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When no means yes

Posted on January 24, 2013 by

Poor old “Better Together”. We already knew they had some difficulty with basic counting, but today it seems their reading isn’t up to much either. Desperate to deflect attention from the hideous hole they’ve dug themselves into over Europe, they’ve seized on the latest Scottish Social Attitudes Survey showing (depending how you spin it) almost three-quarters of Scots in favour of devolution rather than independence.

There’s only one problem: the cited source for those figures doesn’t say that at all.

The “72%” in the graphic is arrived at by adding three other numbers together: 50% from a vaguely-worded option about a Scottish Parliament with some taxation powers” and 11% from one about a Scottish Parliament with no taxation powers” – in other words, LESS devolution than we have now. But many of our sharper readers will have noticed that 50 plus 11 is in fact 61, not 72. So where did the other 11% come from?

It came, as you see above, from the next option down – “Scotland should remain part of the UK without an elected parliament” (our emphasis that time). That is to say, NO devolution at all, with Holyrood closed down entirely. What the poll actually shows is that only 50% want what will be represented by the “No” option in the referendum. The other 22% of BT “supporters” in fact want powers taken AWAY from the Scottish Parliament, with half of them wanting devolution entirely reversed.

Only in the very special world of “Better Together” can a vote for “Less or no devolution” translate as support for “Devolution within the UK”. Still, well done them for trying.


(Tip of the abacus: keen-eyed reader “Tyran”.)

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  1. 24 01 13 14:54

    Independence Scotland/Europe

33 to “When no means yes”

  1. Angus McLellan says:

    Still stuck on the first page of results I see. No surprise there. But why are you playing along with them when the fourth page contradicts the first one?

  2. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    Because it’s funny to point out that they’re idiots.

  3. muttley79 says:

    To be fair “Less or no devolution” is probably with they want, though they can not say this.  Instead they have the media, and people like Lindsay Patterson, saying we have already been offered something else.

  4. Doug Daniel says:

    A parliament with less devolved powers is EXACTLY what Better Together are campaigning for, since that will be the outcome of the 2015 election, in which the Tories will campaign for not just an EU referendum, but also to “reform” Barnett.

    A Freudian slip from BetterTogether, perhaps? Their National Campaign Organiser, Rob Murray, is a part of that rare species after all – the Scottish Tory.

  5. AndrewFraeGovan says:

    And what they REALLY want is to abolish Holyrood altogether, “killing nationalism stone dead” having failed miserably. This was made crystal clear in the S.30 debate.

  6. Stuart Carroll says:

    The 2012 column % also adds up to 101% – is this a genuine polling company?

  7. DMyers says:

    Furthermore, reading the figures from the other side of the argument (and we always have to be careful when adding percentages together), 74% want something other than the status quo.  Damn statistics, eh? 😉

  8. james morton says:

    If they want a devo minus option then thats were we have them. Let them wander into that cul-de-sac and we let them have it when the campaign gets going. I don’t think their yes-but-no-but campaign is going to get them out of the hole they’re digging.

  9. Craig M says:

    Has anyone ever challenged them to define what they mean by a “Stronger Scotland”?

    Maybe they are referring to basic arithmetic to be ramped up in the current curriculum?

    Seriously though, I despair about the calibre of the politicians in Better Together.
    In the absence of anything of substance to define their vision of a “Better” Scotland, let alone a “Better” UK, I can only conclude that the status quo suits their agendas or they can’t articulate any vision because they can’t dream one up.
    Or maybe they are quite relaxed with high levels of child poverty, threats to health care provision and lack of access to basic human requirements such as a roof over your head. Surely no Westminster salary and pension plan is worth that guilt?

  10. Angus McLellan says:

    @RevStu: Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the former. (Albert Einstein)
    Depending on what data you want to cherry-picking from it, the SSA results (and yes, they are serious, but no, it’s not a political opinion poll) have something to please everyone.

    1. For Yes Scotland we have the good news that indy + (unobtainable Isle of Man-style) devomax get the support of two out of three people.
    2. For Better Together we have the good news that indy is beaten handily by devo-something.
    3. For UKIP and the BNP there’s the good news that rolling back devolution is more popular than Independence in Europe.
    4. And finally, for David Cameron there’s the good news that less than one in ten picked leaving the EU as their preferred option.

