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Showing posts with label opinion polls. Show all posts
Showing posts with label opinion polls. Show all posts

Thursday, 28 August 2014

20 days to go - a few thoughts on #indyref state of play

Only 20 days to go - it's hard to believe. The campaign seems to have been going on for ever, but like everything in life, suddenly the event is upon you – there’s all the time in the world, then suddenly, there’s little time left.

It's very hard to predict what the outcome will be.

If the polls are to be believed (poll of polls average) YES will lose. There's no doubt that there is a very  fearful  NO constituency out there of Scots over 55 who fear change, fear uncertainty, and cling to the status quo, even though the risks are greater in remaining in UK.

There's also a hard core of selfish Scots - the "I'm alright Jock" complacent group, with no thought for the vulnerable in our society.

Set against that is the totally unique nature of the Scottish Referendum. There quite literally has been nothing like this - anywhere, ever.

A peaceful, democratic process by an ancient nation that was never conquered, but entered reluctantly, but voluntarily into a partnership with a larger nation 307 years ago, with many of its ancient institutions still functioning - its legal system, its church, its education system, its own NHS (since 1948), its own Parliament - and vitally, a mass YES  movement, the largest in British history, totally unprecedented, that has catalysed ordinary people across society and political divides, ethnic origins, age and sex demographics into political and constitutional awareness.

A referendum turnout of over 80% is expected to vote, and crucially, this will include people who have never voted before in their lives, and people who were never registered to vote.

Pollsters do not poll voters with no previous voting record, so this group, size unknown, is not reflected in poll results. Additionally, this group exists predominantly among the working class and the deprived, which is where YES has its greatest support - for obvious reasons.

YES has a huge army of foot soldiers, campaigning daily across Scotland, not just stuffing leaflets,  but carrying out their own polls on voting preferences. These results, together with an equally unprecedented attendance at political YES meetings across Scotland, with village halls packed out, all present an encouraging picture.

So there's all to play for!

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Ius naturale, independence and negotiation


I made my living for many years as a negotiator, in employee relations, then as a consultant and trainer in negotiation and negotiating skills. Negotiation is a very ancient art, and when it takes place between nations, it is called diplomacy. The Romans, who you will remember once had an empire and then lost it, almost never negotiated – they relied on brute force or law to resolve disputes. In law, they made a major contribution to civilisation, and they saw the law as falling into three type ius civile, applicable to Roman citizens, ius gentium, between citizens and foreigners and ius naturale, what we tend to call international human rights – the natural law.

The latter applied to all races and in all circumstances, and in particular it emphasised that, when interpreting treaties under the law, regard must be taken of equity and reason, not just the letter of the treaty – what is sometime called the spirit of the law.

What brought all this to mind? Well, when I was a young negotiator in American industry, the negotiating literature was not as plentiful as it later became, and I was reliant on American guidelines from very senior negotiators who had cut their teeth in the hard school of American industry and specifically the automobile industry. (One of my senior American bosses was a veteran of the Battle of the Overpass in 1937, when the  Ford Motor Company security goons clashed with union organisers, where extreme violence was used in an industrial dispute. Battle of the Overpass One of the two union organisers – the other was Walter Reuther -  was called Frankensteen!)

My last boss in the old Goodyear Plant in Glasgow, the delightful Clarence Adkins Junior had been a former union official, and often spoke of carrying a turkey gun – a kind of blunderbuss – inside his long coat when picketing the factories during  what he called ‘difficult’ strikes. The Americans were wedded firmly to the piecework system of payment by results, which worked well enough in the context of American business unionism, but eventually proved lethal to the Scottish plant at Garscadden. Piecework gave rise to something called fractional bargaining – haggling over everything – and, while it could be managed, tended to be very destructive. In America, it had co-existed in a kind of dynamic tension with complex contract negotiations, but these were viewed in a very different way in the arcane world of UK industrial relations in the 1960s and 1970s.

But I went beyond this limited adversarial model in my reading, and discovered, in a second hand bookshop, a little book called Diplomacy by Harold Nicolson. Harold Nicolson – Wikipedia As well as being a British diplomat, wee Harold led, shall we say, a colourful life, some of which has been dramatised on television, but whatever his adventures were outside of diplomacy, my interest was in his little book – which I still have – and what it had to say about negotiation. My little reprise above on the Romans and negotiation was prompted by Harold, who is as relevant today as he was when the book was first published in the late 1930s. (It was revised in the 1950s, and of course, the sixty years since have been a little hectic.)

