Saturday, May 31, 2014

A fond (and 'fantastic') farewell to the banned "Vote No Borders" cinema ads

Transcript :

George Osborne?


The bedroom tax?


Tory governments we didn't vote for?


Nigel Farage as Deputy Prime Minister by this time next year?


Being forced out of the European Union by a UK referendum in 2017, even if Scotland votes to stay in?


Blaming everything on Romanian immigrants?


Enough nuclear weapons on the Clyde to kill one billion people at the push of a button within the next thirty minutes?


Being funded by Tory millionaires in London but passing ourselves off as a Scottish "grassroots" organisation?


Going round telling people that they’ll need a passport to go to England after independence, even though there is no independent country anywhere in western Europe that has passport controls at its land borders?


Scaring parents witless with a cowardly, cynical lie that independence would lead to their sick children going to the back of the queue at Great Ormond Street Hospital, and then passing the claim off as "comedy" when the hospital calls it out as a lie?

Oh my God, that's fantastic.


Friday, May 30, 2014

An intriguing straw in the wind from YouGov

Because of the Bank Holiday we've only had three YouGov daily polls of GB-wide Westminster voting intention this week, but the Scottish subsamples from two of them have shown the SNP in the lead, and the other one had a relatively narrow Labour lead.  Here are today's figures -

SNP 34%
Labour 31%
Conservatives 16%
Liberal Democrats 7%
Greens 6%

This could still be a fluke caused by sampling variation, but YouGov's methodology for GB-wide polls is so unfavourable for the SNP that it's extremely unusual for them to be in the lead in two subsamples in the space of three days.  With anecdotal reports of an increased number of people coming forward to help the Yes campaign as a direct result of UKIP's success south of the border, this could be one worth watching.

It seems, however, that I may have spoken too soon about the limited effect of UKIP's surge on the GB-wide headline numbers.  Today's poll has the highest Labour lead in a couple of months (albeit only by 1%), which will have been partly caused by Tory voters switching to UKIP, who are up to an unusually high 16%.  What happens from here may depend on whether the Tories can hold off the UKIP challenge in next week's parliamentary by-election in Newark.

*  *  *

Something very peculiar has happened to the BBC referendum poll tracker since I posted about it yesterday.  They seem to have removed the first of the two Panelbase polls conducted for the Sunday Times this year, meaning that they're now acknowledging the existence of only ONE out of SIX Panelbase referendum polls to have been conducted in 2014 so far!

How will "Vote No Borders" argue the case for a united Ireland?

As borders go, the one between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland is a particularly stupid one.  It has no historical basis whatever - the province of Ulster contains nine counties, not six, and two of the six counties that did 'make the cut' had Catholic/nationalist majorities even in 1921.  So presumably we can look forward to plucky "grassroots" organisation Vote No Borders transferring its operations to Belfast as soon as our own little referendum is over.  It'll make a nice change for them to actually rage against an existing international border, rather than trying to avert the creation of a new one.

I live in Newry and I need a passport to visit my gran 12 miles away in Dundalk.  It's crazy!!!!!

No, you don't.  I did that trip only yesterday and there was no passport control in sight.

Yeah, but there might be.

No, there isn't.

You don't KNOW that.  I'm just painting a picture of uncertainty.

What uncertainty?  There's been a border there for 92 years, and we've never had to show our passports at any point.

All the more reason to think it'll probably happen next week.  It's crazy!!!!!

But that would make us the ONLY COUNTRY IN WESTERN EUROPE to have passports controls on a land border, unless you count the border Norway and Finland have with Russia.

I know, it's crazy!!!!!!

No no no no no, that's not what I mean.  I'm saying it won't happen.

You cannot possibly be here.

I'm sorry?

Come now, we both know that in reality you're still stranded in Rio because this accursed border robbed you of access to Irish consular services when you lost your passport.  Begone from my sight, phantom!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Problems with the BBC referendum poll tracker

The BBC website has introduced a new poll tracker for the referendum.  It uses a format that in many ways I quite like - it doesn't compare apples with oranges by lumping together polls from different firms in the same graph, and instead simply provides a separate tracker for each of the six pollsters.  And it very sensibly excludes Progressive Scottish Opinion, although interestingly it does so on the grounds of the question PSO used in their most recent poll, as opposed to the fact that they do not abide by British Polling Council rules.  But there are still two big flaws that leap out at me -

