Scotland

‘Does he want to be PM, really?’ ‘It was worse than Prince Andrew’ ‘She has bagpipes playing in her head all the time.’ My election focus groups in Scotland

By Lord Ashcroft

My general election focus groups this week take us to Scotland, and three seats the SNP are hoping to regain after losing them in 2017: Aberdeen South and East Renfrewshire, both won by the Conservatives two years ago, and Glasgow North East, now one of Labour’s seven constituencies north of the border.

 

Fairy godmother

Of the manifestos launched in the days before this week’s groups, it was Labour’s that had made the biggest impression on our undecided voters. Whether they had voted Conservative, Labour, SNP or Lib Dem in 2017, their general view was decidedly sceptical: “Corbyn’s £80 billion reminded me of the £350 million on the side of the bus. It worries me that a large proportion of the population will believe it;” “If you combed your way through all the manifestos you could drive a bus through all of them. But the Labour one is astonishing; I’ve never seen anything like it (more…)

England and the Union

By Lord Ashcroft

In August, my research in Scotland found a slim majority for independence. In September, my poll in Northern Ireland found a tiny margin for leaving the United Kingdom and joining the Republic. This month, to round out the picture, I have surveyed voters in England to see how they feel about the union, especially the parts of it that voted to remain in the EU, and how they see the prospect of one or more of the home nations deciding to go its own way.

 

Who benefits?

Many English voters think Scotland and Northern Ireland respectively benefit more from the union than the rest of the UK. This is particularly the case among those who voted Leave in the EU referendum, and especially among Conservative Leavers – two thirds of whom say Scotland benefits most from being part of the union, compared to one in five who think all parts of the UK benefit equally from its membership (more…)

My Scotland poll: Yes to independence takes the lead

By Lord Ashcroft

In the wake of Boris Johnson’s visit to Edinburgh last week I polled Scots to measure support for a second independence referendum and to gauge opinion on independence itself. I found a small majority in favour of a new vote – and the first lead for an independent Scotland for more than two years.

I found 47% agreeing that there should be another referendum on Scottish independence within the next two years (First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has demanded a new vote by 2021), with 45% disagreeing (more…)

My speech to Turcan Connell and Charlotte Street Partners in Edinburgh

By Lord Ashcroft

This is the text of a speech I gave last night in Edinburgh. I was introduced by Chris Deerin.

Thank you, Chris, for that kind welcome, and can I say what an honour it is to be introduced by Scotland’s Columnist Of The Year? Those of you who read Chris’s work will know that the accolade he received at the Scottish Press Awards was thoroughly well deserved, and that his writing is always brilliant – provocative, honest, thoughtful and original.

While I’m at it, I might as well add that such is his incisive grasp of public affairs, any of you who are not retaining the services of his company should have your people call his people first thing in the morning. (more…)

The Scottish battleground

By Lord Ashcroft

Most of my constituency research is focused on marginal seats. But in post-referendum Scotland, the concept of a marginal seat is rather obsolete. Huge swings to the SNP in national polls suggest that even some MPs who must have thought they had a job for life are threatened.

My first round of Scottish constituency research therefore required a different approach. I decided to look primarily at Labour seats – including some with colossal majorities – in areas which voted yes to independence, or where the result was very close (more…)

Watch my Sky News interview on polling and the marginals

By Lord Ashcroft

Yesterday I was interviewed about my polling on Sky News by Joey Jones. You can watch the interview here:

 

Click here to see full story on Sky News

Victory for Project Reasonable Caution – but let’s not learn the wrong lessons

By Lord Ashcroft

In my post-referendum poll in Scotland last Thursday I asked those who had voted No to independence which of three overarching reasons was the most important to their decision. Only just over a quarter named “a strong attachment to the UK and its shared history, culture and traditions”. Even fewer (25%) said it was that a No vote “would still mean extra powers for the Scottish Parliament together with the security of remaining part of the UK, giving the best of both worlds”.

By far the most important reason was that “the risks of becoming independent looked too great when it came to things like the currency, EU membership, the economy, jobs and prices”. (more…)

How Scotland voted, and why

By Lord Ashcroft

Overnight I have polled more than 2,000 people who voted in the Scottish referendum. The results help us understand what happened, and why.

The results indicate that the No campaign won among men (by a six-point margin) as well as women (by twelve points). As expected, older voters were the most decisively opposed to independence, with nearly three quarters (73%) of those aged 65 or over voting No.

Also not surprisingly, Conservative voters were the most staunchly Unionist, with 95% voting to reject independence. (more…)

Cameron’s Caledonian Conundrum

By Lord Ashcroft

When the Conservatives were booted out of office in 1997 the party was left with no MPs in Scotland. Today they have one – a total which few expect to rise in 2015.

Explanations abound for the Tories’ Scottish decline, economic and cultural as well as political. One of the most common is that the Tories are still being punished for the legacy of Mrs Thatcher and what she “did to” Scotland. But this theory does not ring true. For one thing, the Conservatives’ popularity in Scotland has been waning since 1955, when they were the largest party. For another thing, when the supposedly wickedly anti-Scottish Thatcher was in Number 10, the Tories won more seats and more votes in Scotland than they have ever done since. And for a third thing, even if Mrs Thatcher were universally reviled in Scotland – which she is not – I do not believe that most Scots are so unimaginative as to vote according to what they thought of the PM before the PM before the PM before last.

Whatever the history, the task for the Tories is to work out where they are now and what they can do about it. (more…)

How many Scots know what the Scottish Parliament does?

By Lord Ashcroft

What proportion of Scots say they have a clear understanding of the powers of the Scottish Parliament? Fourteen years after Holyrood opened for business, the number is surprisingly low. In a recent poll I have found only 14% of Scots claiming to have a very good idea of what is decided in Edinburgh and what powers remain with Westminster; 44% said they had “some idea” but four in ten admitted to having “very little idea” which parliament was responsible for what. (more…)