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.


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.

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88 thoughts on “Liveblogging the Great Debate

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  • Anne Meikle

    Anyone who thought this referendum would be conducted in a fair and democratic manner by the No side have been proved wrong again & again. The preservation of the British State is paramount and they will do anything, absolutely anything to scare Scots out of their own nation’s future.

  • MJ

    “The preservation of the British State is paramount and they will do anything, absolutely anything to scare Scots out of their own nation’s future”

    In what way have they scared the Scots?

    If I were a Scot in favour of independence I’d be scared of SNP policies. Keeping the pound, the monarchy and membership of NATO and the EU is not independence, it’s rubbish.

  • craig Post author


    None of those things are on the ballot paper. Personally I don’t want to keep the pound, the monarchy or NATO membership, and once Scotland is independent we will have the opportunity to make those decisions.

    There is zero chance without an independent Scotland to change those things. That is why your position is incomprehensibly stupid.

    A vote for independence is not a vote for the SNP. About a third of those voting Yes do not vote SNP. Just as some people voting SNP are not voting Yes (strange but true).

  • Habbabkuk (La vita è bella) !

    Anne Meikle

    What exactly would you expect the No side to do?

    Why should the two sides on this debate behave any differently from opposing political parties in an election anywhere?

    This is just fairly mindless whining which makes me suspect that the Yes people are making pyscological preparation for a No result.

  • Habbabkuk (La vita è bella) !


    “About a third of those voting Yes do not vote SNP.”

    Should we infer from this that two-thirds of the Yes voters do vote SNP?

  • Graham Harris Graham (@GHarrisG)

    There is approximately £6 billion in cash swilling around in Scotland. There are cash reserves at the Bank of England too.

    So I’m looking forward to hearing from “Flipper”, what the mechanism will be for collecting all that money & confiscating it.

    And of course, what financial impact that will have, not just on Scotland but the rest of the UK to whom we export the significant proportion of £100 billion worth of goods & services.

    Or perhaps, he’ll adjust his eyebrows & come out with a sensible statement that declares that Edinburgh & London will do whatever is in the best interests of everyone.

    You know, like other normal neighbouring countries do.

  • Parky

    The TV debate can also be found on Astra satellite and Freesat platforms via STV. If retuning is required; 2E 10906 V 22000 5/6 are the details you will need.

  • MJ

    “Personally I don’t want to keep the pound”

    It’s not a matter of personal preference. Extricating yourself from dependency on the BoE is a prerequisite to independence.

    “There is zero chance without an independent Scotland to change those things. That is why your position is incomprehensibly stupid”

    There is zero chance of Scotland becoming independent before it changes those things. That is why your position is incomprehensibly naive.

  • Abe Rene

    Thanks for informing us about potentially misleading polling methods. It’s up to the people living North of the border to decide what they want.

  • Hetty

    This is a REFERENDUM Anne, not an election, they are two different things, do not confuse the two.
    And this article is telling it how it is, it is like it or not, a fact that the London elite and their pals have acted so undemocratically that it is extremely concerning for the people of Scotland, and indeed for all people in the uk, that a government could act so underhandedly. They have called themselves Project fear for gods sake! The YES campaign have led a very positive and intelligent campaign against the odds, with the media following orders in lying and smearing the Scottish government and by attempting to scare the people into voting to stay in this rotten to the core, so called union. The no campaign are nothing short of immoral and unethical in their tactics, even lying openly, and hoping then that the people of Scotland would think that pro YES are also lying. The facts are there, the future is ours if we bother to take it. Scotland will be ruined if we reject Independence. And pyscological, has an H in it.

  • Graham Harris Graham (@GHarrisG)

    I actually concur with MJ. I’d prefer a unique Scottish currency. But as anyone who has ever been involved in large & complex negotiations, it can take time to reach your ultimate goal.

    The first objective is to win the referendum. This enables the Scottish gov to begin a negotiation process.

    As some point in the foreseeable future, my hope is that Scots will be invited to discuss & negotiate a new currency, the abolishment of the pointless monarchy & a constitutions. There are many other instruments we need but they cannot all be negotiated simultaneously.

    Thus, we need to remain firm, resolute & patient while we work through all of these issues and more so that by say, 2020 Scotland is a fully sovereign independent republic, free of nuclear weapons, governed by a body politic that we, the people helped construct.

    The alternative of course is to keep the nuclear arsenal in Scotland, keep funding the monarchy & permit the corrupt bicameral system at Westminster to protect their vested interests at the economic, social & legal expense of everyone else.

  • craig Post author


    You are saying that political independence is meaningless without financial and strategic/military independence. In other words, it is a necessary but not sufficient condition of true national independence. I do not disagree with you. But to achieve the first necessary condition of political independence is obviously an essential step. Nobody claims it is the entire journey.

    Your proposal – stay in the UK and do fuck all – does absolutely nothing to advance the positions which you pretend to advocate.

  • MJ

    “attempting to scare the people into voting to stay in this rotten to the core, so called union”

    What has been said or done that you find so scary? This blog is filling up with scared Scots who won’t explain what the matter is.

  • Dan Huil

    The unionist media have already written their conclusion on tonight’s debate: another stunning win for the charismatic and ever-so-honest Darling.

