28 February 2013

Scotland's green salad justices & ancient juniors...

Few folk embark on a judicial career in this country out of a raving thirst for publicity, but this is just silly. This week, the UK Supreme Court has turned out its old guard, appointing three new Justices.  In America, the installation of a single judge is now invariably met with a press ruckus, pompous senators sounding off ad nauseum in televised hearings, while the nominee practices judicious evasion and studied non-answers to the politicians' usually none-too-forensic political cross-examination on the hot-button jurisprudential controversies of the day.  

On this side of the Atlantic, the idea of subjecting your Lord President Would-Bes, judges and Justices to such treatment hasn't gained much purchase. Everything is rather stuffier, enveloped in cosy, impenetrable officialdom. As a consequence, I'm sure a vanishingly small percentage of the UK population could distinguish any of the Justices from Adam (or in one instance, from Eve).

Adam Wagner styled the three appointments an "attack of the clones". All three new justices are men of a certain age. Baroness Hale remains the Court's first and only female justice to serve.  The story stirred barely a whisper in the Scottish press, despite the heightened visibility the Court has enjoyed in Scottish politics in the last year or two, adjudicating politically controversial constitutional cases. 

By convention, two seats on the Court are filled by Scots lawyers. Court of Session judge, Lord Hodge (above, right), will fill the seat vacated by Lord Hope, who has achieved sufficient antiquity that he's obliged to retire, aged 75.  All that despite, employment as a judge in this country's apex court seems an excellent way to preserve one's anonymity.

The gendered angle on the story was the subject of commentary elsewhere.  As I argued back in January of last year, of the Lord Presidency snaffled by Lord Gill, it's important to think about our overwhelmingly male-dominated higher courts with our historical periwigs on, and examine how this narrow pool of candidates came to be. 

To my eye, one of the most worrying features of contemporary recruitment to the Scottish bar, which seems likely to dominate high judicial offices in this country for the foreseeable future, is the continuing dominance of men among their intrants and devils. As I noted in the piece, of the 12 advocates called to the Bar in 2011, three were women. Of the 10 in 2010, only four. 

To bring it right up to date, of the 13 called in 2012, three are women. It is also worth emphasising, the age profile of the new-sprung advocate seems to have evolved since the 1970s and 80s. No longer the preserve of bright young men, (MA Oxon, LLB Edinburgh), a quick glance through the newer Faculty roll reveals many grizzled faces with at least a decade or more of work as a solicitor behind them.  You might find the odd cherubic phizog, but many of these juniors aren't so junior, and probably won't be in post long enough to make it to the Supreme Courts.

A comparison with the two Scots lawyers who'll now sit on the UK Supreme Court is an instructive one. On admission to the Faculty, the second Scottish judge on the Court, Lord Reed, was about 27 years old, Hodge was 30.  In judicial terms, both of the Scottish justices are now in the green salad days of their youth, Lord Reed 56, and Hodge 59 years of age.  That's a half-decade younger than their most youthful English or Northern Irish colleague. 

Barring ill-health or disaster, both men potentially have more than a decade and a half of judgin' in London before them. If Reed and Hodge prove as zesty as Lord Hope, the  no vacancies sign will hang outside Middlesex Guildhall for a substantial period of time and they can expect to be colleagues on the Court until the late 2020s. Unless, of course, we win the referendum in 2014, in which case the brace of Justices will have to seek gainful employment elsewhere...

24 February 2013

A' the Burdz.

A drear Sunday out here, under a louring slate-grey Oxfordshire sky, with crumbs of indecisive snow, toppling down. Perfect weather to lend your lugs to episode fifteen of the For A' That podcast. As usual, Michael Greenwell and I were joined by a new guest plucked the universe of Scots natterers. In the imposing burgundy-leather armchair this week, Kate Higgins of A Burdz Eye View

We took potshots at a range of targets, this week. Has the Scottish Government cocked up by flogging shooting rights in Raasay to an absentee landlord, instead of the local crofting community? The Burd certainly thinks so, arguing that it is "everything that [she] thought an SNP government wouldn't allow to happen". Both Kate and Michael are leery about huntin', shootin' and fishin'. Me? I earned my first honest quid from helping pheasants towards their feathery demise in a hail of shotgun pellets, and feel a bit less squeamish about it. Ought we to be worried about the gaps of knowledge and perception, separating rural Scotland and the country's city states? Is there a risk that, made cautious by the referendum, the SNP's apparent enthusiasm for land reform will come out underdone? Kate has her anxieties.

