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The people's priorities

Brian Taylor | 15:05 UK time, Sunday, 10 April 2011

To start, a few words of caution.

This is an opinion poll: it offers a wide-angle snapshot, not the precision of a microscope.

Further, we reminded those taking part that Holyrood may not have the time or the money to do everything at once.

We asked, therefore, for priorities.

But some people, perhaps many people, might still be inclined, in effect, to tick "all of the above" when asked to rank priorities.

Certainly, it would appear that the focus is still upon the services which can be funded by public spending.

For example, two policies ostensibly designed to help business - regional development banks and reduced taxation - were way down the poll.

But, still, there are some intriguing findings.

Let us consider firstly the issue of policing - an issue driven by two elements: recruitment and police boards.

The SNP, supported by the Tories, increased police numbers by 1,000.

The idea of maintaining that number ranks second in the poll.

Meanwhile the notion of combining the eight separate forces into a single national force comes second bottom.

The Liberal Democrats have opposed a single force and will undoubtedly take comfort from that.

Equally, it may now be incumbent upon those who back reform - which they believe will save money - to express their views in the context of sustaining front-line policing.

Labour will be pleased that one of their policies - halving waiting times to see a cancer specialist - has come top of the poll.

To be fair, other parties also have offers on waiting times and waiting lists.

But glance a little further down the poll.

The idea of spending more on the health service falls outside the top 10, at number 12.

Why? Surely that runs contrary to other findings.

No - because of the caveat.

Our pollsters asked if people would prioritise increased spending on the health service "even if means cuts in spending on other things."

You may say that is unfairly loading the question.

To the contrary, I would argue that, within a fixed budget as Scotland has, it is fair to confront voters with the fact that more money for Peter means a bit less for Paul.

It would seem plausible to infer that the very mention of cuts in any form taints an issue for people in Scotland - even when the remainder features the commonly popular NHS.

Folk don't like talk of cuts. They are still not resiled to cuts - or, perhaps, to making the choices which may be demanded of our public sector when the cuts in-train start to bite.

Again, that is entirely understandable, given the scale of the challenge.

Folk are still struggling to find options that may be more palatable, that may involve less pain for fewer people.

Look now at the bottom of the poll.

Very few accord priority to the Conservative policy of allowing 14-year-olds to leave school to train for a trade.

It would seem, at the very least, that they have some way to go before they can begin to convince the voters that this is a policy worth pursuing.

Look too at the issue of a referendum on independence.

That appears well down the list, at number 22.

The SNP's opponents will undoubtedly say that is the standing view of the people of Scotland.

Perhaps, though, it reflects the focus of these elections in particular: against the background of economic stringency.

It may also partly reflect the focus of the SNP's own campaign which has been to place their independence ambition in the broader context of fiscal powers to remedy the economy while majoring on immediate pressing concerns such as growth.

Look too at the council tax. Various offers to freeze it or cut it for pensioners are all ranked in the top 10.

But the notion of replacing it with a Local Income Tax is further down, at 21.

Again, that may reflect the desire of voters to concentrate upon their immediate worries while relegating wider reform.

Also, the parties advocating this change - the SNP and LibDems - have said that it will have to await the further devolution of tax powers which means, in effect, the parliament after next.

In all, fascinating.


  • Comment number 1.

    Where do you expect the weegreychickencarcrash to happen today??

  • Comment number 2.


    Did I miss the SNP launching their manifesto, or are you polling based on an unreleased document?

    If the latter, then it sounds like a breach of ethics (polling and journalistic) to me.

  • Comment number 3.


    The SNP manifesto? Did this come from the same place as the SDS document? Just asking because I share your zeal for open and honest reportage.

  • Comment number 4.


    Can't say I was too taken with any of the leaders in the debate.

    The real winner was Isobel Fraser - she is pure quality.

    Tavish's constant smirking is now a real annoyance; theweegreychickencarcrash desparately needs to get rid of the pointing finger; and both these 'leaders' should quickly learn that interrupting the Eckmeister just because he has started speaking is very tiresome and amateurish; Auntie Bella was, well, Auntie Bella, while the FM was strangely subdued, I thought.

