Subverting Democracy, a tale of elections, the media and a Tory leader that’s went too far. (Scottish Politics)

In one of my last ‘politics’ blogs, https://chicgibson.wordpress.com/2017/06/11/1243/ I had a few days of stupidly high numbers and this particular paragraph below, ended up being visible snipped away from the rest of my writing (which to be fair was dull and statistical in the main). I sort of shrugged at seeing it come back to me on my twitter timeline.

It’s tough when the Tories out-bastard you. They certainly did and the good people of the north east of Scotland may need reminded about Free Prescriptions, care for elderly, university tuition etc etc as clearly they’ve taken heed of a distaste for a second referendum but might not know why it’s needed.

I was stunned by that, but my ‘orphan paragraph’ had a real kernel of truth I guess.

On the back of the Election Results, Gerry Hassan produced a piece for http://bellacaledonia.org.uk/ that was incisive and spared no punches in terms of looking into the SNP performance at GE 17. I agreed with many of the points that he made and it developed much better points and conclusions than I did.

The SNP have only been in office for ten years. The Labour Party dominated Scottish politics for fifty years. It hasn’t taken long for the sheen to go off the SNP. How it responds will tell whether this becomes a major crisis and retreat, or one which it can manage and bounce back from.

Underlying all of the above is the missing ingredient in the SNP’s politics and independence offer. There is no coherent national project about Scotland’s future. The party has invited us to just trust them and believe everything will be alright the other side of independence. It was never good enough. This is transparent now.

An independence referendum looks extremely unlikely for the next few years. That gives the SNP and Scottish politics a breathing space to develop a different course. It should be one which is based on the principle of ‘Build it and they will come’. Mark out the territory, policies and detail of a self-governing and independent Scotland and start out in its direction of travel. But that requires a different SNP and leadership which has until now shown no interest in a politics of the long-term or of developing a truly ambitious strategy.

http://bellacaledonia.org.uk/2017/06/13/build-it-and-they-will-come/ is the piece and I think it’s a difficult read for anyone supporting or advocating independence for Scotland. There’s much to chew on and much to think about.

The article, though, produced a quite brilliant response in the comments section from Alan Bisset, himself a noted columnist and author.

5. There is a grievous democratic outrage being perpetrated before our eyes which no-one in the media (nor, for that matter, an exhausted SNP) is challenging. 

The mandate for indyref 2 is now cast-iron, having been voted for by the Scottish electorate in 2016, passed by a majority in Holyrood, and now triple-locked by the fact of the SNP winning a majority of Scottish seats.

 If we are being told that is not enough to secure indyref 2 then we are being told that the Scots have no democratic means of bringing about self-determination. 

On what possible basis is Ruth Davidson being allowed to get away with a statement like ‘indyref2 is dead’ when the Unionist parties COMBINED could not reach the SNP’s total of seats and a bill has *already been passed by the Scottish parliament*. Simply because the SNP secured 35/59 seats in a UK election instead of 56/59? Is no-one else alarmed by the grave repercussions here for Scottish democracy?

Now, our ever-reliable Scottish Mainstream Media (by that I mean Anti-SNP) produced a few bits and pieces like this after the General Election results:-

The Scotsman:- ‘She told the BBC: “But there was one big issue in this campaign and it was Nicola Sturgeon trying to run through a second independence referendum in March and the country’s reaction to that,” she said. “I think we have seen the country’s reaction in the number of SNP seat’s falling. Indyref 2 is dead.” Ms Davidson added: “Now it’s time to get back to what matters to the people of Scotland – that’s sorting out our schools, growing our economy and looking at our public services.”

http://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/general-election/scottish-tory-leader-ruth-davidson-indyref2-is-dead-1-4470791 

Here’s how that piece looks


Now, some might say that The Scotsman isn’t as rabid as either the Scottish Daily Mail or the Scottish Daily Express are, but I’m still not much of a fan of it apart from it’s transport correspondent’s work.

Getting back to the point, Ruth Davidson had herself a decent election and with an increase in Tories from 1 to 13 has even been described as ‘winning the election‘ by the BBC Scotland politics correspondent. (It’s a staggeringly inaccurate and obtuse statement in my opinion though)

But with interviews, media attention in both UK and Scottish media, it then looks like this.


