Known unknowns, known knowns, unknown knowns and unknown unknowns

The categorisation in the title- or at least part of it – is often attributed to Donald Rumsfeld when he was American Secretary of State for Defence (though he certainly was not the first to use it). The full quote goes

“Reports that say that something hasn’t happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don’t know we don’t know. And if one looks throughout the history of our country and other free countries, it is the latter category that tend to be the difficult one”

Of most concern to Rumsfeld therefore were unknown unknowns, which the British Columbia Royal Commission of Inquiry into Uranium Mining in 1979 distinguished from known unknowns as follows

“Known unknowns result from phenomena which are recognized, but poorly understood.”

So for instance, we don’t fully understand weather – will threatening clouds just pass over, or will it rain before I get back- so if I go out for a walk I might take an umbrella as “insurance”.

“On the other hand, unknown unknowns are phenomena which cannot be expected because there has been no prior experience or theoretical basis for expecting the phenomena.”

Many of the demands for information made by Better Together during the last referendum could often be categorised in either of these ways. Questions would continuously be posed so that if there was no answer then they could say “see, they don’t know” (the known unknown, or in some cases the unknown unknown). Or if there was an answer to use it as a platform to pose further questions. One instance of that strategy was the BBC’s well-worn style “warning about …….”, linked to independence. Craig Murray helpfully even provides an illustrative list (https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2013/04/bbc-the-new-hammer-of-the-scots/), though as Murray points out, these are only those where both “independence” and “warning” both appear in the same title.

  • ‘Scottish independence: Pension shortfall warning’
  • ‘Scottish independence: Warning over “weakened military”‘
  • ‘Scottish independence: “Havoc” warning from pensions firm’
  • ‘Scottish independence: Luxembourg warns against “going separate ways”‘
  • ‘Scottish independence: Barroso warning on EU membership’
  • ‘Scottish independence: Michael Moore issues warning over vote question’
  • ‘Scottish independence: “Border checks” warning from home secretary’

An interesting example is the last of these, “border checks”, since the Home Secretary in 2014 has now become our Prime Minister. The contemporary BBC report says that (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-17505302)

  1. “Ms May claimed independence could lead to mass immigration problems.” – quite why this was the case was never explained. Perhaps if independence had been such a disaster there would have been widespread hunger so that Scots were fighting to get out? If the reaction of rUK in these circumstances was to erect border posts to keep starving people out, then even on the basis of that rather unlikely hypothetical, should we not be looking to become independent?
  2. “Afterwards, the home secretary said she envisaged “some sort of border check” if Scotland joined the European Schengen common travel area” – but at the very least there was no certainty that Scotland would have joined Schengen – indeed Better Together would tell us often as they could that we would not be able to join the EU for many years. In any event, how would the EU have benefited from forcing Scotland – which has no direct border with any country other than England – to join Schengen. A more intelligent proposition would have been that Scotland, like the Republic of Ireland, would have joined the Common Travel Area, which has operated to the satisfaction of most since 1922 as the Home Office were disinclined to patrol the porous and meandering border between Northern Ireland and the Republic. Just why Scotland would be treated differently was never made clear – a known unknown.
  3. “Ms May called for clarity on the issue as part of the independence debate.” – or put another way, May was calling on Yes to get the European Commission to opine on whether they would insist on Scotland being forced to join Schengen, even though the Commission would only reply if such a request came from the government of a member state, which in this case was the government at Westminster, of which May was a member. And there is a parallel here with Tom Peterkin this morning (http://www.scotsman.com/news/snp-seeks-a-way-to-avoid-border-checkpoints-after-independence-1-4208480) and May two years ago, in that the onus in both is placed on Scotland. Peterkin’s report appears with the headline, that “SNP seeks a way to avoid border checkpoints after independence”, but even he is eventually driven by the facts to quote Fabian Zuleeg, chief executive of the European Policy Centre and one of Sturgeon’s panel of EU advisers that all parties “would do whatever they can to avoid” a hard border

    In fact, clarity could have been provided in both cases if London had advised us just why the border between Scotland and England was so much more difficult than the border between the two parts of Ireland, that it would have to be managed much more rigorously. But that question has never been put. We know that London is anxious not even to be seen to do anything that might undermine the peace process in Northern Ireland, and making a “hard border” between the North and the Republic is the last thing they would want. Why, when illegal immigrants could just as easily get to Dublin, travel north to Belfast and thence into the UK, is Scotland different? Instead when in 2014 independence was put on the back foot on this matter the standard “scaremongering” response was made – when really it is London who should be answering the questions, particularly when on 24th June on Any Questions Chris Grayling (Secretary of State for Transport and leading Brexiteer) was quite certain – the day after the EU referendum – that the Common Travel Area would continue as before.

    Yet this has barely scraped the surface of the debate about Scottish independence. Only those who argue for Scottish independence are expected to fill in the gaps of the known unknown. Only we are expected to know the unknowable. Professor Patrick Dunleavy (LSE) said during the last referendum debate that the Scottish Government would need the forecasting ability of the “Delphic Oracle” to be able to answer the questions from Better Together (and their allies in the media). Such requirements do not apply to London, and it is not as if their position brooks no uncertainties, particularly since 23rd June and the vote for leaving the EU.

A more contemporary example appeared in the Herald in the last seven days. It was started by a reply to a letter by the doyen of Herald letter writing Iain AD Mann who had questioned why it was that Scotland was being singled out for special attention because of the deficit GERS suggests we are running (http://www.heraldscotland.com/opinion/letters/14682154.Readers__39__Opinion__Why_should_Scotland_be_the_only_nation_berated_for_debt_/). This drew the following response from Peter Wylie of 26 New Street Paisley, who variously appears to be a consulting actuary and to work in insurance and pensions (coincidentally 26 New Street Paisley is given as the address of the local Conservative Club).

Mr Wylie wrote (http://www.heraldscotland.com/opinion/letters/14686248.Readers__39__Opinion__It_is_the_Union_that_has_helped_so_many_Scots_to_achieve_greatness/)

IAIN AD Mann (Letters, August 15) seems to think that because the United Kingdom has borrowing of £1.62 trillion, an independent Scotland should be able to cover the shortfall of £9 billion in its revenues identified in the recent report by Government Expenditure and Revenue (Scotland) – GERS -– quite easily by government borrowing.

He does not seem to understand, first of all, that the amount of UK national debt has no relevance to the question of whether or not an independent Scotland would be able to cover a shortfall in revenues by borrowing.

The UK national debt is funded by the issue of government securities that are mainly bought by UK-based financial institutions such as insurance companies, pension funds and investment funds. In an independent Scotland there would almost no market within Scotland for government debt. The financial institutions that are based in Scotland, Standard Life for example, could not invest in the debt issued by a Scottish government because the bulk of their liabilities would still be in sterling because about 90 per cent of their customers are in England.

An independent Scottish government would have to try to sell its debt abroad. It is unlikely that debt expressed in a Scottish currency would be attractive to foreign investors but taking on the liability to repay borrowing in other currencies would be very risky.

If the Scottish currency fell against the currency in which the borrowing had been made, the cost of servicing the debt, which would be a lot higher than the cost at which the UK government can borrow because of the fact that an independent Scotland would have no track record in borrowing and, more importantly, repaying borrowing, would increase sharply and the deficit the debt was supposed to cover would get worse.

Mr Mann says “it is perfectly feasible that if Scotland had the normal borrowing powers of a self-governing nation we could cover negative variations between income and expenditure”. The probability is that attempting to do exactly this would have disastrous consequences for us all.

Peter Wylie,

26 New Street, Paisley.

I have highlighted the most contentious points, which I addressed in a reply to Wylie (see below). These are

  1. His claim that there would be no market for Scottish government debt, which is clearly a known unknown – not impossible, but clearly a “worst case analysis” without further evidence
  2. Why would Standard Life not invest in Scotland when they are a global brand which must deal in a great many currencies – not even a known unknown. Just wrong.
  3. Some countries do indeed sell their debt in the currency of other countries, and it is indeed risky, and can become expensive if currencies move against you. But that point depends crucially on his first two points being correct when one of them is just wrong and the other much less than certain.
  4. It is probably right to say that initially an independent Scotland might have to pay a premium by virtue of being the new kid on the block. But how much more? For how long? Or looked at another way, for how long will the UK be able to get by with interest rates as near zero as makes no odds?

There is the possibility that Mr Wylie is correct, but as an actuary I am pretty sure that he knows its not a probability and in any event is well within the territory of the “known unknown”.

