Alert readers may recall as far back as July of last year, when we highlighted an odd thing that Scottish Labour branch manager Kezia Dugdale had started saying.
Regardless of the fact that it was total hooey, Dugdale repeated it every chance she got, and the inevitable Scottish-media consequences have duly followed.
If Unionist politicians keep pushing the same piece of hogwash often enough, as sure as night follows day it’ll become received wisdom in the Scottish commentariat, and while we expect no better of Torrance, Alex Massie is usually smarter than this.
As inconvenient as it might be for writers who like offering their readers easy-to-digest black-and-white propositions, Scottish politics in 2017 just isn’t that simple. The Venn diagram of who supports independence and who supports Brexit and who supports which parties is an incomprehensibly tangled knot in 3D.
(Actually we’re not even sure you could make a Venn diagram of it. You might need to call on MC Escher to get it to work.)
There’s still a majority for the Union and there’s still a (much bigger) majority for the EU, but they’re not the same people and you can’t just conflate them. The only two polls that we’re aware of to have asked a straight four-option question encompassing independence and Brexit both produced very similar results:
Both of those polls, conducted more than a year apart, showed that the single most preferred option in Scotland is independence within the EU. The “majority”, “middle ground” option favoured (and presented as a clear consensus) by Dugdale, Torrance and Massie is actually less popular, commanding the support of barely over a quarter of the population, and the margin by which it trails has quadrupled from a single point in 2015 to four points in 2016.
(Indeed, it’s in real danger of slipping to third choice. Most of the movement between the two polls has in fact been against the EU, with a significant growth in the number of Unionist Brexiters at the expense of Unionist Remainers and don’t knows. UK/EU led UK/Brexit by 16 points in 2015, but that lead is now down to just four points.)
We plan to ask the exact same question again in another poll shortly. But for years we’ve been documenting the phenomenon of fact-proof opinionating masquerading as journalism in Scotland. (Some might call it “post-truth”.) Keep your eyes open for this latest incarnation, folks. We suspect you’ll be hearing a lot more of it.