Liveblogging the Great Debate 88


I am much looking forward to the Salmond/Darling debate this evening. The media have already been playing the expectations game for all they are worth, so that if Darling does not actually wet himself during the debate and then fall flat on his face and break his spectacles while attempting to remove his soiled trousers, they will all be able to claim that he performed better than expected.

Attempts to skew the agenda by Better Together are frenetic this morning. We have Cameron, Clegg and Miliband all signing a pledge to give Scotland (unspecified) new tax and legal powers after a No vote.

lyingtorybastard

Oh look, here’s Nick Clegg signing another pledge about what happens after a vote.

Nick Clegg is always signing pledges. He must be a really honest man.

We also have a new think tank called Fiscal Affairs Scotland, pontificating on the state of Scotland’s public finances this year. Personally I am deeply suspicious of all these new think tanks and lobby groups which keep springing up. Fiscal Affairs Scotland appears on a google search not to exist at all, beyond the report released today. Nor can I find this report online. But there is a remarkably fair summation of it in the Scotsman, under the heading “Independence: Economists Criticise Both Sides”. This states that “Scotland’s finances could be facing anything from a deficit of £10.8bn up to being £1.9bn in credit – meaning Scots would be £1,033 better off or £1,324 poorer.”

It should be noted that this relates to 2016 only, and includes a substantial estimate for the one-off costs of setting up a new state. There are numerous reasons to believe Fiscal Affairs Scotland’s estimate deliberately pessimistic, but for the moment it is the media treatment of the report which interests me.

Better Together immediately rushed out a press release stating that the report said that Scots would be much worse off after independence, and lazy and complicit “journalists” simply copied and pasted the Better Together press release without bothering to look at the report. This from the Guardian’s unionist hack Severin Carrell:

Better Together seized on a new analysis of Scotland’s likely finances in its first year of independence, mooted as 2016 by Salmond, from a recently launched thinktank Fiscal Affairs Scotland. The paper found that Scotland’s deficit would be worse than the UK’s by up to £900 per head unless oil revenues doubled over current forecasts or Scotland took only half its expected share of UK debts.

Jackie Baillie, Scottish Labour’s shadow health secretary, said these findings added to the pressure on Salmond to defend his economic predictions for independence in tonight’s debate. “Expert after expert lines up to explain the threat of separation to our public finances, Alex Salmond will have to explain why he is right, and they are all wrong,” she said.

Carrell was too lazy, stupid and downright unethical to even bother to ask anyone from the Yes campaign for a comment.

There will be an even more intrusive media attempt to frame tonight’s debate in Salmond’s favour. An opinion poll by IPSOS/Mori will be released by STV at the start of the debate.

IPSOS/Mori has been consistently unionist friendly in its poll results. These differences between pollsters are not coincidental. They do not take random samples of the population and then tell us how that random 10,000 people break down. They radically adjust their sample by “weighting” to reflect the age, social groups and geographical distribution of the population. So, if you ought to have 20 retired people living south of Edinburgh in your sample but you only have 4, then you multiply the results of those 4 by 5 to weight your sample.

This is where it gets particularly murky. One of the key factors they weight for is political allegiance. So they weight your answers according to their own prior view of what they think the actual distribution of political views ought to be. I am not making this up.

They do this by prior vote weighting. So if 28% voted Labour at the last Holyrood election, their panel has to include 28% who voted Labour at the last Holyrood election or votes be weighted accordingly. But get this – they do not just take your word for how you voted at the last election, they then adjust this to account for “false memory” and “shy votes” – wanting to remember you sided with the winner, or being ashamed to say who you voted for.

The net effect is that the samples have deliberately boosted numbers of Labour voters in them. Pollsters generally adopt a “panel” approach. Having identified their voters and applied their weightings, they just keep asking the same voters again so they don’t have to recalculate the weightings. So they create a Labour-biased panel, and then stick with it.

In Scotland they have a history of being spectacularly wrong. At the 2011 Holyrood elections the pollsters on average overestimated the Labour vote by 6% in their final polls.

The excellent “Scot Goes Pop” website dissects the shenanigans of the opinion poll weightings in great detail, poll by poll.

Anyway, ALex Salmond will have to face “IPSOS/MORI says you are twelve points behind” and be on the back foot right at the start of the debate. There is worse. Commenters on Wings Over Scotland and Scot Goes Pop who are part of the IPSOS/MORI panel have reported that for this survey they were asked twenty questions on subjects like oil revenues and the NHS, which were heavily biased towards the No camp. “On a scale of 1 to 10, How worried are you that an independent Scotland would not be able to afford basic pension provision.”

On top of which, at STV’s invitation IPSOS/MORI has selected the audience for the TV debate to reflect IPSOS/MORI’s view of the composition of the Scottish public – ie heavily Labour and unionist. ITV have done everything conceivable to load the deck in Darling’s favour. Let’s see how the game unfolds.