(I later had a long involvement, both in industry and later in consultancy with Professor Gavin Kennedy, who wrote a number of definitive popular works on negotiation. Gavin, who had a thorough distaste for politicians, although he was a Scot Nat, in a discussion with the late Douglas Henderson of the SNP and me on  a course, laughed at the idea of politicians negotiating, and he was right, in the main – it should be left to the professional diplomats like Sir Christopher Myer.)

What has all this got to do with a pound of mince?



THE REFERENDUM

The SNP win in May 2011 caused a collective outbreak of hysteria and disbelief in the metropolitan media and among unionist politicians. In the case of the Labour Party, this approached what used to be called a nervous breakdown, especially among Scottish labour politicians. It also spawned a torrent of superficial analysis and comment, most of it unbelievably ill-informed, and an outbreak of factoids (I use the word as defined by the man who coined it, Norman MailerSomething that everybody knows is true except it ain’t! ) - that went way beyond the reach of mere suppositories, and now requires urgent surgery.

The backwoodsmen and women of the Tory Party huffed and puffed patronisingly – one eejit in Ian Davidson’s little cabal known euphemistically as The Scottish Affairs Committee suggested recently that Scotland withdrawing from the Union was equivalent to a member resigning from a club – shouldn’t the other members have a say, old boy? – and the Colonial Governor, Michael Moore demonstrates at regular interval’s – last outing today on the Politics Show – that he understands neither Scotland nor the Act of Union, never mind plain English, especially when it is spoken by Alex Salmond, wearily but affably  saying for the umpteenth time when the referendum will be, and what is meant by independence and full fiscal autonomy. I understand, our American cousins understand, an intelligent eight-year old would understand, my two Westies, Angus and Dougal, understand, but Michael Moore doesn’t. A bad case of earwax, maybe?

The Act of Union was a treaty between two independent kingdoms. It doesn’t take two to end a treaty or an agreement, it only takes one, either by negotiating the terms of exit or unilaterally. The ius civile and the ius gentium are undoubtedly relevant, but so is the ius naturale, especially after 300 plus years. If the UK Government wilfully misunderstands this, and continues to act like the Romans in decline, then the Scots will become less civil and move towards acting naturale take note, gentlemen

Independence is a beautifully simple concept, and needs no complex definition – it means a nation doing its own thing, in every aspect of its affairs. Full fiscal autonomy doesn’t need Ming Campbell’s version of the Steel Committee to tell us what it is – it’s independence in everything except the ultimate sovereignty of Westminster, foreign policy and defence, the nuclear deterrent and membership of the EU and the UN.

The timing of the referendum is in the second half of this Scottish Parliamentary term, and the date is when we’re ready, not when you’re ready, Michael Moore. But keep pushing and Alex might just give you a nasty surprise. You’re bluffing, Michael, and bluffs sometimes get called when the time is right.

If you really expect us to blow our negotiating hand in advance of the referendum outcome on the detail of the negotiation that will inevitable follow, dream on, Michael. But by all means set out what you see as the detailed agenda for that negotiation, and we’ll let you know what we think of the items that might be up for discussion.

And lastly, if you want to go down in history as a statesman, rather than a pompous young windbag, you might consider addressing the issues in an adult, statesmanlike fashion. Try and act in the spirit of the ius naturale. The Roman Empire first began to negotiate seriously when it was near to collapse – maybe the UK can make a better job of it in similar circumstances …

We know what side you’re on – the UK’s side – and you know what side we’re on – Scotland’s. Talk calmly about the issues that lie ahead and stop your ridiculous posturing and grandstanding – it cuts nae ice wi’ Scots. Frankly, it gie’s us the boke


Tuesday, 18 October 2011

What Scots thought about government in 2010 - Scottish Social Attitudes Survey

A fascinating document, the findings of which are not as easily attacked by the Unionists as the ComRes poll and other samples.

But the big question is where does Scotland stand today? And where will it stand on the fateful day when its electors cast their votes on independence?

On that day, be on the right side of history, Scots - vote YES for freedom.


Thursday, 13 October 2011

The UK Supreme Court – constitutional and independence implications

In the light of the recent UK Supreme Court judgment (I spell it judgment against my instincts towards judgement because I believe this is legal practice) and certain remarks about what the Scottish Parliament can and cannot do - which some have interpreted as a shot across the SNP Government’s bows in relation to the referendum - a number of correspondents have asked me if I plan to comment. Firstly, this is properly Peat Worrier’s blog territory, and secondly, I have said pretty much what I wanted to say about the UK Supreme Court in the following blogs -

The UK Supreme Court and the Scottish legal system

The UK Supreme Court–FMQs 16th June 2011 – Holyrood

The UK Supreme Court, the judges–and the Union’s future

The UK Supreme Court–the debate polarises and takes on new dimensions

 

There are very fundamental questions raised about constitutional issues and the rule of law arising from the very existence of the UK Supreme Court. I have no legal qualifications or training – I am simply a citizen under the law. But I believe that the setting up of the UK Supreme Court was a political act, and that law and legal systems and processes exist within a political concept and a state – in this case The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland - but also within concepts of the rule of law that transcend the state, closely allied to concepts of justice that also transcend the state.

