Archive for the 'Scotland' Category


It appears Brexit and the handling of Covid-19 by the Scottish & Westminster governments is pushing Scotland inexorably towards independence

Sunday, July 5th, 2020

In today’s Sunday Times we see another poll that’s great for the SNP and supporters of Scottish independence, I was struck by Professor Sir John Curtice’s analysis in the Sunday Times

Although Scotland has had among the world’s highest proportion of Covid-related fatalities, based on excess deaths, Sturgeon has an approval rating of plus 60 for her handling of the crisis — measuring the difference between those who think she has done a good or a bad job. By contrast, Johnson’s rating in Scotland is minus 39.

Curtice believes that perceptions of Sturgeon’s handling of the crisis, added to Scottish opposition to Brexit, has tipped the balance in favour of independence, but he points out that the stance on the Scottish question by Keir Starmer, the new Labour leader, could be hurting his party.

Starmer is against independence and a second referendum, and the poll shows that nearly half of those who voted Labour last year now back independence.

Curtice said: “Never before have the foundations of public support for the Union looked so weak. Unsurprisingly, for many nationalists, the past three months have exemplified how Scotland could govern itself better as an independent, small country. More importantly, it may have persuaded some former unionists of the merits of that claim, too.”

I suspect if we’re headed with no agreement with the EU by the end of the year, then that will only accelerate support for Scottish independence, the question is does Boris Johnson and the Conservative & Unionist Party care? Given the way they threw the DUP under the bus and put a border down the Irish Sea, I’d hate to be a Unionist, particularly in Scotland. Brexiteers were warned that voting for Leave would risk the Union but it was clear they didn’t care.

I fear Boris Johnson’s strategy will be to ignore Scotland’s desire for a new referendum which only end up increasing support for Scottish independence, ignoring Scotland’s desire for a fresh referendum would be akin to Brexit being blocked by the EU because on the 23rd of June 2016 there was an EU wide referendum stopping Brexit, both would be an affront to democracy.

Just a few of things to note before people write off the Union, we’ve not had a non Panelbase Scottish independence polling since February, and no phone poll since 2019, this could be a house effect or it might not, until we’ve polling from other pollsters then we cannot definitively say.

Secondly back in 2013 a year before the referendum Panelbase had Yes ahead then Alex Salmond and the Yes campaign squandered that lead, it may happen again.

Finally we’re at minimum at least two years away from any future referendum, things can change in either direction, perceptions on handling of Covid-19 may change and the reality could be substantially different.

As for betting on the next referendum I’m urging caution, with SNP MPs openly talking about a section 30 less referendum, the wording of the terms of bets may not pay out, we’d need further clarification from the bookmakers on this, something that I will ask them about this week.



Two thirds of those polled back the key English lockdown easing measure due on Monday

Friday, May 29th, 2020

But Scotland is seen as handling the pandemic better than England

Mike Smithson


Holyrood 2021: The election that could kill the Union stone dead?

Sunday, May 10th, 2020
Holyrood 2021 election voting intention polls, constituency section

I’m genuinely looking forward to next year’s Holyrood election, 2011 and 2016 were really profitable elections thanks to Iain Grey’s dire ratings indicating a shellacking for Labour and in 2016 you could get 8/1 on the day of the election on the SNP not obtaining a majority, sometimes betting from distance gives a great perspective.

On the political front this might be the most important election this decade, if the the SNP win a majority then it reinforces their mandate for another Scottish independence referendum and if Boris Johnson rejects this democratic mandate then I’d expect a major constitutional crisis which is always exciting and gives us plenty to bet upon.

Looking at the polling figures at the top we can see the SNP are in a commanding position with 30% leads in the constituency section and something similar in list section, which frankly given the SNP have been in continually in power since 2007 is astonishing, this is the sort of time governing parties become really unpopular. Some of it might be down to surge the government parties are getting during this pandemic but prior to the pandemic the the SNP vote share and lead was impressive.