88 thoughts on “Liveblogging the Great Debate

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  • MJ

    “Plan B is to keep using sterling informally (backed, as ever, by our share of the nationalised BoE and its gold and currency reserves, not to mention the assets held at the BoE by the Scottish issuing banks)”

    That’s what I mean. Plan B is in fact Plan A. I give in.

  • Dreoilin

    “Google have uploaded a game that allows you to “Bomb Gaza”

    According to what I read yesterday, it has already been removed, after complaints.

  • Kempe

    ” So what exactly is your point? Are you suggesting that being Scottish in some way makes a person inferior or unable to run a business? ”

    No, my point was that RBS, like HBOS, is a Scottish bank run by Scots and you can’t shirk the fallout of its collapse as some here would like to.

  • Red

    Hi Craig. With regards to Severin – he often does not report the opposite side because no-one will talk to the big lummox anymore; he has burned quite a few bridges at the parly. The SNP have banned their lot from talking to him at all due to his habit of twisting all manner of tame statements into far more sinister sounding articles. The Graun are well aware of this but persist in keeping him hanging around, possibly because they don’t actually care to get to know anyone else in Scotland, possibly because they are only interested in hiring journos on zero hours contracts these days so that they have more to squirrel away into their thooper theekrit Cayman Islands accounts.

    Perhaps Scottish journalists would not want to work for them anyway seeing as their articles quite often describe Glasgow as the capital or seem to have been posted just to whip up the Guardianistas into a “ha ha look at the East End” poverty porn frenzy. Bit of a shame as there used to be some good reporting about Scotland not so long ago. The only decent look at Scottish issues recently has been from Chris Huhne and I suspect that is only because he no longer is at the mercy of his political masters and has nothing to lose.

    Keep up the good work.

  • fool

    The ‘no sharing of UK debt’ point is obviously fundamental and yet some people seem to think it take it for granted that it is not negotiable. Obviously its got to be negotiable but is not the fact that there is a need to negotiate something so fundamental something of a concern for voters i.e. what are they voting for.

    Presumably the only way to vote yes is with a head which says it is all ripped up and then we will talk to see what can be agreed i.e. 1) everything is off the table, 2) independence, and 3) discuss what is back on the table from the position of independence (albeit with the possibility of some dirty tricks).

    What happens if there is a yes vote and negotiations fail? Surely Scotland is simply independent under some sort of basic law of natural justice?

  • fred

    “What happens if there is a yes vote and negotiations fail? Surely Scotland is simply independent under some sort of basic law of natural justice?”

    What has natural law got to do with it? The UK has the permanent seat at the UNSC and the UK has the power of veto.

    Salmond had just better make sure the negotiations don’t fail.

  • Callmeacynic

    Interesting comments from all but I am reminded of the following famous quote:

    “All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes, to make it possible”

    To me this implies that all politicians are dangerous because they are dreamers of the day and history has shown their enduring capacity for getting so many things wrong.

    This whole independence thing is a game being played for power, unfortunately this country is not ruled by politicians but by the power of the so called civil servants (they gave up being servants years ago) This is the real power where policies are drafted by faceless and unaccountable people, then dispensed as a bowl of wisdom by the puppets who we vote in.

    My mind was open to independence until the vote by the majority of the Scottish Parliament to vote through gay marriage, against the majority opinion of the Scottish people.

    Give the SNP more power or independence and count the cost in years to come as “policies” are forced through against the will of the people.

  • Tom

    No one really knows, do they? I don’t think Scotland can be anything other than worse off in the short term as UK businesses and public sector employees head South.
    But what neither side is saying is that without a viable currency and and banks backed by a Scottish central bank, the Scottish economy could quite conceivably go into meltdown.
    Arguing over a few hundred pounds one way or the other is dishonest from both sides.

  • Juteman

    “My mind was open to independence until the vote by the majority of the Scottish Parliament to vote through gay marriage, against the majority opinion of the Scottish people”

    This happened in the union, you plonker.

  • fred

    “This whole independence thing is a game being played for power, unfortunately this country is not ruled by politicians but by the power of the so called civil servants (they gave up being servants years ago) This is the real power where policies are drafted by faceless and unaccountable people, then dispensed as a bowl of wisdom by the puppets who we vote in.”

    That’s very true, I’m reminded of the writings of George Orwell:

    Nationalism is not to be confused with patriotism. Both words are normally used in so vague a way that any definition is liable to be challenged, but one must draw a distinction between them, since two different and even opposing ideas are involved. By “patriotism” I mean devotion to a particular place and a particular way of life, which one believes to be the best in the world but has no wish to force on other people. Patriotism is of its nature defensive, both militarily and culturally. Nationalism, on the other hand, is inseperable from the desire for power. The abiding purpose of every nationalist is to secure more power and more prestige, not for himself but for the nation or other unit in which he has chosen to sink his own individuality.

