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Hitting the ground running – the new SNP Group at Westminster

July 30th, 2015

 

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It is indisputable that the new group of 56 SNP Members of Parliament have made their mark. What started as a battle for seats ended with major victories and an impression that they may well be the de facto official opposition at least until Labour selects their new leader.

A great deal has already occurred since the general election. Within this first session the Government:

While not the sole effort of the SNP, it showed – particularly on the issue of fox hunting – how very fragile the Conservative majority actually is.

Playing hardball

Previously SNP MPs voted on English only matters if it had a discernible ‘Barnett consequential’ or in layman’s terms if the bill had a financial knock on effect for the Scottish Budget. The reason for this policy change is directly linked to the UK Government’s refusal to accept any amendments proposed by any party to the Scotland Bill during committee stages. SNP Westminster Leader Angus Robertson said this policy change will remind the ‘arrogant UK government of just how slender their majority is’.

The Conservatives of course can hope to secure enough votes for their EVEL plans and avoid a defeat in the future but the willingness of the SNP to play serious hardball was made clear. To use an industry term the UK Government has an ‘optics’ problem when viewed from north of the border: when your sole MP from Scotland blocks what the other 58 want it doesn’t look good. Perhaps in recognition of this Secretary of State for Scotland David Mundell has said he will ‘reflect’ on possible amendments that could be made at report stage when parliament returns. Sounds like a fun summer for the team at Dover House and Melville Crescent.

Pressure on Labour

Further votes in the Commons were cleverly triangulated by the SNP to put the rudderless Labour Party under serious pressure in Scotland. The SNP couldn’t believe their good fortune when interim leader Harriet Harman called on her party not to vote against Welfare Reform Bill at second reading. Only a few days later the Labour Party failed to submit a reasoned amendment to the Finance Bill, or indeed vote against it. Whether this was a major oversight or political posturing the net result for the SNP is manna from heaven.

The impact of the group is even more impressive given that their new presence on every single select committee hasn’t yet been felt – it will be another avenue for them to get their message across once the committees start meeting regularly. This combined with a willingness to vote on issues pertaining to England, Wales and all of the UK means that the SNP will truly be full spectrum players in Westminster.

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Planning for 2016

However the SNP have a challenging summer and autumn ahead. While Alex Salmond’s statement that another independence referendum is ‘inevitable’ is nothing new to followers of Scottish media, pressure is growing for First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to clarify whether a commitment to a referendum will be included in the party’s 2016 manifesto. Also on the agenda is the hotly debated issue of the moratorium on fracking – the SNP is facing calls from within its own party to set out more detail on what that actually entails.

The party’s conference in October in Aberdeen will be their biggest ever and while it will undoubtedly be a celebratory atmosphere it will also be the chance for many of those seeking nomination to be MSPs to have a big party platform. It is also the first opportunity for many of the new 100,000 plus party members to really start making their voices heard. With unparalleled levels of interest from the third sector and business, questions over the possibility of a further referendum, and new faces looking to make their mark it will not only be the largest but also one of the most important conferences the SNP has ever had.

By: Luke Skipper

Account Director

Twitter: @LJ_Skipper 

 

 

 

 

 


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Social media eclipse billboard adverts in sign of the times

April 26th, 2015

 

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The SNP have spent a lot of money launching their latest billboard campaign with their “Scotland stronger at Westminster” headline alongside a cross-armed picture of Nicola Sturgeon. They are difficult to miss, but are they a good use of money?

An ‘Election Engagement Index’ was this week published by Weber Shandwick with research finding that traditional media are more likely to capture the attention of voters than billboard advertising, or than newer social media such as Facebook.

Only 25% of respondents said that outdoor advertising such as billboards would grab their attention, signalling to politicians that they are less effective at gaining the attention of voters than taking part in media interviews. Only 22% of survey respondents thought social media would grab their attention.

However, when the research looked at what would actually influence how people vote, then social media commands greater influence than any ‘traditional media’ channels, excepting TV.

Among people who had received information about the election through social media channels, 38% thought that it would influence their vote, suggesting that, once candidates connect with voters through channels such as Facebook, the potential for changing opinions and winning votes is high.

Social media pipped traditional campaigning approaches such as doorstep canvassing, and vastly outstripped the influence of billboard advertising. The parties aren’t blind to the power of using social media to highlight their campaign points. This week social media played a major part in the campaign in Scotland – for good and bad.

The SNP have by far the most active community online but as we know social media leaves a problem for previously centralised communications . This week saw the SNP candidate in Edinburgh South, Neil Hay, having to apologise for tweeting some pretty ghastly things from a pseudonym account. Stupid behaviour and the kind of thing that could well see the SNP failing to gain that seat.