    Just what is the issue with the SNP manifesto not appearing?? I hope they're not trying to be too clever and compiling theirs on the basis of what the other three have put out.

    Given the carcrash that is the Labour leadership, a quality manifesto could just propel the SNP into first place, so this is an opportunity not to be blown!!

  • Comment number 5.

    I take it this survey result was based on fixed questions put by the BBC, not on the actual priorities the punters might have. As usual, the questions would be slanted towards the result required, rather than what the punters might see as their priorities.

  • Comment number 6.

    How can people be asked to prioritise manifesto pledges if one party hasn't even published its manifesto yet?

    It will be easy for the SNP to adjust their manifesto according to "what people want". Seems a bit unfair.

  • Comment number 7.

    What is fascinating for me is that Brian can do a whole blog entry on this BBC poll and its findings without a reference or links to the poll questions, the scope and the details of the poll.

    This is simply not good enough and is a disservice from the online British broadcaster. We need open and fully transparent information from our public broadcaster. At the very minimum there should be a link on the page to this poll that the public has bought and paid for.

    Eg. Was New Nuclear power even asked - a clear Labour policy?
    What about the Scotland bill taking back powers including Planning?

    Since we are not given the questions or how they were framed readers have to take Brians comments with a large dose of caution.

  • Comment number 8.

    Just a point pf order, but why is the BBC spending licence payers money on commissioning a poll regarding Political manifesto policies, if the main party, the SNP havnt issued theires yet?
    I'm sorry but this smack's of out and out bias by the BBC, specifical bias by the political editor. I expect an apology from the BBC for this gross waste of public funds or do the BBC not do appologies like they just dont bother with even handed reporting?

  • Comment number 9.

  • Comment number 10.

    I fear that all the above entries will be removed once the moderators clock on.

  • Comment number 11.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 12.

    Fascinating? No not really. It's all pretty predictable actually.

  • Comment number 13.

    Seems I owe Brian an apology, as there is a link to the poll pdf on the Site - but not on the blog page. There should be alike here too, which is why I did not see it.

    It is interesting how some of the questions are phrased. Take the Nuclear question.
    The current status is that Nuclear is being phased out in Scotland - through a vote in the Scottish parliament UNDER LABOUR. Therefore it is not a policy question for this election, hence, I guess, its lowish priority.

    However Nuclear is NOT being replaced by wind and wave (only). The question is also based on a false premise.

    The question should have been along the lines of : Do you want to allow New Nuclear build in Scotland (prior to waste disposal sites being named). That is the current New policy position and U-turn of Labour and is a policy that people can vote for or against.

    Many of the questions are of a similar nature ie. skewed. This 1 question alone makes the overall results highly suspect. If some for the questions are based on a false premise then the results cannot possible be accurate and are in fact strongly biased.

  • Comment number 14.


    Odd that you don't link to the summary [timestamp Sunday 23:12 GMT] or detail [timestamp Sunday 23:03 GMT] pages on this websites, and odder still that the actual detailed PDF was a broken link then. It is now available from the summary page and given a spurious date of today, Monday. What's really peculiar is that the PDF itself was actually last modified on Friday 8 April at 16:29 and that your blog entry was given a timestamp of 15:05 BST Sunday, yet only this morning after 07:00 has anyone seen it to be able to post on it.

    It's interesting, to say the least, that Martin [the author of the PDF] named the document Scotland_Priorities, yet the questions themselves were apparently not set in the context of the curtailed Scottish government spending imposed by Westminster and - unless detailed questions were concealed in the PDF - no question relating to the relative priorities of the 25 "policies" in that context was asked.

    But oddest of all is the fact that only the "Inrease spending on the health service, even if it means cuts in spending on other things" [rating 7.38] policy you mention was qualified at all.

