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Democracy attacked and ”poll” omits data … Unionist tactics become ever more desperate

Written by Richard Walker

The tactics of the forces working against independence are growing increasingly desperate. Barely a day goes by without a new Unionist initiative which defies not only the rules of democracy but also those of logic.

The last few days have been particularly enraging. No sooner had the dust settled over an ‘’opinion poll’’ which abandoned a methodology which could have changed a No lead to a Yes majority than Westminster announced it was irrevocably against listening to the democratic will of the Scottish people.

Tory Secretary of State for Scotland Alister Jack said yesterday that Prime Minister Boris Johnson will reject any calls for a second independence referendum no matter the size of a pro-independence majority in the May Holyrood election.

And he warned that any moves by the Scottish government to hold the referendum without a Westminster agreement would be challenged in court.

There has been no court ruling expressly forbidding the Scottish government to hold a vote on independence

‘’There are many reserved matters and the constitution is one of them,’’ Mr Jack said. ‘’ It’s entirely a matter for the UK government.”

That is itself a statement without any foundation in fact. There has been no court ruling expressly forbidding the Scottish government to hold such a vote.

Scottish Secretary Alister Jack

It’s a staggering affront to democracy to say that the result of an upcoming election will be completely ignored. Even given the blatant Westminster power grab of Holyrood spending abilities and the Westminster scheme to stick the Union flag on infrastructure projects in Scotland, it still takes the breath away.

Previous Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron immediately paved the way for the first independence referendum in 2014 after the SNP won a majority at Holyrood. The contrast with Boris Johnson’s dismissal of the democratic process could not be more stark.

The Prime Minister’s attack on democracy comes hot on the heels of an attempt by the Scotsman organisation – a newspaper that supported a No vote in 2014 –  to portray the support for Yes in indyref 2  falling below 50%.

It published data compiled by polling company Savanta Comres which ignored the usual procedure of weighting the results by respondents’ likelihood of actually voting. As a result the polling company itself admitted the data ‘’should not be treated as a headline Savanta ComRes voting intention”.

Business for Scotland has already revealed that polling company Savanta ComRes didn’t even ask respondents about their likelihood of voting, which would have allowed its data for the Scotsman organisation to be weighted in the usual way

Given that warning, and a further admission that the data could not be compared to previous opinion polls – the last 22 of which reported Yes support at 50% or over – you have to question the point of publishing this story.

Business for Scotland has already revealed that polling company Savanta ComRes didn’t even ask respondents about their likelihood of voting, which would have allowed its data for the Scotsman organisation to be weighted in the usual way.

The weighting system had been been applied to a previous poll by the same company last month and changed a No lead to a Yes majority.

The lack of that weighting meant Scotland on Sunday, which published the latest information, had to include this disclaimer: ‘’These figures are not weighted for voter turnout, with further polling expected this week to show a clearer impact of the inquiry on Scottish independence voting intention. These figures on Scottish independence are not directly comparable with previous polls on the subject, due to this and the nature of the poll.’’

Which is strange, given that the whole purpose of the endeavour was to see how opinions had changed following evidence given by Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon to the Holyrood inquiry into the Scottish government’s handling of complaints against Mr Salmond. The methodology expressly ruled out such a comparison.

Nonetheless other media outlets covered the poll as an indication that the Yes majority had slipped way, some with the disclaimer others without it.

Confusion still  surrounds how exactly the poll was carried out. Savanta ComRes’ political research director Chris Hopkins initially told Business for Scotland the company would consider whether to republish the poll with the weighting applied. Later he said that would not be possible because the weighting question had not been asked.

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Richard Walker

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