Why you should be cautious before betting on the next Scottish independence referendum

Why you should be cautious before betting on the next Scottish independence referendum

Don’t let the bookies get away Scot free.

Nota bene, for the purposes of this piece ‘wildcat referendum’ refers to a plebiscite held without a section 30 order.

With life starting to get back some sort of normality I expect the usual political issues to rear their collective and individual heads soon. Primus inter pares is likely to be Scottish independence where in May the Indyref2 movement secured a majority at Holyrood. This piece isn’t looking at the result of any future referendum but the terms of the bet.

Given the way Betfair spectacularly messed up the 2020 US Presidential election markets because of the ambiguity of their wording I was hoping they’d realise the problems they created for themselves and punters but alas no. As per the image at the top of this piece there’s no clarity about what happens if a section 30 less referendum takes place. Compare and contrast below with the market from Ladbrokes which makes it clear that both governments have to sanction another referendum.

Right now I wouldn’t trust Betfair to successfully organise a farting contest in a baked beans factory and the next indyref could be messy from a betting standpoint where your bet, because the rules are ambiguous and at the mercy of a trader or customer services, could be a winner with one bookie and a loser with another. For those who bet across several firms and exchanges this could turn an all green book into an all red book by a trader not understanding the market or even voiding the entire market.

It should be remembered that whilst Nicola Sturgeon has ruled out a wildcat indyref there are those in the SNP who openly want her to call a wildcat referendum. The crux of it is whether the referendum is lawful, many people, including this august website, have said a consultative referendum is lawful. So if it goes that way and your whole betting strategy has been based on a Conservative government not issuing a section 30 order this parliament then your whole strategy might be as brilliant as the French found the Maginot Line in May 1940.

Other bookies, for example the famously publicity shy Paddy Power, don’t even make reference to the referendum being legally authorised, see below.

There’s also the fact something I flagged up in April of this year some senior Conservatives are channelling the spirit of Wendy Alexander and want Boris Johnson to tell the SNP to bring it on in the hopes of the Unionist side winning the indyref in the next few years.

Lawyers who like betting on politics and have a keen interest in constitutional affairs may find the next few years will be like the prorogation dispute of 2019 but even more exciting and critical for the future of United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland thanks to Scottish independence.

But you have been warned, check those betting terms and conditions closely if you bet on this market. A consultative referendum will be argued is lawful for Betfair’s rules. Because if a referendum is seen as a wildcat referendum I can see that will impact turnout and the result if Unionist voters boycott the referendum which will impact the supplementary betting markets.


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