The story of a Tory revival is, of course, noteworthy and due attention. 

But.. Indyref2 is dead ?? 

Okay it was 45-55 in Indyref in 2014. 

2015 saw 56/59 seats go SNP at Westminster.

2016 saw the SNP take 59 constituencies at Holyrood

The Brexit Referendum was 62% Remain in EU

2017 General Election 35 seats out of 59.

I’ve been over the factors for that in ‘An Ice Cold Take’, the purpose of reminder is that it’s relevant to Nicola Sturgeon’s Triple Lock on holding a second referendum. 

We have the Holyrood 16 result , 62% Remain in the Brexit vote in Scotland and 35/59 seats at Westminster, as well as a conclusive vote for a second referendum in the Scottish Parliament.

Now, Ruth Davidson may not like it, the mainstream media may not like it, but that’s enough democratic input to have a Referendum on Scottish Independence once Brexit is a known quantity. (Irrespective of Theresa May’s survival)

What Davidson is trying to do is play down Holyrood. 

If [the Tory Party] sometimes seems English to some Scots that is because the Union is inevitably dominated by England by reason of its greater population. The Scots, being an historic nation with a proud past, will inevitably resent some expressions of this fact from time to time. As a nation, they have an undoubted right to national self-determination; thus far they have exercised that right by joining and remaining in the Union. Should they determine on independence no English party or politician would stand in their way, however much we might regret their departure. What the Scots (not indeed the English) cannot do, however, is to insist upon their own terms for remaining in the Union, regardless of the views of the others. Baroness Thatcher – The Downing Street Years. Via Arc of Prosperity 

Immediately above is what I call the Thatcher Doctorine, I wonder if subverting the role of Holyrood and the elected first minister is something that even she would balk at.

Elected MSP’s had a vote and the result is a mandate for a second referendum. No ifs or buts. That is our democratic system through our devolved parliament.

It’s not about winning headlines, it’s not about photo shoots at Stirling Castle with ‘your’ MPs, it’s not about visiting Downing Street for Cabinet, it’s not about being a privy counsellor, it’s not about preaching on rights to Theresa May and the DUP as they create an unholy coalition.

Davidson has even been touted as controlling those thirteen MPs, those saying that have clearly forgotten the legendary ability of the Tories Whips office at Westminster.

So there we are. Democracy subverted. By a Tory of all things.

(It makes sense when you know ‘Ruth Davidson Tank‘ is a Google top hit when you search her name)

Project Vanilla. (Scottish Politics)

I’m at a point where I’m not keen to be wound up in the next political argument, which is shaping to be about a soft Brexit.

I didn’t vote for Brexit. I sure as hell didn’t vote for Tories. I didn’t vote for Tories doing deals with one side in Northern Ireland and I didn’t vote for any bullshit like Austerity, Benefit Sanctions or Motability being taken off disabled people.

So. This. A series of simple messages.







Plain speaking. No graphics, no colours or fancy stuff with layouts or logos. I’m pissed off enough to think about throwing these on Twitter but I’ll mull it over. Just one point per image might work better in big letters.

Anyway. Simplicity would be lovely. Other stuff occupies my mind too.

Fin.. 

An ice-cold take on GE17 in Scotland (Scottish Politics)

I’ve no enthusiasm for writing on the June 2017 General Election, so this is going to be ‘A Cold Take’, I want to be dispassionate and factual as far as I can.

Let’s start with the Map. It was 2015’s favourite image for the Yes community.

Not as fun in 2017. Tory gains in Ayrshire, Dumfries and Galloway and much of what was Grampian Region together with the clumps of Stirling and Ochils and South Perthshire are obvious. 

There’s red for Labour in Fife, Lothians and Glasgow. Orange Lib Dem gain in Caithness and Sutherland. 

It’s not one the SNP will enjoy, the constituencies lost are large territories when seen in a map graphic. 

Another comment to make is the merged blue of the borderlands.


Next up, the change in vote share from 2015 to 2017. 