    In other words, the 2012 SSA, like all previous ones, does an homage to Walt Whitman: Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself, (I am large, I contain multitudes.)


  11. Bigheed says:

    Hi guys,

    The nail on the head was the man and women on the street are scared of the Independence word.

    Thought process is Independence = SNP = Alex Salmond = Smug git = Unknown = stick to what I know.

    It annoys me when people say when we win the yes vote in 2014 we can do this and we can do that. We have a major battle on our hands in order to achieve what we all know is right for Scotland. Wee Shuggie or wee Agnes doesn’t give two hoots about David Cameron’s speech or Ally D’s record on the economy, we must find a way to appeal to these type of people if a YES vote is to be achieved and until this happens, these polls will always show a clear lead for the DARK side.

  12. Westie7 says:

    BTW what muppet writes the script for FMQ on the BBC website, surely on the sauce!

  13. Andy Simpson says:

    The problem is though that we all know what is going on however what will reach the press and the media will be the figures put out by the no campaign.
    Now the YES campaign can try and break it down all we want but the headline figure will be the one showing 23%.

  14. macdoc says:

     How easy would it be to ask “In 2014 there will be a vote for Scottish Independence. “Do you agree Scotland should become an independent country”  ” Yes, No or Don’t Know? 

    Its not rocket science, then we could get a fairer idea of of what the Scottish electorate are thinking. None of this Devo, Halfway,certain powers etc etc. 

    Another thing they are doing is asking the question. “In 2014 the SNP are planning a vote on independence etc.” knowing full well that peoples irrational hatred of them and politicians in general automatically makes certain people just say No regardless. Imagine they asked “in 2014 David Cameron and the Tories will fight to keep Scotland in Britain, will you vote for Scottish Independence”…. Well you get the picture.

    Regardless despite the optimism you see in these threads, these are very worrying data. Do we really deserve independence if the vast vast majority of people won’t go online and take a few hours out of there life and try and educate themselves on the issue.  We absolutely gub them online because we have the much better arguments. The fact this isn’t reflected in polling data is cause for great concern. 

  15. Edulis says:

    I would say that we are still very deeply in the stage of reticence to state firm convictions, even for those who nominally support the Union. Support for the Union is the default position for those who are on the margins of the debate at the moment. What will win it, will be the best argument and on that basis the ‘No’ campaign has a real problem. Every argument/scare story they have put up has unravelled, sometimes on the same day. People will be recognising that. I was struck by the business support this morning for David Cameron, unlike the Iain MacMillans and David Watts of Scotland’s world. So like the Unionist parties they display the same hypocracy. They like the Unionist parties will find themselves on the sideline when it comes to the real decision. They all have been hoist by their own petard. 

  16. scottish_skier says:


    The fact this isn’t reflected in polling data is cause for great concern

    It is reflected in polling. The above is not a poll asking what people will vote in a referendum in 2014. You need to ask that based on various scenarios (e.g. who looks like winning the next GE, what will happen with the EU, will we be sure to keep the £) if you want a decent answer.

    Average of polls since May 11 show only a 2.6% swing needed for Yes and since then we’ve had all sorts of events.

    The Y overtook the N just after the SNP win as you’d expect. The Y then declined autumn 2012 as people questioned what it would all mean and the N went above the Y again, just shaving 50%. Looks to me like the N has peaked and is on the way down again with N transferring to DK. I predict over the next year we’ll see the N steadily decline and the Y pick up again to have them both on level pegging once more (as it was for many years post initial devolution) towards the end of this year before the Y takes off and goes well out in front come 2014.

  17. Rabb says:

    Statistics are like mini skirts. They look good but they don’t show you everything!

  18. Cuphook says:

    Having looked through the survey there appears to be a lot of contradictory thinking in Scotland. I still think that it shows the campaign is for Yes to win.

    The biggest impression must surely be all of the people who express varying levels of ‘worry’. People are conservative and habitual by nature and dislike change; and worry is precisely what the No campaign is hoping to foment. They don’t need to present arguments or take part in informed debate as they see muddying the water as being to their advantage.