1) When you first visit the page, all you can see is the ICM tracker, and yet there is no explanation offered that you're only looking at polls from one company - casual visitors will be forgiven for assuming that they're looking at a graph showing all the polls from the campaign so far.  You really have to study the page before there's much chance of spotting the drop-down menu which allows you to navigate between the trackers for the six different pollsters.  This is a particular problem because the ICM tracker is the most misleading of the lot, due to the endless methodological tinkering that the firm have indulged in on a virtually monthly basis.  Leaving aside the open question of how big an impact their bizarre introductory question had in the most recent poll, one thing there can't be any doubt over is that their recent decision to start dramatically upweighting responses from people who didn't vote in the 2011 election has increased the reported number of undecided voters, meaning that the headline Yes vote (and indeed the headline No vote) can't be fairly compared with earlier polls.

2) The Panelbase tracker shows just two polls this year, both commissioned by the Sunday Times.  In reality, Panelbase have conducted six referendum polls this year - the other four were commissioned by the SNP, Newsnet Scotland, Wings Over Scotland and Yes Scotland respectively.  I can only assume the explanation for this omission is supposed to be covered by this sentence -

"It does not include polls conducted on the behalf of any political parties."

OK, that explains the exclusion of the SNP-commissioned poll, and at a stretch it might explain the omission of the poll for Yes Scotland, which has strong links to the SNP.  But Newsnet Scotland and Wings Over Scotland are alternative media websites that are entirely independent of any political party.  True, they both have a desired outcome in the independence referendum, but then so do many mainstream newspapers that commission opinion polls.  Such as the explicitly anti-independence and Labour-supporting Daily Record, for example, who commission the monthly Survation poll series.  Are those Survation polls excluded from the BBC tracker on the basis of the same logic?  No they are not.

Would the BBC exclude polls commissioned by the even more virulently anti-independence Daily Mail?  Almost certainly not, you'd have to conclude.  So just how partisan does an anti-independence publication have to get before it's deemed by the BBC to be "out of the game" in the same way as Newsnet Scotland or Wings?  Could it be that there's one law for Yes-supporting media, and another law for No-supporting media?

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The anti-independence campaign must be worried by the first post-Euro GB-wide polls

For the last few weeks I've been rehearsing my concerns about the potential implications of a UKIP victory across Britain in the European elections. Basically I feared that there would be a temporary surge in support for UKIP in Westminster voting intention polls, and that because most of the extra support would come from the Tories, it might give the false impression of an increasing Labour lead, thus leaving soft No voters with a false sense of security about the consequences of rejecting independence. As it turns out, none of that has happened. We've now had two YouGov daily polls conducted since the weekend which show an average Labour lead of just 3%, very much in line with the pre-election position. So the facts remain broadly the same as before - we have a Labour lead that has declined to such an extent that we are seeing Tory leads in certain individual polls, and there is a significant chance of a verifiable crossover occurring before the referendum. Added into the mix is the fact that voters now know that any future Tory-led government may either directly involve UKIP, or be under UKIP's influence.

If the Tories do open up a lead in the polling average over the coming months, the challenge will be to get the facts out to people. YouGov have released separate figures that show that 50% of respondents think that Labour did well in the European elections, compared to just 23% who think the Tories did well. In the Scottish subsample, the gap is even bigger. I find that utterly incomprehensible given that the two parties were essentially tied, and given that the onus is on the opposition party to do well, not on the government. To put it in perspective, Neil Kinnock, William Hague and Michael Howard all enjoyed decent-looking wins in the Euro elections as Leader of the Opposition, but all of them lost the subsequent general elections. The opposition needs to be pulverising the government at this stage of the electoral cycle, as Labour did in 1994, not finishing second with a pathetic 1% lead over the governing party. As for Labour in Scotland, since when did finishing behind the SNP in the popular vote constitute "success"? Changed times, indeed - unless of course voters are falling for mass media misinformation.

YouGov don't release their datasets until the morning, so as of this moment we only have one Scottish subsample conducted since the European elections. It shows the SNP in the lead for Westminster voting intentions, which is highly unusual given the way in which the methodology YouGov use for their GB-wide polls tends to understate SNP support.

SNP 37%
Labour 33%
Conservatives 18%
Liberal Democrats 5%
Greens 2%

That came about in spite of YouGov downweighting the number of SNP and Plaid identifiers in the sample by almost one-half - extreme even by their standards. But it remains to be determined whether the SNP lead is just a fluke, or is an early sign of a reaction against the drift to the right seen in the rest of the UK.