I have a simple, and some might say, a simplistic view of the Union. It was a contract, entered into under bribery and duress, but entered into nonetheless, that united two kingdoms under a single sovereign state. Each signatory to that agreement and subsequent relevant treaties and amendments surrendered their individual sovereignty as formerly independent nation states to the new state. It was, like any contract, intended to be to the mutual benefit of those who entered into it.

The question arises inevitably, as in any contract, how does one party terminate that contract if it no longer serves their interests? Since it cannot be argued that any treaty or contract is permanent, there must be a mechanism and a process, especially in a democracy in the 21st century.

It cannot be argued that all parties to the contract must have unanimity and consensus before one party has a right to withdraw. That would confer a right of veto on withdrawal.

The normal mechanism for withdrawal from a contract is to serve notice of intention to withdraw, discuss the terms of the withdrawal, and observe any notice periods and cancellation obligations that were part of the original contractual document, or were incurred by subsequent agreed amendments. Parallels can – and have been - drawn with ending an employment contract, a commercial contract or a contract of marriage, the latter to the point of tedium. However, when considering withdrawal from a state or empire, such parallels are not entirely adequate, and in any case, there are more appropriate real life models to consider, namely that of countries achieving their independence.

WITHDRAWAL FROM A STATE OR EMPIRE

The British Empire can draw on a long history of events, in the progressive loss of that empire, that demonstrate very clearly what the options have been, and how they have been exercised.

Without attempting to catalogue that particular history, the options that are evident from a wider history, as I see them, are as follow -

1. Negotiate a peaceful exit under the terms of the treaties and obligations that exist.

2. Unilaterally withdraw, but negotiate on the obligations.

3.  Unilaterally withdraw (unilateral declaration of independence. UDI) and wait to see what the other party does, i.e. secede. (When this is successful, it is called a velvet revolution.)

4. Unilaterally withdraw and repudiate all obligations as null and void.

Option One is the clear preferred option of the SNP. They are committed to achieving independence through democratic means.

If negotiation fails, or any of the other three options are resisted by the existing state as constituted, the possibility exists of at least civil resistance and disobedience, or in the extreme case, violence, which may manifest itself as repressive violence by the larger state against the country attempting to achieve independence, or revolutionary violence by the smaller entity against the state.

The British State can look at both relatively peaceful and amicable examples, and also at notoriously violent examples. The island of Ireland offers many salutary lessons.

WHERE WE ARE NOW

A significant number of the Scottish electorate now wish to withdraw from the United Kingdom.

A significant number wish to remain in the UK.

An appreciable number have not yet made up their minds.

These numbers can only be estimated by polling methods, and can only be ultimately determined by a referendum. The Scottish electorate has twice elected a political party to govern them – the second time with a massive and decisive majority - called The Scottish National Party, one that is committed to the independence of Scotland as a nation state.

The Scottish electorate, in a general election a year earlier, elected a decisive majority of Labour MPS, a party that is committed to maintaining the Union, to govern them in the UK Parliament. (The UK electorate as a whole cast their votes in a manner that was not as clean cut or decisive, and produced a Coalition. Any analysis of the outcome of the 2010 General election revealed a deeply divided nation, with English voters favouring the Conservative and LibDem parties, two parties that were reduced to  a rump in Scotland.)

Just what the Scottish voters meant by their massive vote for a nationalist party is the subject of partisan interpretation and partisan debate by both sides, but what is accepted, I believe by all parties (and by me) is that not all Scots who voted for the SNP were voting for independence. But it also certain that all of the Scots who did not vote for the SNP in the General election, and voted for Labour, were  not necessarily against independence.

The only way to settle the question of what Scottish voters want is a referendum.

Bluntly, what English, Welsh and Northern Irish voters want Scotland to do is entirely irrelevant, whether they favour Scottish independence or are hostile to it – only the wishes of the Scottish people can and must be considered, and only Scottish voters may vote in such a referendum.