Obviously to lose seats The SNP are down and again obviously, the Tories are up. 

There’s a small gain by Labour and a small loss by the Lib Dems.

But, and this is the ‘no shit sherlock’ bit, 13% SNP loss and 13% Tory gain.

 A switcheroo? Possibly, but did 13% of SNP voters go directly Tory? 

Some, might want you to think that. I wouldn’t. 


Here’s Turnout. Generally the darker, the more it was.

 Look at central Scotland diagonally upwards from the crook of Galloway to the outcrop of Fife. All lighter colours.

I’ll admit to disliking these hexagons, but across much of Scotland the turnout was down, as in grey, and in some areas really badly as in black. 

It doesn’t match the actual geography well but it tells the story better than the physical map coloured up.


This baddy shows the seats that changed hands. It’s not dissimilar to the first map, but it’s clarity is in showing the wins/losses. 

The SNP did hang onto a lot of seats. Tory gains are big in area, Labour gains are threatening Glasgow and Edinburgh, and the Lib Dem ones seem rather random.

Key points from all those maps and graphs.

  1. The SNP lost 21 Seats
  2. The Tories gained 13.
  3. Labour gained 6.
  4. Lib Dems gained 3.
  5. Scottish Turnout 66.4% 
  6. UK turnout 68.7%
  7. SNP largest party 35/59 seats
  8. SNP took 38.9% of votes

So, that’s the inconvenient truths out the way, most important is that turnout was down across the country. 

One example is Glasgow North. Paul Sweeney won the seat with 242 votes on a 50.3% turnout. 

Contrast with Ian Murray holding his Edinburgh South seat on a 74.1% turnout. 

Some others..

East Lothian 70.6% Labour Gain.
Aberdeen North 59.2% SNP hold.

Aberdeen South 68.5% Tory Gain.

Aberdeenshire West 71.2% Tory Gain.

Coatbridge etc. 63.3% Labour Gain, Majority 1,586.

Airdrie and Shotts 59.2% SNP hold, Majority 195.

The script from me here is:-

  1. Motivated versus unmotivated voters in a constituency, see Aberdeen North and South and the shire part seat.
  2. Targeted gains by parties 
  3. Narrow SNP gains AND losses
  4. Labour’s defence of Murray in Edinburgh on a higher turnout and unexpected win in Glasgow on a near 50% turnout 
  5. Lanarkshire on a knife edge, a swing one way is a hold, another is a Labour Gain.

We can talk politics to the interested. 

Truth is a long campaign when added with the local council elections probably didn’t make people want to bother. An eight week long campaign all told.

We know the Tories were biggest gainers, but hey, who called it in first place?

Defending Seats is a harder task than gaining. People are motivated by change. Not so much by keeping in the guy you have.

Tactical Voting played a part. Labour and Lib Dem voters came out and voted Tory. They were as good as told to. No need for tactical Voting wheels.

The graphics used by the Tories worked. They weren’t always strictly the situation, but the public grasped that they could make their dent in an incumbent SNP seat.

I, called it wrong before Thursday night. I didn’t think there could be more than 10 losses for the SNP.  I thought the exit poll was a stinker, I was way wrong.

The obviously noisy seats were ones that Labour, Tories and Lib Dems were after. The ones where the activity was greatest and resources were thrown into.

Labour may have benefited from Jeremy Corbyn’s appeal which is ironic given Ian Murray refusing to serve in his Shadow Cabinet and the mainly Blairite leadership in Scotland opposing him. The ‘for the many’ slogan appeared in Scotland in a photo opportunity after the Election.

For me the ‘ failure’ from the SNP and loss of seats was for these reasons.