Taking aim at plumper fowl (or ought that to be, a fouler plump?), we also had a chat about the economic and political impact, if any, of the UK's downgraded credit status, from the dizzy heights of AAA to the leaner foothills of AAa1. Is George Osborne's goose cooked? 

In others matters strategic and tactical, back in Scotland, were pro-indy students at the University wise this week to hold a mock independence referendum? Was it a useful way of generating debate on campus, or an unforced error whose main achievement was a raft of bad publicity for the Yes campaign. Lastly, if you were detected breaching the law of the land, would you prefer your case to be heard by a jury of lay fellow citizens, or a bewigged professional? I put Michael and Kate in the dock.

The usual conventions apply. You can listen to the show using the player right here on the blog, or download it to your portable gramophones for later listening here and on itunes here.

21 February 2013

♫ We're the Jury! Dread our fury! (Vol 2) ♫

In my day job, I'm interested in studying law empirically.  One of the classic claims made by scholars adopting this sort of socio-legal approach is that often as not, the law on the books represents a poor guide for how the law actually works in practice. 

This discrepancy takes many different forms. The section of an enactment which legislators thought would apply only exceptionally, occasionally becomes the rule in practice. Environmental regulations are applied in the field - often literally - by officers enjoying substantial discretion over how infractions will be treated, and those encounters often produce a rather different regulatory regime in reality, than the neatly ordered official version admits.  The Housing Act places positive obligations on local authorities to house the homeless. In practice, the bureaucratic units making these decisions depart from and elaborate the legal standards for assessing these duties in a range of interesting (and sometimes concerning) ways. 

So too with our criminal justice system. Oscar Pistorius' murder trial in South Africa, and yesterday's queer conclusion to the Vicky Pryce trial in England, has stirred up the issue of trial by jury again. Defenders of the idea often tend towards grandiloquence. "The lamp that shows that freedom lives", a "cornerstone of our judicial system", or an "inalienable civil liberty" to be defended to the last ditch. It is one thing to argue that trial by jury in particularly serious cases represents an important safeguard, worth preserving.  It is quite another to imply, as some commentators often seem at risk of implying, that anything but trial by jury would be a judicial scandal, a betrayal of the grand old history of British jurisprudence, undermining the justice system as is. 

Why? Because trials by jury already represents a negligible, fading segment of our criminal justice system's work. The institution may be the most visible manifestation of criminal justice, and dominate legal dramas, but trial by judges alone is far, far more common. And guilty pleas even more so. To flesh this out a bit, the Crown Office has helpfully thrown together its case-processing data for the last five years, 2007 - 2012. They use the now-outmoded term of "District Courts", so I've used it too, but these now refer to Justice of the Peace Courts, whose Justices are generally not legally qualified and usually determine cases in threes. In these figures the Crown Office has aggregated the figures for legally-qualified Stipendiary Magistrates who sit alone (which only operate in Glasgow) along with those for summary sheriff cases, without juries.

The statistics distinguish between pleas ("cases which were disposed of at court without any evidence being led") and those which were tried ("cases where some or all of the evidence was led").  On the basis of these figures, we can identify precisely how many juries were actually empanelled in the last half-decade in Scotland. Let's take the most recent year for which we have data, 2011 - 2012.  As you can see, of the 8,070 cases where any evidence was lead in court, only 16% involved juries, either in the Sheriff or High Courts, 84% without.  Most cases were tried by sheriffs sitting alone, with the remaining almost-quarter soaked up by the District Courts. No juries here either. 

Nor was 2011/12 an outlier year. Across the half decade, just 16% of all proceedings which have reached trial and not been pleaded out from the outset involved juries in Scotland.  Focussing on trials, however, also tends to give you a distorted impression about how criminal justice in this country actually works. The picture wouldn't be complete without factoring the phenomenon of pleas, which suspend the necessity of going to trial, witnesses being examined and cross-examined, and either judicial or jury deliberations on verdict.  The sheer scale of pleas in Scottish criminal justice, which has this in common with many other jurisdictions, including England and the United States, is best depicted by contrasting the number of cases which go to trial and those which are pled out without any evidence being lead, and without a whisper of jury involvement. 