YouGov patted themselves on the back for their reasonably accurate prediction of the election result with an article immodestly titled "YouGov gets it right (again)". It might more reasonably have been called "YouGov gets it right (as we didn't in the last Holyrood election, and we weren't the most accurate in the last UK general election either)". But even though YouGov were by a small margin the most accurate pollster this time around, they were in line with a consistent pattern across all the firms of underestimating the Tories and overestimating Labour. In YouGov's case, Labour's advantage over the Tories was exaggerated by 3%. Whether the same error also applies to Westminster polling is obviously a very big "if", but if we make that assumption for the sake of argument, it would completely wipe out Labour's average lead in the two polls so far this week.

*  *  *

I couldn't help but raise a smile at the attempts of Gary Gibbon from Channel 4 News to sound even-handed about the financial claims and counter-claims today, before innocently adding "but independent bodies like the Institute for Fiscal Studies tend to prefer the No campaign's numbers". It was Professor John Robertson who first pointed out that the perpetuation of the fiction that the highly political IFS are "neutral" is one of the key factors contributing to the broadcast media's bias against the Yes campaign. Channel 4 News is of course produced by ITN, which is 40% owned by ITV plc, a company which is a member and financial backer of the explicitly anti-independence business organisation the CBI. So Gibbon should more accurately have said : "This non-neutral news organisation prefers to take heed of the preference of non-neutral thinktank the IFS for non-neutral numbers from the No campaign."

* * *

The rather impressive (and refreshingly even-handed) lawyer who appeared on the BBC's new Scotland 2014 show tonight asked how it was possible that the implosion of the Liberal Democrats could lead directly to the UKIP surge. The answer is that it didn't, or at least not to any great extent. In the last GB-wide poll of European voting intentions conducted by ICM, only 16% of UKIP voters had been in the Lib Dem column at the last general election. 34% of them had voted Tory in 2010, and a very large chunk had either not voted at all, or not for one of the mainstream parties. The Liberal Democrat vote from 2010 was in fact dispersed several different ways last week, with only 27% sticking with the Lib Dems, 22% going to UKIP, 15% to Labour, 13% to the Greens, 9% to the Tories, and 1% to the SNP.

* * *

I was surprised to read the suggestions in newspapers that cinema ads from both the Yes and No campaigns were about to be banned, because I hadn't actually been aware of any Yes cinema ads - only the excruciatingly awful ones from "Better Together" and "Vote No Borders". Admittedly I haven't been to the cinema since I almost had a nervous breakdown watching Gravity in 3D at the start of the year, but I did an internet search which failed to turn up anything. Has anyone seen any Yes cinema ads, and if they exist, what are they like?

Not for the first time, "Better Together" are risking extreme ridicule with their bleating about how the Yes campaign have 'ruined it for everyone' by getting their supporters to boo at the ads, thus provoking the ban.  Just how huge is this remote-controlled Cybernat army supposed to be, if it's big enough to muster a presence at every film showing in the land?!

ICM poll : SNP on course to oust Danny Alexander from his Inverness seat next year

In his parting shot upon resigning from the Liberal Democrats, Lord Oakeshott revealed that he had conducted one final constituency poll in a Lib Dem-held seat, namely Danny Alexander's constituency of Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey. The results are not only a horror show for Alexander, but they're also yet another body-blow for Labour, who on paper ought to be the lead challengers in the seat.

Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey voting intention for Westminster general election (percentage changes are from 2010 election) :

SNP 32% (+13)
Labour 25% (+3)
Liberal Democrats 16% (-25)
Conservatives 12% (-1)
UKIP 7% (+6)
Greens 4% (+2)
Others 3% (+1)

Unlike ICM's recent referendum polls, this one was conducted by telephone, so there's no potential alibi for Labour or the Lib Dems of an unrepresentative volunteer online panel. The sample size was 500, which is high enough to be statistically meaningful, and weightings were applied. In fact, the weighting has significantly reduced the reported SNP vote.  The fieldwork is bang up to date - it was conducted between last Friday and Monday of this week.

The poll also asked for hypothetical voting intentions under a variety of possible Lib Dem leaders.  Not a single one produced anything other than a decisive SNP victory.  The only permutation that even got the Lib Dems into second place was Danny Alexander himself as leader - but even the prospect of having their constituency represented by the UK Deputy Prime Minister was not sufficient to make voters turn away from the SNP.  In that scenario, Alexander would lose his seat by 31% to 27%.  Incidentally, the question that specifically asked about the status quo scenario (Cameron, Miliband, Clegg and Salmond all being the leaders of their respective parties at the general election) produced an SNP vote that was 3% higher than in the headline numbers, and a Labour vote that was 2% lower.  It appears, therefore, that reminding voters of the existence of Salmond and Miliband has an entirely predictable effect - so much for the apparent semi-religious belief of "Better Together" that the First Minister must be a liability for the Yes campaign.

