Scottish Leaders Debate spurs Tory moron squad into action

There’s a leaders debate going on in Scotland tonight, and it’s had assorted Tories rubbing their hands together with glee as it gives them a chance to talk about an unholy alliance between the SNP and Labour (which no one except them actually gives a shot about) It’s both amusing and intensely annoying at the same time. The official Tory Party Twitter account has been busy retweeting some absolute garbage for the last couple of hours. I imagine this was Grant Shapps as the debate started:

Here is some of what they came up with in answer to the conch:

Obviously didn’t get the memo. It’s hardworking, not ordinary working…

Of course they will. You represent one of the safest Tory seats in the country…

This guy is a Minister, not a character from a Jeeves and Wooster novel honestly…

Mainly on wealthy Tories to be fair…

They were roundly laughed at when they made this claim last week. Good on Mr Lewis for sticking to his guns though…

Well the clue is in the name really – Scottish National Party…

Bankrupt? Really?

“An inversion of economics” would be a pretty apt epitaph for the last 5 years…

Most people the SNP would like to see you win though Nick. Ever wondered why that is?

That’s what redistribution means dumb dumb…

That’s enough, you get the idea. There is not much sign that this strategy is shifting the polls in the Tories’ favour, but they keep plugging away bless them.

Latest Scottish seat predictions

I’ve just had a look at the latest betting for constituencies in Scotland. I last looked at this on 1st January, and since then, things have changed quite a lot – in a bad way for Labour and a good way for the SNP. Here then are my latest predictions based on the current odds, against what I predicted previously:

Current seats Jan 1st   Predictions Feb 27th Predictions
SNP     6       25       29
Labour    41       29       23
Lib Dem    11        4        6
Tory     1        1        1

There’s been a general tightening in the odds with prices on Labour drifting and SNP falling. Not sure whether that’s because people are putting money down, or caution from the bookies. I’m working on the assumption that the SNP’s poll lead will fall between now and May. Whether this is a good assumption or not, we’ll have to wait and see. Only 69 days to go!

If the bookies are right, how many seats would each party win in Scotland in May?

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.

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Screenshot 2014-12-31 at 9.47.55 PM
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Based on the bookies’ current odds, in this next table I’ve indicated what this looks like in terms of number of seats won.

Screenshot 2014-12-31 at 10.06.33 PM

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:

Labour: 21-36

SNP: 19-32

Lib Dem: 1-3

Tory: 1-2

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.

Wading through the fog of the Scottish referendum debate

I can’t claim to have a particularly strong view either way over Scottish independence. If I lived in Scotland, I’d probably vote yes, and then pray the SNP saw sense before independence actually became official. I feel for those in Scotland who remain undecided though. They are being bombarded with bullshit from all angles. It’s clear virtually all of the media and political class are desperate for a No vote, and are coming up with ever more apocalyptic arguments to try and persuade Scots of the consequences of a Yes vote. Recent polling suggests that if anything, their efforts have resulted in a slight tightening of the polls, so they may be as well to just shut up. As for the Yes side, it seems obvious, they are not actually prepared for what comes next if Scotland does vote Yes, and some of their stated positions particularly their desire to keep the pound in an independent Scotland would worry me if I lived north of the border. 

In this febrile atmosphere then, it’s very difficult to get objective information about the consequences of Scottish independence. On the No side we just hear blatant scaremongering, and from the Yes side quite vague promises about what an independent Scotland would look like. With that in mind, here are a few links I have found interesting in recent weeks mainly focusing on economic aspects of Scottish Independence. I post these mainly because I judge the sources to be objective in the sense that they don’t have any skin in the game, although they are obviously not value-free.

First, this post from the Southampton University politics blog written by someone familiar with independence referendums in Quebec, Canada:

What can the 1995 Quebec referendum tell us about the Scottish referendum?

This recent post by Australian economist Bill Mitchell explains why – given the SNP’s plan for the currency – he would vote No if he were a Scot:

I would be voting NO in Scotland but with a lot of anger

Another economist Paul Krugman gives his own view in a column in the New York Times earlier this week:

Scots, What the Heck?

And finally, Neil Wilson has written a series of posts on his 3Spoken blog trying to dispel some of the (what he calls) myths of the Scottish Independence debate:

How to buy imports?

The currency board

The national debt