There have been a lot of stories recently about opinion polls north of the border showing a huge surge in SNP support at the expense of Labour. This article in the Guardian last week is a good example, which predicted that the SNP could win up to 45 of the 59 Scottish seats next May. With this in mind, I thought it would be interesting to see whether the bookies (and their punters) agreed with these dire (for Labour) predictions. Ladbrokes currently have odds up for every Westminster contest, and I’ve reproduced the odds for each Scottish seat below (click on each image to enlarge). I’ve only displayed the odds for the parties Ladbrokes currently have 1st and second in each race. Odds are correct as of 31st December. As you can see, the current odds don’t reflect the polls.
Based on the bookies’ current odds, in this next table I’ve indicated what this looks like in terms of number of seats won.
The headline numbers don’t look too bad for Labour. They have 40 seats at the moment and remain favourites to win in 33 of those in May. They current odds suggest they will lose just 7 seats to the SNP, who in turn will all but wipe out the Lib Dems, leaving them with just 3 seats, while the Tories retain their only Scottish seat. In a further 3 seats, Ladbrokes have the SNP tied with Labour.
A closer look at the odds though should give Labour less cause for complacency however. I have called a result ‘likely’ if the current odds are 1/2 or shorter. This is the case for all of the SNPs current 6 seats, but also 7 more (including interestingly, Danny Alexander’s). For Labour however, this is true of only 21 of the 40 seats they currently hold. The other 12 in which they are favourites are still very much up for grabs according to Ladbrokes, and they have all become Labour/SNP marginals. The Lib Dems meanwhile can only be confident of winning 2 of their 11 Scottish seats.
The third line on the number of seats table shows those seats Ladbrokes feel are ‘slam dunks’. I’ve called a seat a slam dunk if the current odds are 1/10 or shorter. There are only 7 Scottish seats in this category, 6 for the SNP and one for the Lib Dems. Labour currently have no slam dunk seats, which must be a cause for concern. It will mean they will have to spend a lot more money in Scotland on campaigning than they are used to.
Based on the above then, here are some prediction bands for the number of seats each party could win:
Lib Dem: 1-3
These are only the current odds of course, and they will undoubtedly change before election day. So will the polls though. The SNP are doing fantastically well in the polls are the moment, but surely they will narrow somewhat between now and May? It seems fairly set in stone now that the Lib Dems will be almost wiped out in Scotland in May, while for Labour, it could still go either way.
UPDATE: On reflection, I think I’ve been a bit harsh on the Lib Dems here. They have a chance of winning up to 7 seats in May on current odds, so they do have a chance of avoiding a wipeout.