Danny Alexander's spokesman has criticised the methodology ICM used in this poll, which in one sense is fair enough because I'll shortly be doing the same thing myself.  Unfortunately, however, the specific objection raised is cretinous beyond belief -

"Only 309 people contributed to the voting intention question – that is less than half of one percent of the 72,500 in the constituency."

That's a reference to the fact that, after turnout weighting was applied, only 309 of the original sample of 500 was left. But the margin of error even for a sample of 309 is only 5.5%, which means that if the rest of the methodology is correct there is still absolutely no way that the Lib Dems are ahead in the constituency (albeit there would be a small degree of doubt over whether the SNP or Labour are in first place). As for the "less than half of one per cent" point, that's even sillier - a far, far higher percentage of the target population was interviewed than would be the case in any nationwide poll with a sample of 1000.

In a strange way, what should be most alarming for Mr Alexander is that the people interviewed were actually quite favourable towards him personally - 52% thought their local MP was doing a good job as Chief Secretary to the Treasury, so this is not a particularly hostile sample. They're not rejecting him, they just seem to have had a gutful of the Lib Dems and the coalition. There appears to be no evidence at all that a strong personal vote (the "local hero" factor) is going to save the Lib Dems' bacon across rural Scotland this time - although I suspect it might just about be enough to save Charles Kennedy in the neighbouring seat.

These findings are of course very much in line with the Ashcroft polling of Lib Dem-held seats a year or two back, which showed that it was the SNP rather than Labour who were in line to take most of the spoils, even in seats where the SNP were not starting from second place. All of these predictions are, however, complicated by the fact that the general election will not be taking place until the other side of the referendum. If there's a Yes vote, I would expect the SNP to sweep all before it across the whole of Scotland, whereas if there's a No vote it's harder to guess what the impact might be. But there's no reason to expect an SNP collapse in those circumstances - No votes in the Quebec independence referendums of both 1980 and 1995 were followed up by clear victories for the Parti Québécois in the subsequent provincial elections.

Talking of the referendum, we're also given something tantalising in this poll - referendum voting intention figures from telephone fieldwork, and produced by a company other than Ipsos-Mori (who to date are the one and only firm to have conducted telephone polling during the campaign). Unfortunately, the numbers aren't very useful given that they're only from a single constituency, for which we don't have any baseline numbers. For what it's worth, though, here they are -

In the referendum on independence for Scotland on 18th September 2014, voters will be asked, "Should Scotland be an independent country?"  Do you think you will vote “Yes” or "No"?

Yes 32.4%
No 54.8%

With Don't Knows excluded, it works out as -

Yes 37.2%
No 62.8%

There are three extremely important caveats here - a) the poll was weighted by recalled past vote from 2010 rather than 2011, which we know tends to lead to a lower reported Yes vote because people's recollection of how they voted in 2010 is much less accurate, b) the referendum question was only asked after many, many other questions (which is fair enough in this case, because it wasn't primarily a referendum poll), and c) the figures are not turnout weighted. If ICM's recent online poll for Scotland on Sunday is anything to go by, turnout weighting might be expected to reduce the No lead by anything up to 4% after Don't Knows are excluded.

So can this tell us anything at all? Well, Alexander's seat makes up approximately one-third of the Highland council area, which in the 1997 devolution referendum produced a slightly lower Yes vote on both questions than the national average. When combined with the lack of turnout weighting, that means this poll is probably consistent with a national Yes vote of about 40% or 41% - significantly higher than Ipsos-Mori have been reporting in their published telephone polls, albeit probably not higher than in their notorious hushed-up mega-poll for the UK government. In any case, this piles assumption upon assumption - it may well be that that the regional differentials are significantly different this time around, and that the Yes campaign are doing proportionately worse in the Highlands than their counterparts did in 1997.  That's only speculation, but what we have much firmer grounds for believing is that ICM's usage of 2010 vote recall for the weightings in this poll is likely to have artificially increased the reported No lead by a substantial amount, in which case the results could be consistent with a national Yes vote of well above 40%.  The fact that people who recalled voting SNP in 2010 were sharply downweighted in the published results from 120 to just 72 is highly significant - that probably only happened because a number of people who voted SNP in 2011 but not in 2010 got mixed up (which in turn means that the SNP's own lead in the constituency is likely to be even higher than the headline numbers suggest).