    With Gordon Brewer having established on Newsnicht that Labour's "Carry a knife; go to jail" policy has neither been costed nor would be mandatory, was not phrasing the question "Send everyone convicted of carrying a knife to jail" [rating 7.29] "unfairly loading the question", as you elegantly put it?

    A "fair" version of that question might have been: Send almost everyone convicted of carrying a knife to jail, irrespective of how much it costs to build new prison places and how much police time is wasted enforcing it.

  • Comment number 15.

    Your poll is a great example of why presenting people with a list of items and then asking them to rank some of them is a rather flawed methodology. So the top policy is cutting cancer times? Of course it is. The question is, can it be delivered? Labour failed to meet waiting times of 62 days when they were in government, so why should we believe that they can meet 14 day waiting times? Also, I have a funny feeling that in order to meet this promise, NHS funding is going to have to go up. So if you're going to ask loaded questions, perhaps you should do so with all of them, rather than just some?

    "Would you like to see NHS funding increased in order to reduce waiting times for suspected cancer cases to two weeks, even if it means reduced spending on other things?"

    If I told people I could give them free money, they'd probably quite like that as a policy. If I then informed them I'd need to tax them 100% in order to do it, they may be considerably less keen. Let's take it further - perhaps saying "combine the eight police forces into a single force in order to save money and keep up the number of police on the streets"? That's the reason for that policy, after all.

    Most interesting of all, number 11 is "get mor minor criminals to do work in the community instead of sending them to prison" and number 13 is "send everyone convicted of carrying a knife to jail". Hmmm, why do I get the feeling that the public perhaps aren't the best people to create government policies?

  • Comment number 16.

    Polls or Poles its alleged that quite a lot of both around at the moment, or will it show that they are all equally poles apart? Anyway's I can hear a sigh of relief that the UK equivalent to the Hunt For Red October happened where most of our nuclear detterent was largely transferred to, and not down the road at Faslane....SNP holding back just like what oor national fitba team does wae team lists, the latters problem could be more down to the lack of talent being around! Dinnae ken aboot the SNP....

  • Comment number 17.


    I agree with others that it's pretty odd to have carried out this poll before the SNP have published their manifesto, but it's actually worse than that. The detailed PDF confirms that fieldwork was carried out from Monday 5 April to Thursday 8 April, meaning that some interviews may have been carried out before any major party had published their manifesto whilst the last may have been carried out after Labour had published theirs.

    This website's Scottish [general] election: Campaign catch-up gives the dates:
    ● Monday 5 April: Con manifesto
    ● Tuesday 6 April: L-D manifesto
    ● Wednesday 7 April: Lab manifesto

    It is thus clear that the questions were designed without reference to any party manifesto, which must raise the question of who chose the questions and why? Sir Humphrey couldn't have done it better.

  • Comment number 18.

    brian, to be fair I take anything that comes from the BBC with a pinch of salt.

    Lets face it, you are hardly coming from a neutral point of view.

  • Comment number 19.


    Re your "[b]ut glance a little further down the poll", it's even more interest to glance at the last page of the PDF and consider the three "questions" asked there, but none of which are mentioned here or in either of the two articles associated with the poll to which you forgot to link:

    • The Scottish Government should decide for itself how much it has to spend - and all the money should come out of taxes paid by people in Scotland.
    • The Scottish Government should have greater powers to decide how much it has to spend and more of the money it spends should come out of taxes paid by people in Scotland.
    • The UK Government should continue to make nearly all the decisions about how much money the Scottish Government has to spend - and the money should continue to come out of taxes paid by people across the UK.

    All of these could reasonably be described as unfairly loaded in that they relate only to personal taxation, make no references to sources of government revenue, make no mention of business taxation and make no effort even to distinguish between types of personal taxation. This is particularly shoddy, since the Scotland Bill makes pretty clear which revenue sources Westminster will consider "devolving" to Holyrood.

    As a result, it is perhaps no wonder that you are too embarrassed to wish to highlight the responses, which seem to have been a waste of everyone's time and bandwidth.
  • Comment number 20.