My own reply to him appeared in the Herald a couple of days later (http://www.heraldscotland.com/opinion/letters/14692096.No_evidence_that_Scotland_would_be_unable_to_address_challenges_all_small_countries_face/) – you might recognise the analysis?

PETER Wylie (Letters, August 17) takes Iain AD Mann (Letters, August 15) to task for thinking that an independent Scotland could cover its £9 billion deficit “quite easily by government borrowing”. But in so doing he treats what really are “known unknowns” (to quote Donald Rumsfeld) – what we know we don’t know – as “known knowns” – what we know we know (or in Mr Wylie’s case, what we think we know).

One example is why Standard Life would not buy into Scottish government debt. Since it considers itself a global business, even if “90 percent of its customers are in England”, it must deal in a whole range of global currencies. Yet according to Mr Wylie they would be deterred from investing in Scottish debt for currency reasons. Surely if the return is reliable and competitive, then investors would be happy to invest? The issue is not the currency in which they are paid, but the reliability of return, and in this regard, for the UK, even with the fall in the value of the pound since June 24, and the prospect of Brexit is informative as the UK is still able to sell gilts to manage its debt.

How much Scottish debt would be owned domestically is certainly a “known unknown”, but how is it that other small countries – or even some large ones – which do not have a financial services sector on the same scale as the UK, get by? Or is Scotland uniquely disadvantaged in this regard?

His final “known unknown” is that the cost of servicing debt for an independent Scotland would be “a lot higher” than for the UK government. Leaving to one side what “a lot higher” actually means, and more importantly whether the UK will continue for much longer to be able to finance its debt at present rates of interest, the premium on Scottish debt would depend on the scale of deficit we face on independence. Let’s suppose that is not before 2020. What will the price of oil be then? What level of UK debt would Scotland actually have to take on? If “known unknowns” exist, then these are examples.

In short, Mr Wylie in sketching out his severe, if not apocalyptic, view of the future, really does ignore Mr Mann’s core point, that if arguments, such as Mr Wylie’s, are to be redeemed then they really do have to be obliged to present evidence why an independent Scotland would be unable to address the challenges that every other small country does. Certainly presenting “worst case analyses”, such as Mr Wylie’s, singularly fails to do this.

This form of challenge is, I would argue, more effective against the “scaremongering” response that seemed standard in Yes. To demand that they redeem their claim, and expose its own uncertainties is harder work, but has more substance than just asserting that it is scaremongering. A scaremonger is defined in the Cambridge English dictionary as “a person who spreads stories that cause public fear”. The problem often with Better Together, and increasingly with the Unionist case is that these are stories which either lack evidence, and/ or are contrived or made up.

Just today Derek Bateman has written in his blog about, in effect the scaremongering of elements of the Scottish media, trying to suggest that attempts are being made by indy supporters to silence them. Among the arguments that Bateman uses to nail this are that when you consider

“James Foley, beheaded by jihadists. John Cantlie still held by ISIS two years on. US reporter Alison Parker shot dead live on air. Gadzhimurat Kamalov hit six times in a drive-by shooting in Moscow. Of the 27 journalists known to have been murdered so far this year, 37 per cent were related to politics, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

……

I knew an editor in Kashmir who published what rebels told him or he would die, a female reporter from Chile who had been forced not to tell the story of abductions under Pinochet and a Yugoslavian journalist who feared he could not work under threats from Serbs and Croats as the Balkan conflict got under way. (All encountered in the US in 1991).

I’ve had my notes examined and my camera crew’s film vetted by Israeli security, been delayed at a Romanian airport while my director’s passport was held up (for a bribe) and recorded secretly in China after being denied a journalist’s visa. I had to go up a stair into a room full of unsmiling men to ask ‘Sinn Fein’ permission to record voices on the street in West Belfast.

Believe me, working as a hack at Holyrood is a doddle.” (my emphasis). http://derekbateman.scot/2016/08/21/can-i-quote-you/ strongly recommended

It is worthwhile remembering this when the next one flounces off Twitter or closes their Facebook account. Torrance has had his shot (for a few days), Neil Oliver has told of vile cybernats who have hounded him off a Twitter account it appears he didn’t use that much (and which didn’t give him the evidence to support his claim). One wonders who might be next? But the important point is that faced with this bleating, what is needed is a critique and Bateman offers this in spades. In addition to the above Bateman offers a reasoned denunciation of such as Torrance and Daisley, and this is where we have to go. When a claim is made by Unionists then it has to be challenged with a reasoned argument, pointing to its errors, exaggerations and fictions rather than whine “scaremongering”. It is almost certainly true that creating uncertainty, doubt and worry is their aim, and that the charge of “scaremongering” is both accurate and legitimate. But beneath all that lurks a Unionist argument (of sorts) which can be critically appraised and potentially be shown to have little force, being at the limits of what is likely or even possible.

 


 

What we don’t know that they might know

Here’s a thought for you. We know there are known knowns (what we know we know) and known unknowns (what we know we don’t know). There are even unknown unknowns (what we don’t know, we don’t know) – which can often be the things that really trip us up.

But there is another possibility – the unknown known – what we don’t know but what is known somewhere else. Now before you turn away from this, consider its meaning in relation to the distribution of knowledge and information in the independence debate. Just how much does Westminster know that we don’t know that they know? For instance, we have to live and die on GERS, which we are told is “the best we have”, despite the constant critiques of such as Jim and Margaret Cuthbert. It is probably true that GERS is the best we have, but its methodological chapter makes clear just how creaky it is. For instance, it admits that the only identifiable public sector revenues for Scotland are local authority, plus some public sector corporations. Other taxes are allocated on a population basis – probably correct but hardly likely to be precise – and various costs attributed to Scotland at the whim of the Treasury. And we are supposed to believe that this tells us anything much about Scotland as an independent country! They must think our heads zip up the back.

But the main point I want to leave with you is how much does the London government know, that we don’t know – for them a known known, for us an unknown known for we don’t have access to the dope. Why don’t they make it public and be done with it? If it was bad news for indy then I have no doubt that they would do exactly that. But they don’t. Do they?

Kinnock and Reality

Some of you may have heard Kinnock’s speech to the PLP on Monday 4th July. Some of you might have read it. But I would guess a lot of people have not. I want to look at parts of it more closely to offer some kind of perspective on what is going on in Westminster just now.

Kinnock starts by pointing to his own successes (though 1992 never gets a mention, a’ right!) and does a number on Ed Miliband – he failed the “supermarket test” – people just would not vote for him.

Corbyn is disposed of in the relation of a conversation Neil had with someone in Cardiff, which he said was typical of many such conversations, who said Corbyn was “weird”. Of course he is trying to relate to the claims being made by most of the Labour MPs who are against Corbyn, that he is “weird” (or similar), or a decent man but not up the job (and Angela Eagle is? Oh dear!) and not electable. We can only take Neil’s word for it, but he was PM ……….. oh, wait a minute, he wasn’t. But hey, he is a Lord!

Ironically of course, Kinnock fails to mention that the same argument he puts up against Corbyn is pretty much the argument put against him in 1992. Remember this?


It is hardly a new tactic, to portray a leader who is perceived as a danger to the established consensus – currently, Trident (remember when Kinnock was in CND?), privatisation, and austerity – unacceptable, and a threat to the community. It is perhaps one of the greatest tragedies of the current mess the Labour Party is in that one part of it is using the tactics of its enemies.

But then Kinnock goes on, “but you know, everybody in this room knows, as we’ve seen in the Welsh elections, in the Scottish elections, in the local elections, in the referendum, you know that is what you’re getting from people who yearn to vote Labour but are inhibited by the fact that Jeremy is still our leader. Let’s face the fact.”

And what fact might that be Neil? Here are two for you. In April, yougov released a poll showing Corbyn – yep that weird guy – was more popular than David Cameron (note the date, however – this was before the EU referendum – since then of course Cameron has had all the popularity of a dose of an anti-social disease) http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/new-poll-shows-cameron-less-popular-than-corbyn-for-first-time-a6974891.html. The newspaper (the Independent) report on shares similarities to the Kinnock tirade, since they attempt to explain the outcome of the poll by Cameron’s declining support. But the fact is that the graph they present, while it shows Cameron’s support falling away, Corbyn’s is actually increasing (Corbyn’s numbers in red and Cameron’s in blue)


A more recent yougov poll suggests that Labour party members are increasingly confident of winning the next election with Corbyn as leader. Of course one might expect members to expect their party to win, and given that, what is important is the trend.


Even the most recent yougov poll – end June, and the battering that Corbyn has had pretty much non-stop since the EU referendum – shows that while support for him has cooled somewhat, it is still net positive.


