Margo MacDonald: Poll questions answer nothing

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Predictably, paranoid politicians (all of them) argue over opinion polls.

They’ve taken over from reading chicken innards, even though each one is a mere snapshot of the mood of the moment, which could have been heavily influenced by some spectacular triumph or the details of a cruel crime.

But polling can indicate trends. If the polls are done by someone who knows what they are doing and has no axe to grind, they can tell the story of an idea’s acceptance, rejection and progress. But to correctly interpret the trends, the politician has to put aside partisan response, and trust the message given by the polls.

Having said that, with deep sincerity and the experience of a lifetime in politics, folks, Ah hae ma doots about the Scottish referendum opinion polls. While I think that correctly, the polls indicate a movement away from supporting a Yes vote, they reflect a growing impatience that we’ve been talking about it for too long without anything to show for it. On the other hand, a growing number of people feel they haven’t been given enough information.

Edinburgh University has taken the lead in filling in this gap in people’s knowledge by producing a supply of as politically neutral as possible papers on the biggest issues to be decided . . . something I discussed with Professor Charlie Jeffries in what looks to have been a very productive lunchtime meeting at Holyrood a few months ago. Then, I had been despairing that the public information leaflets, the modern equivalents of those produced by the then government and opposition for the mid-70s EU referendum, would ever be produced by the people charged to win the referendum for independence.

For instance, there’s a misconception that the terms of our independence settlement will be as outlined in the white paper due out soon. It will present the SNP proposals for sovereignty to be vested in the Scottish Parliament. The white paper will argue that Scotland should be treated as a full member of the EU from day one. But there are people who support independence who would like a choice on remaining in the EU or not.

I hope I can suggest to the SNP that when it produces its white paper, it might build support for the basic proposition if it assures people that the constitution and practices of Holyrood, when we are in charge of our own destiny, will reflect what Scots want . . . not merely what is decided and supported by any political party.

The polls have done nothing to develop debate about the kind of Scotland we could have. But there is still time for questions to be put and answered on if and how we’d make Scotland not just independent, but better and fairer.

It’d be good if we’d broadcast successes

SO far so good for the Glasgow Commonwealth Games.

Costs don’t appear to be out of control, venues have been built on budget and on time. Operational planning for the Games themselves is on time, and essential volunteer helpers are recruited. Looks good for a summer of fun and games that, as a spin-off benefit, should provide VisitScotland with loads of the sort of pictures of Scottish landscapes that can touch the heart. And the cherry on top will be the world-class athletes like the Jamaican sprinters and the Australian swimmers expected in Glasgow.

But guess who appears a bit underwhelmed by the whole show? The BBC has no plans to have a Scottish stream of reporting, neither is there a plan to have a Scottish opt-out from the sports news.

That applies to TV only. As usual, radio does it better. There will be reporting of Scottish performances, trackside and poolside, etc, the interviews while competitors are still recovering that we’ve come to expect. But there will only be the same attention given to Scottish competitors as is given to those from other home countries.

I’m interested in how Tom Daley does, of course, but I’m more interested in Grace Reid, pictured, our young Edinburgh diver. Surely the host city and its backing country should expect to have more coverage? People elsewhere in the British Isles will be interested in how their neighbouring teams do, but there will be only a fraction of them watching the Glasgow as compared with the London Games. So let Glasgow’s games begin and let the BBC be there.

Just blame the Parkinson’s, Billy

I haven’t spoken to Billy Connolly in years, but I sent him a message on Monday wishing him all the best and assuring him everything is tickety-boo.

Although I haven’t seen him up close, I was confident that like mine, his Parkinson’s will progress at a pace that allows for adjustments to be made to everyday functions... walking sticks for example.

The upside is that Parkinson’s can be blamed for everything, and not age.