Whatever your views on its virtues and virtues, the institution's advantages and disadvantages, the idea that trial by jury represents a practical "cornerstone" of our judicial system is fantastical. Most folk facing trial in Scotland will meet the grim phizog of a sheriff, or JP. Most people who are convicted, fined, given community payback orders, or thrown in the slammer won't see hide nor hair of fifteen of their peers. In the overwhelming majority of criminal cases, guilt or innocence is not at issue. I don't have the English and Welsh figures to hand, but I'd wager that the rates of jury trial there aren't substantially higher than in Scotland. None of which is to contend, of course, that cases currently dealt with by juries - murder, charges of rape, serious assaults - ought to be taken from them.  

It does suggest, however, that drawing sharp distinctions between the South African system of trial by judge alone and ours is - in practice - rather silly.  If the system of trial by jury is the "lamp that shows that freedom lives", it affords pretty dim illumination about how criminal justice in this country works most of the time.

18 February 2013

History as tragedy and farce...

There was something historical in the air in this week's For A' That podcast.  For the fourteenth episode of the show, Michael and I were joined by Craig Gallagher, who through the wonders of technology, was beamed all the way from Boston, Massachusetts into our palatial recording studio. Craig, formerly of this parish, is now a doctoral student in history at Boston College.  

On this week's show, does history matter all that much in the independence debate? Are Scots folk with lively historical consciousnesses, or are we alternatively, by dint of our educations, often left essentially clueless about about Scottish history beyond a few selective set-pieces? On a more contemporary note, why did the reference this week to Scotland being "extinguished" in international law in 1707 get several nationalists so hopping mad? 

Also on a contemporary theme, this week's Ipsos-MORI independence poll was chock full of interesting data for the political obsessive to gnaw through. We picked up just a couple of morsels. Is 2013 "Year of the Sturgeon", with Nicola's rising prominence in the Yes campaign and popularity in the country? The big splash from the Ipsos poll was the 58% of 18 - 24 year olds which supported independence. Even if one thinks this finding may be a bit overstated, we also had a blether about why Scotland's callow youth vote might diverge from the constitutional sensibilities of our more grizzled, more independence-skeptical compatriots.

In usual style, you can lend the show your lugs right here, or download it for a more convenient hour via iTunes, or from Spreaker

If you've enjoyed the podcasts and would like to make a wee contribution towards our hosting costs, and keep the show on its feet up to 2014, you can bung in a quid or via this link. All contributions, very gratefully received.

11 February 2013

♫ Love & marriage go together like a horse & carriage ♫

And we're back! After an unexpected weekend off last Sunday, the For A' That podcast gallops back into the fray today. For episode thirteen of the show, Michael and I were joined by Edinburgh-based Labour activist and twitterist, Duncan Hothersall. We also hoped to beam in Craig Gallagher from Boston, but unfortunately, Nemo found him and he's presently hiding in a snowdrift. Hopefully he'll be back with us in another show, to mull over how historical sensibilities are informing the independence debate. 

After a brief canapé de cheval, we settled down to a main course of equal marriage, after last week's Westminster debate at stage two on the English and Welsh Bill.

On today's show, is the idea of a "vote of conscience" a sleekit bit of political management, or suspect humbug? Have the SNP government missed a political trick by dragging their heels on passing the Scottish legislation, improbably outpaced by Westminster, the dawdling foal cantering up behind the old nag House of Commons?

Back in Holyrood, is Ruth Davidson at risk of cutting an isolated figure among the Scottish Tories, if, as seems likely, the majority of her MSP colleagues vote agin the same-sex marriage legislation? More generally, might Gordon Wilson be right? Will this reform have an adverse impact on the SNP's independence campaign?