So despite the evidence that his approval ratings are better than the current PM’s were before the referendum vote, and Labour party members by a majority are happy with the job he is doing, the problems of the Labour Party are consistently attributed to Corbyn.

In Scotland it has nothing, nothing at all, to do with Labour campaigning with the Tories during the 2014 referendum? Or that its policies are perceived to be ill-thought through, irrelevant, or reflex responses to what the SNP are doing? In one case support for increasing the Scottish Rate of Income Tax actually fell when the question about the self-same policy included reference to the Labour Party.

The view in the PLP, exemplified by Kinnock is that ‘We need to talk about Jeremy’, and as long as that is the received wisdom that Labour acts on, it has no need to try to address its policy failings, which saw it lose Scotland – a Labour heartland for my adult life – and on the basis of the EU referendum outcome, it looks as if the jackets of its north of England MPs might be on shoogly nails as well. But, nope, it’s all about Corbyn and as long as that is the paradigm, they don’t need to look any further, or at anything else. Put Angela Eagle in the job and all will be well (sarcasm alert!).

Then the speech takes a slightly different turn when he says “Nobody has ever said, Dennis [Skinner], that this parliamentary party considers itself or should be considered to be more important than the rank and file, whether they paid three quid or whether they’ve given their lives to this movement. Whether they’ve threatened their managers, whether they’ve ruined their careers through their commitment to this movement. Nobody has said, ever, however recent or long-established members’ party membership is, that we are superior.”

It’s hard to disagree with this, particularly as, as Kinnock points out, it was he and others who “worked like hell – Dennis, myself and many others – to change that to make sure that the rank and file would have a direct voice, that trade unions would be part of it, councils would be part of it, activists would be part of it, so we got one member one vote”. Fine.

But then…………… But then Kinnock subverts the whole thing, by reference to the decision of the Labour Party in 1918 to reject Syndicalism and Revolutionary Socialism, and instead to adopt a “Parliamentary Road to Socialism”. This Kinnock argues makes it “vital, essential, irreplaceable, that the leader of this party has substantial – at least substantial, if not majority – support from those who go to the country and seek election to become lawmakers“.

It is easy to concede that the leader being acceptable to the PLP is certainly very desirable, but if, at the margin (as Economists put it) the preferred candidate of the “three quid” members and the rest is not the preferred candidate of the elected MPs, then what? For instance, it seems clear that Theresa May is the preferred candidate of the Conservative MPs, but what if Andrea Leadsom proves to be more like “one of us” as far as their members are concerned, and land the MPs (and the country) with her instead of Theresa? This possibility for the Tories is exactly the reality of the Labour Party just now.

The important issue is how they react, and the reaction of the PLP is not edifying. With the ball at their feet and the Tories in utter disarray, the PLP has retired to the dressing room to try to sack their captain.

Of course, the Labour MPs might have made the best of it – as I suspect the Tories will if they get landed with Andrea. But we now have the idiocy of someone who could manage only 4th in the election last year for a Deputy Leader, challenging the successful Leadership candidate who was elected with 60% of the vote.

All of this, I would argue is confirmed by Kinnock in his conclusion – that it is “crucial to have a leader that enjoys the support of the parliamentary Labour party.” Or put another way, the membership – who he has “fought like hell to involve” – can elect whoever they want, just as long as he (or she) is acceptable to the PLP. Sort of like the Henry Ford dictum that the customer could have any colour of Model T that they wanted, as long as it was black.

As before, where there is a meeting of minds of the PLP and the membership, this would be ideal, but what Kinnock has said is that when the chips are down, when we are at the margin, the leader has to be someone who “enjoys the support of the parliamentary Labour party”. It does seem as though for Neil, some members, some voters, are more important or influential than others, in the democracy of the Labour Party.

But let’s go back to the beginning. Why does Corbyn not have the support of the PLP? The main reason seems to be that he is weird, and probably failed the supermarket test with Honours? Perhaps too because he never did have the support of the PLP who would have been much more comfortable, probably, with Andy Burnham, for the policies that Corbyn has espoused over the many years he has been in Parliament are not those of the mainstream PLP. While there will be a democratic vote between candidates for constituency nomination, those they can vote on is controlled by the party, because the party – and its MPs – know best. To this end the candidate list has been pretty thoroughly Blairised over the last 10-15 years. Constituency parties are not only enjoined to have women-only short-lists but to nominate from those approved by the Labour Party, often with trade union influence.

Right now the MPs are predominantly Blairite (one explanation for the current timing of moving against Corbyn is that they wanted him out of the way before he could apologise for Iraq, and the beloved Blair’s involvement, on behalf of the Party https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2016/06/still-iraq-war-stupid/). Yet rather than debate his policies, Corbyn is condemned for two reasons – first because “he’s weird”, but mainly that his policies differ from the received wisdom of Labour Party policies, which took it to its lowest vote for many years, and allowed Cameron a majority that few thought he could achieve. Someone will have to explain that strategy to me again!

Lastly, we used a negative pic of Neil above, so let’s finish with one that shows where he is now.


Kinnock said just last year that his “political hero” was Nai Bevan who said of the House of Lords that to frustrate the will of the 1945 Labour government, it “would resurrect its “old cartel carcase” and try and put it between the Government and the will of the people”.

What we might learn in Germany.

Uli Hesse has published today a really interesting article on the changes in German Football since their “failure” in the European Championships in 2000 – “Football: How Germany’s awful Euro 2000 forced a mass restructure – and why it wouldn’t work for England” (https://uk.sports.yahoo.com/news/germanys-awful-euro-2000-forced-091758906.html?utm_content=buffer58776&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer).

As the title says, this “wouldn’t work in England“, but it’s also clear that it would be difficult to make it work in Scotland. However, perhaps we might tease out what needs to be done to make it work in Scotland. What will become clear, I hope, as we work through Hesse’s thoughts, is that as a first step, there needs to be a greater involvement of the community as well as fan ownership of their clubs.

The first “innovation” in Germany, Hesse discusses was the Extended Talent Promotion Programme, based on “52 centres of excellence to school the most promising talents, but also 366 regional coaching bases where 1,300 professional, full-time coaches teach youngsters the basics of the modern game“.

There are two particularly interesting points in relation to Scotland there. First of all, we don’t need anything like that number of centres – Germany has sixteen times our population – an obvious point. BUT Scotland has 42 clubs in the SPFL. Germany – with 16 times the population – has thirty-six teams in their two national leagues, Bundesliga and Bundesliga 2. Should all our clubs have a Centre of Excellence? Should we expect them to? Could they afford it? Is there a need to train so many apprentice players when there won’t be jobs for anything like all of them after their apprenticeship? I think the answer to that is no, and that however much offence it might cause, we need to focus our attention and resources on a smaller number of clubs. If we made it proportionate – and perhaps it should not be – but just to make the point – there would be one sixteenth of fifty-two “centres of excellence”, which comes to three or four (if you round upwardly). However, in Germany these subject the clubs running centres of excellence to defined responsibilities, with known and effective sanctions in the event of back-sliding – “put simply, the clubs were told what to do, on pain of demotion to the amateur game“. I’ll come back to this.

On the same proportionate basis, there would be twenty-three regional coaching bases, with professional coaches. Given the agreements that the SFA has with most local authorities, we will have a few more than that, but not many more. What do they do in Germany? The article tells us there are “full-time coaches [who] teach youngsters the basics of the modern game“. The point I take from that is that these professional, full time coaches are not there to teach the next Scottish superstar – if only we could find him – but to teach kids who want to play, how to play. We can get obsessed with developing talent, and forget that the identification of talent is easier and more effective if there is a larger pool of players. If the pool is smaller and/ or shrinking then the future talented youngster may never play, or give up due to lack of interest.

In fairness my experience of the SFA’s development programmes is that they are aware of this, and that a good deal of effort goes into encouraging just playing the game, irrespective of talent. However, could there be a role for local clubs – even local junior clubs, where no SPFL club operates, or both together? – to become involved and make such centres more attractive to youngsters, to help football compete more effectively with other sports and activities? In other words, if the infrastructure is in place, perhaps we need to innovate to sell the product. Perhaps the involvement – albeit informal – of local clubs and players from these clubs, might make the programmes in place more appealing to youngsters?

