Holyrood 2016: Place your bets…

@cstreetpartners

Holyrood 2016: Place your bets…

A couple of weeks ago I had something of a surreal moment in the foyer of the Edinburgh International Conference Centre. On my right was a little group of kilted men holding crumpled saltires. On my left a woman cried. We were at the launch of the SNP manifesto - her ticket was invalid. She wouldn’t be seeing Nicola take the stage after all. Through her tears she loudly renounced her passionate adoration of the party and stormed out of the building.

It was terrific. These were people who really cared. A stark contrast to the world outside, where Ruth Davidson sitting astride a buffalo has been widely hailed the zenith of this ditchwater dull election.

But perhaps that’s a little unfair. Yes the SNP will almost certainly win -although it should be noted they need 65 seats to form a majority - and yes Nicola Sturgeon will continue as First Minister. Yet, the possibility that we could be on the brink of a Conservative opposition in Scotland - a country where the four letter word, ‘Tory’, still evokes paroxysms of rage - gives this election a degree of excitement.

And after all the fun that was had during ‘Indy ref 1’, could we be facing another one shortly? Quite possibly, particularly if those across the border vote Brexit.

But what do I know? Remarkably little actually. So I asked the giants of the Scottish political commentariat to give me their views.

Alex Massie: Scotland Editor of The Spectator and Columnist for the Scottish Edition of The Times

1. What will the turnout be?

61%

2. How many seats will the SNP get?

71

3. Will Labour come second or third?

2nd

4. Will the Conservatives ever form part of a Scottish Government?

Yes, but not for the foreseeable future.

5. If the SNP win, can we look forward to another independence referendum?

What do you mean by ‘look forward’? But, no, not before the next UK election.

Mandy Rhodes: Editor of Holyrood Magazine

1. What will the turnout be?

A sunny 68% or a rain 62%.

2. How many seats will the SNP get?

72

3. Will Labour come second or third?

2nd

4. Will the Conservatives ever form part of a Scottish Government?

Not in a devolved parliament and certainly not in any formal coalition.

5. If the SNP win, can we look forward to another independence referendum?

Not until; the economy turns around, the SNP has a better narrative on how an independent Scotland’s economy would fare and more importantly, not until Nicola Sturgeon thinks Yes could win.

Magnus Llewellin: Editor of The Herald

1. What will the turnout be?

57%

2. How many seats will the SNP get?

68

3. Will Labour come second or third?

3rd

4. Will the Conservatives ever form part of a Scottish Government?

Not with their current name.

5. If the SNP win, can we look forward to another independence referendum?

Yes… If there’s a vote to leave the EU.

Dani Garavelli: Columnist for The Scotland on Sunday

1. What will the turnout be?

60% (If it’s sunny).

2. How many seats will the SNP get?

71

3. Will Labour come second or third?

Labour to come 2nd.

4. Will the Conservatives ever form part of a Scottish Government?

No

5. If the SNP win, can we look forward to another independence referendum?

Only if the UK votes for Brexit and Scotland votes to remain.

Iain Martin: Editor of CapX

I must admit to having paid very little attention to the Holyrood election. From a distance — London — it has looked about as exciting as the 2003 Holyrood election. But what little that has filtered through leaves me with the abiding impression that turnout will be 105% and the SNP will win every single seat for the rest of time. It is so much simpler that way, with just one party and one national leader.‎ On another referendum I have an unusual view. I think it is more likely if the UK votes to stay in the EU. It would be easier to persuade voters to go for Scottish independence if the UK is still clutching the comfort blanket of the EU. Independence post-Brexit would be a very hard sell. The idea of the Nationalists campaigning, post-Brexit, for independence on the basis of an application to get into the Euro with a question mark over the long-term oil price strikes me as about as appealing a prospect as a night out in Dundee wearing a Union Flag onesie and singing Rule Britannia.‎ But what do I know? This is the view from London.

David Clegg: Political Editor of the Daily Record and Scottish Political Journalist of the Year

1. What will the turnout be?

62%

2. How many seats will the SNP get?

71

3. Will Labour come second or third?

2nd

4. Will the Conservatives ever form part of a Scottish Government?

No

5. If the SNP win, can we look forward to another independence referendum?

Eventually, but not in the next parliamentary term.

Malcolm Robertson: Founding Partner of Charlotte Street Partners

1. What will the turnout be?

59% turnout (lower than 70% reflects badly on politics as a whole)

2. How many seats will the SNP get?

70

3. Will Labour come second or third?

2nd

4. Will the Conservatives ever form part of a Scottish Government?

In an independent Scotland perhaps. So, unlikely anytime soon.