In an amusing moment Ruth Davidson received a lot of coverage having her picture taken feeding an ice-lolly to a journalist, mimicking a strange photo of Alex Salmond from some years ago. This adds nothing to our knowledge of policy, but it might gain further awareness of the Tories key campaign asset and therefore the chance to engage with more voters.

Social media is a key way for Scottish leaders to communicate with voters, but they need to learn how to move from broadcasting online to engaging in a meaningful way.

This article was originally printed in the Sunday Times Scotland on 26 April 2015.


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Brown and Sturgeon to cross sabres in political star wars

April 19th, 2015

 

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The great clunking fist that helped save the Union is back – this time on a mission to save the Scottish Labour Party.

As The Sunday Times reports, Gordon Brown is planning a series of engagements in Scotland this week to try to help his party get back its mojo after yet more polls signalled it’s about to be unceremoniously dumped by Scottish voters.

Among some senior party anoraks at least news of his reappearance has caused the same sort of whoop of delight that greeted the return of Han Solo and Chewbacca in the latest Star Wars teaser trailer.

After all, the former PM helped restore the fortunes of the Better Together campaign by reaching the parts of Scotland other unionist politicians could not reach. Might the great Gordo pull off another amazing feat with his Jedi-like skills?

While polling approval ratings show that Jim Murphy is no Nicola Sturgeon and Ed Miliband isn’t even as popular as David Cameron in Scotland, Brown – for reasons that are unfathomable to many – remains a popular and trusted figure among many traditional Labour voters.

Yet not even in his Kirkcaldy heartland, where Brown is something of a local hero, could he have engendered the sort of buzz evident around Sturgeon’s audacious campaign trip there last week, which was compared to a royal visit.

Of particular concern for Labour is not just the slew of snapshot polls pointing to the loss of about 30 seats to the SNP but evidence suggesting any attempt to win back traditional Labour voters who have switched to the nationalists is doomed to fail.

While Jim Murphy has predicted that voters in Scotland will “switch late and switch big” to help hand Miliband the keys to No 10, data produced by the British Election Study – one of the most authoritative sources of election research – shows that almost all voters who have switched from Labour to the nationalists since the last general election are “certain” they will vote SNP.

Yet, just as in Star Wars, there has emerged “a new hope”, and an unlikely one at that, which may yet thwart Sturgeon’s hopes at least in some seats currently held by Labour.

Labour candidates are reporting people identified from previous elections as Tory voters telling canvassers in large numbers that they intend to lend their vote to Labour this time to check the power of the SNP and reduce the chances of another independence referendum.

This echoes the findings of research for Lord Ashcroft indicating that Conservatives are less likely to rule out voting Labour than rule out voting for the SNP in order to help save the Union, a factor that could help Labour particularly in its more affluent seats.

The prospect of another alliance with Tories might make Brown feel like falling on his own light sabre but even Luke Skywalker needed help.

Jason Allardyce is Scottish editor of The Sunday Times

@sundaytimessco


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Best of the weekend

February 16th, 2015

 

Selection of papers

Welcome to our weekly weekend recap. Our team here at ScotlandVotes share their best stories from the weekend. It’s not just all Scottish politics. But please dip in and have a read…

Ben Riley-Smith was one of the referendum’s star performers and he continues to deliver with his piece in The Sunday Telegraph. With the prospect of impending disaster for Scottish Labour in May, Riley-Smith takes the temperature of sitting Labour MPs. It is not a comfortable read, “A third, when asked how things were looking in Scotland, simply formed his hand into a gun, raised it to his mouth and pulled the trigger.” DM

 

Bill Jamieson’s article in The Scotsman is a good scene-setter for the GE. CM

 

In the Scotland on Sunday, Euan McColm asserts that Nicola Sturgeon has made a strategic error in revealing the SNP’s red line issues in any post General Election coalition negotiations. NB&CM

 

Nick Cohen’s furious column in The Spectator argues that David Cameron is facing a crisis ahead of the General Election as voters will see the Conservatives as increasingly out of touch and acting in self-interest. DM

 

In the Sunday Times, Alex Massie discusses the current controversy over consensual stop and search arguing that “the arrogance of an over-mighty police force has been on full display and it has not been an ennobling sight.” NB

 

Likewise, Iain Macwhirter in the Sunday Herald suggests that Police Scotland “is either too big, out of control or both.” DM


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Best of the weekend

February 9th, 2015

 

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Welcome to our weekly weekend recap. Our team here at ScotlandVotes share their best stories from the weekend. It’s not just all Scottish politics. But please dip in and have a read…

 

Fascinating interview with Ed Miliband in the Financial Times. The authors claim that Peter Mandelson and Alastair Campbell sounded out Alan Johnson on whether he was interested in taking over. CM

 