    I’ve managed change within organisations and would say that the Yes campaign and SG are approaching the debate in the correct way. Whether or not the media reports it fairly leads to the question, how did the SNP win in 2011 despite the same media?

  19. Oldnat says:


    Spot on about the management of change! It’s not about whether you supply the positive detail for the change – but when.

    People are aye feart of change, and need time to get over their immediate reactions before they will be accepting of the positives.

    November 2013 seems a good choice to me. 

  20. scottish_skier says:

    Just a reminder that there can’t be any further meaningful devolution. It’s already too asymmetric. What if there was a no vote and the SNP held the balance of power in the 2015 GE, blocking a Tory majority? That would go down really well in the shires.

    Nope, there can only be status quo possibly, less powers/end to devolution or independence. Federal stuff never going to happen as it ends the Westminster system.

    This is why Scotland will be leaving soon. It’s inevitable; the union can no long accommodate its increased wishes for autonomy. Joe public are starting to realise this.

    Don’t worry, Dave and Alex have it all worked out. Will all be fine and dandy.

  21. Midgehunter says:

    What the BT Poster has done is to scream into the faces of the voters 23% want indy.
    73% want devolution – more power to the Scottish parliament …..BUT BUT who is going to give it to them … !!!
    Not the YES guys – they want indy.
    Not the bitter gethers – they’ve spent the whole time railing against it. They slammed the door in the face of moderate not sures / undecided.
    The Section 30 agreement HAD to be just about one question indy or not.
    So where do the (fake) 73% go with their vote …. ??!!
    Come on YES, get stuck into the lying b…….s – show us your claws.

  22. cath says:

    Devo-minus could skewer Better Together. Their pages are filled with people who despise Salmond and want to roll back devolution – “let’s get a big no vote then punish the SNP, make sure there can never be another referendum etc”. If the No side now go all out promising more devolution, rather than less, that will split some of their most vocal support from them, and also disenfranchise them. Unless even their own supporters see right through the jam tomorrow lies. In which case it’s safe to assume almost everyone else will too.
    Had there been a devo-max on the ballot paper, Labour and the Lib Dems could have argued for that, the Tories, UKIP, BNP etc could have taken the devo-minus, and the SNP would have been left with independence – of course, the Yes campaign would have still tried to make it non-party political, but with that set up, that’s how voters would have tended to fall, and it’s almost certain devo-max would have won.
    As it is, Labour, Tories and Lib Dems are all standing on a “no” ticket which means different things to different people but certainly in no way promises more devolution, could easily threaten less, and cannot be split between those different factions in any meaningful way. That could rip them apart before 2014.

  23. Cameron says:

    Spot on. Polls can be interesting, but that is about the extent of it, this far from the event. IMO, giving them undue attention can only benefit the Unionist’s agenda of spreading fear. The number of suggested possible explanations of poll results, only adds to the confusion amongst the less-informed voters. I think this is what the No campaign is relying on. Outright misrepresentation of these polls still needs to be countered by the Yes team, as the authoritative voice. I am really not sure if all BTL comments are helping them in this task.

  24. Dcanmore says:

    Bitter Together will now have to outline exactly what is on offer for the Scots through Devolution and campaign for it. Obviously it is an option that is missing from the Edinburgh Agreement so it is pointless. BT have made a rod for their own backs now as the YES Campaign will dress up Independence to look like Devo-Max to sell to the people guaranteeing a 65-70% VOTE FOR CHANGE. This is brilliant! 2014 will be a momentous year!

  25. Ed Robertson says:

    Look guys, call it Devo-Max, Devo-Plus or Devo-More or whatever the hell you like. More devolution isn’t going to happen. Ever again. It wouldn’t be passed by the UK Parliament. Down there they all reckon we are being “subsidised enough”, even though it’s us that’s subsidising them. So stop asking about it in your surveys. 
    There’s only two choices. YES for Independence, and NO to get nothing (or maybe even less than we’ve got now, if there’s a Tory-UKIP Coalition after the next Westminster election). You could have had something else on the ballot paper but the London leadership of the Labour and LibDem Parties wouldn’t let you. So wake up. The only way of getting more powers for the Scottish Parliament is by voting YES to independence.