    Since the SNP have not released their manifesto Brian Taylor's own account of what the SNP are proposing to do, or not do is errant nonsense.

    Note too how many of the questions posed by the BBC survey are very similar to Labour manifesto proposals.

    A coincidence?????????????

  • Comment number 21.

    "In all, fascinating." -

    The only thing I find fascinating in all this is how dire and gaffe prone labours campaign has been so far, and your inability to make any reference to it.

  • Comment number 22.

    Are you trying to get mystic Meg's or russel Grant's job? How else could you base a poll on manifesto pledges that aren't even released yet? Do you have a piece of paper with these pledges on it.


  • Comment number 23.

    # to posts to start a few words of caution. this is an opinion poll. it offers a wide-angeled snap shot. not the presision of a microscope. sounds like rambo "gray". dont be so hard on brian and the mods they are only following guidelines, set by the company, by minimising the promotion of the snp as do all
    scottish newspapers and media!

  • Comment number 24.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 25.

    I accidently switched onto the politics show tyesterday morning, only to discover that this was the BBC's leaders debate in progress. Now I am considered by some a bit of a political anorak, and given that I didn't even know the timing of the debate, I have to assume that the debate was not trailed much. What are the BBC trying to hide? Were they afraid that their man would have another poor debate?

    I can also see the general commentry coming out of pacific quay: The election has not caught the heather on fire. Don't you really mean that the message you want to get across has not been picked up by the public? Of course if you look at the electon from a labour point of view then the heather is not even smouldering, but that is because they have been particularly gaff prone, and useless.

    When was the last time that you saw a "party leader" running away from some voters and hiding in a sandwich shop? That is electon dynamite! I am sad to have to conclude that the only reason you (the BBC) can conclude that the electon campaign is not warming up is because you are looking at it from a single mindset, and that mindset's favorite party is having a car crash of an electon campaign so far.


  • Comment number 26.

    Lots of moaning around here, too many vested interests.

    Stepping back and looking at this poll is interesting:

    The polis are wanted, creating a single unified force will help that achievement I believe.

    Fixing the existing bridge would be a good idea, thereby releasing the money from the new bridge for other higher priorities like the NHS cancer, council tax and youth stuff like apprenticeships and university.

    As can be seen, while Monsieur Salmond is a slam dunk for this election, independence is not a high priority.
    People are after his stewardship, not independence, because he's far and away the most sensible option.

  • Comment number 27.


    You acknowledge that some of the questions asked were irrelevant in that they will "have to await the further devolution of tax powers which means, in effect, the parliament after next", so the real question is surely: Why were they asked at all?

    It is also perhaps understandable that responses to questions like "Build a new road bridge across the River Forth" [rating 4.72] weren't highly rated, as the existing bridge may last a while yet. Had the question been Ensure a fast road link from Edinburgh to Dundee via Fife continues to be available, I wonder what the rating would have been. And even had it been low, would not the ratings of Ossis vs Wessis [as the Germans describe them] have been interesting, to say the least?

    That the "top" 17 of the 25 policies all relate to spending more money is surely unremarkable, especially as no attempt was made to ask any ranking questions to help determine where the reduced monies available should be spent.

    All in all, a pretty pointless exercise I fear, unless the person setting them had political motives, of course. See my comment re Sir Humphrey above.

  • Comment number 28.

    I realise that polls like this are just a bit of election fun but the BBC should be careful of how it times these things. The SNP has yet to publish and I'm sure they will use the information contained in this poll to shape their presentation - they would be daft not to. I can only begin to imagine the outcry from the Nationalist anti-BBC posters who seem to live to trash Brian's posts if Labour had been last to publish and a poll like this had pre-empted it!

  • Comment number 29.

    It should be pointed out that the Scottish Green Party manifesto hasn't been published yet either, so that's 2 major parties which this poll seems to be ignoring (given recent Green poll ratings they have to be, considered up there alongside the Lib Dems).

