Sunday, 26 January 2014

Yes Mess

Things are not going to plan at Yes Scotland.
Despite the fillip in today's ICM poll, the organisation itself appears in turmoil.
Yes Scotland has now lost all five members of its so-called "top team" of directors, 16 months into their 24-month contracts.
That leaves chief executive Blair Jenkins as the last man standing from the original line-up - at least for now.
His judgment must surely be in question given he appointed the five who've gone.
SNP members sceptical about his ability will not be reasured by his statement on the changes, which is stuffed with management gobbledygook.
Yes insiders say such staff churn is inevitable in a dynamic political operation, as new skills sets are required for the different phases.
Look at turnover in the Obama campaign, they say.
But while individuals do come and go from campaigns, losing the entire team is a bad sign, however you cut it.
It's telling that the original "top team" announcement has now been expunged from Yes Scotland's website.
Nicola Sturgeon's role on Yes Scotland's advisory board may also come under scrutiny.

Here's a longer version of today's story.

Tom Gordon
Scottish Political Editor

YES Scotland last night denied it was in meltdown after losing the last two members of its self-styled “top team” of directors.

The cross-party independence movement confirmed Ian Dommett and Stan Blackley had quit as Director of Marketing and Deputy Director of Communities respectively, but insisted the organisation was in good shape.

It is understood the exits were not voluntary.

The departures, which took place over the last 10 days, mean Yes Scotland has now lost all five members of what it called its “top team” since their appointment in September 2012.
Yes camp insiders said such changes were common for a dynamic political campaign.
However the pro-Union Better Together movement claimed Yes Scotland was “in crisis”.
The changes come amid persistent rumours - always denied - that Yes Scotland is suffering from financial problems.
Last week, the Sunday Herald revealed Yes Scotland has decided to delay publication of its latest donor information, despite chief executive Blair Jenkins repeatedly promising there would be financial transparency.
It has not revealed the source or scale of its funding since April last year.
At the time of their appointment, Jenkins boasted in a press statement that his five directors were “a team of the highest calibre”.
He said: “Each one of them has a proven track record in his or her field of expertise and I am confident that with their input and commitment we can deliver a Yes vote in 2014.”
However that plan team rapidly fell apart, with insiders claiming Jenkins had miscalculated by hiring too many highly-paid managers.
L to R: Caldwell, Somerville, Jenkins (survivor), Stewart, Dommett, Blackley
Former RBS manager Jacqueline Caldwell left as Director of Operations in March last year for unexplained “personal reasons”.
Former Glasgow University media boss Susan Stewart left as Director of Communications in July as part of a “streamlining” operation.
And former SNP MSP Shirley-Anne Somerville quit as Director of Communities in November.
She had been on a leave of absence to stand in the Dunfermline byelection, but after losing she decided not to return, and became SNP deputy chief executive instead.
Now Dommett, a marketing guru and director of the Cor Agency, and Blackley, a former chief executive of Friends of the Earth Scotland, have been forced out.
A source close to the operation said Dommett was hugely popular with staff, but there had been some doubts about the marketing strategy, which included selling £330 Yes-branded gold cufflinks when activists needed doorstep campaign material in their hands.
Yours for just £330

“It’s been a final clear-out. They’ve been really ruthless to square the budget. But it means they have enough to pay staff and rent through to the referendum, and there shouldn’t be more change.”
Many senior members of the SNP are sceptical about Yes Scotland’s ability.
Since its launch in May 2012, the cross-party campaign, which includes the Scottish Greens and Scottish Socialists as well as the SNP, has failed to move the opinion polls consistently.
One SNP source said the party was “carrying” Yes Scotland: “We keep getting told things are wonderful, but they’re not delivering on the ground for folk, that’s quite clear.”
The work of the dismantled top team is now being shared among other staff.
Businessman Mark Shaw, an SNP stalwart, is acting as Operations Director, while Yes Scotland advisory board member Sarah-Jane Walls, a pilates instructor, is the new Operations Manager.

Blair McDougall, Better Together’s campaign director, said: “It looks like Yes Scotland’s refusal to release details of donations is an attempt to cover up a campaign in crisis.
“They must come clean and disclose their donors. “A campaign with a genuine breadth of support simply would not be in financial meltdown.”