Two points come from this

  1. There is a need to maximise the overall pool of players. Perhaps we need to transform football from a game we watch to a game we play.
  2. However, there is a parallel need for the development of the most talented, the next generation of professional players to be focused on a smaller number of centres. On a proportionate basis, Scotland might only have 3 or 4 centres for such development compared to Germany. Even if we had twice as many, that would still be less than we have now. Do we need to train so many young players? The German experience suggests that we would do better by focusing on a smaller number, though perhaps with bridges into the system for the late developer? After all, as the article says, Miroslav Klose was still playing level 5 amateur football at 21.

One aspect where German clubs are like their Scottish counterparts is in their regard for the national team. Hesse argues, “Because for all the lip service they may pay, clubs are the same wherever you go: they couldn’t care less about the national team. They don’t even care very much about nurturing homegrown talent. What they care about is winning the next league game – and if it takes 11 players signed from foreign clubs to do this, then so be it. Of course clubs pride themselves on their youth academies. They know that it’s good PR if you bring up a few local lads through the ranks. They also know that it can save them a lot of transfer money to school their own talents. However, another thing they know is that nobody can guarantee you that star players will come off this assembly line and that even in the best case you need to have the one thing nobody has these days: patience.” That sounds familiar, does it not? So how did the Germans square that circle?

Hesse argues there were three factors – history, money and force.

The first factor, he argues is the closeness of the Football Association (DFB) and their football league (DFL), and in particular “a general understanding in Germany that what is good for the DFB is probably also good for the clubs in the long run, and this includes the fortunes of the national team.”

Does this exist in Scotland? I would have to say, at least in terms of potency, it seems to me that it does not. I am not saying there is no cooperation, but it is limited. Moreover, too often too many clubs base their decisions on what is best for them as an individual club, and not even what is best for the League, never mind the game in Scotland or the national team. In doing so they ignore the fact that football is not an individual product of clubs acting autonomously, but a collective product of them acting together. It is of course inevitable that clubs are primarily concerned about their own future and development, but this is not something to be taken forward independently, but collectively. If the game in general is in trouble, then individual clubs will be in trouble. That part of Scottish football culture has to change, but culture change is often a long term project, though it can be accelerated by a crisis. Perhaps there are unmistakable signs of crisis? Not only the failure to reach the final stages of an international competition for nearly 20 years, but the dearth of players in the national team who are playing in the Premiership?

For instance, nearly half the players who played for France in their Euro 2016 semi-final against Germany, played in the Premiership last season. Only six of the forty-three players (14%) named in the Scotland squad on the BBC website (http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/teams/scotland) are likely to be playing in the Premiership this coming season. More than half the twenty-three-man Welsh squad on the BBC website (http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/teams/wales), will be playing in the Premiership next season (or in Bale’s case, the “second prize” of playing for Real Madrid).

The second reason for the transformation in Germany was the lack of money – their pay-to-view broadcaster went out of business. As Hesse says this was “the rough equivalent of BSkyB going bust, without BT being there to pick up the slack.” As a result, German clubs – with the exception of Bayern Munich – could no longer compete their English, Italian and Spanish competitors. They had to rely on young talent. Hesse cites Borussia Dortmund as a particular case in point, as they had paid such little attention to youth development beforehand that they “came close to being thrown out of the Bundesliga”. Dortmund had not only to pay closer attention to development of their own players, but actually to play them.

This is a particularly worrying aspect for Scottish football, since, we have experienced our pay-to-view broadcaster going bust – Setanta. But also, for the last four years one of the two biggest clubs in Scotland has been a sort of internal exile in the leagues below our Premier League, which, we are told has devalued the TV contract. How many young Scottish players have emerged during these difficult years? Or is it not true to say that clubs have tended, as Hesse puts it to “spend money on proven players who have been schooled elsewhere, no matter which national team they are eligible for“? Perhaps not such good players, but at their level, “proven” and perceived as the means to winning? Less risky than bringing through youngsters (which attitude in passing makes having so many apprentices even more a folly).

Lastly – there is “force”, by which Hesse means the rules of the DFL. Hesse points out that “Under the German league rules, clubs are granted a licence for professional football only if they meet certain regulations, most of them having to do with finances. This is the famous annual licencing process, often cited as a major reason for the German clubs’ economic stability”. But added to that was a commitment “to build or maintain a centre of excellence and .. to nurture talent”. This went as far as specifying “how many players eligible for a German national youth team had to be in the squads, how many coaches and physios the club had to employ, in which way the clubs had to interact with local schools and so on and on“. If clubs did not fulfil these requirements on an annual basis (i.e. not one off, but every year) then they would lose their licence and, as we quoted before, suffer “demotion to the amateur game”.

Of course the question here is whether the DFL would really do this? If Bayern Munich were in breach of the rules, would they really be thrust down to the Regional League in Bavaria? It could be strongly argued that some “accommodation” would be put in place. But, let’s turn that round. Would Bayern Munich want to take that chance? Demotion to the Regional League would at the very least be extremely serious, and perhaps even fatal.

But perhaps the most important point is that German clubs regard fulfilling the terms of their licence as a duty, and so such disciplinary action is not needed. It is no more than a backstop, for the clubs regard the terms of their licence as setting out how they should behave. And that is the lesson for Scottish football.

It is hard to imagine the SPFL – or the SFA – disciplining a club in this way. Indeed, it is hard to imagine the clubs agreeing to a licencing regime which they would find overly onerous or contradictory to their essentially individualistic aims.

Part of the difficulty, Hesse argues, comparing Germany to England, is “that it’s difficult to tell someone like Roman Abramovich how to run the company he bought from Ken Bates, or to explain to the Abu Dhabi United Group why they should produce players for the English national team“. For which read Dermot Desmond for Roman Abramovich, or Dave King for the Abu Dhabi United Group.

The lesson we need to draw from this is that many of the problems of Scottish football might be structural, but fundamentally it is a matter of culture. Hesse argues that the difference between England (and I would argue Scotland too) and Germany is that in Germany “clubs are not privately owned and have a long history of being community-oriented and operating for the common good, the situation is very different” Indeed, it is.

In Scotland community ownership is usually the initially favoured option when a club goes into crisis. But more often than not, the fans, having put their hands in their pockets to keep their club going during the difficult times, lose out when another business group comes along. There are of course noble exceptions such as Motherwell, where Les Hutchison is supporting the Well Society to buy the club, as well as Hearts where Anne Budge is in partnership with the Foundation of Hearts. However, even in both these cases, fan ownership is only mooted when a club is in crisis. For a club in private ownership, that has been stable in recent years, fan ownership is not really an issue. Moreover, how can we judge fan ownership as an alternative model when it has been employed only in clubs that have been in crisis?

In conclusion, if fan ownership were the normal model of club ownership, then would Scottish football be better able to introduce at least some of the innovations implemented by the Germans with such success (at least till they lost to France in Euro 2016 – though how pleased would we be to get to the semi-final even if we lost?)?

  1. Would there be a better understanding between the clubs, the SPFL and the SFA? One of the main divisions just now, I would suggest is the essentially individualist orientation of too many clubs. Would this change with fan ownership? There could be no guarantees, but at least change would create the possibility?
  2. Would the lack of money cause clubs to play talented Scottish young players, rather than proven, if limited, professional players from abroad? Again, we could not say. But perhaps a change in ownership might bring with it a change in culture? Fan ownership might engender the community involvement that German clubs seek to foster, and where developing and bringing through talented local youngsters is simply part of that community involvement? At the same time, we need to consider how many young players are given apprenticeships when there is a strictly limited number of jobs for them to move into.
  3. Would fan owned clubs be willing to back the introduction of a strong licencing system, which would create the sort of financial stability that the German clubs typically enjoy, as well as requiring appropriate obligations in regard to the development of young players? Hesse makes clear that much of the reason for German clubs not only introducing, but mostly relatively enthusiastically accepting these innovations, was that their clubs are fan owned, with a high degree of community involvement. If this was paralleled in Scotland then the German experience is that such innovations would at least become more possible – strong licencing, commitments to developing young players, genuine partnership of the clubs, SPFL and SFA for the benefit of the game as a whole.

This time next week

It is interesting that the scenario of the UK voting to leave the EU, while Scotland votes to remain, is now being taken seriously – very seriously – by the UK commentariat. However, there is a frequent flaw in the analysis in that it is unlikely events will do more than partially unfold on 24th June. That day – other than the declaration of the result – is mainly notable for being the Friday before the first of the last 16 matches in the European Football Championships, and the Friday before the start of Wimbledon – so there is the promise of plenty opium for the masses there.