Finally, a wee word on finances. Inspired by Wings Over Scotland's astonishing success last week crowd-funding his blogging, with his total donations now sitting well over £11,000 - a much more modest solicitation. If you've enjoyed our archive of Scottish independence podcasts, and would like to contribute towards keeping them going right up to 2014, all donations to help with our limited but not insignificant hosting costs would be very gratefully received.  If you fancied chipping in a £1 or two to support the project, you can do so here or via the "donate" button in my sidebar. 

You can listen to the latest episode here, or download it to your favoured device via iTunes or Spreaker.

5 February 2013

Scrooge McDuck votes No...

Yesterday, we took a look at Angus Reid's most recent poll findings on independence, which showed that just under a third of folk support the proposition, and just under half oppose it, with 20% of people still undecided. Broken down by gender, by age and by social grading, the numbers tell a now familiar story. Substantially lower support for independence among women than men (a 13% gap) and much higher levels of opposition to the idea from the middle classes and the oldest cohort of Scots (opposition to independence is 15% higher amongst those aged 55+ than those between 18 and 24 years of age, and 16% higher amongst ABC1 voters than C2DE voters). The pollster put another couple of questions to its respondents, the second of which was:

"Thinking of your own financial position, do you think independence will leave you better off, make no difference, or leave you worse off?"

Part of the mood music of the campaign thus far has been the assumption that the whole controversy will be determined, in the last instance, by voters' apprehensions, financial and economic. You'll remember the survey which asked folk if they'd be for or against independence if i) they'd be no better or worse off ii) if they would be £500 worse off and iii) £500 better off. It turns out that Scots say they'd follow the money.

Now, £500 may seem a paltry, even disloyal sum to justify succession, and a crabbit (even contemptible) reason to decide to become an independent state, but beggars can't be choosers. For my part, I'm a bit skeptical that folk really think and vote in this way - but the findings at least gesture towards the "thinness" of pro-Union sensibilities and the extent to which perceptions of the economic impact of independence on the average punter is going to play a substantial part in this campaign. Something any pro-independence sort has to be hearted by. So what did Angus Reid discover? Across all 1,003 respondents, the leading impression, but well shy of a majority, was that independence would pick their pockets.

In some respects, it's surprising that only 38% of folk think they'd be worse off with independence, given the bushfire rhetoric that we've been hearing of late from Alistair Darling, which has tended to run "Of course I believe that Scotland could go it alone, but [insert financial disaster narrative]". For the moment, however, 41% think that the wallets won't be sapped of their hard-earned lucre or might even plump up, given independent governance.

For YesScotland, still seriously to begin making the case for independence, these are encouraging signs. A post-apocalyptic image of a new Scotch peasantry, scratching out an attenuated life on thin gruel and lumpy mashed neeps without butter, seems not to have gained as much purchase as one might think. This is, in all probability, a register of the extent to which the campaigns have not really impinged on many people's consciousness, rather than evidence that a dismal pro-Union rhetoric of fire, brimstone and your evaporated doubloons won't work, but the poll at least suggests that the thrawn messages emanating from Better Together remain far from universal in their impact.

As ever, it is interesting to dip beneath the topline and tease out some of the differences. Let's start with gender.  As we saw yesterday, the same poll recorded big differences between men and women's attitudes towards independence.  What are their financial calculations?

Let's take a look at their answers disaggregated by age groups. General attitudes to independence tend to show a tapering rate of opposition to independence, increasing as respondent groups get more ancient. Again, we see a similar pattern in their answers about their financial situation, with diminishing uncertainty, and increasingly negative attitudes towards independence's impact on the crustiest cohort's swag bag.

And finally, by social grade, determined by the occupation of the "head of household", roughly dividing respondents into middle class (ABC1) and working class (C2DE) respondents. 

Yesterday we saw that while support for independence did not diverge widely between ABC1 and C2DE voters in this poll (separated by 6%), the far more substantial difference was in levels of determined opposition to independence, with opposition running 16% higher amongst ABC1 voters than C2DEs. Interestingly, we can see this difference more or less mirrored in their answers to the financial question, with 15% more ABC1 voters apprehending that they would be worse off with independence, than without it.  Scrooge McDuck votes no.