  • Geoffrey

    The worst possible scenario for the rest of the UK is that the No camp win but with a small majority.
    The rest of the UK will then have to annually bail out an overspending Scotland every year.
    Maybe after a few years of bail outs,the rest of the UK would have a referendum on whether it wanted Scotland in or out.
    Much better for the rest of the UK if they leave.Maybe they would recognise Palestine which would be good,but it’s far more likely they’d be doing what the money men tell them and like the other small Eastern European states they be at the beck and call of the Neo-Cons before long.
    The EU would almost certainly let them stay in,for the reasons Craig has given,but they would not be able to issue £’s for the very good reasons given in research by Hardman and co.(sorry dunno how you link to it).

  • MJ

    “You are saying that political independence is meaningless without financial and strategic/military independence”

    Not quite. I’m saying impossible, not meaningless.

    “Your proposal – stay in the UK and do fuck all”

    Where have I proposed that? My proposal is that you have your own currency from day one. Then you should cosy up to the BRICS nations and try to join their proposed new global financial system. That’s my proposal.

  • John Goss

    The Commonwealth Games showed how an array of countries can survive, and in many cases thrive, on their own. Scotland can do it without doubt.

    Yesterday both Clegg and Miliband were upstaged by Cameron, who did find time to write a message on a wreath he placed. It read: “Your most enduring legacy is our liberty. We must never forget.”

    What he meant by this was “You cannon-fodder made it possible for a few rich twats like me to live in freedom and luxury. We must do this again soon!”

  • Just saying

    Its a golden opportunity for Salmond to speak to a mass audience of Scots and BREAK the “glass ceiling” of the gilded cage in which they find themselves after 300 years of colonisation – to set the Scottish psyche free from the invisible yet very real atmosphere that induces mass deference to a colonising entity. A rousing call from Salmond, enough to make every voter don a kilt and run barefooted to the nearest polling station first thing on the morning of the 18th September, firmly mark the YES box with an unequivocal “X” and be done with the mass hypnosis from 300 years of subservience. Free at last, free at last !

    Darling and the “Parcel of Rogues” can go to hell with their inevitable scaremongering and expected spin, Alex Salmond must not be drawn into crass minutiae this is all about reaching up to the sky.

  • Les Wilson

    Well if the want/expect a draw, it will be saved just, if Darling is wearing pampers!

  • Kempe

    Always prepare your excuses in advance.

    ” 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. ”

    Well that’s how proper polls are done and it produces more accurate results than just taking a random sample which might under or over represent a significant section of society. Worse still are the self-selecting online polls.

    As we’ve seen from the Clegg/Farage fiasco these TV debates are more about personalities than policies and create more heat than light. I’m not expecting much more from tonight’s encounter whoever comes out on top.

  • nevermind, it will happen anyway

    Thanks for the great news about Ms. Warsi, Sabba, its all over the news, a woman with some principles telling nus that this cabinet is not going to act or propose sanctions on Israel.

    They should loose all their preferential trading rights with the EU, one measure that could be inacted within 48hrs., but in the absence of bought politicians arguing for it, such sole actions will be denigrated by political parties.

  • Argyll

    I am a new commenter on this site, but I cannot let you away with this:

    “The rest of the UK will then have to annually bail out an overspending Scotland every year.”

    The fact is that Scotland sends £800 net every year to the UK for every man, woman and child. That’s after the Barnet formula adjustments and all other flows of money out of and into Scotland are added up. These are UK treasury figures – it’s a matter of public record. Even the Today programme on Radio 4 admitted yesterday that Scotland was a net contributor to the UK (someone’s head will no doubt roll for that, but the deed was done.)

    So please, whatever else you might think about Scotland being independent or continuing in the UK, stop perpetuating the lie that we are subsidised. We are not – we pay a high price to be in the UK.

  • Les Wilson

    Have to say I, and I suspect plenty others have been waiting just to see how they would put a bias spin on Salmond. You have just pointed out how it is being done, so an excellent post.

    Nevertheless Salmond is no fool and he will be aware he is entering the wolf’s den.
    He will adjust as required, as he is a formidable politician. No matter how Darling tries Alex will have his answers, he knows how much this means to the public.

    Also on early BBC Scotland we had Taylor pointing out what Salmond should do to win, aye that will be right. We will opt for the opposite position.

  • mark golding

    MJ – Hardly ‘scared’ Scots purleeez – I am nonetheless alarmed at the contrived terror planned before the vote. The Scottish Orange Order is planning a 25,000-strong march in Edinburgh in the days leading up to the Scottish referendum on September 18.

    My gaze has turned to the grand master of the Orange Lodge of Scotland, Henry Dunbar, who insisted the march would have a “carnival atmosphere” despite the guaranteed presence of militant loyalists who support terrorist groups and street disorder.

    The economic hit-men are also active here:

    With the slime exposed, Scotland’s backbone and fortitude must triumph over a venal ‘No’ campaign even if the vote is against.

  • Geoffrey

    Argyll,that may be the case now,but a Scotland with greater ability to spend with the the tab left elsewhere is unlikely to be able to resist.
    And,anyway two Sots banks have just bankrupted the whole of the Uk!

  • pa_broon74

    Cannot let the irony of Geoffrey’s comment at 12.29 go with out highlighting the sheer silliness of it.

    Saying on the one hand Scotland’s ‘greater ability spend on someone else’s tab’ then going on to say two banks from which the UK exchequer received VAST amounts of cash in tax receipts were Scottish – but only when they went bust?

    Mmm, righto.

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