Jenkins said Yes Scotland was evolving, rather than in trouble, and thanked Dommett and Blackley for their efforts.
In a statement released last night, he said: “This is a unique campaign that will decide the future of our country, and we are totally focused on winning a Yes vote. 
"That means we will continually test and optimise our effectiveness as the campaign evolves and moves through different phases towards September 18.
"Ian Dommett was engaged by Yes Scotland as a consultant, and has played a major role in helping get us to a position of real strength and momentum. 
"I would like to thank him for his enormous effort, and the results he has helped us achieve to date.
"Stan Blackley has also played a key role in developing our grassroots campaign and I owe him, too, much gratitude for his efforts.
"2014 sees the campaign moving into an exciting phase, as more and more people become engaged in the debate. 
"As we enter that phase, we are greatly encouraged by evidence which shows that the more our messages reach people, the more likely they are to vote Yes.
"Our existing team is therefore being augmented by a number of creative specialists, with extensive campaign experience, who will help us deliver those messages widely, and in innovative ways.
"I'm confident we now have the range of talents needed for the intensive and exciting period ahead, and that as we move towards the referendum, our marketing approach will continue to lead, to listen to, and to align with, campaign dynamics.”

Monday, 20 January 2014

Kindergarten logic

The Scottish Government recently issued an economic analysis related to its White Paper pledge to double free nursery hours in the event of independence.

It said a 6% increase in the female workforce (up to the Swedish level of 78%) would yield £700m in extra tax revenues, conveniently the same figure put on the cost of the policy.

Casual readers might have taken away two things from this.

That the planned boost to childcare would increase female participation in the workforce by 6%, and that this would make the policy self-financing.

Wrong on both counts, it turns out.

For although the analysis went into considerable detail about the benefits of a 6% rise, it never actually demonstrated that the SNP's specific policy would deliver such a 6% rise.

It simply jumped in and started doing the maths on an aspirational increase.

The paper did contain a disclaimer about this, but it was buried in a footnote.

Here's a longer version of the story in today's Herald

Tom Gordon

ALEX Salmond’s promise of a “transformational change” in childcare after independence faces new questions over its affordability, after the government admitted its “unique implications” had not been tested through economic modelling.

Ministers claim the flagship policy of doubling free nursery hours will allow thousands more women to enter work, raising extra tax revenue and boosting the economy in a “virtuous circle”.

Last week, ministers issued an economic analysis which modelled the impact of a six-point rise in female participation in the workforce, from 71.9% to the Swedish level of 77.9%.

It said this would generate £700m in extra taxes - the same cost as the childcare policy.
Launching the analysis on BBC Scotland’s Sunday Politics, Alex Salmond said: “What this really important paper points out is that in the context of an independent Scotland the proceeds of a 6% rise in female participation rates in the labour market would come to the Scottish exchequer and these proceeds would be very substantial - some £700m.”
However it has now emerged that a footnote in the paper contained a disclaimer admitting the SNP’s specific childcare policy had not been modelled, only the impact of a theoretical rise of 6% in the female workforce.
There was no proof given that the SNP’s policy would actually deliver the hoped for 6% rise.
Er, we never actually modelled the impact of the White Paper's keynote policy
The paper said: “Note the analysis illustrates the impact of a boost in female participation rates rather than a specific policy.
“The specific proposal will have its own unique implications for the economy and budgetary impacts. These are not simulated here.”
The government last night conceded those “unique implications”, which include the impact on the labour market, had not been modelled.
The opposition said the policy was unravelling.
Labour education spokesperson Kezia Dugdale said: “The SNP’s claim that we can only improve childcare once Scotland is independent is completely falling part. We all know mums and dads need help juggling family life with work commitments and the SNP have been caught misleading them to win referendum votes.”
Liz Smith of the Scottish Conservatives added: “The SNP has to realise that if it is promising attractive policies like this, it has to show how it will be possible.”
Spot the disclaimer
The promise to boost free nursery care was the cornerstone of the White Paper on independence.
It said provision for three and four year olds would rise from 600 hours a year to 1140 by 2020, followed by all children over one receiving the same hours by 2024.
Ministers costed the first phase at £700m, but have yet to put a price on the second, although the Scottish Parliament’s impartial information centre has estimated it at £1.2bn a year.
The White Paper may have left an impression that the policy would be self-financing.
It said of new women entering the workforce: “With independence the benefits of their work – in economic growth and tax revenues – will stay in Scotland, contributing to meeting the cost of this childcare provision.”
Ministers also said that if 100,000 more women entered the workforce as a result of better childcare, it would neatly raise £700m.
However the government now says extra taxes will make an unquantified “crucial contribution”, but are not guaranteed to cover the full cost.
Jo Armstrong, honorary professor of public policy at Glasgow University’s Adam Smith Business School, said if the policy was not self-funding it implied money would have to be diverted from other services to pay for it.
“It’s clearly an aspirational proposal.
“If this was a bill before parliament it would need a lot more analysis to show that the financing was indeed there to support it.”
A spokesman for education secretary Michael Russell said: “Labour and the Tories seem to believe that expanding free childcare won’t help women back into work. That is frankly bizarre.
“There are reams of research – not least from the OECD - that confirms what every mother already knows: the cost of childcare is a massive barrier to women returning to work.
“We know from recent labour market experience that the scale of change we want to see is deliverable. In the last year we have seen a rise in the number of women in work of over 3%.”