One interesting detail is that an intention to vote SNP next year correlates significantly more strongly with a Yes vote than a recollection of voting SNP in 2010 does.  In a sense, that's counterintuitive, because you'd expect the lower SNP vote in 2010 to represent the "core nationalist vote" - another reason for suspecting that these are really SNP voters from the 2011 landslide who have been wrongly downweighted.

Wisdom on Wednesday : Gun control is good, apart from the reduction in sexual arousal

"Our love affair with guns has nothing to do with tyranny, or militias, or self-preservation. Just ask any NRA member the following - if Jesus Christ himself were to come down off the cross and grant you one wish, would you opt for a world without guns, or the one we live in now? If every gun owner truly feared for their life and liberty, the answer would be obvious. But it's not about life and liberty. It's all about the sheer hard-on of owning a gun."

American freelance writer Quentin R Bufogle.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Sign the petition : the broadcasters MUST give David Coburn and UKIP a fair chance to speak on behalf of the No campaign

I've never started a petition before, but when I think of what a democratic outrage it would be if the BBC and STV don't ensure that "Scotland's newest political force" is fairly represented within the No campaign's allotted 50% of broadcast time between now and September...well, I struggle to contain my fury, quite frankly.  I'm sure Labour's Margaret Curran will sign the petition even if no-one else does, because by all accounts she kept whispering "yes!" every time she saw a pile of UKIP votes at the count, so she seems to be particularly keen on having the delightful David Coburn speak on her campaign's behalf on a regular basis.

We demand that the broadcasters give UKIP a fair chance to speak on behalf of the No campaign

Until now, broadcasters such as the BBC and STV have rarely permitted UKIP to make the case for the anti-independence campaign. This is clearly now an unsustainable state of affairs given that 17% of the votes cast for anti-independence parties in the European elections went to UKIP, who now hold one of Scotland's six seats in the European Parliament. We call upon the broadcasters to ensure that the full range, breadth, depth, diversity and complexity of anti-independence opinion in Scotland is appropriately represented in future, and specifically that where there is a head-to-head debate between Yes and No, the "Better Together" representative is replaced on approximately one-fifth of occasions by David Coburn, Nigel Farage, or ideally Lord Monckton.

Click HERE to sign the petition.

It's true : a sizeable minority of UKIP voters will say Yes to (Scottish) independence in September

Scottish Skier mentioned on an earlier thread that one-quarter of people who voted UKIP in Scotland last Thursday will vote Yes in the independence referendum.  That was quite a startling thought, so I had a look at the last poll from each of the three firms that conducted full-scale European voting intention polls in Scotland.  Unfortunately YouGov's one and only full-scale poll (which in some ways was the most accurate) did not appear to ask the referendum question, so cross-referencing isn't possible.  But figures are available from both ICM and Survation.

Referendum voting intention of people who planned to vote UKIP last week (excluding Don't Knows) -


Yes 23%
No 77%

Survation :

Yes 24%
No 76%

The subsamples involved are too small to be reliable, but they do tell us something - if UKIP supporters were as monolothically opposed to independence as we might lazily assume, the figure for Yes would be highly likely to be close to zero even in a small subsample.  So at the very least there's clearly a statistically significant "UKIP for Yes" niche out there - and it appears to be bigger than "Tory for Yes", for example.

Standard Eurosceptic rhetoric probably goes some way towards explaining this phenomenon. The likes of Farage tell us that they offer "real independence" as opposed to the SNP's "phoney" independence within Europe.  So the "UKIP for Yes" voter is essentially calling that bluff - he/she may think that Brussels rule is inconsistent with true independence for Scotland, but they sure as hell think London rule is inconsistent with it as well.

The mainstream London parties may have also helped things along with their scaremongering over whether an independent Scotland would be able to remain in the EU.  Scotland may be a significantly more pro-European country than England, but we nevertheless have a sizeable Eurosceptical minority, and it's not hard to predict the effect of telling such people that a Yes vote is likely to instantly produce Farage-style "real independence" against the SNP's wishes.

We shouldn't forget that even readers of this blog (somewhat to my dismay) voted in a poll that they would prefer EFTA membership to EU membership!

