Scottish Independence Odds Split Amid SNP Chaos

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Scottish Independence Odds Split Amid SNP Chaos
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Betting sites have chosen to ignore the furore going on in the SNP since Nicola Sturgeon’s resignation this spring – but the decision not to shift their Scottish Independence Odds is not an indication that IndyRef II is around the corner.

UK bookmakers have for months set odds of roughly 50/50 on whether Scotland would vote Yes or No in a second independence referendum.

The odds reflect uncertainty with political betting sites over which way a vote would go, but also reveal there’s no expectation of another vote coming any time soon.

It means that the SNP’s odds of achieving its aim to break Scotland from the United Kingdom has not been affected by the departure of Nicola Sturgeon, or the appointment of Humza Yousaf as leader.

But nor has Yousaf’s premiership brought in a fresh wave of optimism around IndyRef II either. And it means bettors are left in limbo over exactly what to do here.

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Scottish Independence Odds

Betting apps were initially quick to shuffle their odds on IndyRef II after Sturgeon’s resignation in February.

Back in the autumn the SNP was talking up the possibility of a second referendum in 2023, having argued the 2022 Holyrood elections gave them a remit to put the question to the Scottish voters.

However, those ambitions were set back by a Supreme Court ruling that judged the Scottish Parliament doesn’t have the power to legislate for a referendum on Scottish independence. That would instead have to be granted by Westminster.

The odds on when a second Scottish independence referendum could take place duly flipped, from 14/5 in 2023 (a 26% likelihood) to a fresh price of 50/1 (2%).

Meanwhile, the odds of IndyRef II in 2024 have also ballooned to 20/1 (just a 4.8% likelihood).

Now, there was no expectation on Yousaf to immediately generate a poll boost in the wake of Sturgeon’s resignation. 

But unfortunately for the new leader, the opposite has happened. The party has been mired in scandal all spring. “In-fighting, plummeting poll ratings and a humiliating police investigation” have led to a big swing in the polls.

Right now No have a 10% lead over Yes, with support for independence dwindling. The arrests of SNP chief executive Peter Murrell and treasurer Colin Beattie haven’t helped the SNP’s cause, and distracted from Yousaf’s new reign.

It means a Yes result at the next independence referendum is now down to 11/10, a worse likelihood than the 5/6 price on a No outcome.

What Next For The SNP?

Looking at those odds, it would appear the SNP are in a good place to at least fight IndyRef II on a level footing. But the odds don’t stipulate when Scotland would vote again – and this means bookmakers cannot commit heavily to either outcome, as the market could run for years.

Therefore, the polls are currently the best indication of what could happen were a vote called today. And the 10-point lead for No is not an outlier. Indeed, all but one major poll since Sturgeon resigned favours Scotland remaining in the UK.

What Yousaf is now tasked with is delivering a fresh enthusiasm for a debate that went stale under Sturgeon. But the party is running out of time. 

There is a general election looming in the UK next year and voting intention for the SNP has fallen to 37%. That’s still ahead of Labour, but Sir Keir Starmer’s party could land more seats in Scotland next year, while the Greens have an uptick in backing too.

The SNP doesn’t just need to deliver on independence, but also provide alternatives to Labour and the Conservatives on everything from healthcare and transport, to public spending, welfare, and green policies.

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Will Scotland Vote For Independence?

The polls currently indicate No would win an independence vote and Scotland would remain part of the United Kingdom. But the bookies aren’t so sure.

As we explained above, the market is effectively dormant, waiting for something to poke it into life.

This 'something' could well be Yousaf if he can create a viable manifesto in time for the next UK election. The SNP has 48 seats in Westminster – a high water mark that is likely to fall. The extent of the fall will act as a barometer for the nationalists’ resolve for years to come.

And that’s because, after 2014, the pressure will be on to deliver better poll ratings and a referendum which, just like in 2014, will prove controversial both north and south of the border.

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