Over the past few days, readers, we haven’t been able to avoid noticing a recurring theme among Unionist types on social media – namely that the Holyrood election results are proof that support for independence is declining.
But it’s not until you ask them to explain that it gets completely mental.
The measure being used is a straight count of party votes, whereby (for example) all SNP voters are counted as Yes supporters and all Labour voters are counted as No. Alert readers will of course know that this is at best a massive over-simplification of the reality, but let’s take it at face value for now.
The person behind the calculations is a long-standing and slightly creepy Yoon nutter called Steve Sayers, who’s fond of creating snappy graphics with copyright messages on them in case anyone should try to make a fortune by putting them on t-shirts or something. Here are a couple of his most recent zingers:
The assertion, then, is that “the ebbing of popular support for indy is evident” from the figures, and that “the Yes vote has reduced” by 0.83% compared to the 2011 election. (Which you might consider a pretty trivial number unworthy of quite so much crowing anyway, but let’s not make things any more complicated than necessary here.)
There are just a few minor problems.
The first, and rather a key one, is that Steve can’t count. The total SNP vote this year (constituency and list combined) was 2,013,484 rather than the 1,995,484 he claimed in his tables. To be fair, after we pointed that out several times he eventually admitted it was wrong, but claimed it made “no significant difference” to the figures.
There’s not much in it, but pro-indy parties got 0.7% MORE of the votes cast than in the previous election. The numbers break down like this:
Weirdly, when we pointed out the fairly straightforward arithmetical fact that 48.3 is a bigger number than 47.6 to Mr Sayers, he refused to accept it.
And it took us some close study of his (revised) charts to figure out why.
We’ve highlighted the key line above. What Steve’s done, rather than what you might think would be the boringly obvious logical approach – actually counting up votes for parties who support independence – is for some reason decide to split all the votes for “other” parties 50/50 between Yes and No.
What that means is that in 2011 he’s allocated 97,419 votes to Yes from all the minor parties, but slashed that number (we’re not sure why) to just 21,193 in 2016. Those 76,226 “lost” Yes votes in 2016 turn the total from an increase to a decrease.
So let’s look at some of the parties who had half of their 2011 votes counted as Yes:
And no, you’re not imagining that. Some of the parties who’ve been considered to be 50% in favour of independence are the BNP, the National Front, Respect (yes, the one led by George “Just Say Naw” Galloway), the Scottish Christians and – our very favourite – the Scottish Unionist Party.
You’d think the clue would be in the name for at least one of those, right?
(We’d briefly wondered, incidentally, whether the Socialist Labour Party, led by Arthur Scargill, might have been pro-indy, but as it turned out they weren’t – their policy was merely to support a referendum. And even if they’d been 100% pro-indy it wouldn’t have been enough to turn the figures round anyway.)
As we write, several hours into debating the issue, Steve Sayers still insists that he’s right and that support for pro-independence parties fell between the two elections.
To cut a long story short, all we’re saying is that if you find yourself in debates on Twitter or Facebook with Yoon types flashing tables and charts and graphs around, you might want to double-check them before you engage, folks.