  1. Timing of election. The GE followed hard on the Council elections and the party had its eye on both elections.
  2. Opponent targeting. The Tories clearly have software and data and used it well. They went for bang for buck. It wasn’t entirely opportunist, but they had benefit of knowing when election would be and they used it.
  3. Corbyn effect. He attracted soft ‘yes’ voters. It changed some seats and dented majorities in others.
  4. ‘No second referendum’ – it played louder than a message on Brexit or the competence and ability of the SNP MP group
  5. The echo chamber of social media. Again, SNP supporters and Yessers hear each other very clearly but not the whole noise pattern. 
  6. Turnout. Grass roots canvassing got lots of sentiment on the doorsteps, but didn’t work to make voters come out. In some seats this was disastrous and particularly reflects in the turnouts in the central belt of Scotland. 
  7. Resource. Targeting seats to defend is one thing, but big hitters like Angus Robertson, Alex Salmond and John Nicholson were targeted by the SNPs opponents and tumbled. In contrast Alistair Carmichael and David Mundell held on against good candidates.

I’m not an SNP member. I’ve no reason to sugar coat it and hopefully I’ve been truthful and useful in my analysis.

The key seems to be find a clear message, stick with it. Analyse each seat, get turnout.

It’s tough when the national media do leader interviews based on competence in devolved matters.

It’s tough when Labour come from dead to having an appealing socialist message. (Stealing a few policies)

It’s tough when the Tories out-bastard you. 

They certainly did and the good people of the north east of Scotland may need reminded about Free Prescriptions, care for elderly, university tuition etc etc as clearly they’ve taken heed of a distaste for a second referendum but might not know why it’s needed.

Personality attack aren’t nice, but there’s a cult of nicknames around the First Minister as there was with her predecessor. It’s not nice, but being nice doesn’t get you what you want.

The Tories weren’t slaughtered on Brexit. Weren’t slaughtered on the effects of losing EU membership and weren’t slaughtered over Benefits and the uncaring society created since 2010.

Labour weren’t slaughtered on being a shambles for the last seven years. They weren’t slaughtered for being unionist. They weren’t slaughtered for meekly accepting brexit.

In a Westminster election, the SNP aren’t a party of government. There’s no record to defend, no case to answer. If people aren’t happy, it’s the Tory Government. If they’re unhappy on a devolved matter, well you’ve mitigated the Tory cuts.

I’ll admit my disappointment and my surprise at the results.

If there’s another election in October, Plenty can be gained, it’s there to take back, but get your voters out and motivated. Target. 

Drive at Labour and Tories on their failings and inconsistencies. Defend Scotref robustly. What other option is there if the bananas brexit referendum is to be applied?

Be clear, consistent, go beyond the TV and papers. Don’t trust Twitter as a medium. Use data. Use maps, use numbers.

Here endith my chill.

A different election viewpoint (Scottish Politics) #GE17

I stumbled a bit today looking inside my twitter timeline.

I saw this. It had be quietly ironically retweeted, so I looked on the timeline of that ‘person’.

Yes, a stream advocating tactical voting in Scotland against the SNP.

‘There’s something bigger going on in the GE in Scotland.’ 

Obviously there’s a tactical voting wheel. (As lampooned in the 2015 General Election.)


But with more detail, there’s even a seat by seat chart.


Now, this vastly differs from the Tactical Voting advocated by Gina Miller and those who speak about a ‘progressive alliance’. 

The chart works on the basis of a 13% swing.

I’ll say that again a Thirteen Percent Swing.

Non Squirrels..

I’ve thrown in these images as Squirrels as a distraction.

Swing, Baby, Swing..

A THIRTEEN PERCENT SWING.

Yes and to add to the fun it’s based on this year’s low turnout at the Council elections. (The small. Small print on the chart)

Now, that was an election on a proportional representation basis, not first past the post.

In a first past the post election, an incumbent only falls on small swings. One percent, two percent, three percent? 

It was reckoned Michael Portillo was 3% ahead just prior to his loss in 1997, it was a huge 17% swing over the course of five years from the previous election.

The UK General Election.

I don’t want to guess too much on any swing against the SNP. I think there’s multiple factors at play. I’d guess at following.

1. Anti-Tory sentiment.

2. The rise of Corbyn.

3. Brexit guilt.

It’s a UK election on UK factors. The recent events of terror in Manchester and London complicate matters too. 

On the first, there’s a weariness in terms of Theresa May, her campaign’s slide. Poor media performances and a general issue in terms of competence and ability.

Jeremy Corbyn has campaigned well, he’s been recognised by the public and his interview appearances generally have helped.