So what betting strategy should we follow? Ladbrokes have a range of markets up,

If I had to choose I think I’d back the SNP winning a majority at 5/6, this mostly down to insipid leadership of the Unionist parties. As a fan of Ruth Davidson she wasn’t afraid of socking it to the SNP in a way others weren’t which explained the relatively impressive Tory results in 2015 and 2016, from what I’ve seen of Jackson Carslaw, he’s not as good as Ruth Davidson.

I suspect the only thing that might stop the SNP winning a majority is the SNP as we’ve see in the response to the recent intervention from Joanne Cherry.

If you’re not sure about my tip I think with interest rates on savings accounts at 0.01% you might want to back the SNP winning the most seats at 1/10.



Ladbrokes make Sturgeon going his year an 11/10 bet

Monday, February 24th, 2020

Are we heading for an SNP leadership contest?

With rumours swelling that Scotland’s First Minister is to resign, the bookies make Sturgeon 11/10 to have left her post before the end of 2020, however it is odds-on at 4/6 she is still in charge.

Sturgeon’s problem is that her party is very much divided and next year Scotland goes to the polls to elect a new Scottish Parliament when issues such as how the SNP has run the country for a decade will be put to an electoral test. The Telegraph is reporting that the storm clouds are hovering over the First Minister.

As and when Sturgeon does depart, it’s Angus Robertson who is the 4/1 to replace her as FM, or there’s 6/1 on offer for John Swinney (6/1) and Kate Forbes (6/1). 

Ladbrokes latest betting Next Scottish First Minister

  • Angus Robertson 4/1
  • John Swinney 6/1
  • Kate Forbes 6/1
  • Joanna Cherry 10/1
  • Humza Yousaf 12/1
  • Keith Brown 12/1
  • Richard Leonard 16/1
  • 20/1 bar

Mike Smithson


Memo to Sir Keir Starmer: Unless LAB can start winning MPs in Scotland again the chances of you becoming PM are slim

Friday, February 21st, 2020

Your first big electoral test looks set to be the Scottish Assembly elections next year in a part of the UK where for decades your party was totally dominant. Recovering some of the ground lost there to the SNP might be an indicator that a general election victory could be in reach.

The charts above from the Commons Library analysis of the last general election set out in stark terms how Scotland’s Westminster MP party distribution changed dramatically less than five years ago. Labour went into GE2015 defending 41 of the 59 Scottish seas and ended up, like at GE2019,with a single MP.

So from a situation where LAB getting two thirds of Scotland’s MPs was almost a forgone conclusion you start from a base north of the border at the next general election as the fourth largest party. And without that hefty block of Scottish LAB MPs what will soon be your party has to make many more gains in England and Wales.

All this changed, of course, in the aftermath of the September 2014 Scottish IndyRef. Although the vote was to remain within the UK the referendum set off a dramatic rise in the SNP which in May 2015 won all but three Scottish seats.

The overall picture is very daunting for LAB. In September 2015 when Corbyn became leader he declared that Scotland was his first priority. Assuming you become leader you need to do the same but unlike Corbyn you need to make a success of it.

Mike Smithson


Trouble over bridged waters. Boris Johnson’s plan to link Scotland and Northern Ireland

Wednesday, February 12th, 2020

While love can build a bridge, it’s far from clear that Boris Johnson can.  He planned one across the Thames, but that was scrapped.  Then he mooted one across the English Channel, to be shot down quickly.  Now he is shelling out public money to investigate the possibility of a bridge across the North Channel between Larne (half an hour from Belfast) and Portpatrick (50 lightyears from anywhere).  Is it going to be third time a charm for Boris Johnson?

The omens are not good.  The first reputed attempt to build a link from Northern Ireland to Scotland ended in its destruction after Finn McCool found that he had bitten off more than he could chew.  If giants should come to grief on such a project, what chance for mere mortals?

It’s not as though there is a compelling economic need.  It won’t by itself shorten the time to get even from Belfast to Glasgow and any infrastructure projects to address that would drastically increase the cost.  Most people would carry on catching the plane to Glasgow or London or wherever. For those who must drive, there are perfectly good ferry services.