    I've tended to give the BBC the benefit of the doubt whenever the spectre of bias is raised, but the deficiencies in this story can only be explained either as bias, or incompetent journalism. Very disappointing.

  • Comment number 30.

    I tried to reach the ICM original but failed.

    As some have already stated the manifestos were not available in total and surely to report on this poll is against that wee impartiality clause that exists as part of the BBBCs contract with the people?

    Tell me, just how many folk work at Pacific Quay?

  • Comment number 31.

    Seems like a flawed poll to me too, if you stick a question about cancer sufferance in there of course its going to get the highest rating. Why not ask if people would support a ban on drowning puppies in canals? It skews the results.

    As for the rest, most people don't even know how LIT would work, I suspect many people thought 'I don't know what that is really so I'll score it low down...' Some of the other questions are so big and have such massive ramifications (like NHS spending) again, people just go blank, its too complicated; well I do anyway.

    Labour's manifesto is all about throwing money around, some would say as usual. I think people are wise to this now, 13 years of GB/TB just chucking it out and look where we are now, surely us canny Scots can see through such trite electoral bribes? Its hard to know what is more damaging, making those kind of manifesto promises and not delivering or making them and delivering them to the cost of generations to come.

    I'd rather not have to pick to be honest.

  • Comment number 32.

    26. At 10:54am 11th Apr 2011, ady

    I have just done a poll with me, myself and my shadow resulting in an overwhelming majority saying this Pravda Quay poll is total mince.

  • Comment number 33.

    ...and why wasn't "completion of the the Edinburgh Tram Project" given as a choice for people!

    Foul play! Referee!


  • Comment number 34.

    #28 AyeRightNaw
    "I realise that polls like this are just a bit of election fun but the BBC should be careful of how it times these things. The SNP has yet to publish and I'm sure they will use the information contained in this poll to shape their presentation - they would be daft not to. I can only begin to imagine the outcry from the Nationalist anti-BBC posters who seem to live to trash Brian's posts if Labour had been last to publish and a poll like this had pre-empted it!"

    A fair point, if somewhat provocatively put. Would that all cyberbrits made evidence based posts.

    However, as I have demonstrated above, the fieldwork dates must have been preceded by writing the questions and so all of the "big" four's manifestos were pre-empted.

    Who drafted the questions as well as when and why must therefore be more important than the responses themselves, which Brian admits to having been somewhat Pavlovian.

  • Comment number 35.

    Your entire poll is biased in favour of nationwide spending while individual items that might help areas are biased against.

    Things like a new Forth Road Bridge being low isn't a surprise. It is important in say Fife but isn't a big talking point in Strathclyde or Galloway. Still at least the Forth Bridge got on the question sheet. AWPR anyone?

  • Comment number 36.

    On the topic of manifestos and their availability, this website's new Cosla attack 'junk food' manifestos appears to be another pre-emptive strike, but one which also confides to us that the president of COSLA, Councillor Pat Watters is, to put it mildly, disaffected from his own Labour party with the telling quote: "Between them, the manifestos launched in the last week amount to a total of 216 pages, thousands of words that give no real solutions or answers.

    Good to see another politician with an open mind. Could he be planning to join John Farquhar Munro and Dennis Canavan in going the whole hog and endorsing someone outwith his own party as best choice for FM?

  • Comment number 37.

    Beeb Radio Scotland now reporting (on the dire Beattie programme, why oh why does the Beeb have this need to trivialise news all the time??) that the poll was, in fact, based on asking all political parties to provide them with their top 5 policies for the election.

  • Comment number 38.

    Barbazenzero - Re Cosla - yep I bet Mr Watters has had a few calls this morning asking what he's playing at! I reckon he is just doing his job though for there's little doubt that next year's budget settlement will be a killer for local authorities.

    djmac7 - This makes the timing all the more bizarre and it is bound to influence SNP presentation - though I'm sure it won't affect actual policies.

  • Comment number 39.