The issue in fact is what happens after the 24th? Will Cameron remain as PM? Highly unlikely, though he may continue till the negotiations with the EU on exit are concluded on the basis that he got us into this mess so he can get us back out. However, Osborne may find himself gone in short order – after all what greater love has a man (in this case, Dave) than to lay down the life of his friend (George) for his own? Then again, the Tory Party is notably intolerant of failure, and it may be decided that Cameron too should go at once, or perhaps, having decided he will be gone by 2020 anyway, he decides it’s not worth it any more – having to negotiate an outcome he campaigned against, with the Brexiteers hot breath on his neck – and resigns.

Who would replace him? Received wisdom says BoJo – the man who has played the King over the Water these last few years – and you can bet your house that he wants the job no matter what he says and will pull out all the stops to get it. However, we have to remember that while Brexit is the favoured option of just over half Tory MPs, it’s not favoured by the other half. A compromise candidate then? Don’t you think Theresa May has been quiet recently? She could be the compromise the Party needs, perhaps with Johnson as “Minister for European Negotiation” – after all she would have a country to run – and Gove as Chancellor, perhaps with Hammond – another one who has been spectacularly quiet given that he is Foreign Secretary – staying on in the Foreign Office?

But however it works out you can bet your life (as well as your house) that the new government will be even more right wing than the present bunch (hard to imagine I know), and it is as this unfolds that indyref 2 becomes a serious option.

The other day, the Independent (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/eu-referendum-vote-leave-leaders-reveal-post-brexit-roadmap-7083816.html) ran a story claiming to reveal the post-Brexit ‘roadmap’, which included the following Bills they would put to the House of Commons

  1. Removing the UK from the authority of the European Court of Justice, so no UK case would ever go beyond the Supreme Court;
  2. A new Immigration Bill, removing the automatic right of EU citizens to come to the UK;
  3. A Finance Bill to remove the 5% VAT on fuel, and according to Grayling, tampons as well;
  4. A Bill to exempt the UK from all UK laws and trade agreements;
  5. Repeal of the European Communities Act, which would mean EU treaties no longer form part of UK law.

I am not going to suggest that the other three are of no relevance, but it is from the last two from which the main consequences would stem. For a start we can kiss goodbye to the backstop of the Social Chapter, so that employment rights can be watered down without end, all in the name of a “flexible labour market” (aka fewer rights for workers). Likewise, many health and safety protections, and even equalities legislation – presumably justified by “less red tape”?

As this bonfire of protections proceeds it seems reasonable to suggest that disenchantment with Westminster will only increase from the disenchantment put in place when England voted to take the UK out of the EU no matter what Scotland thought. In short, it is not Brexit which will provoke indyref 2, it is its consequences, what happens next, that will provoke indyref2.

In his latest opinion piece for the Herald (17/06/2016), Magnus Gardham considers how a vote to leave by the UK, but to remain by Scotland, might lead to indyref 2 (http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/14563560.How_Brexit_could_provoke_a_crisis_for_the_UK__even_without_a_second_independence_referendum/) Gardham makes much of the fact that the polls do not seem to support this –

“A poll by TNS last week asked how people would vote in a referendum called on the back of a decision to leave the EU opposed by a majority of Scots.

Discounting the don’t knows, it found 44 per cent for Yes and 56 per cent for No, well short of the sustained 50 per cent to 60 per cent support for independence Ms Sturgeon wants to see before she risks putting the questions to the people again”

Now leaving aside that this is not inconsistent with the argument sketched out above (ie its not the fact of Brexit but its consequences that matter), and that the poll in question suggests much the same support for independence as in 2014, Gardham does make some important observations.

Firstly, how prepared is the SNP for another independence referendum? How far have they got in addressing the perceived weaknesses of the last prospectus, and in particular currency? The fact that they are not doing this in plain sight is hardly determining, but one might expect some level of debate. Perhaps provoking such debate is the aim of the “summer offensive”? Who knows. But it is clear that there needs to be some level of preparedness to ensure the result is not the same as last time. A clearer prospectus that is more certain where certainty is possible, but lays out the possibilities where there is a high level of uncertainty, can only be a positive development. But we are still to see much sign of this.

However, the First Minister has been clear that to move on indyref 2 she would be looking for opinion poll support suggesting a 55-60% Yes vote as a minimum, over a sustained period of time. Starting from wherever support for independence is now – certainly somewhere a little higher than 45% – who is to say that the mere fact of Scotland being voted out of the EU against its will by other parts of the UK, won’t give independence a 10% boost?

This would only be further increased should the Tory Party act precipitately – removing Cameron, and in an ideal world (from the point of view of independence only) replacing him with Johnson, who appoints his friends to the cabinet, so IDS, Gove and Grayling all in top jobs. Alex Thomson tweeted yesterday that a “friend” of Farage claimed to him that the Johnson camp had been in touch about giving Farage a peerage and a cabinet post – could just be tittle tattle, but two years ago that would have been laughed at, and not touched by a serious journalist like Thomson, but not now. Add to this, clarity about their even more right wing intentions – no doubt covered by honeyed words – and Salmond’s proposition that within the 2 years that the UK negotiates its exit from the EU, Scotland would hold another independence referendum successfully, and then negotiate to remain in the EU (in effect retaining the UK’s membership), does begin to appear less unrealistic and even fanciful. And as Gardham points out, if the UK seems to be getting a rough deal in their negotiation to leave the EU, then this may make independence seem even more attractive.

Magnus being Gardham however, he cannot resist pointing to the downside of Scotland in the EU, with rUK outside. He suggests, “By staying in the EU, Scotland might end up in a different trading regime from its main export partner. A “hard” EU border may also have to be established between Scotland and England.” To be fair, he has suggested uncertainty with the use of “might”, but the first seems highly improbable. The entire prospectus of the Leave campaign is that the UK would continue to trade with the EU as now – we are the EU’s biggest customer, they say. If so, why would Scotland, as an EU member, be any different from, say, France, which, like Scotland, would also continue to be an EU member?

Likewise, why would there be a “hard border” between Scotland and England? There is not one between Switzerland and the many EU member states with which they share a border. There is not one between Sweden and Norway. Most importantly, before either was a member of the EU (or EEC) there was not a “hard border” between Northern Ireland (or the remainder of the UK) and the Republic. What ‘hardened’ that border, for a time, was “the troubles” and the need for security, not economic matters. Moreover, for years before joining the EEC, the UK and Ireland operated, and still operate, the Common Travel Area. Why, if we were independent, would travel between Scotland and England, not be similarly administered? Still I suppose once Project Fear, aye Project Fear.

So, in conclusion, despite the many attempts to make the 24th June, the key date or not for Scottish independence, it is much more likely that it could be no more than the start of a process. It is unlikely to be a vote for Brexit on its own that will provoke the crisis. Rather it will be the consequences of that vote in a summative manner which could lead to our independence. The fact of Scotland voting to remain but being taken out because of the vote to leave in England is likely to add to support for independence. The manner in which the Tory Party responds may then hasten events – for instance putting Johnson into Downing Street. However, even if they acted less precipitately – for instance Theresa May rather than Johnson – the consequences of leaving will in due course become manifest, as the Social Chapter and the other aspects of the EU’s social legislation are junked.

However, just to clarify this point, post 24th June will not be by any means a mechanical process, but more an “unfolding of events” in the sense used by Symbolic Interactionists. This is clarified by McCall and Becker in “Symbolic Interaction and Cultural Studies” when they write

“At every step of every unfolding event, something else might happen. To be sure, the balance of constraints and opportunities available to the actors, individual and collective, in a situation will lead many, perhaps most of them, to do the same thing. Contingency does not mean people behave randomly, but it does recognize that they can behave in surprising and unconventional ways”.

As a counterbalance to the tendency of too many political commentators, they go on “The interactionist emphasis on process stands … as a corrective to any view that culture or social structure determines what people do” (page 6). Much comment – for instance the piece by Gardham referred to above, and also McWhirter’s most recent contribution to the Herald – follows a mechanical, rationalist approach, most notable for what they miss out than for their conclusions. Very often the horror of an even more right wing government following a vote for Brexit is never considered, with an unyielding focus on the consequences of the Brexit vote and whether this will provoke Indyref 2. As Gardham points out, though, the polls offer little support for this. But that rules out consideration of the consequences of that Brexit vote, what they might be and however quickly they may come about.

Perhaps then, the most significant issue is not whether a vote for the UK to leave the EU will lead to Scottish independence, but through what sequence of events and how quickly?

 

What happened at the election?

Many explanations of the recent election result, where the SNP actually increased their share of the constituency vote, often focus on the age-old practice of “well, we told you so”.

