‘You can take our lives, but you’ll never take our countless bad Mel Gibson impressions’.
Scotland and England – the old frenemies. Constantly at loggerheads and happy to take the piss out of each other, but always united – like an old couple constantly joking about dropping some arsenic in the other person’s Bovril, yet never actually breaking away.
The Scottish Independence Referendum is a familiar yet fascinating narrative. On one side, you’ve the Scottish nationalists – coming across like a downtrodden young wife who’s been talking to strangers on the internet who’ve given her the confidence to rebel and stand on her own two feet.
On the other, England/the Union playing the role of Sugar Daddy warning her that she can have her freedom, but he’ll turn off the tap and before too long she’ll be destitute, gyrating around a pole for the titillation of Angela Merkel to make ends meet. Ya know – a lot like Ireland.
Somewhere in-between those opposites we have the truth – Scotland and the Union are co-dependent – the majority beneficiary of the co-dependency depending entirely on the level of your nationalistic fervor or pro-union
When the ink dried on the Edinburgh Agreement in mid October 2012 and the Scottish Independence Betting opened, it was 9/4 that Scotland would say goodbye to the UK and 1/3 they’d ultimately decide they preferred the devil they knew. Since then, the odds have remained fairly static, with the odds gently swaying towards the No campaign.
They tell a story, but it’s something of a dull story with not much happening – like pretty much every episode of Hamish Macbeth. The No to independence side of the debate has had a seemingly commanding lead with the Yes side making a brave, but most likely future attempt at an unlikely success – a story familiar to anyone who has watched the Scottish football team for the last couple of decades.
Although it’s not captured on the above graph:
- The biggest price for a Yes vote was 5/1 (in Nov. 2013 & Jul/Aug. 2014)
- The shortest price for a Yes vote was 15/8 (in April 2013)
- The shortest odds for a No to Independence vote was 1/9 (in Nov. 2013)
For much of 2013, the story was that of the phoney war. Both sides fired speculative potshots at each other, but the sense of lethargy and lack of urgency about the campaigns saw the prices remain largely the same – the Yes side was considered about a 5/2 chance, with the No’s hovering around the 1/4 mark.
In the second half of the year as the ’12 months to go’ siren sounded, the No’s seemed to be executing a creeping chokehold on the referendum. They edged in to around 1/7 for victory, with the wantaways getting into slightly speculative territory at around odds of 4/1.
Early in 2014 we had some seemingly major developments that didn’t impact the odds as much as had initially been expected. The European Union told the nation that a newly independent Scotland would not automatically be accepted into the organisation – news that was roundly greeted with a ‘is that supposed to be a good thing or a bad thing?’ As the the Eurozone heads once more towards recession, we’re still not sure.
Pro-union side then warned the nationalists that an independent Scotland wouldn’t necessarily have the right to use the pound as their currency of choice. Despite being a key component of the debate, it was dismissed as scaremongering by the Yes side, particularly when Alistair Darling suggested the Scots may have to resort to Disney Dollars and swapping spare World Cup 2014 Panini stickers in order engage in international trade. This may not have happened.
Using the attention garnered by the sycophantic response to his last album, David Bowie tried to sway things by using Kate Moss as a proxy for his ‘Scotland, stay with us’ message during his/her slightly mental Brit Awards speech. We look forward to next year’s ceremony when Abs from 5ive tells us why the Donbass region shouldn’t secede from Ukraine.
Then in March, Sean Connery – a man who cherishes Scotland so much that he has lived away from it for much of the last decade – tried to give the Yes campaign a shot in the arm by declaring:
As a Scot and as someone with a lifelong love for both Scotland and the arts, I believe the opportunity of independence is too good to miss
In terms of betting, it was about as convincing as his ‘Russian’ accent in The Hunt For Red October with the odds remaining untouched.
But as the ballot rolls around and the Better Together team realise they’ve been a little complacent about their scare-mongering and the gap isn’t as vast as previous polls had suggested, the odds have gone from ‘forgone conclusion’ to ‘hmmm … this is now a contest’. The ‘Don’t Knows’ seem to be looking south and deciding Scotland’s future would be better served by establishing a less formal relationship with a nation that has brought us such cultural delights as Shakespeare, Geordie Shore and Joey Essex.
Alex Salmond’s ability to respond to questions with vague answers more authoritatively than Alistair Darling gave him a widely-accepted victory over the two legs of their August debate, but that didn’t take an immediate impact on the betting. Since then however, the impact has been captured by the polls and the odds have come closer together as a result. A critical moment came on Sunday September 7 when a YouGov poll gave the Yes side a lead for the first time since the referendum was announced – putting them on 51% to the 49% of the pro-union side.
We’re now looking at 3/1 for a Yes vote, 1/4 for a No – based on latest polls which contradicted other recent polls and suggested the Yes side wasn’t in fact now leading the way. It still looks poised on a knife edge so it would be brave to rule out Scotland going it alone just yet.