  26. Seasick Dave says:

    Did anyone else get the upbeat e-mail from Nicola Sturgeon tonight with the nice graphic showing what this survey really tells us?

    Here is the gist of the e-mail (minus graphics)…

    Here’s some other highlights from the survey, ideal for your conversations with the [as yet] undecided:
    •   63% believe that the Scottish Government should have most influence over how Scotland is run
    •   64% believe that Holyrood should make decisions about welfare benefits
    •   56% believe that Holyrood should make decisions about the level of taxes.
    Yesterday, of course, months after criticising the Scottish Government over the timing of the independence referendum, David Cameron tells us he wants his own referendum – on Europe – but not for another 4 years or so!
    Alex Salmond summed this up nicely. The fact is that being independent within the EU will allow us to assert and protect our national interests much more effectively than we can as part of the UK.
    Following a Yes vote in 2014, and in parallel to negotiations with the UK, there will be a negotiation with the EU on the terms of our continuing membership.  Just like Sweden, we would not join the Euro.  And just like Ireland, we would not enter Schengen but would instead co-operate with Ireland and the rest of the UK in the Common Travel Area.
    Tomorrow I’m off to Dublin to give a speech to the British Irish Chamber of Commerce Annual Conference. One of the bonds we share with Ireland is our commitment to Europe and our appreciation of the benefits that the EU brings to our citizens.
    The EU is easily our biggest international trading partner accounting for nearly half of Scotland’s exports. And membership of the EU is one of the major factors that make us attractive for inward investment.
    Watch Reporting Scotland tomorrow night to see how I get on. But there is one thing I am fairly sure of, even before I go – there are not many people in Ireland who would agree with the view that being independent is the wrong choice in terms of European and international engagement. Not many at all.
    Tomorrow also sees Yes Scotland launch the first in a series of major campaigns with a rallying call for Scots to put their hands up for a better Scotland. 2013 will see us move the debate from the how to the why of independence.
    We want people to start thinking about what kind of country they want; what kind of country Scotland could be and to think about why being independent could be the best way to achieve our aspirations and goals.
    ‘So the “Hands Up for a Better Scotland” initiative is asking: “Are you happy with the way things are? Or do you think they could be better? We’re asking people to really think about it…
    Before I sign off, why not check out some useful talking points that you can send on to friends and workmates.
    My latest blog reveals that, contrary to press reports before Christmas, President José Manuel Barroso wasn’t talking about Scotland. Kevin McKenna and Joyce McMillan reveal why independence is fast becoming the only option.
    There was also a cracking speech this week by former US Ambassador Prof. David Scheffer on how Scotland will be an equal member of the EU.
    And finally, Alex Salmond has recorded a short video explaining why people should have a constitutional right to a home and a free education.

  27. Cameron says:

    @ Seasick Dave
    New support for the cause is good, especially when coming from such high profile individuals as David Schefer (I understand though that he is actually a pleb as he only holds a B.A.). However, I think we need to be careful of the friends we seek.  Schaffer is New York Council on Foreign Relations though and through. As such, he is not neutral, but is instead a prominent advocate of Atlanticism, the EU and NATO.

  28. Stuart Black says:

    Can we only be friends with people who mirror our own political views?

  29. Cameron says:

    I’m not saying that, just trying to shed a little light on who the man is, for those who do not already know about him. 🙂

  30. Keef says:

    I’m confused with Nicola’s numbers.

    Where did she get the figure of 35% for Independence?

  31. orkers says:


    Perhaps a slip of the tongue on her part?

    The SNP will be conducting private surveys of their own on a regular basis.

    That figure will probably be closer to the true position.

  32. Commenter says:

    Keef, one of the Tables in the Survey report has the following question with statements following:-
    “Which of the statements on this card comes closest to your view about who should make government decisions for Scotland?”
    One of the statements is:- “The Scottish Parliament should make all the decisions for Scotland 28%, 43%, 35%, in 2010, 2011, 2012 respectively”.
    NS has probably used the 35% in 2012 to mean Independence, since there is no other interpretation for the statement.
    Unfortunately the Survey can be used as … a report which can provde any answer you want.

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