A Comfortable Yes

With only a few days to go before Scotland's big day, the time is right for me to predict what the result will be. I said this three weeks ago:

I think the polls have underestimated (because they have nothing to go on to measure it) support from the working class in Scotland and, in particular, the group of people who think "there's no point in voting because voting never changes anything".

Normally it doesn't. But this referendum provides a real chance of changing things ... and it's the people at the bottom who most need things to change. It all depends on getting them to register (still a week to go) and then turn out and vote. Groups like Radical Independence have played and will play a vital part in this.

I'll make this prediction. If the turnout is more than 85%, Yes will win. If it's less than 80%, No will win.

Scotland Yet – 26 August 2014

Bear in mind that I said this while the polls were still showing that the Yes vote was some way behind the No vote. Since then the polls have shown a dramatic narrowing in that margin, so that things are neck-and-neck. But the point I had made still stands, therefore I said this last week, in response to the polls from YouGov showing Yes at 51% to No at 49%, and from TNS-BMRB showing Yes and No at 50% each:

I'm delighted by the recent YouGov and TNS-BMRB polls. But I also think that all polls have tended to underestimate the fact that a very large percentage of those who don't normally vote, especially from more disadvantaged communities, are going to vote this time ... and are going to vote Yes.

I therefore expect the margin of the Yes vote to be much larger than these polls are predicting. Perhaps 53% to 47%. In fact if the turnout is over 85%, it might reach 55% to 45%.

I thought about flying the Union Jack – 10 September 2014

There is every indication that turnout is going to be very high. We now know that 4,285,323 people have registered to vote, which equates to 97% of the eligible population, and this is a far greater increase in registration than can be accounted for by extending the franchise to 16 and 17 year olds.

So I have very little doubt that Yes will win comfortably.

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Anonymous said...

You're much too optimistic. It will be much tighter, and No will come out on top.

Lyndon said...

Sorry, I think No will win it, but it will be close.

52:48 No, I reckon.

Dylan said...

As hopeful as I am, I really don't think it's sensible to dismiss the polls so casually. The Republicans in America constructed an alternative reality for themselves in 2012 in which all the polls were clearly wrong and where Nate Silver was up to nothing but mischief. They ended up looking very silly as Silver pretty much turned out to have been spot on. We need to be careful that we don't fall into the same trap.

It's extremely close and I think Yes has a great chance, but 55% is far too optimistic.

karlomarko said...

Yes, how wonderfully altruistic is our working class. They arrive on their bikes waving their flat caps and only too eager to provide the essential ballast and vital numbers to our historic Project. And then, in that glorious morning, when they start demanding 'things', we can soberly lecture then that now is not the time for dangerous social change and mindless extremism, the priority is "The Nation'...a Nation led by us. The new elite. Over them.

Welsh not British said...

Was going 55% YES but now I think it could be as high as 60% with the 97% registered figure.

MH said...

We'll see who's right on Friday. But I would pick up on Karlo's point and say that although the promise of change and being able to create a new kind of Scotland will prove to be the critical factor in a Yes victory, change will take some time ... and in fact quite a lot longer than many had bargained for.

As I see it, the task is to dismantle some 30 years of relentless rightward shift under Thatcher's Tories.New Labour and the ConDem coalition; and it might well take a decade or two for it to happen. Not to go backwards towards the left that used to be, but to move towards a new left.

And of course politicians are politicians, who will be just as inclined to the same inflated view of themselves as those who get into positions of power have always been prone to. But the seeds of change are there, and if the awakened consciousness we have seen develop over the past year or two stays awake to hold them to account, Scotland will become a better place than ever it could be as part of the UK.

Anonymous said...

Marvellous isn't it. Not one of us loses any marks for being wrong. We just end up wasting even more taxpayers money!

Let's see what happens on Thursday. And for all those who think it's going to be a YES why not spend a little time thinking about how you might well be wrong about an independent Wales too.

Perhaps we can learn something, after all.

karlomarko said...

Dan Snow, Eddie Izzard, Bob Geldoff....Wow, all the big hitters (typo?) are out tonight! MH, you may have to re-calibrate your Swingometer.

Bill Chapman said...

I'll say 52% No and 48% Yes. I'm confident that this matter will soon be forgotten.

MH said...

The mind boggles. Right or wrong, how does my prediction or anyone else's cost even a penny of taxpayers' money, 21:51?

And if those of us predicting a Yes are right, will you concede that Wales will become independent too?