THE TIMING OF THE REFERENDUM

The world economy, the European economy, the UK economy and the Scottish economy are facing the greatest threat for generations. Two arguments can be advanced – one, that right now is the wrong time to call a referendum because the Government of Scotland must concentrate on facing the economic challenge, and two, that the referendum must be held as soon as possible, to secure control of Scottish resources and permit more effective action.

A third argument can be advanced in favour a calling the referendum now, namely that the uncertainty is damaging both Scotland’s and the UK’s economic response to the crisis, and it has to be got out of the way.

The First Minister of Scotland made it clear in the party manifesto and in every subsequent statement, that the referendum will be called in the second half of this Scottish Parliamentary term.

From a realpolitik standpoint, both nationalist and unionist camps have a vested interest in only calling a referendum when opinion polls suggest the time may be opportune for their desired outcome. Anyone who claims that the parties are not motivated by such a considerations is ether disingenuous or a damned fool.

The role of the pollsters is therefore crucial.

One hypothetical situation will suffice to illustrate this – if a series of reputable polls in the next week showed that there was a massive shift among the electorate towards an independent Scotland, the Unionist currently calling for an immediate referendum would suddenly find an enthusiasm for delay and obfuscation. If the polling situation were reversed, the First Minister need do nothing, except wait and hope that they  would shift again before the second half of his term.

DANGERS

At the very least, a substantial minority of Scottish voters are unhappy about their membership of the UK and want out, and a significant minority are undecided. Only a minority of Scots therefore profess themselves wholly satisfied with the status quo. No state, however constituted, can ignore such a situation, especially when those who want out are consumed by passionate conviction, are well organised, and constitute the devolved government of that state.

At a time like this, the people need clear-eyed democrats, both in politics, in the law, and in the media, committed to the rule of law, but also to internationally accepted principles of human rights, free speech and the right to self-determination of free people.

Failure to understand these aspirations, especially in a time of deep economic uncertainty, risks serious consequences, ones that could be profoundly damaging to the people of these islands. Sinister forces lurk on the margins of such situations, waiting their opportunity to de-stabilise the the situation, and exploit and profit from it. Once the levers of power slip into these hands, they cannot be prised off by rational argument and democratic processes.



POSTSCRIPT

Now read this in today's Telegraph, and tell me I have no need to worry.

Alex Salmond faces Commons grilling over Scottish separation

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Ed Miliband’s speech to the Labour Party Conference deconstructed by a separatist - me!

I have just read the transcript of Ed Miliband’s speech to the Scottish Labour Party Conference. It reveals an interesting, but entirely predictable set of priorities of the London-based - and led - Labour Party.

Reluctantly summoning up my old work study and quality control techniques, I endured the utter tedium of counting the key word references in this speech, which revealed that, as far as Miliband Minor and his shadow Cabinet are concerned, the Scottish Parliamentary election on May 5th is simply a vehicle for getting London Labour re-elected at the next general election.

(For the masochists among you, I have appended at the end of this blog the word sequence as it emerged in time terms through the speech . I will understand if your eyes glaze over …)

Today’s Herald headline summarises the recent opinion poll results as follows -

Labour narrowly ahead of SNP in election poll

Even the giant amoebic brains of Iain Gray’s campaign managers can grasp the significance of this, with the SNP rapidly narrowing the gap, just 4 points behind Labour in the constituency vote and 3 points behind on the list vote. Allied to the fact that Alex Salmond is the most popular politician in Scotland by far, and Iain Gray is almost invisible, Scottish Labour know who they have to beat on May 5th. The Scottish Tories remain an endangered species in Scotland, at 12% constituency and 13% for the list votes, and represent no threat, except in terms of alliances in a minority government or even a hung Parliament.

But Ed Miliband clearly sees them as the enemy, because he mentions them no less than 25 times in his speech. The SNP, in contrast, are mentioned just four times and the LibDems get six mentions.

Little Ed isn’t fighting the Scottish election, he is fighting the next general election for London Labour, and the Scots are just cannon fodder for that battle.

It takes Ed quite some time to get to mentioning Scotland in his opening, because he is worried that David Cameron is strutting his Britain-as-a-global-player stuff on an international stage of sorts over Libya, and has given a pretty good imitation of a statesman. It just ain’t fair - Maggie had her war, Blair had his wars, and now Ed is being denied his war, and the PR and electoral edge that violence abroad gives to UK Prime Ministers.

So after a token “It’s a pleasure to be here at the Scottish conference”, he opens with Libya, and the topic centres go as follows -

Libya, internationalist party, overseas aid,the Balkans, international community, Colonel Gadaffi, armed forces, possible combat, Libya, Libya, Middle East, Middle East, Palestine, Israel, Palestinian people, then at last - Scottish election.