James Kelly couldn’t even wait till the next morning to publish his (http://scotgoespop.blogspot.co.uk/2016/05/i-hate-to-say-i-told-you-so-but.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+ScotGoesPop+%28SCOT+goes+POP!%29) – the first comment was at 3.39 AM on the 6th. Wings took a bit longer, but is considerably more considered – first comment at 1.52 pm (http://wingsoverscotland.com/dont-say-we-didnt-tell-you/). In the course of this, the Rev Campbell confirms again that he has “been warning readers for nine solid months that the AMS electoral system couldn’t be “gamed” and that the meaningless pursuit of a “pro-independence” majority could lead to disaster”.

However, as Wee Ginger Dug points out (https://weegingerdug.wordpress.com/2016/05/06/the-curates-egg/) the SNP “didn’t only ensure that they were returned to office, they also increased the number of votes that they received. That’s pretty amazing. The SNP continues to defy political gravity and the independence movement has not been sidetracked or set back. But they were buggered by the voting system. This time the SNP didn’t break it.”. In other words, what just happened was designed in the electoral system to happen. The outcome of the 2016 Scottish election is largely how the Scottish Parliament’s electoral system works it was what was intended. There are though one or two other issues that I will work through in the course of this, but in the main what I am going to argue here is that what just happened was substantially what I have warned about in several posts in this blog.

Essentially what I have argued is that the SNP, according to the polls, were on course to win most constituency seats. The reality was that they won fewer than I would have expected, and I will come back to this. However, if we look at the table below, which sets out for each Region, how many constituency seats were won by the SNP and how many List seats they won in each region, the conclusion is clear – that unless the SNP won “only” six seats or less, they would win no List seats. As you must be able to remember, the number of constituencies won are included in the calculation to allocate List seats, and the division seems to come at or about six. So, in at least five of the eight electoral Regions, a vote for the SNP Regional List elected no one at all. Arguably the vote was wasted, or at least might have been used more effectively, in that it might have elected someone from another independence supporting party without doing any damage to the SNP. What damage could possibly be done, if the SNP would have no one elected on the List?

Region

Constituency seats won by SNP

Regional List seats won by SNP

Glasgow

9 of 9

0

Central Scotland

9 of 9

0

North East Scotland

9 of 10

0

Mid Scotland & Fife

8 of 9

0

West Scotland

8 of 10

0

Lothian

6 of 9

0

Highlands & Islands

6 of 8

1

South Scotland

4 of 9

3

 

Let’s take a specific example – the Glasgow Region where, all nine seats were won by the SNP. The table below sets out the List votes for each party, and then how they were counted in each region. As a reminder, the List vote for any party will be divided by its number of elected members (constituency and/or List). Therefore, the SNP List vote, which at 111101 was more than the vote for the Conservatives, Labour, Lib Dems and Greens combined, in round 1 was divided by ten (9 constituency members +1), and as I have argued before, this was simply too big a disadvantage for the SNP to overcome. Indeed, you will notice that instead of stopping at 7 (there are only 7 list members in each region) I have gone on to 10, since it is only then that the SNP would have gained their first List seat in Glasgow. In fact, in round 7 the 7th and last List seat was won by the Conservatives with a modified vote (having already taken one list seat, so divided by two) with 14766.5. To have challenged for that final seat, the SNP List vote would have had to be ten times that – 147665, which is 36564 more than they actually got – a required increase of 32%. Just where were those votes going to come from? The SNP constituency in Glasgow was 17,342 more than the List vote, so even if everyone who voted SNP in their constituency had voted the same way on the List, they would still come up less than half way to the number needed to secure even the last (7th) List seat. Where were these votes coming from?

Party

List vote

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

SNP

111101

11110.1

11110.1

11110.1

11110.1

11110.1

11110.1

11110.1

11110.1

11110.1

11110.1

Labour

59151

59151

29575.5

19717

19717

19717

14787.75

11830.2

11830.2

11830.2

9858.5

Con

29533

29533

29533

29533

14766.5

14766.5

14766.5

14766.5

9844.333

9844.333

9844.333

Green

23998

23998

23998

23998

23998

11999

11999

11999

11999

7999.333

7999.333

LD

5850

5850

5850

5850

5850

5850

5850

5850

5850

5850

5850

 

The alternative argument to #bothVotesSNP was, “first vote SNP, second vote someone else”. Had that “someone else” been Green, and even just 25% of the SNP transferred to Green for their second vote, then instead of four Labour, two Conservatives and one Green, there would have been three Labour (one less), one Conservative (one less) and three Green. For sure the SNP would have had no direct advantage from that arrangement – they would have won no additional List seats, but ‘as is’ they have no List seats either. BUT the opposition would have had fewer Unionists (Pauline McNeill and Annie Wells), and two more Green Party members who at least share the aim of independence.

More importantly than anything though, the SNP, having won all nine seats had a vanishingly small chance of picking up list seats in Glasgow, and indeed in the first five regions in the first table.

But let’s look now at the polar opposite – South Scotland’s Regional List vote, which worked out as follows

Party

List vote

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

SNP

120217

24043.4

24043.4

20036.17

17173.86

17173.86

17173.86

15027.13

Labour

56072

28036

18690.67

18690.67

18690.67

18690.67

14018

14018

Con

100753

20150.6

20150.6

20150.6

20150.6

16792.17

16792.17

16792.17

Green

14773

14773

14773

14773

14773

14773

14773

14773

LD

11775

11775

11775

11775

11775

11775

11775

11775

 

Thus three SNP and two each for Labour and Conservative. In this case it’s hard to see what might have been done to increase the number of independence party representation. Certainly it is true that #BothVotesSNP was a policy that delivered in this region. For instance, had the SNP vote been split with the Greens then there would be no discernible difference. If we assume that 25% of the SNP vote was induced to vote Green on the List, the distribution of seats would change such that Labour and Conservative would still have had two List MSPs each, but the Greens would have had two and the SNP only one. But from the SNP point of view, #BothVotesSNP was the correct option to put to the electorate in South Scotland.

However, if we look at things across Scotland, then while #BothVotesSNP produced positive outcomes in one region (South Scotland), it certainly did not in four regions – Glasgow, Central Scotland, North East Scotland and in Mid-Scotland and Fife. Even in West Scotland, it is arguable that because of the number of seats won by the SNP, that #BothVotesSNP did not succeed in winning more seats.,

In Lothian and Highlands and Islands, where the SNP won all but 3 or 2 seats (respectively) the situation is more complex and there is scope for genuine disagreement about whether #BothVotesSNP was the right advice. That can only be said with confidence in South Scotland where the SNP won fewer than half the seats. But certainly in four regions, and arguably five, #BothVotesSNP was inappropriate advice.

What do we mean by “inappropriate”? Well I would say that a strategy advising both votes to a party that won every seat is “inappropriate” if on the List – as happened in Glasgow – it produces an outcome of four Labour, two Tories and one Green, when if SNP voters (even 25% of them) had switched to Green, then there would have been three Labour (one less), one Tory (one less) and three Greens (two more). That kind of shift across these five regions would have done nothing directly for the SNP, but would have reduced the Unionist presence in this Parliament, and by implication had more support for independence.

In “Five cold, hard facts about the election” (http://wingsoverscotland.com/five-hard-facts-about-the-election/) Wings Over Scotland is scathing about the Green Party, and in particular its commitment to independence. He bases this on the Greens demanding that there should be a petition signed by one million Scots, and a statement by Patrick Harvie that there should not be an early re-run. However, the SNP manifesto says “Holyrood should have the right to hold another referendum if there is “clear and sustained evidence” of majority support for independence, or if there is a “significant and material” change in circumstances, such as Scotland being taken out of the EU against its will.” (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/election-2016-scotland-36181591). These two statements by the Greens and by the SNP seem to me to be saying something fairly similar, even if in slightly different ways – a petition and “clear and sustained evidence”, for instance.

But the key point that is missed by Wings is that, even if the support for independence by the Greens is uncertain, at least it is only uncertain. If the SNP could win only a small number of List seats, then the alternatives are uncertain support from the Greens and certain opposition from the Unionist parties. The uncertainty of the former, even if true, seems to me preferable to the certainty of the latter.

The focus of complaint of course was the recommendation that SNP voters should consider giving their List vote to a party other than the SNP. The argument was particularly strongly put by James Kelly on Scot Goes Pop. In a post-hoc piece he wrote “as a result [of advice not to vote SNP on the List) the SNP list vote drops, and the party doesn’t have enough votes for a list seat in six out of eight regions (compared to just one out of eight in the 2011 election).” (http://scotgoespop.blogspot.co.uk/2016/05/the-tactical-voting-lobby-were-proved.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+ScotGoesPop+%28SCOT+goes+POP!%29)

First of all, it’s hard to disagree with the proposition that if the advice to vote other than SNP on the List is followed the SNP vote will decline. What is contentious is the second part – that “as a result the party (SNP) doesn’t have enough votes for a list seat in six out of the eight regions”. Is that a fact? Let’s go back to look at Glasgow in a bit more detail.

