The Racing Card

<strong>The Bet</strong> - Scotland will be independent of the rest of the United Kingdom in 2007

Odds 3-1
(Source William Hill)

If, like me, you want to make up for all your losses on the Grand National, then why not visit a branch of William Hill and bet on the fact that Scotland won't be independent by 2008? The exact bet at 3-1 is that, by 31 December 2007, royal assent will have been given to a bill that bars Scots from standing for the Westminster parliament.

These are extraordinary odds when you consider that there has never even been an opinion poll that has backed independence for Scotland. I would make it more like 100-1. The Scots may be prepared to vote for the SNP in elections, but there is no evidence that they would vote for independence. The SNP also knows that: hence, in the elections to the Scottish Parliament, it had "independence" as tenth in its list of pledges. It is also why Labour ran a ruthless campaign claiming that the SNP wanted a "divorce" from the Union and made it clear what the price of "divorce" would be. For example, Scotland would no longer benefit from billions of pounds of subsidy from Westminster. The Scots are too canny to give that up.

It may be that the bookies have been taken in by the latest opinion poll for the Glasgow Herald. This showed that, for the first time since the Scottish election, the SNP was ahead of Labour in voting intentions for the Scottish Parliament. In fact, they were ahead before the last election, only to suffer a humiliating defeat when the issues were put before the electorate. The same poll had Labour at 40 per cent and the SNP at 29 per cent on voting intentions for Westminster - hardly a thumbs up for independence.

There is more chance of the Inland Revenue allowing the bookies to operate offshore as a tax dodge than there is of Scots ever voting for independence.

This article first appeared in the 17 April 2000 issue of the New Statesman, The New Statesman Essay - The rise of the ergonarchy