The news in the Sunday Herald that Jim Murphy is seeking to campaign using term Labour for Yes, shows how much importance Labour’s campaign team are putting in public perception at the top level without looking at the detail – however many nationalists are getting worried about the tactic – despite Alex Salmond using a similar tactic for Holyrood when SNP regional list was entered under “Alex Salmond for First Minister”. KM

 

Euan McColm looks at last week’s stop and search controversy in Scotland on Sunday and concludes that Nicola Sturgeon will not avoid challenging long-term government positions, where it makes sense, contrasting this with Alex Salmond’s record of defending the indefensible against opposition attacks. NB

 

The first issues index of 2015 was published by pollsters Ipsos-MORI last week. Snapshot of some interesting findings here. CM

 

Enjoyed a fun story in The Scotsman on Jack McConnell being ousted from his seat by a fellow Lord on the way down to London on an East Coast train. KM

 

Inevitably, enhanced powers for Scotland would lead to a clamour for more powers for other parts of the UK. The Core Cities (made up of leaders of the 10 biggest economies outside London) have “called for Scottish-style tax powers to encourage growth” reports the Financial Times. DM

 

A scathing attack from entrepreneur Luke Johnson appeared in this weekend’s Sunday Times. It is quite shrill in places and he calls big business “too craven to say in public what they think about Labour’s attitude to business”.  CM

 

Friday saw the Scottish Parliament’s Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee published their recommendations on how to regulate lobbying in Scotland. Kenny Stewart, Government Relations Manager at Glasgow 2014 had his say on Medium arguing that in lobbying it ‘takes two to tango’. DM


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Who’s winning the social media battle for SNP Depute Leadership?

October 29th, 2014

 

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Kenny Murray delves into social media analytics to see who is winning the battle online.

It was a competition many never expected and in recent days, it has been overshadowed by the continuing frenzy on who will lead Labour in Scotland. However we thought it’d be prudent to have a look at the competition for Nicola Sturgeon’s replacement as she ascends to the top job in Scottish parliamentary politics.

Now, Facebook doesn’t give much scope for analysis so let’s take a look at the topline stats of page likes:

  1. Stewart Hosie – 1,584
  2. Angela 4 Deputy – 1,581 likes
  3. Keith Brown – 581 likes

 

Stewart Hosie narrowly beats Angela 4 Deputy to the post, however – he uses his own MP page, Ms Constance has set up a brand new page dedicated to her leadership campaign – so we believe she wins this round, followed by Stewart Hosie in second place and Keith Brown in dead last with a paltry 581 likes.

Let’s more specifically focus on Twitter – after all it was the main vehicle for debate among the talking shop during the independence referendum, although many did wrongly predict a resounding Yes win due to the social media statistics – we could be on the wrong track altogether, alternatively we may be 100% right.

So, where do they sit on follower count?

@StewartHosieMP has a decent 7,791 followers at our last check

@AConstanceMSP has a very good 7,145 followers some of whom may be backing her

@KeithBrownMSP has a smaller 6,886 followers reading his thoughts

So again, Stewart Hosie seems to be winning, with Angela in second place, ever so closely and early favourite Keith Brown is in dead last.

Using Topsy (see below), we can see that if the vote was to be decided purely on who gained most mentions via Twitter, then Keith Brown would win hands down – followed by Stewart Hosie and in last place with less than a fourth of the tweets that mention Keith Brown, Angela Constance.

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To be fair, that’s not the only method – these tweets could be attacking them or simply mentioning them. Let’s take a look at the sentiment score. This scores the tweets based on their tone and what sentiment they imply, the higher the score – the more supportive they are.

 

Keith Brown

Topsy, gives Mr Brown a sentiment score of 63 – which is quite good going for a politician. If this was an approval rating, it could be looked on very favourably. Although this comes from a sample of just over 4,000 tweets it’s probably accurate to a good degree of what the Transport Minister has experienced online. keith sentiment

It’s not just sentiment score though, how many twitter users have declared their vote for Keith Brown? 198.

 

Angela Constance

Ms Constance does pretty well considering the smaller sample size – a sentiment score of 55 is not to be sniffed at – however is it several points lower than Keith Brown who for once, seems to be winning in one vein of this competition online. ang senti

How many people have made their vote public for Angela Constance though? An impressive 151 declared voters online.

Stewart Hosie

Stewart Hosie wins yet again, with the highest sentiment score, admittedly from a lower sample than Keith Brown, Stewart gains a sentiment score of 65, only marginally more favourable than Keith Brown.

stew senti

How many publicly declared votes does he have though? 37.

So who will win?

Ultimately that’s up to the SNP membership but combining a number of factors, social media predicts it for Keith Brown. Going from the positive sentiment score, the larger support base online and success across all channels – if social media is to be trusted Keith Brown will be the Depute Leader of the SNP come 10am on Friday 14 November.


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