I'm sure the trio will have an effect, KM ... but not the effect they want. The thing is that they don't really have anything to worry about. Scottish independence won't make a lot of difference to people in the rest of the UK. I don't doubt their affection for the Scots, but there is no reason at all why it should be diminished (other than by a fit of pique) just because the Scots choose to take charge of their own affairs.

Bob Geldof's position is particularly strange. When asked why he approved of Ireland becoming independent, but not Scotland, he said that Ireland was different because it had been incorporated by military conquest, not by a political agreement. So on that basis he would, of course, be in favour of Wales becoming independent, wouldn't he?

karlomarko said...

MH, I was being ironic. Looking at the pictures of last night's Celebs for Blighty gig (Where was Dame Vera and the Hurricane fly past?), with waving plastic union flags and plump self satification, it was like The Last Night of the Proms minus the bad Elgar.

I think you are perhaps over optimistic re the Scottish outcome - if there is hopefully a Yes vote then I expect a fairly narrow margin. Remember how the 97 Welsh polls narrowed at the close. But whatever the final outcome, Britain and its bullshit myths is now truly broken and its thick and "Thick of it" political and media class ain't going to put it together again. They only add gas to the flames. And I really rejoice at the opportunities that now brings.

Anonymous said...

I think it is just too close to call - 50/50 +/2 either way....Looking forward to the count


Anonymous said...

IF that new registration, or enough of it, is on the council estates, Yes will win. I'm not convinced, and think No has had a boost over the past couple of weeks, and that aspirational/wealthier people are going No. It'll be a proletarian victory if at all!

Gareth said...

"Scottish independence won't make a lot of difference to people in the rest of the UK".

I'm not so sure...

Anonymous said...

Having been up to Perth for a few days to help with the YES campaign, I agree with MH's assessment that Thursday will herald a clear YES win..

The campaigners I talked to in Perth said the upsurge on the ground was just not being reflected in the polls/media at all. But they were also saying that the biggest momentum for YES would come during the last week of the campaign as more people saw the chance to be part of a momentous "change event".

It's also clear that the polling companies have been quite unable to factor in the fact that so many new people are going to be voting this time. The usual turn-out for Scottish elections is 55%, but with a projected turn-out of 85% for the referendum, this means that an additional 30% are completely unaccounted for at present. The vast majority of these people are disaffected voters who have not voted for years if at all and surely the need for change has to be the biggest impetus for these people. I reckon this will be worth at least an additional 10% for YES on the day.

The NO campaign has been overwhelmingly negative and threatening, and the last-minute change of heart around new powers has been frankly insulting and demeaning to the people of Scotland. I think this morning's Daily Record front page with the three leaders' pledge of more powers will be seen in time as this campaign's version of the famous "suicide note". With their "pledge" ,Miliband, Clegg and Cameron seem blissfully oblivious to the fact that they have long lost the public's trust completely. Factor in the probability that at least two or indeed three of them won't be in post this time next year to deliver any pledges- and you can see why this approach just magnifies this basic trust issue. For me as well, this front page sums up the NO campaign's failure to see that this referendum is not about elected politicians and their promises as such, but about people claiming power for themselves as we have seen in the fantastic grass-roots efforts all over Scotland over the last months. NO have been working to an old model which just does not resonate any more.

Apart from the YES campaign's relentless positivity and optimism, and the uniquely Scottish nature of the referendum, I sense there is also a wider element at play- maybe you could term it the 1997 factor, i.e the overwhelming feeling that change has to happen. The fact is, it's not just Westminster on trial in this referendum- it's 35 years of neo-liberalism and people's need to unshackle themselves from this failed economic model. In a way, the people of Scotland are voting for all of us on Thursday.

I predict a 60%+ for YES.

Aled GJ

Anonymous said...

Aled GJ, if you are proven wrong I do hope you will learn from this.

My suspicion is that you have allowed yourself to be duped by the YES supporters. These disaffected voters you talk of represent the middle class, the educated, the monied, in other words those most likely to vote NO. The poor, working class and poorly educated always vote at every election in great numbers, the worry over potential welfare reforms necessitate such. And quite understandably so.

But let's wait and see. I, too, wish for a YES vote but I still suspect it'll be a two thirds NO, one third YES result. Great shame, but at least it proves that those living in Scotland are not as daft as some would like to think!

As for those living in Wales, well ....................................

MH said...

I half suspected that, KM. But, nonetheless, I find it amazing that the predominantly English love-bombers think in the way they do. As I said, it is a genuine feeling on their part, but it completely misses its intended mark. In a nutshell, I think it has come about because they have never entertained the thought that Scotland might vote Yes. They've never had to think seriously about it, so I can't really blame them for how inept their reaction is. But when they do, they'll see that they'll have pretty much the same close relationship with their friends and family in Edinburgh and Dundee as their next door neighbours currently have with their friends and family in Dublin and Cork.