At a mooted cost of £20 billion for the bridge, there would probably be more economic benefit giving each inhabitant of Northern Ireland and Galloway a lump sum of £10,000.  You’d have change left over too.

Perhaps the intention is not economic but to build a physical connection between Britain and Ireland that the Northern Irish can feel.  Boris Johnson wouldn’t be the first. Though he would not appreciate the comparison, Russia recently built a bridge across the Strait of Kerch to connect Crimea to Russia and the physical link to the conquered territory is certainly part of Russia’s motivation.  With Scotland continuing to flirt with independence, however, even this rationale looks to have shaky foundations.

I’m not an engineer so I’m not going to do more than list the apparently formidable difficulties of building such a bridge.  The lousy weather, the currents, the width of the channel, the need to have a bridge of sufficient height to allow shipping to pass under it, all these are normal considerations.  Abnormal considerations include the unusual depth of the channel and the fact that it has been used as a dumping ground for very large quantities of explosives and nuclear waste. To a non-expert, it sounds a daunting undertaking.

All of which leads me to the conclusion that this project simply isn’t going to happen.  So why is the government talking about it? The problem resembles that confronting Sherlock Holmes in the Speckled Band.  If a bell-cord does not ring a bell, it is just a rope. Similarly, if a feasibility study into a bridge is not going to result in a bridge, it is just an announcement.  Its purpose is simple: the government wants us to talk about it.

It serves two purposes.  First, the public can only talk about so many stories at any given time.  If they’re talking about bridges or trains, or even the Coronavirus, they’re not talking about Brexit.  The government wants to move the conversation on from the last few years. You can understand why. Construction projects are perfect for this, because everyone has views on the idea and the ideas behind them are easy to grasp.

In some ways the ridiculousness of the proposal actually assists in this aim, as all the many drawbacks are talking points.  Would the IRA seek to blow up the bridge by depth-charging the munitions dump? Would the disturbance caused by the bridge’s foundations lead to Dublin Bay prawns becoming radioactive?  All grist to the mill for those wanting to get the country talking about new things.

The second purpose is less noble.  The government’s entire election prospectus was built around getting Brexit done.  Its current claim is that it has done so (implausibly, given that the dismal grind of negotiating the ongoing relationship with the EU is going to consume this year, but let’s leave that to one side).  That leaves a vacuum at the heart of government, a vacuum that could last for five years. That needs to be filled with an impression of energy. The government is deep in debt, so eye-catching initiatives are going to have to be cheap in the main.  That means announcements rather than action.  

Announcements of infrastructure work well on this front too.  No one expects them to be fulfilled in the short term. In the meantime, they can imagine how the bridge would glitter, span the miles majestically and stretch like a silver thread out into the invisible mist.  It doesn’t have to be built to be politically effective as other populist heads of government long ago worked out. Donald Trump’s wall has served him well. Silvio Berlusconi twice announced building a bridge between Sicily and the tip of Italy.  In this context, being all fart and no follow-through is entirely harmless, even beneficial.

Expect more of this stuff.  The government needs to give an impression of energy.  That impression doesn’t need to be borne out by action.  Judging by Boris Johnson’s track record, it won’t be.

Alastair Meeks


The SNP’s Brexit conundrum

Wednesday, January 29th, 2020

Drink, says the Porter in the ‘Scottish Play’, is an equivocator with lechery: “it provokes the desire, but it takes away the performance…. it sets him on, and it takes him off; it persuades him, and disheartens him”.  So it may prove with Brexit and Scottish Independence.

Nicola Sturgeon loses no opportunity to remind Scots that Brexit is taking them out of the EU ‘against their will’, citing this as justification for holding another independence referendum so soon after the last one.