Brexit has been recognised as a factor and played on greatly by the Liberal Democrats. It’s a factor in people’s thoughts as there’s no real plan and a creep in economic factors like inflation and the decreased value of the pound.

But Scotland.. 

In 2015 we got 56 SNP, 1 Tory, 1 LD, 1 Labour.

Labour’s issue is that the SNP ‘took’ ‘their’ Scottish Seats. What was once a large group. 

It’s a very helpful number when you’re fighting an election on overall terms.

The loss or reduction to single digits even if there are any gains in Scotland makes winning a majority tougher and puts the emphasis on England and Wales.

There’s also been an internal bun fight with Ian Murray previously refusing to serve as Corbyn’s shadow Scottish Secretary and a divide in views between the London party and the Scottish Party.

For the Tories, there may be opportunities and there may be loss. It’s went quiet around David Mundell, possibly he faces a contest of his own to retain his seat. 

Ironically, his party may gain ground or take other seats. Talk of Thirteen or Seventeen Tory seats is likely just to be talk. 

There’s opportunities in the Borders, Edinburgh and North East though and it may or may not happen but will be where the SNP have concentrated activity.

The Liberal Democrats have an issue in a politician that, shall we say, fell out with his constituents. Again, the possibility exists that the party might gain whilst the incumbent MP loses. Again, Edinburgh, The Borders and North-East are most fertile possibilities.

The polls 

Most polling is UK wide and there’s extrapolated data for Scotland with degrees of reliability.

It’s thought the SNP may retain the majority of the 56 seats. It’s likely to be 50 plus, nothing I’ve seen says all 59. 

The dynamic of campaigning might see Murray and Mundell survive with some attrition in SNP numbers, possibly a few. Possibly not.

We’ll see.

Tactical Voting.

In the cold light of day, there’s little in common between the Scottish Tories, Lib-Dems and Labour.

It may well be that certain candidates are ‘paper’ as there’s little hope of defeating the SNP across large parts of the country. 

I don’t think the chart or tactical voting wheel are seriously looked at. I don’t think the parties have co-ordinated between themselves. 

There may be tacit truces in places where one party has a serious chance against the SNP in a constituency or in those three constituencies that are being ‘defended’.

We are some distance from a ‘Union Block’, the noise made on Twitter and Facebook is just that. 

Individuals tweeting behind aliases and groups tweeting their viewpoints. As you’ll see it’s bitter.


I’m not going to hide my distaste, but it’s comment and free speech. Not my thing to get into.

So.. the clock ticks down to Thursday. Hopefully we have good news in terms of Manchester and London investigations and we also have a trouble free Election Day.

Here’s the News. (Scottish Politics)

Okay. Here’s a tweet:-


Murdo Fraser MSP (Mid-Scotland and Fife.)

Here’s the tweet it references:-

The Scottish Mail on Sunday is sister publication to the Scottish Daily Mail.

Here’s the article:-

The article leads on a statistic quoted by Ruth Davidson MSP on functional illiteracy in Scotland and runs onto criticism of Alec Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon as First Ministers. 

It references the General Election and presumably is one of the leading political articles in the newspaper.

Here’s another tweet.

A tweet from ‘The Ferret’ highlighting their article in today’s ‘Sunday Herald’ that verifies the statement made by Ruth Davidson.

Here’s the conclusion of their article:-

So, do we have politicians tweeting articles by journalists based on claims made by politicians that aren’t exactly right or that are an ‘interpretation’ themselves. 

The study quoted was apparently reissued with a more up to date version a few days before Ms Davidson spoke at Holyrood.

Is it healthy in a modern democracy where we need one sector of the media to verify the other?

Look Down #Paisley2021


This is Paisley. More particularly it’s the surface of Back Sneddon Street as you look West towards Love Street.

So why that photo?

1. The brick sets as the road surface.

2. The cobbles as the planter surface.

Both are visible in the town, the long  grey bricks in some streets and the cobbles are used as the wall facing in planter beds all around the infamous Paisley one way system.

Paisley’s history is pretty simple. A river, the White Cart Water and The Abbey as a focus for settlement.

