On the one hand, there’s this, from Michael Kelly in the Scotsman on Thursday:
“Fatal errors made by Alex Salmond this year have ruined his chances of a 2014 referendum victory. The year of reversal for the cause of independence – that’s how 2012 will be recorded in footnotes to the political history of the United Kingdom.
The SNP tries to convince us that the new Scotland will be the same, only better – dependent independence. That is the fatal flaw, the fundamental inconsistency that has ensured the failure of the SNP’s only real policy. Fat ladies don’t sing in tragedies, but the chorus has begun to lament the fall of the hero. It’s all over bar the shouting.”
And on the other, there’s this, from PoliticalBetting.com in mid-February 2011:
“Unless all opinion polls are utterly wrong in Scotland, Labour will be comfortably the largest party in the Scottish Parliament post-May 5th. Labour should either win outright or come fairly close. Iain Gray will probably form a new Scottish Government. His decision is likely to be whether to go it alone or to invite the remaining Scottish Lib Dems to join him.”
Aside from comedy idiots like Kelly, though, a great many more sober commentators have also been proclaiming 2012 as a terrible year of catastrophe for the Yes campaign – by which they usually explicitly or implicitly mean its chief protagonists, the SNP. Yet for all the disasters which they allege have befallen the independence movement – the great patriotic celebrations of the Jubilee and Olympics, the supposed unravelling of SNP policy on Europe, the dogged personal smearing of Alex Salmond and his cabinet – what’s actually happened to the polling figures for independence?
The most recent survey, by Panelbase in late October, put the numbers at 37% Yes to 45% No. (Rising dramatically to 52% Yes and 40% No if people thought the Tories would win the 2015 UK election.) How does that 37% stat compare to the start of the year? It’s down all of 1% on the Ipsos-MORI poll from January which was the first one to ask the Scottish Government’s proposed referendum question.
But there’s more. Comparing those same two polls sees the No figure drop too, but by 5% – from 50% to 45%. The events of 2012, then, have seen five times as many prospective No voters reconsider their position as Yes voters, and the gap the Yes side has to make up shrink, during these allegedly-disastrous 12 months, from 12% to 8%. If that’s a bad year for the YesScotland team, we suspect they’ll take it.
Oh, and one other thing. Just four days after that post on PoliticalBetting.com, Ladbrokes slashed the odds on the SNP to win the Holyrood election. They’d been a rank outsider at 11/2, with Labour colossal favourites at a mindboggling 1/12. Even after the change, the firm was still offering a tasty 5/2 on the Nats, with Labour remaining hot front runners at 1/5 – a price barely worth the effort of logging onto a website for, never mind walking down to your local betting shop.
Today, Ladbrokes will give you the very same odds on a Yes vote – 5/2 – but with No at a far more generous 2/7. In other words, they’re considerably less confident of a No vote than they were of Iain Gray becoming First Minister. Just over three years ago, the same bookmaker rated the chances of independence by 2015 at 20/1. We’ll let you plot the graphs for yourselves.