David Herdson looks at what happens next if it’s a Yes?

David Herdson looks at what happens next if it’s a Yes?

Scotland GE Map

Should we be looking at the best bets?

The best odds on Yes winning the Scottish referendum a week on Thursday are 11/4 with bookies, or 3.3/1 on Betfair.  Considering that not a single poll has shown Yes ahead and precious few have shown that side within touching distance, those offerings don’t look particularly attractive.  A Yes, however, would be far from the end of the process: there would be consequences for all the parties, their leaders and the 2015 election.

Would Cameron go?

Some have speculated that if the Scots vote Yes, the PM should resign on the grounds that it’s an epic failure for a Unionist to lose a substantial portion of the country on his watch.  Alternatively, that such a defeat would trigger a no confidence vote in his leadership from a party rarely slow to wield the knife.  I disagree on both grounds: I don’t think Cameron would see a campaign he’s rarely been actively involved in as a personal failure and his party would take a similar view.  If you do buy the scenario, the Next PM market is the obvious place to look.  With Hague (50/1) planning to stand down at the election, the likely pre-election successor would be Hammond (33/1, Coral), or May (16/1).  Osborne (25/1, PP) might have done well at the Treasury but he’s still not a front man for an election campaign.  Ladbrokes’ 16/1 for Cameron to leave Downing St during 2014 is an alternative reasonably-priced possibility.

How would it affect 2015?

If Scotland does vote Yes, expect an SNP landslide there in 2015.  (Ignore comments that the election should be deferred or that Scots should play some lesser part, if any at all: such legislation would be seen as manifestly unfair unless there were some significant prompt to think otherwise, and only then might a bill be attempted).  Alex Salmond’s party won over 70% of the constituency seats at the 2011 Holyrood election and something similar could be expected.  That alone would have a significant impact on the result as most of the gains would be from Labour.  A secondary effect of such a result would be to even out the bias in the system: combinations like Con most seats / Lab most votes (66/1, Ladbrokes), which are almost impossible at the moment would come into play.

How England and Wales might react to separation would depend to some extent on how tough a stance the Scottish negotiators take.  Parties with leaders not viewed as weak might be expected to benefit.  However, no Westminster party is polling well at the moment and a slap in the face to London from Scotland could easily prompt voters to deliver a similar verdict, with an increase for UKIP, the Greens and possibly others too.  Bearing in mind the effect of the debates in 2010 and the Farage’s enhanced chance of inclusion should his party win the Clacton election, Ladbrokes’ 20/1 against UKIP securing 20-25% would suddenly become a lot more attractive.

Two outsiders

Following on from the suggestion that UKIP might be a beneficiary of a Yes vote, back in January, I sketched out a somewhat tongue-in-cheek scenario as to how Farage might end up as the next PM.  It’s not impossible and he remains 80/1 with PP: those aren’t silly odds.  Finally, if the nationalist tide sweeps to the other end of the country, Ladbrokes are offering 100/1 on Mebyon Kernow winning a seat in 2015.  Again, it’s unlikely but not a stupid bet at those odds.  Should UKIP suffer a serious embarrassment between now and the election, and with the Lib Dems and Tories not winning gold stars for popularity in government, MK offer an alternative.

A final word

All these observations are predicated on a Scottish Yes.  I don’t actually expect that to be the outcome – the current odds on the Betfair exchange of 9/2 7/2 look about right to me – but it’s wise to be prepared if it is.  Such a result would be an earthquake to the political system and things (including odds) might change rapidly thereafter.

David Herdson

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