  • Juteman

    “The UK has the permanent seat at the UNSC and the UK has the power of veto.”

    As usual, Fred the British Nationalist is talking utter bollocks.
    If the vote on the 18th of September is Yes, then Scotland will be de facto independent. If there is no negotiation, then both sides will simply walk away. My preferred option.

  • Juteman

    Freds British Nationalism is the scary kind. We see it manifested in the jingoism and flag waving of the WW1 celebrations. Britain First.

  • Tony M

    Callmeacynic @6:30pm

    You don’t agree with the principle of equality? It is taken as a given, we do not need to consult the Scottish people on whether equality is the right and I would say number one priority, an imperative of all government. I can say with reasonable certainty that equality over all things is the majority opinion of Scotland’s people and the only permissible guiding priciple of its present and future governments. Unless you’re some sort of religious/racist/skin-hue supremacist far right nutjob or similar, are you? We really are having these sorts creeping out of the woodwork now. Stinks of desperation.

  • Paula Rose

    MJ dear – most of us have done some homework aka research, I suggest you do the same – does help if we have a discussion based on recognised facts, otherwise one can appear a bit silly.

  • kurtan

    Fred What are you talking about ? You are reminded ?DuH !
    Salmond,SNP have said that the first thing they do will be to hold elections. Their goal is far more important than personal power.
    Orwellian was the Union Jacked country that Cameron and co gave Britain during the olympics.
    Sick !! And very Nationalistic.
    It’s about devolving power from a very dark place,and in their desperation they promise anything ,including 3 different tax possibilities. Promises to be broken by the experts.

  • fred

    “Fred What are you talking about ? You are reminded ?DuH !
    Salmond,SNP have said that the first thing they do will be to hold elections. Their goal is far more important than personal power.”

    So bearing that in mind why don’t you read the Orwell quote again paying particular attention to the last two lines?

  • Callmeacynic

    Tony M please grow up :-)read and understand or you will be swallowed up into eternal slavery. Reality

  • Callmeacynic

    Tony M just read your comments again. Reminds me of similar rantings which I think rank with someone who wrote Mein Kampf: Remenber him?

  • Kempe

    ” The ‘no sharing of UK debt’ point is obviously fundamental ”

    Well the nationalists seem to think that they’re going to get it all their own way, that their going to get away without shouldering their share of the debt and yet still have their share of the moveable assets There are international conventions to be followed but the answer seems quite clear; no debt-no assets.

  • Phil

    I am unable to watch the debate live on the stv web site. Anyone else having problems?

  • fool

    Fred, natural law in the above context meant law that is law or whatever counts as law in circumstances where there is not always a real authority to determine an issue. Perhaps that was not the best expression. International issues sometimes find themselves in tidy legal boxes and other times outside; wars, war crimes, declaration of independence are the sort of issues which do not fit neatly into legal boxes. It is not possible to really have a universal legal formula for when does a country come into being or cease to be. There are many variations and at the end of the day it may depend upon how it benefits others outside of the country. Of course a vote a negotiation and a deal may count for a lot, but not to everyone. If the balance of powers is ok with the event its legal, if some like & some don’t it may be legal and illegal.

    What is law but a mechanism for regularising the fluidity of life.

    What is a country?

    Kempe: which assets are we talking about? What are the main issues for negotiation in order of priority?

  • Peacewisher

    @Fred & Kurtan: Like Terrorism, both Patriotism and Nationalism are words that can be redefined by clever politicians, and their cleverer scriptwriters, to harness the thinking of the unthinking masses in a particular direction. I’m sure Orwell would have known that…

  • Peacewisher

    Now the destruction of Gaza is dying down, it seems that something similar might be about to happen in Eastern Ukraine:

    http://rt.com/news/178068-ukraine-lugansk-humanitarian-crisis/

    (sorry it has to be RT again, but Western media don’t seem very interested).

    Also, ISIS seem to have gone through Syria like tissue paper and now going for Lebanon. They must have some pretty impressive firepower, and I can’t help thinking that they are working strategically with Israel. However, if they are to awaken Hizbullah that would really set the Middle East alight.

    As a peacewisher the thought of any of this horrifies me. Now the UN have managed to find some sort of voice, they need to act – urgently!

  • Kempe

    ” which assets are we talking about? ”

    Essentially anything owned by central government which isn’t fixed in place. Gold and currency reserves, military equipment, that sort of thing. I recall reading somewhere that it might include art and antiques and patents (the MoD held the patent for LCD’s as they were invented by an MoD scientist) public service pension funds etc.

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