*  *  *

There's been no YouGov daily poll tonight, probably due to the Bank Holiday.  But tomorrow night we should get the first indication of whether there's been a snowball effect for UKIP in GB-wide Westminster voting intentions.  The answer to that question could prove crucial for the referendum - as indeed could the answer to the question of how long any temporary UKIP surge might last.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Don't you at least have to know what someone is saying before you call them a bigot?

It was pointed out to me that I'd been briefly mentioned in despatches earlier today by James Mackenzie, supremo of Better Nation, and former Green media chief.  I had to search quite a way to find it, but here it is -

Colin Dunn ‏: "some SNP supporters were being misled by James Mackenzie's spin" Any comment on this?

James Mackenzie ‏: Guy's a Wings-loving tube and I don't read him. Last night perfectly substantiated my analysis of YouGov.

Colin Dunn ‏: Will look into your second point, but your first is irrelevant and, I’m sorry, just childish.

James Mackenzie : It's relevant. He gets unrealistically agitated and disproportionate about me because I point out his pal is a bigot.

Me ‏: No, James. If I have any problem with you at all, it's that you called me a woman-hater. Care to withdraw yet?

Me : Incidentally, it's extraordinary that you feel able to psychoanalyse my motivation for writing something that you haven't read!

James Mackenzie : I'm more just surprised to see you in my mentions: I was sure I'd blocked you for supporting Wings' bigotry. Remedied now.

Me : ·Now I'm totally confused. You appeared to have blocked me, I pointed that out, and you innocently claimed not to have done it.

I think James' attitude problem pretty much speaks for itself. The irony is that my spat with him last year began because he was so insistent that "our" side (ie. we both want Yes to win) are the ones who have the disproportionate problem with abusive and insulting behaviour. He's since gone out of his way to attempt to prove that point personally by calling me a "misogynist", a "Cybernat" and a "Wings-loving tube"! I fear we're probably going to have to look a bit further afield for our campaign's moral conscience.

Incidentally, his attitude of "if you displease me, you no longer exist in my world" seems to apply to a great many people. His conviction that Wings Over Scotland is "bigoted" gets ever stronger in spite of the fact that he has studiously avoided the site for years. That became painfully clear when he invited people to type the word "feminist" into the Wings search function and see what came up. When it was pointed out to him that the results showed nothing of any interest, he linked to the article he had in mind - and it was on RevStu's old site, not on Wings at all. It seems he wasn't even aware of the new Wings web address, even though the new site had been up and running for...well, I can't even remember how long, but a good while.

I do understand that the world can seem a calmer, fluffier place if you banish from it all viewpoints that you find distasteful. It would be absolutely fine for James to treat people like RevStu and myself as if we don't exist, but what isn't reasonable is for him to make serious charges of "bigotry", "homophobia" and "misogyny" in respect of sites that he openly admits he doesn't know the contents of.

In numbers : the yawning chasm between Scotland and the rest of the UK

Where UKIP finished -

England and Wales : FIRST
Scotland : FOURTH

UKIP share of the vote -

England and Wales : 29.1%
Scotland : 10.5%

UKIP share of seats -

England and Wales : 35.9%
Scotland : 16.7%

So yeah, as UKIP's friends and allies in the Labour, Tory and Lib Dem parties have been pointing out all day, these numbers look ABSOLUTELY IDENTICAL to me.

In truth, what you see above actually understates the enormous gulf between Scotland and the rest of the UK.  In every region of England, a splinter party from UKIP stood, and used a clever strategy to get themselves placed at the top of the ballot paper by having a name beginning with 'A', while still giving the impression with their party description and logo that they might be the authentic UKIP.  It worked to some extent, with the party receiving between 1.21% and 2.29% in every region - quite a bit higher than you'd expect for a new fringe party that hardly anyone has heard of.  So it seems overwhelmingly likely that most of their support came from 'accidental' voters who should have been in the UKIP column.

However, they didn't bother standing in Scotland and Wales.  If they had done, and accordingly made the results directly comparable across Great Britain, it's absolutely certain that UKIP's vote in Scotland would have been even lower, and it's at least conceivable that UKIP would have failed to take a Scottish seat.

*  *  *

An extra little observation about the BBC results show.  In the final summing up just after 3am, Jeremy Vine stood on his giant map of Great Britain, which was coloured in by the leading party in each council area.  He theatrically searched for any part of the country that had voted Lib Dem, before homing in on Farron territory and declaring that South Lakeland was the one and only place that had given Clegg's mob anything to cheer about.  And yet behind him, both Shetland and Orkney were clearly visible, and were brightly shining in Lib Dem orange.  It seems that Scottish island communities are still "Nowheresville" as far as the London media are concerned.