The message of all of this? Obviously, it is a complex thing, and a range of variables nudge the vote this way and that. There are folk, for example, who might accept that independence would have financial benefits for the country, but who would stick with the Union, out of a British Nationalist sensibility, or what have you.  Equally, there are people who might be uncertain about the financial impact of independence, but who remain nevertheless inflexible and committed backers of independence. There do seem to be some important correlations here, however.  The bourgeoisie present the most obvious challenge. How to begin to chip away at the large, largely negative assessment of independence's financial impact on them? It is worth bearing in mind that some 55% of the UK population would now be assessed as ABC1 voters. This skepticism, and the scale of the negative financial assessment amongst ABC1 voters, must be a big challenge for Yes Scotland.

With women voters, the picture seems more promising.  While a large wadge of women think independence will have a negative image of them and theirs, there's a substantial body of uncertainty, which at least roughly connotes persuadability.  On one interpretation, at the moment female voters are like the jury who take the burden of proof seriously, and reject the case adduced by the prosecution as insufficient to convict. That's not to say that they're dead certain that the villain in the dock is innocent of all charges, and couldn't be persuaded by different, more substantial argument from the procurator fiscal, to condemn the accused man. They've just not heard it yet.

To harp on an old string, finding ways to speak to and convince women to back independence is going to be absolutely vital if YesScotland is to get anywhere in this referendum campaign.  The weekend's Angus Reid poll contains motes of light on that score. It isn't all in vain. Yet.

4 February 2013

Angus Reid, February: Yes 32%, No 47%.

"Should Scotland be an independent country?" A transparently biased question, do you think, sure to deliver a smashing pro-independence majority? Pollster Angus Reid put the claim to the question in a 1,003 person poll, conducted on the Mail on Sunday's shilling over the end of January and beginning of February. The first published poll using the new formulation agreed by the Electoral Commission, Angus Reid has tweaked its approach slightly.  The last referendum poll they conducted in January put support at Yes 32%, No 50%, but did not include a breakdown by social grade.  It also disaggregated responses according to six age brackets, from 18 to the over 65s.  This weekend's poll is a wee bit different, with disaggregation by age truncated to three rougher groups (18 - 34, 35 - 54, 55+). On the plus side, on this iteration, the pollster did include social grades (a detailed description of what these denote, here).

So what did they find? The overall totals with the new question were:

And broken down by gender...

Our old friend the gender gap, still very much in evidence here, with 13% point gap between support for independence between men and women, with a much larger percentage of female voters still undecided (12% higher than men).  Compared with January's findings, the male limb of the poll held pretty steady (indecision +1%). Indecision amongst female respondents is up (+7% on January's findings) with both support for and opposition to indepedence down (-1% and -6% respectively).  

A curious poll in terms of age, this. January's finer-grained poll showed the familiar taper in support for independence, and mounting opposition as folk get older.  While opposition to independence is at its highest in the oldest cohort of February's rougher, trisected poll, support for independence amongst those over 35 is six points above that of the most youthful third of respondents, approaching a full third of whom declare themselves undecided.

Lastly, Angus Reid also disaggregated by NRS social grades, which are based entirely on categorising the professional occupation of the head of the household.  In rough and ready terms, ABC1s are envisaged as the middle classes, from "higher managerial, administrative or professional" employees, through "intermediate managerial, administrative or professional jobs, to "supervisory or clerical, junior managerial, administrative or professional" workers.  C2DEs, by contrast, encompass "skilled, semi- and unskilled manual workers" and "those at the lowest levels of subsistence".

Past polls have consistently shown that opposition to independence is at its highest amongst better off respondents, and support at its lowest, the attitudes of poorer Scots its mirror image. Although levels of support for independence in this weekend's poll do not differ terrifically substantially between middle class and working class respondents (6%), a far more substantial gap separates opposition to independence from Angus Reid's ABC1 and C2DE voters (16%), with indecision amongst C2DE voters mostly mopping up the difference.

Angus Reid posed another couple of questions in this poll, perhaps the most interesting of which being:  
"Thinking of your own financial position, do you think independence will leave you better off, make no difference, or leave you worse off?"

For digestibility, I'll be breaking down respondents answers to that one, and how it plays along gendered, age and social lines, in another post later on today.  Polish off your abacuses, and stay tuned.

Those full tables.

3 February 2013

When to campaign is to choose...

