The Referendum is Over.
Scotland is still here and I won’t need a passport to go on holiday next summer.
A demonstration has been provided of the reasoning behind the ancient truism that whoever you vote for the Government always wins. The Government is so big, so influential and so well-supported that it has something of a resemblance to a black hole in more ways than the usual idea that everything gets sucked in and disappears. It can also bend the rules of Time and Space around it. Salmond had the referendum now because the Government told him he was having it. When the Government became worried that it might lose the referendum on the original independence/ status quo debate it simply changed the referendum to be about independence/ “devo max”. What devo max is nobody knows, since it barely existed as official Government policy last month, but it won the referendum and will be a key part of the constitution by this time next year.
The rest of the world, having been given a general impression of how to organise an independence referendum, is now rather intrigued by the whole idea – not least because Governments elsewhere can temporarily get the idea that it might increase their hold on power. (When next May we find that Miliband is Prime Minister for War, Terrorism and Border Control – all the stuff that inevitably goes horribly wrong – while Cameron is still Prime Minister for Everything Else – all the stuff that can be made to go nicely for a few key weeks in March and April 2020 – because Miliband’s Scottish and Welsh MPs aren’t allowed to support him on Everything Else then the other Governments might get other ideas. We, by contrast, should all find it quite amusing.)
Even the United States of America has apparently been getting interested in this whole Independence malarky – again (apparently it worked so well last time they’d like to be independent some more). At least, one in four of them would like to be independent again.
This then contrasts with this BBC article remarking on one third of people not giving truthful answers in surveys. One must of course begin by asking if this is the same 30% as had recently been declared to be “sub-clinically neurotic” in a something quoted by Michael Flanders during his review show At the Drop of Another Hat in the 1960s. (Or whether they are in fact the sane 30% who realise that one should never say a truthful thing in a survey in case it gets quoted later.)
Unfortunately for the politicians overseeing the “Better Together” side of the independence debate, they didn’t know whether the 30% were responding to the polls with claims that they favoured or opposed independence. In the event, in a statistically sensible manner, they seem to have come down moderately equally on each side of a moderately equally split debate.
In the case of the US poll, if we assume that a third of the respondents were in fact lying then only 66% of 25% (or 16.67%) of the population was telling the truth when they said they wanted their state to become independent.
But we must also assume that only 66% of 75% (or 50%) of the population was telling the truth when they said that they didn’t want their state to become independent. On this basis, if both the USA independence survey and the truthful answers in surveys survey are correct then a referendum on independence in a suitable United State – say Texas – held suitably imminently – say tomorrow – with a suitable lack of further information – say minus any campaigning on either side in the few remaining hours – would get pro-independence votes from the 16.67% of the population who honestly said they wanted independence plus the 25% of the population who were lying when they said they didn’t.
In other words, 41.67% of the population of the USA is so happy with where their great nation is going right now they would vote for independence tomorrow.
Either that or one of the surveys is wrong.
Or pro- (or anti-) independence people are more likely to be liars that anti- (or pro-) independence people.
All this reminds me of three things on honesty and statistics.
The first is of course the ancient riddle:
A traveller is walking down a road feeling lost. A local passing the other way tells this traveller that there will be a junction coming up shortly where there are two identical twins who will give directions. Unfortunately, while one of the twins always tells the truth the other invariably lies and nobody knows which is which.
How is the traveller to get accurate directions from this incorrigible pair?
The second, inevitably, is Benjamin Disraeli’s remark:
There are three types of lies – lies, damned lies and statistics.
The third is more recent, from the late philosopher Douglas Adams:
When one day an expedition was sent to the spatial co-ordinates that Voojagig had claimed for this planet they discovered only a small asteroid inhabited by a solitary old man who claimed repeatedly that nothing was true – though he was later discovered to be lying.
… a pointy building in a rather haunted style:
… and a beach:
The answer to the riddle, while I think of it, is of course
The traveller asks either twin “If I ask the other one the way, which way will I be told to go?” before going in the other direction to that given in the answer.