    This poll is a disgrace in view of the fact that the SNP has yet to publish its manifesto. It is a disgrace that the BBC keep running this story and it is a disgrace that you are treating the electorate with such contempt. Why can't this organisation grow up and start acting like the professional body it should be - it's not as if you don't have the money.

  • Comment number 40.

    I checked "Brian's Blog" at about 6pmyesterday, so the statement, "Brian Taylor | 15:05 UK time, Sunday, 10 April 2011" is (to use parliamentary language) a terminological inexactitude (backed up by the fact that the first post, from djmac7, was at 0709 hours)
    If the first statement made is so obviously wrong, why should anyone believe one word of what is written here.

    In not an apology, perhaps an explanation is due.

  • Comment number 41.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 42.

    Labour has a manifesto? Based on their election materials it seems to be "Tories, Tories, Tories, panic now people, panic now, panic now, Tories, oh no, Tories, Vote Labour". I haven't seen any Scottish policies, just an encouragement to use this as a westminster protest vote.

  • Comment number 43.

    I have to say I have a lot of time for Pat Watters .
    He consistently presents as rational,clever and unbiased.

  • Comment number 44.

    Ref #42 R

    Yes, and we're not supposed to be protesting about Westminster Government. We're supposed to be electing a Government for Scotland. Although NOT an ardent Nationalist, I'm pretty sure which way I'll be voting on the 5th of May - and it won't be for any of the parties that have already issued their manifesto.

    Also can I apologise for the typo in the last line of my #40, it should have read, "If not an apology, perhaps an explanation is due."

  • Comment number 45.

    I checked this website last evening about 10 p.m. - there was no sign of this blog at that time.

    Maybe we should move on and ask the BBC to concentrate on the key fundamental question in the light of the apparent general agreement on key themes:

    Who is the potential FM, and which is the potential government, best equipped to deliver the policies which the electorate want/need?

    Then we might add some questions about Paw Broon's 'True Confessions' this morning that he 'messed up' the Bank regulation in the City!!

  • Comment number 46.

    It transpires, according to Radio Scotland, that the BBC poll questions are based on the top 5 policies provided by 'all' the political parties.

    Since the SNP and the Scottish Greens have not published their manifestos it does seem rather odd that these parties would derail their own manifesto launches by given the BBC such crucial information knowing that it could have been selectively leaked by those in the BBC close to the Labour party.

    So I doubt that 'all' the parties did indeed provide the BBC with their top 5 policies, and if even if they did it is almost certain they would have wanted publication of the poll results to be delayed after the launches of all the parties' manifestos.

    There is something seriously wrong with this BBC poll. It lacks credibility. It smells.

  • Comment number 47.

    An opinion poll published in yesterday's Sunday Times shows public support for independence and support for greater powers for Holyrood to be neck and neck.  Once the 12% don't knows are excluded, 39% of respondents expressed a preference for independence, while 41% preferred greater powers for the Scottish Parliament as proposed by the Calman Commission.  The 2% difference between the two positions is within the normal margin of error for opinion polls.  Only 20% of those polled support the status quo and do not wish to see more powers for Holyrood.

    Seemed to me to be worth discussing

  • Comment number 48.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 49.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 50.

    "The BBC poll asked people to rate 25 issues taken from manifestos and party policy statements."

    When exactly did the SNP release their manifesto?

  • Comment number 51.

    Interestingly, when I tried to include a link to a well known news website, I encounterd this:

    "We're having some problems posting your comment at the moment. Sorry. We're doing our best to fix it."

    Obviously I wont`t name this site but I notice a story from it has been included on STVs site.

  • Comment number 52.

    hmm, perhaps my post was a little bit anti BBC, can't remember what I said, but i didn't think it would be modded off, might have been the Youtube Link to Iain Gray on the run...

  • Comment number 53.

    Perhaps those who say "How can they ask questions when the manifesto's havnt been published? Its all a unionist fit up!" could read the bit in the news story which says that the prioroties were listed from the list that the parties themselves gave the BBC for their issues guide

    But hey! Why let facts get in the way of rant against the BBC!


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