It’s a good political argument, as far as the provocation of desire is concerned; Brexit does indeed seem to be acting as a lever prising Scottish self-identity further away from the Union.  For now, Boris Johnson has ruled out authorising another independence referendum, but that does not look sustainable for very long; no doubt it will be another of his promises which he can’t keep

You can expect Brexit to continue to figure very strongly in the SNP’s case both for another referendum, and for a Yes vote when they eventually hold one. Yet the objective effect of Brexit will be to make Scottish independence much more difficult than was envisaged when Scots voted in the 2014 referendum.  The Scottish government at the time claimed that Scotland could ‘remain in the EU’ and that therefore there would be very little disruption to trade not only with the Continent, but much more importantly with the rest of the UK. 

Of course there was a lot of hand-waving here: it was never clear how the transition from being part of the UK to becoming a member state of the EU was going to happen, and the then EU President Jose Barroso emphasised how difficult it would be, requiring a full accession process and the formal consent of all member states. This is disputed by some experts, but, whatever the exact legal position, the SNP’s broad point was surely correct: it was inconceivable that Scotland would be excluded from the EU for very long, and in practice some transitional mechanism would have been agreed to avoid disruption to trade and the economy.

EU membership is not only central to the emotional and identity-based case for Scottish independence, in 2014 it was central to the economic case.  There would have been no need for a ‘hard border’ between Scotland and the rest of the UK; closely-integrated trading relationships across the border, accounting for 60% of Scottish external trade (the EU accounts for just 18%), would have continued undisturbed.

Not any more.  Although the Scottish border thankfully doesn’t have the violent history of the Irish border, in other respects the same problems of creating an external EU border within the British Isles, as would happen if Scotland left the UK and then joined the EU, would apply.  Brexit makes Scottish independence more difficult, and more economically damaging, with the damage being more severe the more the UK detaches from the Single Market.  The SNP’s siding with Corbyn and the ERG to torpedo Theresa May’s softish Brexit, which would have produced a much more frictionless border than Boris Johnson is aiming at, looks short-sighted. 

Further, the political argument that Scotland would be ‘remaining’ in the EU can no longer be deployed.  There will be no status quo of Scotland being part of the EU, with the UK’s opt-outs, to build from.  That in turn makes accession to the EU more problematic: adopting the Euro, and perhaps even joining Schengen, would be harder to resist.

To make things worse, the North Sea oilfields, once seen as the primary economic opportunity of independence, now look much less attractive, with the oil price much lower and climate change concerns mounting.  The SNP’s economic case, already thin in 2014, has been severely damaged by all these ‘changes in circumstances’. Enough to scare Scottish voters off independence in a second referendum?  Maybe not; we should know by now that identity politics often trumps economics, and perhaps Brexit will, as many believe, lead to Scotland breaking up the Union, in an act of self-harm ironically similar to Brexit.  But it doesn’t look a slam dunk: desire may have been boosted by Brexit, but performance would be even more difficult than looked to be the case in 2014.  Project Fear v2 will have plenty of material to work with.

Richard Nabavi


Can the Scottish Tories without Ruth Davidson hold onto most or all of their 13 MPs?

Saturday, December 7th, 2019

At a pinch this might impact on Johnson’s majority hopes

Two and a half years ago the Tory star was then Scottish leader Ruth Davidson who saw her party north of the border make 12 gains to add to their previous single seat in Scotland. She was widely hailed as the future of the party and, even though not an MP, rose sharpy in the next Westminster leader betting.

There was little doubt that it was Davidson who saved TMay’s bacon.

This coming  Thursday those seats will have to be defended but there is no Davidson around any more. She stepped aside at the end of August citing family reasons and her conflict over Brexit.

The big question, and this could just impact on whether the Tories get their overall majority, is how many of those gains of GE2017 will remain.

The polling suggest that the Scottish Tories are holding onto their vote shares from last time but the gap behind the SNP has increased. This is largely as a result of the further collapse of Scottish LAB. In the seats being defended, though, LAB was largely irrelevant.

It could be that the Scottish Tory contingent is returned largely intact. Whatever there are a lot of fierce fights taking place.

One thing that might help is that the SNP seems to be making Jo Swinson’s East Dunbartonshire their main target.

Mike Smithson