"Now that the Tories are back we need a government in Scotland that will fight for what really matters." The immortal opening lines of Labour's 2011 Holyrood manifesto, the logic behind this gambit always seemed a little confused.  Labour, correctly, identified that the election of Conservative Government in the UK in 2010 had the natives riled, but how to rile them up against the SNP minority government in Holyrood in particular? How to transform the resource of Tory rule into a rod to smack Salmond about with?

A parallel challenge and opportunity now seems to present itself to the Yes campaign.  While Labour hoped to use anti-Toryism as a way of defeating the SNP, the SNP hope to make use of the same resource to deliver Scottish independence. Accordingly, the case for independence now emanating from the SNP and indeed, from the Yes campaign, has been strikingly left-inflected in its political rhetoric, and explicitly anti-Tory in its critique of the Better Together campaign, and Labour's participation in it.  

But is this a terrifically good idea? Will independence be won on the basis of the campaign that lost the Labour Party the general election in 1983, and the Holyrood election in 2011 in such style? A few salient facts. Although BBC Scotland put out a programme entitled Why Don't Scots Vote Tory? shortly after the 2010 election, and the party can only count one MP north of the border, the narrative about Scotland's essential (and historically, relatively recent) anti-Tory politics is generally overstated.  In the last general election, a polarised contest if ever there was one, David Cameron's Party attracted some 412,855 votes in Scottish constituencies, just 78,531 behind the SNP's showing that year.

More recently, in the Holyrood election of 2011, there is plenty of evidence in the breakdown of regional votes in constituencies that the SNP has been able able to pick up substantial support from what we might think of as anti-Labour voters.  In 2011, the Tories saw 15 MSPs elected, three in respect of the constituencies in the south of Scotland. If you look into the results, you find something curious.  John Scott beat his Nationalist opponent in Ayr by 1,113 votes, but the SNP romped home in the constituency's regional votes, with the SNP, coming 5,838 votes ahead of the Tories.

A similar story is told by the figures from Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire, and Galloway and West Dumfries.  In both constituencies, the Tory candidate defeated a Nationalist opponent (by 5,334 and 862 votes respectively) but the SNP won comfortably on the list, ratcheting up 964 and a more decisive 3,421 more votes than the Tories apiece. Is it wise for pro-independence campaigners, by dint of their rhetoric, to write off half a million voters from the get go, many of whom are likely at some point in Holyrood's life, to have supported the SNP?

On balance, probably. We know that in order to win the referendum, we have to marshal a majority, even a bare majority, for the proposition.  To govern is, classically, to choose, and so is to campaign.  We needn't win the entire country, just 50.1%.  The hard-headed question, is not how to persuade everyone, but how to cobble together and sustain a winning coalition across the nation. To make some arguments is inevitable to sacrifice others.  To win some pockets of support is to risk losing others. So what does the evidence suggest? Why might it be a canny strategy to try to exploit anti-Tory feeling, and to attempt to connect it up with self-determination?

In July of last year, the pollster YouGov investigated Scots voters' Westminster voting intentions and attitudes towards independence.  As you might expect, the significant development between 2010 and 2012 was the collapse in the Liberal Democrat vote, from just shy of 19% in 2012 to just 7% in the YouGov poll, with the SNP enjoying an upward bounce, and the Tories and Labour parties more or less holding steady at their 2010 positions.

Those were the headline Westminster voting intentions. How did these correlate with constitutional attitudes? In total, YouGov found a majority against independence, with 30% supportive, 54% opposed, and 16% undecided.

As you can see, although levels of opposition to independence were high amongst Labour voters (70%) and Liberal Democrats (75%), the Conservative voters' opposition topped the chart, with a full 90% of them opposed to Scotland becoming independent. These figures do not tell the full story, however. They represent only the percentages of respondents sampled, rather than their prevalence in the wider Scottish electorate.  There are, for example, far more Westminister Labour voters than any of the other groups. So what, if anything, about the national picture can we say on the basis of these findings?