5. If the SNP win, can we look forward to another independence referendum?

Yes, there will be a second independence referendum, and possibly in the next parliament. It will be interesting to see how the Scottish electorate reacts over the years to the constant talk of a referendum on the constitution. The Scottish Government may not be able to resist the pressure from both sides to deal with the question once and for all.

Kenny Farquharson: Columnist and Senior Writer for The Scottish Edition of The Times

1. What will the turnout be?

58%

2. How many seats will the SNP get?

75

3. Will labour come second or third?

2nd

4. Will the Conservatives ever form part of a Scottish Government?

They propped up the 2007–11 SNP minority government, so who knows?

5. If the SNP win, can we look forward to another independence referendum?

Nope, not a chance. Nicola is about to become the Jordi Pujol of Scottish politics.

Andy Nicoll: Political Editor of The Sun

1. What will the turnout be?

65%

2. How many seats will the SNP get?

70

3. Will labour come second or third?

2nd

4. Will the Conservatives ever form part of a Scottish Government?

No

5. If the SNP win, can we look forward to another independence referendum?

No

Aidan Kerr: STV Digital Politics Reporter

1. What will the turnout be?

I reckon it will be in the mid-sixties. Higher than 2011 but lower than last May’s Westminster election. Let’s say 64%.

2. How many seats will the SNP get?

I predict 71 seats, two more than 2011.

3. Will labour come second or third?

It will be close, very close. Tories will be ahead in Highlands and Islands, South of Scotland and the North East. Labour will be ahead in the West of Scotland, Glasgow, Central Scotland. What will decide who comes second will be Mid Scotland and Fife, Edinburgh and the Lothians. If you are forcing me to choose then I’ll choose the Tories — just for the craic.

4. Will the Conservatives ever form part of a Scottish Government?

Not under devolution. A centre-right party will govern an independent Scotland however, if the Union does dissolve eventually.

5. If the SNP win, can we look forward to another independence referendum?

They’ll be no independence referendum before 2021.

Andrew Wilson: Founding Partner of Charlotte Street Partners

1. What will the turnout be?

56%

2. How many seats will the SNP get?

68

3. Will Labour come second or third?

2nd

4. Will the Conservatives ever form part of a Scottish Government?

You can never say never but not anytime soon. More fundamental change needed there.

5. If the SNP win, can we look forward to another independence referendum?

Not in this parliamentary term.

David Torrance: Political Journalist and Contemporary Historian.

1. What will the turnout be?

I reckon in the high 50s.

2. How many seats will the SNP get?

A couple more than they have at the moment.

3. Will Labour come second or third?

2nd

4. Will the Conservatives ever form part of a Scottish Government?

No.

5. If the SNP win, can we look forward to another independence referendum?

Yes, but not yet.

Kevin Pringle: Partner at Charlotte Street Partners and Columnist for the Scottish Edition of The Sunday Times, ex Communications Director at the SNP

1. What will the turnout be?

58% turnout.

2. How many seats will the SNP get?

69 SNP seats.

3. Will Labour come second or third?

I tip Labour to come second in seat numbers.

4. Will the Conservatives ever form part of a Scottish Government?

Not for the foreseeable future.

5. If the SNP win, can we look forward to another independence referendum?

Another Tory win in the 2020 general election will significantly boost support for independence — I would speculate on another referendum in Autumn 2020.

Kevin Schofield: Broadcaster and Editor of Politics Home

1. What will the turnout be?

58% turnout.

2. How many seats will the SNP get?

71 SNP seats.

3. Will Labour come second or third?

2nd

4. Will the Conservatives ever form part of a Scottish Government?

Yes, in the distant future.

5. If the SNP win, can we look forward to another independence referendum?

Yes, but not within the next 5 years

Alan Roden: Scottish Political Editor of Daily Mail

1. What will the turnout be?

54% — slightly up on 2011 and the highest figure since the ’99 election, but it will not come close to the independence referendum turnout or last year’s General Election.

2. How many seats will the SNP get?

70 - Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire is the only mainland constituency I’d put money on the SNP failing to win, but there may be a few others that slip through their grasp.

3. Will Labour come second or third?

2nd, by a more comfortable margin than some of the polls have suggested.

4. Will the Conservatives ever form part of a Scottish Government?

Unlikely, but they will be the main opposition party one day.

5. If the SNP win, can we look forward to another independence referendum?

Not this decade, even if there is a Brexit vote. The vast, vast majority of people have not changed their mind since 2014. But I’d pencil in 2021.

James Mitchell: Professor of Public Policy at The University of Edinburgh

1. What will the turnout be?

60%

2. How many seats will the SNP get?

70

3. Will Labour come second or third?

Third based on instinct but it’s too close to call.

4. Will the Conservatives ever form part of a Scottish Government?

Not for the foreseeable future.

5. If the SNP win, can we look forward to another independence referendum?

Not in this Parliament.

Patrick Galbraith 
Associate