The more disadvantaged areas are exactly where the new voter registrations are coming from, 11:14. So it will be a "proletarian" victory. It's all about the hope of creating something better. 16:44 is completely wrong to think that these are the people who "always vote at every election". The opposite is true.


I woudn't disagree with too much of the New Economics analysis you linked to, Gareth, and there's a broadly complementary piece here on Bella Caledonia. The UK is in very deep financial trouble after building up ridiculous levels of debt over the years, and things will get really bad when interest rates rise and push up the cost of this enormous borrowing. It is much more likely that the UK will eventually default on its debt than Scotland.

The answer, in the immediate term, is for the RUK and IS governments to hammer out a currency agreement to stabilize Sterling for the next two or three years. I think they will do exactly that ... but they'll give it a name other than "currency union" so that the RUK can save face. However it will only last for a few years. When everyone has got used to Scotland being independent, each country will set up a separate central bank with currencies pegged to each other. The alternative is for Sterling to crash.


I'd agree with Aled's reading of the situation, and it would be nice if the Yes vote reached 60% (as Stuart also hinted at before). Any margin would do, but if it's a close thing there would certainly be some legal challenge from some die-hard unionist groups (secretly bankrolled by the UK government) to complicate things.

Anonymous said...

deluded, can I get a Mars Bar if I win, I predict a 38 Yes and 62 for No, the polls are underestimating all the people I have canvassed, they all are voting no!

karlomarko said...

Very good and pointed piece in tomorrow's Guardian (Weds) from George Monbiot on the ideological role and bubble sycophancy of the entire UK media in all this. Unusually strong.

MH said...

Yes, a nice piece.


Anonymous said...

Maybe I'm jumping the gun but a constituency of radical voters has been awakened by the Yes vote. Where will they go in 2016? I am not saying they are a majority of the Yes vote but they are a decent-sized block. Will they vote for the Greens or the SNP? Or some leftist party? I don't think they would go Labour by the way as Scottish Labour is right-leaning by now.

Anonymous said...

I don't think many people get the feel of this momentous event...at least not outside Scotland. The idea that the outcome is 50/50 based on polling is quite wrong though. I know that 1000 person polls are +/- 3% but when you have a raft of polls all converged at 48.5% "yes" then the polls represent a massive sample and the margin of error is small UNLESS pollsters have uniform error in their methodology or internet polling is itself unreliable in a referendum of this once in a lifetime nature.

What should be a matter of discussion here in Wales is "What if it's "No"? What if, when Cameron comes to give out the goodies of Devo-Max and all the cash you could wish for to Scotland, a majority of MPs say...."is it in our manifesto? If not I don't support it". I would think that such a position has validity. If not Scotland...then why Wales?

MH said...

The permutations are numerous, 09:48.

Will the SNP stay together after a Yes, or will there be no more need for it because it will have achieved its goal? I think many will leave, but that the party will survive.

Will Labour recover? To an extent, it depends on which faction leaves the SNP. If the left leave the SNP for Labour, then Labour will revive, and the SNP will become a centre-right (by European standards, but not very right by RUK standards) party at the expense of the Tories.

But I don't think any of this will happen soon. I think the SNP will be swept to victory in 2016 on the back of independence celebrations. The re-alignment will happen later.


The crucial word, as you realize by putting it in capitals, is "unless", 06:12.

My point is that the polls cannot reach the previously "missing million" ... or that they can only reach an unrepresentationally small part of it. Randomized telephone polling can only reach those with landlines, and many poorer families don't have landlines. Internet polls can only reach people on the internet, and even if they have landlines many poorer families don't have internet access. Also those on the polling companies' internet panels will tend to be those who have previously shown sufficient interest in politics to register, missing those who have not taken enough interest in politics to vote before.

Polling companies try to make up for factors like this by weighting. But it's impossible to weight a group that they, to a very large extent, don't have any data on.

If it is a No, then it probably will be easier for Wales to get more powers than if its a Yes. All we then need to say is that if Scotland gets more powers, we should have more powers too. Although we've been saying that for some time, and it hasn't got us very far.

But any powers will come with strings (or, more likely, ropes and chains) intended to make it very much harder to have another independence referendum in Scotland or one in Wales.

Anonymous said...

It didn't work like that Anon 19.45....Low turnout areas like Dundee and Glasgow went "Yes".

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