The agenda is clear. The UK - and the British Prime Minister - only haves real identities through foreign policy and their capacity to intervene anywhere across the globe in the affairs of other nations: Scotland is there to slavishly feed that identity by a disproportionate blood sacrifice of its young men and women, as it has done since the Union of 1707, and the faster they contribute to defeating the Tories and letting Ed occupy the role of Commander-in-Chief, the better.

Of course, given the annoying propensity of the Scots to want to run their own affairs, including their foreign policy, and to decide how and when they put their armed forces in harm’s way, Ed Miliband has to wrench himself back to his ostensible purpose for being in Scotland - to support his puppet Scottish party, and the man they unfortunately chose to lead them, Iain Gray.

(I have no doubt whatsoever that an independent Scotland would have played its full, voluntary part in supporting the UN against Gadaffi, as a sovereign country within Europe.)

The term independence dare not be used in the Scottish context, so Miliband uses separatism, in the fond unionist belief that it is pejorative. (I am more than happy to be called a separatist!)

Miliband  is also forced summon up a concept that is all but invisible to the Scottish electorate - Iain Gray’s leadership.

Iain Gray’s leadership is a kind of dark matter in the Scottish Labour Party - it ought to be there, it is difficult to explain his selection as leader if it is not there, but no one can find it. Perhaps if Iain Gray was passed at high speed though the Large Hadron Collider by Professor Brian Cox, a particle of that hitherto invisible leadership might fleetingly become visible - even a charisma particle - Gray’s Bosun -might flicker for a moment before it too vanished into the primeval soup of Holyrood Labour.

But the first mention of the Gray leadership particle is speedily followed by the following terms in quick succession - Tory Threat, Scotland, Poll Tax, Scotland, Thatcher, The Tories, Scotland, The Tories, The Tories, The Tories …

And so it goes on - and on - for some time, alternating Scotland and Iain Gray’s leadership as if they bore any connection to reality.

Then, way down the list and well into the speech, the SNP makes its fleeting appearance - four times only, in contrast to the Tories 25 mentions, with two reference to Alex Salmond. The tired old Arc of Prosperity argument is trotted out yet again, with gratuitous insults for Ireland and a great silence on Norway.

Labour heroes of the distant and more recent past - Keir Hardie, Donald Dewar and John Smith - are given a reverential mention, all of whom are spinning rapidly in their graves at the contemptible thing their beloved Party has become under the current crop of expedient nuclear warmongers.

Read the full speech if you can. But here is the list in sequence - judge for yourselves -

ED MILIBAND

It is a pleasure to be here at the Scottish Conference.

Libya

internationalist party

overseas aid

the Balkans

international community

Colonel Gaddafi

armed forces

possible combat

Libya

Libya

Middle East

Middle East

Palestinians

Israel

Palestinian people

Scottish election

Scotland

Westminster

Tories

Holyrood

Scottish people

Tories

Tories

Scottish Labour party

Iain Gray’s leadership

Tory Threat

Scotland

Poll Tax

Scotland

Thatcher

The Tories

Scotland

The Tories

The Tories

The Tories

Labour

Tories

Scotland

Iain as First Minister

Labour

Scotland

Iain as First Minister

Iain's leadership

Scotland

Labour

Iain's leadership

Scotland

Scotland

Britain’s

Scotland

Tories

SNP

SNP

Scotland

Tory threat

Scotland

Tories

United Kingdom

Conservative-led government

London

the Tories

Scotland alone

separatism

Europe

Scotland

Iceland

Ireland

Alex Salmond’s

Arc of Prosperity

Scotland

Britain

Tories

Westminster

Holyrood

Scotland

Tories

Tories

Tory Government

England’s

England

Tory manifesto

Liberal Democrats

Nick Clegg

Britain

Liberal democrats

Liberal Democrats

Liberal Democrat

UK

Tories

Scottish

Welsh Assembly

Westminster

Labour

Labour

the Tories

Labour

United Kingdom

Scotland

David Cameron

Liberal Democrats

SNP

Tories

Alex Salmond

separatism

Tories

Labour

Labour

Edinburgh

Scotland

UK

General Election

Oldham East

Barnsley Central

Paisley

SNP

Westminster

Liberal Democrats

Conservative

Scottish Labour

Keir Hardie

John Smith

Donald Dewar

Iain Gray

Scottish Labour

Wester Hailes

Scotland

Tories

Scotland

Iain Gray