The total constituency vote for all parties was 246,957, but the list vote was ‘only’ 229633. In other words, 17324 people voted for their constituency representative but for whatever reason did not use their List vote. Were they SNP voters? Well we will never know, but one thing we do know is that the SNP vote in Glasgow constituencies was 128,443, but their List vote was 111,101, so it’s clear from this that 17,342 (or 13.5%) of their vote did not follow #BothVotesSNP. But how much did this matter?

To try to say anything about this means making several assumptions. First of all, we will assume that the 17,342 all voted Green, despite the fact that we have no evidence for this – some might have been former Labour voters who had given their constituency vote to the SNP, but as some sort of contrition voted Labour on the List. But, for our purposes – since the advice was to vote for another indy party – we will assume it all went to the Greens. This would have reduced their List vote to 6,656 (it is worth noting there that the Greens took 6916 votes in the Kelvin constituency alone). In turn this also points to another defect in this assumption – that the SNP constituency vote might have included Green voters who had no candidate in their constituency. But sticking with the assumption, and repeating the Glasgow figures, the following comes out

Party

Amended List Vote

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

SNP

128443

12844.3

12844.3

12844.3

12844.3

12844.3

12844.3

12844.3

Labour

59151

59151

29575.5

19717

19717

14787.75

11830.2

11830.2

Conservative

29533

29533

29533

29533

14766.5

14766.5

14766.5

9844.333

Green

6656

6656

6656

6656

6656

6656

6656

6656

Lib Dem

5850

5850

5850

5850

5850

5850

5850

5850

 

In other words, what happens is that Labour still win four List seats, the Tories still win two, but instead of the Greens winning one the SNP take the last seat. But to reach that conclusion we have to make the somewhat heroic assumptions set out above – not least that it was SNP votes leaking off to the Greens (or other fringe indy parties) that was the cause of the SNP’s failure to win a List seat in Glasgow. And what have we achieved? We have replaced one indy supporting MSP with another indy supporting MSP. Yet, as I point out above, had more SNP voters ignored the #BothVotesSNP recommendation, instead of four Labour, two Conservatives and one Green, there would have been three Labour (one less), one Conservative (one less) and three Green – the balance for independence would have been more pronounced.

Ah but, I can hear Mr Kelly pronounce, if every SNP voter had voted twice for the party, then there would be one more SNP List MSP – 64 MSPs rather than just 63. Indeed, if this had been repeated in all five Regions where the SNP won at least 80% of the seats but no List seats, then instead of 63 SNP MSPs there would be 68 and an absolute majority. Job done.

However, following our assumptions about where the votes would come from, there would be only one Green MSP. There are currently six, so if we assume, as might have happened in Glasgow, that instead of the Greens winning a List seat, the SNP would take the list seat instead in five of the eight regions. The balance of independence and Unionist parties would be as it is now 69 indy MSPs and 60 Unionists.

It might then be argued that that is just too bad for the Greens – that politics is a dirty business other than for winners. But that omits what we might have achieved had there been even a 25% transfer of SNP voters to the Greens (or an agreed List alternative). In Glasgow, remember there would have been two fewer Unionists (one each Labour and Conservative) and two more Greens. If that had been repeated across all five of the regions where the SNP won at least 80% of the constituencies, that would have meant 10 fewer Unionists (50) and 10 more MSPs from independence parties (79).

Not realistic? Perhaps so, particular as the assumptions are unprovable. We don’t know exactly how those who voted SNP in their constituency used their List vote, if not for the SNP. Did they vote Green (or RISE)? Did they perhaps vote Labour or Lib Dem, or even Conservative? Or did they just not vote? We don’t know.

But what this analysis does show is that in terms of support for independence – as opposed specifically for the SNP – the recommendation #BothVotesSNP actually diminished the number of members possible in this current Parliament who support independence. Is a Parliament where 69 support independence and facing 60 Unionists, better or worse than one where up to 79 support independence with 50 Unionists. Even if it means the SNP had no majority in the latter, I would prefer that, particularly as that is where we are with only 69 supporting independence. An opportunity has been lost.

However, Mr Kelly makes a further point – that those who argue as I do, suggested that “That the SNP were definitely going to win all nine constituency seats.” I would have to say that I don’t think I ever said – or saw anyone who argued – this. But I did expect them to win more than they did. For instance, just over 12 months ago, the SNP won 56 of 59 Westminster seats. If we gross that up to the 73 constituency seats at Holyrood that would be 69 seats. We might well ask what happened there?

It is fair to say that the Holyrood constituencies do not always map neatly on to those for Westminster. But if we take the West Dunbartonshire Westminster seat which Martyn Docherty took with a majority of over 14,000, the bulk of that are the Clydebank and Dumbarton Holyrood constituencies. But while the SNP increased their majority tenfold in Clydebank, in Dumbarton, while the SNP share of the vote increased, they could not overturn a majority for Labour that had been only 1639 in 2011. Contrast that with Rutherglen constituency where James (“no I will not sit down”) Kelly’s 2011 majority of 1779 became an SNP majority of 3743 this time.

Dumbarton, though includes Helensburgh which is part of the Argyll & Bute constituency, and is the closest town to Faslane where the UK Trident fleet is based. One might therefore expect a significant vote there, hostile to the SNP’s policy of not renewing Trident. Helensburgh is also relatively affluent in comparison to the rest of the constituency. Nonetheless, given the swing to the SNP since 2011, one might have expected this seat to fall to the SNP this time.

Nor does tactical voting by Unionists offer much in the way of explanation in this seat, since one might have expected the Tories to switch to Jackie Baillie to keep out the SNP. However, the Tory vote did not decline but actually increased on 2011 (both absolutely and in terms of share), albeit modestly. Indeed, the Conservative vote was the highest it has been since the first Scottish Parliament elections in 1999. Moreover, there were attempts by Unionists to promote this sort of strategy at the Westminster election last year, and that didn’t end well for them at all.

But perhaps the biggest problem with Kelly’s thesis here is that no one who argued against #BothVotesSNP suggested anything other than to vote for the SNP in their constituency. The moot was always what was best for the List vote?

In an entry on his Facebook page on 6th May, SNP stalwart, Iain Lawson observes

“Just take a look at the seat Tory Ruth Davidson has just won in Edinburgh.

The Yes vote was split by the Greens standing and that was enough to give Unionist Ruth Davidson a victory.

Of course the Greens had the right to put up a candidate BUT was this the result they wanted?

I have heard nothing else than a Green vote was a safe vote, it would increase the YES majority.

So GREEN PARTY WHAT HAPPENED?

Of course Iain is right, but only right as far as he takes it. Once we step outside of the constituency section, and we find the SNP putting up a slate of Regional List candidates, where very often, because of the number of constituency seats won by the SNP mean their List candidates have a vanishingly small chance of election, the Green Party might well ask the same question. As I have pointed out above, if even ‘only’ 25% of the SNP List vote in Glasgow had transferred to Green there would have been two fewer Unionist MSPs in our Parliament.

Taken together, James Kelly’s blog and Iain Lawson’s Facebook entry, crystallise the issue about this election. In an election we expect parties – no matter how close their views might be (and it should be recognised that the views of the SNP and the Green Party are not always particularly close – for instance on income tax) – to compete with each other for out votes. At the same time, a larger prize is at stake – independence.

Robin McAlpine observed in a Common Space article that during the election “the SNP without the context of its wider movement [Yes Scotland] looks awfully like a political party. It made it much harder to talk to the people who are tired with ‘normal politics’.” (https://www.commonspace.scot/articles/3972/robin-mcalpine-there-s-nothing-for-yessers-to-fear-from-sp16-unless-we-don-t-listen), which offers us a second explanation for ‘what happened’.

The first explanation is that the electoral system for Holyrood ‘worked’ – the dominance of the SNP in the constituency section came back to disadvantage them so much on the Regional List that they won few List seats. Of course, it can be shown that if everyone who voted SNP in their constituency had voted in the same way on the List then they might have won an additional five seats, but that argument requires some pretty heroic assumptions, as we have seen (e.g. to assume that, for instance, no one who voted SNP in their constituency was not a supporter of a fringe party – Greens for instance – and only ‘lending’ their constituency vote as they had no one else to vote for).