But the town grew and the fantastic Victorian architecture and sheer number of A listed buildings are a key factor in the #paisley2021 city of culture bid.


So if you do get to Paisley for one of the events, have a look. The quality of the surfaces on the non tarmac roads and those cobbled flower beds.

The cobbles were reused after the 1970’s redevelopment of the town’s road system to alleviate traffic off the High Street/Glasgow Road corridor.

But the quality of them is fantastic and it does make you think as to quite how wealthy the town was in the high Victorian era with the thread mills of Coats and Clarks.

The Switch (Scottish Politics)

“Explain the results in the 2017 Scottish Council elections.”


I’ll use this graph and I’ll try to keep it snappy.

1. The Winners.

SNP didn’t do anything spectacular, they built upon their core vote from 2012 and got their candidates mainly in on the 1-2, as per their election literature. Their gains have taken them to controlling positions or largest party positions.

2. The Switch

The graph above is from the Daily Telegraph, we see Labour fall as the Tories rise, a simple switch from a demographic of voters that are apathetic to Labour’s message but unwilling to vote for SNP.

3. Green Surge.

In cities, the green message has played better than in outlying areas, there’s an element of switching from Labour, there’s understanding of the green message in politics and a willingness to listen to their point.

I think there’s questions as to how Green candidates didn’t get elected outside the cities and in the larger authorities around the cities, it may well be that third or fourth preference votes weren’t coordinated or delivered in a meaningful way to give enough impact.

4. The STV system. 

I tried, and more illuminous bloggers and writers than me tried to get people to vote through the whole list of candidates on the Ballot Paper. 

The supposition being that it would not harm the core SNP 1,2 message, but also try and ensure that third and fourth preferences came into play. 

I think we’ve seen a fairly high number of spoiled ballots, in Renfrewshire there’s examples of over 100 in a ward. 

I think that leads to a questioning of whether this system of alternative voting can continue, we’ve seen unlikely results and candidates getting elected on the tenth round of counting.

I think in future, that the council system needs to match Holyrood with dedicated ward first past the post voting followed with an x in a box for your list preference.

Only after a full post election analysis will we get the picture of who just voted 1,2 as they had been told, who voted until they boaked and who only ranked the number of candidates to match the number of councillors to be elected.

The gist of my point is that the public didn’t understand the process and some of the parties didn’t use the process to its full effect and despite the efforts of some to get people voting through the list, it’s only partially worked.

5. No Overall Control. 

The outcome of this STV method is that there’s now a balanced position in most Councils, with in some cases there being a largest party, but that it is matched by the combined numbers of opponents. 

Yes,  there will be back room deals done that might see that largest party locked out in a grand coalition of their opponents. 

I’m not sure that’s the intention of a reformed voting system and it could be anti democratic if these sorts of elections do not give clear winners or have largest parties locked out as oppositions for the next five years.

6. Turnout

I’m conditioned to vote before I go to work, I leave a bit earlier and I have time to vote and I’m free when I get home to do stuff. I didn’t see many others in early like me and I suspect from looking at turnout that there may have been a few more voters after doing the school run, but that the evening peak of people doing on the way home didn’t deliver a great volume.

We can say ‘well it’s only the Council’, but the importance of where your council tax goes will be realised along the line. There could be significance in the City Deal larger areas. 

The turnout seems to have been one that delivered the motivated SNP and Tory voters.

Thursday night was lovely, the weather was great, I saw plenty people in Glasgow city centre using it to eat or drink or shop. I’m sure others went home and enjoyed a barbecue or time in the garden.

The core message of getting out to vote didn’t hit everyone and the news media were barking all day over a Royal story too.

7. Conclusion

A mixture of motivated voters or a low turnout with some confusion over what exactly to do with a 8, 9 or even 10 candidate ballot paper has seen the SNP build on their previous position but perhaps not to the extent that they may have hoped. The Tory revival is a straight switch and to an extent a mopping up of those opposed to independence and who wanted to do as the Tories said in making a clear statement on a second referendum on independence.

I think the general election in June is a different matter and will see a better turnout on a clearer system.