For the sake of mischief, let's take the 2012 YouGov findings and the popular vote each party attracted in 2010, and combine them.  Let's assume that the levels of support, opposition and indecision for each political party is the % YouGov identifies and that the electorate who turned out in 2010 turns out for the referendum in 2014.  To make that a bit more concrete, the Tories received 412,855 votes nationally in 2010.  Combined with the YouGov rates of opposition and support for independence, that'd tot up to 371,570 Tory votes agin independence, 28,900 in support, and 12,386 undecided.

There are problems with doing so which are worth bearing in mind. To sketch a couple, voting behaviour in constituencies are far more amenable to strategic calculation, and tactical voting, than an up-or-down referendum vote and we can't take account of that by generalising from election figures. Secondly, YouGov do not include those who intend to vote for "others" in its breakdown, so we're missing between 2.5 - 5% of voters here. In a close campaign, we can't afford to leave such folk out of our calculations, but the limits of the data here necessitates doing so.  Thirdly, the Liberal Democrat collapse after the 2010 election has significantly altered Westminster voting intentions, and the likelihood that the party will receive just under 19% in the next election seems remote. That said, it seems less likely that the constitutional attitudes of formerly Liberal Democratic voters has evolved substantially in the same period.

For our purposes, however, these numbers need only really be indicative: what serious opportunities are there to persuade Scotland's Tory voters to back independence, and how many are there there to persuade? How many might we expect an explicitly anti-Conservative independence campaign to lose us from the get-go?  The brief answer is, sod all.  On YouGov's figures, the 16% of undecided voters might look something like this in terms of their voting intentions for Westminster.

In the same vein, if the electorate of 2010 turned out, and supported independence at the level of YouGov's sample then the (unsuccessful) 30% of the Yes electorate would look something like this:

And lastly, the triumphant No coalition might resemble something along these lines.

Brown envelope stuff, but it gestures towards the fact that a) the substantial majority of undecided voters support the SNP and Labour at Westminster and b) while the 20% separating Labour (70%) and Tory opposition to independence (90%) doesn't seem a lot, when you tot up what those numbers mean in terms of the electorate out there to be persuaded, there seems little to be lost from holding back on the anti-Tory rhetoric. That is not, of course, to say that the rhetoric will be devilishly effective, but that's a matter for another blog.

Just over 400,000 voters may support the Tories in Scotland, but on the evidence, only a tiny sliver of them are undecided, with the vast majority intractably opposed. They are the Conservative and Unionist party, after all. As we saw from their leadership elections in 2011, even the idea of more devolution still seems to stick in their craws like a butterless cream-cracker, and get the old birds wheezing.  More interesting, in some respects, is the scale of the Labour electorate which this fag-packet calculation suggests might turn out for independence.  Just as we tend to underestimate the levels of support still attracted by the Tory party in Scotland, the YouGov stats might suggest that something in the region of 207,000 Labour voters, in a bad poll, would vote Yes, however poorly represented this sensibility may be in the party's parliamentary rank and file. 

Make no mistake. If voting intentions look like this in the autumn of 2014, YesScotland would get crushed. In the gambit to reach 51%, however, undecided, unpersuaded Labour and SNP voters look far riper prospects for the prospecting independence supporter, trying slowly to build up that stray 21%.

... it's comin' yet For A' That.

A bit of a change of plan this weekend. Due to a constellation of personal circumstances, Michael and I weren't able congregate in our plush recording studio this week to record our now traditional Sunday podcast (there are twelve back episodes in the archive, which also includes Michael's Scottish independence podcasts, which are more like interviews than a back and forth blether).  

If you've not yet lent them your lugs, I commend them to you. We've had some really interesting folk on thus far, talking about everything from Scottish politics' curious Scandomania (much exhibited in today's Borgenfest over at the Scotland on Sunday to Scottish Labour's political future, and guests like Al Jazeera's Osama Saaed and Alex Massie and Robin McAlpine.

Looking into the future, we think that it might be a grand plot to make the episodes more thematic, assembling guests who we don't usually hear from through our public media, whose thoughts and insights might be of more general interest. Last year we had a more culturally inflected episode, a whole knot of issues which I know we're going to come back to before long. 

So, over to you. What are the blazing, important topics you feel the current debate on independence is neglecting, that ought to be covered? Do let us know.  All inspiration, gratefully received. Hopefully we'll be back, broadcasting full throated, by next weekend.