Tuesday 15 October 2013

Looking behind the polls

I don't often comment on polls. I find it a bit of a pointless exercise. Such comments as I see on independence referendum-related polling usually fall into two categories. There's the endlessly analytical poring over the minutiae of the data that looks like a hell of a lot of work only to be rendered irrelevant by the next poll that comes along. Or, more commonly, there's the simplistic acceptance of the headline figures as if they represent a definitive forecast of the result of a referendum that is still eleven months away. Polls can tell us nothing about the result. At best, they might offer some clues as to trends and thus serve as a rough gauge of how the two campaigns are faring.

People tend to take what they want from polls. And what they take from them depends on whether they are looking for illumination or reassurance. The analysers, not unexpectedly, are generally the ones looking to shed some light on matters, while those who look no further than the basic findings are invariably the ones seeking comfort in affirmation of their preconceptions.

I am happy to leave the statistical number crunching to those better qualified and considerably more patient than myself. And I could never be so shallow as to read as far as the bit that suits my purposes and then ignore the rest. So, falling between these two extremes, what do I make of these polls?

Tuesday 8 October 2013

Passion and normality

The following is a transcript of my address to a Yes Clydesdale Independence Roadshow in Biggar on the evening of Monday 7 October 2013.
The problem with following a couple of erudite and eloquent speakers such as Robin McAlpine and Aileen Campbell is that you're likely to discover that they've said most of the things that you were planning on saying.
Which is annoying. And even more annoying when they say it better than you could.
Tell you what else is annoying... Apart from Willie Rennie, I mean.
What's also annoying is people who answer a question with another question.
You know the kind of thing I mean.
What do you want for dinner? What do you fancy?
What would you like to drink? What are you having?
Are you OK under that bus? Do I look as if I'm OK?
That sort of thing. Very annoying.
But sometimes you can't avoid it. Sometimes you can't help answering a question with a question. Because sometimes the question simply begs another question.
People ask me, “What persuaded you that Scotland should be an independent country?”
Why would I need to be persuaded?
Independence is not some extraordinary, outlandish condition for a nation.
Independence is the default status of all nations.
Independence is normal.