hope of working people. Labour were meant to protect that, and they were meant to bring it back. Under Blair, they failed. When Gordon Brown turned out to be more of the same, a large chunk of Scotland gave up on Labour.

The SNP have a top-to-bottom plan already in progress to reindustrialise the country using our renewable potential (1/4 of Europe’s wind and tide, 1/10 of its waves). Yards like Nigg are reopening, creating thousands of jobs.

This works especially well because North Sea oil has made us world-leaders in marine engineering. We have the opportunity to be world-leaders in design, manufacture and deployment of deep-sea wind turbines.

The EU has an international plan to build a continental energy grid, to end dependency on Russian gas. If you pay close attention, you’ll notice senior SNP people often talk about energy security as a primary aim. They don’t mean Scotland’s, they mean Europe’s. We’re going to build massive undersea cables to the continent and power Germany’s factories.

Reindustrialisation makes sense from a right or left-wing perspective. It is good for Scottish business, the Scottish economy, and the Scottish working class all at once. It makes no sense, whatever your political persuasion, to remain tied to a political system that has been fully captured by the financial industry and their plan to make London the “capital of capitalism.”

That plan offers nothing for Scotland. The bedroom tax is a prime example – its aim seems to be to free up some liquidity in the London property market, which is acting as a store of value for the global elite. This is horrible for ordinary Londoners, but does make a sort of right-wing sense in that city. In Scotland, it does nothing but shunt disabled people from cheap social housing to expensive homelessness units, without benefiting a single Scottish business and at tremendous human cost.

Meanwhile we have to fight tooth and nail to have essential infrastructure like the Western Isles interconnector built, and are burdened by illogical National Grid energy transmission fees.

The people of Scotland are sick of mass unemployment, and they are sick of irrational, unaccountable policymaking. The credible offer of thousands of high-quality jobs will win this referendum.

Trigger Warnings

There has been some debate lately in the press about trigger warnings (TWs) – especially the demand from some activists that warnings be added to classic literature.

As someone who has overcome PTSD, I have mixed feelings about “trigger” warnings. Some traumatic events, notably sexual assaults, are so common and so traumatic that it is a good idea to warn people up-front, but the word “trigger” is the wrong word, because triggers for true panic attacks or flashbacks can be almost anything.

For example, I once had an acute stress reaction to a flatmate attempting suicide. I have never had any triggered reaction since when viewing media portraying suicide, but I did have intense visual flashbacks the first time I returned to the place where it happened.

TWs were introduced to warn of discussion of sexual assault on feminist blogs. That seems like a really good idea, and you can see why the word trigger was applied. Since then, they have first evolved to be used for less and less traumatic things, eg “TW: homophobia” – it is upsetting to read a homophobic statement, but it isn’t likely to be “triggering” in the same way as an explicit description of a sexual assault is. More recently, they have been employed sarcastically, to denigrate a political opponent. For example linking to a Suzanne Moore article and saying “TW: transphobia”. Following the dilution, some blogs are now calling them “content warnings” instead.

It is a good idea to give people fair warning of content that is similar to common traumas such as sexual assault and abuse. I’m against against it being mandatory for rarer traumatic events, such as school shootings – it upsets me when I see shooting-related items in the news, but I can’t expect the world to tiptoe around my rare trauma.

There would be real danger in applying the broad content warning model to literature. It flags up to the reader that they ought to be traumatised by the content, an action which can cause rather than prevent trauma. It suggests, somehow, that we should not be made to feel uncomfortable. Surely it is the job of literature to make us uncomfortable, exposing us to cultures, world-views and ways of being that are different from our own, unpleasant or not.


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