By Russell Bruce
Newsnet has obtained the dataset behind Sunday’s story in the Observer on the shift in support in 112 UK constituencies from Leave to Remain. We wanted to see the detail of the changes in Scotland, even although Scotland supported Remain convincingly in 2016. The big changes have apparently taken place place in the North of England and Wales where support for leaving the EU in Labour supporting constituencies has dropped heavily in recent weeks according to Focaldata’s analysis.
The study was commissioned by Best for Britain and Hope over Hate. YouGov polls in June and July, carried out before and after the Chequers plan was cobbled together – somewhat loosely – were fed through a methodology YouGov had used to correctly predict the result of the 2017 general election.
Researchers at the Focaldata consumer analytics company compiled the breakdown by modelling the two YouGov polls using Multilevel Regression and Poststratification (MRP) analysis based on YouGov polling of a total of 15,000 people in June and July, before and after the Chequers deal. (28th June – 6th July and 26th – 31st July)
Focaldata claim MRP is a statistical technique that delivers more accurate and granular estimates of public opinion than traditional methods at market research agencies. It does this by combining raw polling data with more information, in this case detailed constituency-level population information from the Census. The more information the more accurate estimates, as weighting more variables provides greater local accuracy.
But enough of the fancy acronyms
What we want to see is what movement appears to have taken place in Scotland and that, as we discovered is very interesting, having input the data into our own tables to see the potential implications for each Scottish Westminster constituency.
2017 was when the SNP did not just lose 20 of the UK seats it had won in 2015 but lost long held seats and big names.
The results of the 2016 EU referendum in Scotland were issued at local authority area level and all LAs voted Remain. One constituency actually voted Leave – Banff and Buchan. The Leave vote was high in North-East fishing constituencies, although Banff and Buchan was the only constituency to actually vote Leave (54% to 46%). And they have second thoughts now according to this analysis with Remain on 51.2% and Leave on 48.8%, a 5.2% shift.
Scottish Tories abandon future with Europe
All Scottish parties campaigned for Remain in 2016 including the Tories whose leader was then quite passionate for Remain. Changed days. Whatever happened to her apart from getting pregnant?
The SNP were caught napping in 2017, concentrating on the day job of governing Scotland, and ran a campaign over-focused on Sturgeon rather than the Westminster SNP group and leaders. The Tory campaign of ‘no second referendum’ and winding up the fishermen was extraordinarily effective, despite lack of substance. Then there was the dark money sloshing around with a lot spent in the months before there was any hint of the snap general election.
As a result we now have 13 Scottish Tory MPs who have jumped on the Brexit bouncy castle with most showing a hard Brexit preference despite the views of their constituents and a clear Remain majority in Scotland, laughing as they trouped through a Westminster lobby to vote against crucial powers being returned to Scotland when the UK leaves the EU.
Across the whole of Scotland this analysis suggests the Remain vote has increased to 65% with Leave down to 35%. This is more or less in line with the increased Remain vote in multiple opinion polls since the referendum.
The Remain vote has risen in 51 Scottish constituencies, but there are a few exceptions. Five of the new Tory seats are showing a small increase in a propensity to Leave: Aberdeenshire West and Kincardine 2.9%; Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk 2.5%; Ochil & South Perthshire 1.6% Renfrewshire East 1.4% and Stirling 0.4%. The remaining eight Tory constituencies have reflected the mood across the UK and Scotland by moving further towards Remain.
Three SNP constituencies Focaldata suggest are the others to see a move to Leave: Edinburgh South West 2.4%; Glasgow North 2.2% and Lanark and Hamilton East 1.6%.
The overall move in Scotland towards Remain, by party representation, is CON +1.08%, SNP +3.06%, LAB 3.64%, LIB DEM 4.1%
The biggest moves to Remain in SNP constituencies are led by Kirsty Blackman in Aberdeen South at +8% John McNally in Falkirk at +7.3% and Chris Law in Dundee West at +6.9% with Dunbartonshire West, Dunfermline & Fife West, and Glenrothes all scoring an increased Remain lead in excess of +5%.
Two Labour constituencies show increased Remain support above 5%: Coatbridge, Chryston & Bellshill and Rutherglen & Hamilton West. The Lib Dems also have two of their four constituencies showing a stronger Remain vote at or above+5%: Caithness, Sutherland & Easter Ross and Orkney and Shetland.
Brexit fantasies still prevail
So where do things stand as we all search for largely absent clarity. Four parties in the Scottish Parliament back staying in the Customs Union and the Single Market with the four freedoms, so where Scotland stands is crystal clear. The Scottish Tories stand alone in hard Brexit territory. At UK level the Lib Dems want a second referendum on the deal. Labour are with the Tories in advocating a contorted fantasy, but might shift on the basis of this study’s findings providing some reassurance that Wales and North of England Labour constituencies have seen the dawn of reality.
May, caught in a ping-pong game with her pro deal and Brexit no deal factions, could go anywhere but we cannot rule out she will arrive at a protracted deal to remain for ‘an extended’ period and for once challenge her hardline Brexiteers. A cunning plan to make the deal seem a bit less disastrous than it presently appears.
Meanwhile Letterbox Johnson and I’ll hand Trump the NHS Fox find themselves on the margins of a UK with no solutions and happy to cuddle up to alt-right Steve Bannon on his mission to coordinate Europe’s far right into an assault on the EU.
The Brexiteers determination to assert the “will of the people” is wilting under the revelations of illegal Leave overspending, Russian influence and strange pots of money from Scotland to help finance the DUP. Using different election spending rules in Northern Ireland that conceal financial sources, money was channeled to the DUP to spend on the Metro wrap around and fund a Canadian analytics company, neither of which they directly organised. The DUP, like the arch Brexiteers, live in a world of fantasy but we should not doubt their determination to achieve their disruptive aims.
May needs a night of the long knives but she is no Supermac
Could there be another snap election if May follows a course the hardline Brexiteers will not sign up to? It will be some kind of future fudge, at best, so not the clarity business and worried employees are desperate for. Harold Macmillan’s warning that a week is a long time in politics might come true again after two years of endless Brexit shuffling. The big question is – has May the courage to match Macmillan in a ‘night of the long knives’?
The Focaldata study on Scottish constituencies, although less dramatic in opinion shift to Remain compared to England and Wales is none-the-less important. With opinion polls plus or minus 3% is a normal margin of error but it would be a mistake to view the Focaldata study in this light because of the constituency population data built into the model.
The Scottish result in 2017 delivered quite a number of very close results, some with penny number majorities. Twelve constituencies could change hands on a swing of 1% or less, three are currently held by Labour, one by the Tories and eight by the SNP.
NOTE: Focaldata used the geographical place name for easy reference then adding the sub description e.g. East Renfrewshire is listed as Renfrewshire East and Newsnet has retained this in our tables