An easier, and potentially more fruitful approach, could have been to encourage more SNP voters to switch to Green on the List, as with a 25% switch two fewer Unionist MSPs would have been elected on the Regional List, being replaced by two Greens.

Of course it has been argued that the commitment to independence by the Greens is uncertain, but is uncertainty about that commitment (if true, as their views on the next indyref seem very similar to those of the SNP) not better than the certainty of Unionist opposition?

But what good would this do the SNP? The short answer is “not much”. Indeed, if #bothVotesSNP had stuck 100% then they might just have won the additional Regional List seats they needed for a majority, though it would have been, to use a quote associated with Sir Alex Ferguson, “squeaky bum time” – maybe 66-68 seats. But by encouraging switching we could have been looking at a Parliament of 63 SNP MSPs and 10 or 11 Green MSPs, so 74 of 129 MSPs supporting independence. With more switching on the List that figure could have been even greater, which brings me back to the Robin McAlpine quote.

How best can we take independence forward? On a party political basis or as a movement? Of course Iain Lawson is right about the Greens standing in constituencies and costing the SNP seats (eg letting Ruth Davidson in), but it is also demonstrably true that #bothVotesSNP cost the Greens List seats.

My own view is that more clearly than anything, the election just past shows the need to revive independence as a movement, in which the SNP might be the biggest part, but by no means the only one. We will turn to that in a subsequent blog.

Voting tomorrow

In today’s Herald, Magnus Gardham has a piece with the headline SNP ‘fears Nicola Sturgeon may not secure majority’ in Holyrood elections, insiders claim” (http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/14468532.SNP__fears_Nicola_Sturgeon_may_not_secure_majority__in_Holyrood_elections/?action=success#comment_16127289).

This story is very like one in this week’s Lennox, that the election was too close to call. Jackie Baillie is defending a majority of just over 1600 from 2011, during which time the SNP vote has increased nationally by 20% and half her constituency includes one of only three local authority areas to vote Yes. Of course it is said that the greater part of that came in Clydebank, and that SNP support in the Dumbarton and the Vale is at a lower level, and as for Helensburgh ………..

But just to add to Jackie’s woes, given the split in Labour in the UK on Trident, this has made it difficult for her to use the “defending jobs” argument as much as she did last time. That is not to say it has never passed her lips – at hustings she continues to make the point that she will “fight for local jobs”.

I have no access to any polling data for the constituency, but just one impression of my own. The other day, I was driving down the High Street, past the SNP election hub – full of folk doing leaflets etc. We had a couple come down our street from the SNP delivering leaflets (this one was re the Vale, another JB hobby horse). Anything from Labour has come via the Post Office.

A bit further on – Castle Street – is Jackie’s constituency office. It was shuttered and locked, just as the same office was the Saturday before Gemma Doyle got voted out (for those who don’t know, they shared). I see little sign of Labour in the constituency, other than letters to the local paper. I doubt they have given up, but if the level of campaigning is any kind of indication of their vote, it doesn’t look good for JB. Indeed, it seems in Ayrshire Labour have been busing London activists up to supplement local resources. This of course happened this time last year, and look what happened then.

So, why the article in the Lennox? Why this article? Is it to convince Labour Party – and maybe Tory Party – stalwarts to get out and vote, the cause is not yet lost? Or is to cause consternation in SNP ranks? Both of these? Indeed, we might ask “why this article?” Was Jackie Baillie holding Marc McLean’s hand as he wrote?

Or is there a real point?

Many seat prediction sites suggest that the Tories might take 3 or 4 seats (mainly in South Scotland region, holding on to Ayr, Ettrick and West Dumfries, where young Mundell is standing). Suppose the Lib Dems hang on to both the Northern Isles seats. Even if the SNP take all the rest, that leaves them with 67 or 68 constituency seats Bearing mind that this would be 92 or 93% of all the constituency seats, it is hardly a bad result (especially if they secure north of 50% of the vote). But, should, for instance Labour hang on to 3 or 4 constituency seats it would mean no SNP majority.

That of course is the basis of the #bothvotesSNP argument. Yet if the SNP were to end up with 62 or 63 constituency seats (which would still mean them winning 9 more than they had last time) we are still in the territory where they might win no List seats as John Curtice pointed out in his paper (http://electoral-reform.org.uk/sites/default/files/files/publication/The-2016-Scottish-Election-Briefing.pdf). For instance, that number of constituencies (62-363 suggests an average of 8 constituencies per region. Last time in Lothian they won 8 of the 9 constituencies, with a List vote of just under 40% (not a lot less than the polls suggest today) but never won a single seat.

Just for illustration – not a prediction – just some numbers, the polls suggest right now that the SNP will take upwards of 40% of the List vote, Labour 21%, the Tories 19%, Greens about 12% and Lib Dems about 8%. Let’s work those numbers through a representative region.

 

Party

List vote

1st round

2nd round

3rd round

4th round

5th round

6th round

7th round

Seats won

SNP

40

4

4

4

4

4

4

4

0

Labour

21

21

10.5

10.5

10.5

7

7

7

3

Con

19

19

19

9.5

9.5

9.5

6.3333

6.3333

2

Green

12

12

12

12

6

6

6

6

1

LibDem

8

8

8

8

8

8

8

4

1

 

In a Region with 9 seats if the SNP took them all, then working through those numbers using the modified d’Hondt system (divide List vote by elected members +1), would give Labour 3, the Tories 2 and the Lib Dems and Greens 1 each.

To simulate the #bothvotessnp policy I assumed that no one voted Green and their entire vote went SNP (very unlikely, but more likely than Unionist party voters voting SNP). This actually – from an indy supporting point of view came out worst of all – Labour and Tory get three seats each and the Lib Dems one – the SNP still get no regional list seats.

Party

List Vote

1st round

2nd round

3rd round

4th round

5th round

6th round

7th round

Seats won

SNP

52

5.2

5.2

5.2

5.2

5.2

5.2

5.2

0

Labour

21

21

10.5

10.5

7

7

7

5.25

3

Con

19

19

19

9.5

9.5

6.333333

6.333333

6.33333

3

Green

0

               

LibDem

8

8

8

8

8

8

4

4

1

 

The alternative to this would be for at least some of the SNP vote to go to another party that is not Unionist – for instance (again for illustration) the Greens. I assumed 12% of the SNP’s 40% would not switch, so giving the Greens a List vote of 40% (their own 12% + 28% of the SNP vote that switches to them).

Party

List Vote

1st round

2nd round

3rd round

4th round

5th round

6th round

7th round

Seats won

SNP

12

1.2

1.2

1.2

1.2

1.2

1.2

1.2

0

Labour

21

21

21

10.5

10.5

10.5

10.5

7

2

Con

19

19

19

19

19

9.5

9.5

9.5

1

Green

40

40

20

20

13.33333

13.33333

10

10

4

LibDem

8

8

8

8

8

8

8

8

0

 

The outcome of this is that the Greens win 4 seats, Labour 2 and the Tories 1 – Lib Dems get none. It might be pointed out here that the SNP have nothing to gain from this – they win no List seats. But then again, they win no List seats on any of the scenarios. Yet – to the extent that this might have been replicated across Scotland – do they not gain from having a party who would be the official opposition that is at least positive about independence?

However, that last scenario – or indeed the second one – is not going to happen tomorrow. We seem likely to be caught in the soggy middle ground where there are not enough votes for indy supporting parties on the List, and not enough for the SNP to win a decent number of list seats. But let me be clear there – that would be an awful lot more List votes than they could hope to win just now – as I pointed out even if the entire Green vote shifted to the SNP List, the SNP would still win no seats. Where are those votes going to come from? Labour, Tory or Lib Dem? The point is that with their vote as it stands, and the manner in which the deHondt system allocates regional list seats, the SNP, even if they increase their vote, are going to struggle on the List. Any transfer of votes to another indy supporting party than the SNP has stalled, something that the SNP themselves have encouraged with #bothvotesSNP.

Just to make the point as bluntly as possible, all other things equal (which to be fair they wouldn’t be), to win even the final regional seat, if they have won all the constituency seats, the SNP would need a List vote of more than 70% on the basis of the first scenario, or, in the second scenario 64%.

My own view is that the SNP really do need to look to win a majority in the constituencies, hope that the Unionist constituencies are concentrated in just a couple of regions (which is possible – HIghlands and Islands (Orkney and Shetland would be two), South Scotland (Ettrick, Ayr, West Dumfries) – so that they might pick up two or three list places there. Otherwise Gardham might well be right, even if only for a change.