SNP win the European elections - and the big losers are blundering Peter Kellner, and the BBC results programme

If I can trust the BBC website, 31 out of 32 councils in Scotland have declared, and it's now absolutely clear that the SNP are going to win the popular vote in the European elections by about 3% or so.  Their share of the vote is going to be roughly 29%, which we know must be good, because it's exactly what UKIP are getting across Great Britain, and the BBC keep telling us that's an absolutely bloody fantastic result.  In fact, it must be even better for the SNP than it is for UKIP, because you'd expect the SNP to suffer as an incumbent government, whereas UKIP are a 'free hit' protest vote party that have never governed anywhere at any time.

(UPDATE : It now looks certain that the SNP's share of the vote in Scotland will in fact be HIGHER than UKIP's across Britain as a whole after the London result is declared.)

And yet just a couple of hours ago, YouGov's Peter Kellner smugly informed the nation that Labour were heading for victory in Scotland.  Viewers of the BBC results show will have been forgiven for taking that wildly implausible claim seriously, because it was shorn of all context - it was the first time any Scottish results had been mentioned (other than a very brief comment from Kellner himself about Aberdeen).  Now, of course, the trends of early results can sometimes be unrepresentative, and if that was the case he could be forgiven for leading people astray.  But that categorically isn't what happened.  He immediately explained the percentage changes that had led him to conclude that Labour were winning, and they made no logical sense whatever - they in fact suggested that the SNP were heading for victory by about 2% or 3%.  It seems he hadn't even bothered to check the baseline figures from 2009 before coming into the studio.  The BBC's political editor Nick Robinson then had an immediate opportunity to correct an obviously flawed piece of arithmetic, but clearly he didn't know the baseline figures either, and instead eagerly seized on the latest concocted "blow for Alex Salmond" narrative.

When Mr Salmond appeared on the show later and pointed out that the SNP were in fact winning, and John Curtice implicitly accepted that to be true, I waited to hear the apology from David Dimbleby for the incorrect steer earlier.  I waited in vain.  An utter shambles, and it just ain't on.  We should have been watching a dedicated Scottish results programme - on past form that probably would have been less than perfect, but there's still no way it would have made such an unforgiveable mistake and then failed to come clean about it.

So just how good is this victory for the SNP?  The first point to make is that they've increased their lead over Labour by roughly 2% since their historic local election triumph two years ago.  Part of that can be explained by the fact that the SNP don't have to face the same challenge from rural independents in European elections that they do in local elections, but nevertheless this can probably be regarded as a slightly better result than 2012.  The most direct comparison is of course with the last European elections in 2009, when the SNP were assisted on their way to a decisive win by the unpopularity of Gordon Brown's Labour government.  Remarkably, in spite of the fact that Labour are now the challenging party at Westminster and should be sweeping all before it (especially in a supposed heartland like Scotland), the SNP have retained exactly the same share of the vote.  Brian Taylor has just claimed that the Nationalists will be disappointed that their vote "eased down" - well, as far as I can see, it's eased down by precisely 0.07%.  Let's get real here - they've replicated the 2009 result.

The other extraordinary claim that Brian Taylor made was that UKIP's snatching of a Scottish seat would somehow prevent Alex Salmond from pointing out that the political cultures of Scotland and the rest of the UK have totally diverged.  To be fair, Taylor did go on to concede that UKIP receiving 10% of the vote in Scotland and finishing fourth is still a rather different result from UKIP receiving 29% of the vote in the UK and finishing first, but he maintained that UKIP's seat would "complicate" the message.  Hmmm.  I'd suggest that's a distinction between the SNP being in a position to hammer their point home, and them being in a position to hammer the point so hard that it falls out the other end attached to a large slab of wood.

Incidentally, I had a chat on Twitter a few hours ago with an anti-independence troll who claimed that the SNP had "the UKIP bunting out".  I'll just pause briefly to note the irony of that remark in the light of Brian Taylor revealing that Labour, the Tories and the Liberal Democrats are all privately celebrating the fact that UKIP have taken a seat in Scotland, because they think that a minor scrap of success for a borderline-racist, anti-European party will somehow assist their anti-independence campaign.  That appears to be all that matters to them at the moment.

