Tuesday, 9 September 2014

The Scottish Vote

Don't bet on Scotland voting 'Yes'

Trust the bookies on the referendum outcome, not the polls

I would put money on Scotland voting 'No' on September 18th, on whether it wants to become independent from the United Kingdom. No, seriously. Literally. Indeed, having popped in to my local betting shop, I just have.

When it first emerged on Saturday evening that a YouGov poll had put the 'Yes' camp ahead for the first time, I decided to pay a visit to my local bookmaker, Coral. They were offering odds of 5/2 for a 'Yes' vote and 2/7 for 'No'. Although this has since narrowed to 7/4 and 2/5 today, the safer money is still on Scotland voting No. Other betting outlets give similar odds.

Yet a TNS poll today puts voting intentions at 50-50. What explains such a disparity? It's because people are honest when they put their money when their mouth is. There is no bias or prejudice when establishing odds at bookmaker's; being market-based, they purely reflect betting trends.

When it comes to presenting your political views in the public realm, people are prone to posturing and grandstanding. Witness the dreadful, dreary behaviour of audience members of BBC TV's Question Time, with their preditable diatribes against 'The Tories' or 'the bankers' - the stuff of Student Union meetings. Or suffer a dinner party in North London. Or see how much that Twitter user 'hearts' the NHS or simulates empathy for gays and lesbians on Russia. In public, people are more likely to assume a more anti-establishment, radical pose in order to ingratiate themselves with others - or get laid.

So what explains the spike in the polls? There has rightfully been much anger in Scotland about 'No' campaign's threatening and patronising conduct of recent. Add to this Alex Salmond upping the convincing rhetoric on the fiction that Westminster wants to privatise the NHS - a body that's been under Holyrood control since 1999 and is answerable only to it. But where there's anger, much of it is directed to the 'No' campaign as it is to Westminster, with 'Better Together' posters being defaced and campaigners assaulted. There's a swagger about the 'Yes' campaign which is mirrored by its showing in the polls.

Yet the Unionist parties needn't panic and devolve more power to Scotland at the 11th hour in the hope that it will placate waverers. To the Scots this looks like bribery; to many English it's nothing short of Danegeld.

Unionists should remain on their guard and campaign with force in the next nine days - but lose the bully-boy tactics and the needy love-bombing. Be passionate, rational and clear-minded in defence of this great institution, which we can all reform together.  The odds are good. 
                                                                                                                          Patrick West

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