The other important question is how this result tallies up with recent opinion polls, and what it can tell us about which pollster is most reliable in respect of the referendum.  As it turns out, all of the pollsters who produced European voting intention figures - No-friendly and Yes-friendly alike - have overestimated the SNP.  That doesn't surprise me, because ever since PR was introduced for European elections all of the parties have consistently failed to break through the 30% barrier in Scotland, regardless of their showing in the opinion polls.  Probably a more realistic guide is the gap between the SNP and Labour, and on that measure YouGov were closest to the truth - but only in their sole full-scale Scottish poll, which underestimated the SNP lead by just 1%.  By contrast, YouGov's subsample results (including some very large subsamples) tended to wrongly suggest that Labour were winning in Scotland, which is yet another powerful indication that the sampling and weighting methods that YouGov use for Scottish respondents in GB-wide polls is totally misconceived.

But if this means that the methodology that YouGov use for full-scale Scottish polling is more reliable than some other pollsters (and that can only be a very tentative conclusion), is that good news or bad news for the Yes campaign?  Probably neither.  YouGov are still a No-friendly pollster, but only just - they've moved a long way towards the middle in recent months, and their most recent poll showed a No lead that was only 1% higher than the current average for all BPC pollsters.

Perhaps a more encouraging indicator is the fact that across Britain as a whole, online pollsters have done quite well.  Indeed, one of the most inaccurate polls of all was the highly-regarded ICM telephone poll for the Guardian, which put the Conservatives in first place for the European elections.  That's significant because online polls have tended to be more optimistic for the Yes camp than telephone polls (albeit telephone polls have been very few and far between in the referendum campaign, and have thus far only been conducted by Ipsos-Mori).

All in all we probably shouldn't jump to too many conclusions about the inaccuracy of certain polls, because there's a special challenge in trying to take account of differential turnout in an election where only about a third of people bother to vote.  A referendum in which perhaps 75% or 80% of people turn out to vote will be an entirely different proposition, and it could well be that pollsters who got it wrong tonight may yet prove to be more accurate in September.

The talk of the town among independence supporters in recent days was the question of which party was best-placed to deny UKIP a seat.  As I and a number of others have been predicting, the answer turned out to be the SNP.  When the d'Hondt formula is applied for the final seat (which will divide the SNP and Labour votes by three and the Tory vote by two), the SNP will be significantly ahead of Labour, the Tories and the Greens - and probably in that order, unless the Western Isles throws up a major shock.  Doubtless the Greens will still try to make the case that any extra votes for the SNP would also have been divided by three, and therefore tactical voting for the Greens could have closed the gap on UKIP at a faster rate.  But really that's a hopeless argument - if the Greens were to have any chance of claiming a seat, they needed to give some indication of being capable of breaking through the 10% barrier on their own merits, before taking into account the effect of the relatively small number of 'politically aware' people who were considering a tactical switch from the SNP.  Not a single opinion poll placed them anything like that high, and although the 8% share they claimed tonight is at the absolute higher end of my expectations, they were clearly never seriously in the running.  In relative terms they would have needed to increase their raw vote by a full third to overhaul the four parties that were ahead of them for the final seat, whereas the SNP would only have needed to increase theirs by less than a tenth to pip UKIP at the post.

I was firmly taken to task on a Hearts forum (ie. the football club) by an SNP supporter on Thursday, who suggested I was "incredibly patronising" for saying this -

"Maggie Chapman is a very fine candidate (and an asset for the Yes campaign), and if your number one priority is to have her as an MEP representing Scotland, then by all means vote Green - even though the chances of success look very slim indeed. But just be aware that it isn't going to stop David Coburn or UKIP."

I suppose I can see how that might look patronising when taken out of context, but in my defence I would say two things -

1) The point I made did turn out to be true.

2) When I wrote the post it was already deep into polling day, and it was becoming frustratingly clear on social media that some SNP supporters were being misled by James Mackenzie's spin on an unweighted YouGov subsample that put the Greens on 11%, and that had the SNP behind Labour.  In those circumstances, there didn't seem to be much point in pussyfooting around.

However, if anyone felt offended or patronised, I do apologise, and I'll try to be more tactful in future!

Final thought - this result is another hammerblow for the No campaign's resident referendum "seer", Ian Smart.  If his oracular insights into the trends shown by recent local by-elections had been on the right track, Labour should have won easily in Scotland tonight, rather than being beaten by the SNP in yet another national election.  Smart has also been relentlessly talking up the Scottish Tories recently - and that theory has fallen flat as well.  Ruth Davidson's troops have increased their share of the vote, but only by a measly 0.39%.