Politics Latest: Scots 50/50 to choose independence at IndyRef2

Scotland's first minister Nicola Sturgeon
Will Sturgeon get to hold another referendum?

In Scotland support for independence is on the rise but few bettors expect a referendum anytime soon says Max Liu. Meanwhile, in the US there's 100 days to go until the election...

"Trump is 15/82.86 – the longest price of any incumbent in US election betting history – while Joe Biden is 5/81.62 to win the White House."

At the end of a week when Scottish independence was back in the news - thanks in part to Boris Johnson's trip north of the border - you can get even odds on Scotland voting to leave the United Kingdom when there's another referendum.

Johnson was in Scotland on Thursday, ostensibly to shore up support for the union, amid reports that support for independence has surged during the pandemic and polling that backs that up.

It was the UK prime minister's visit since the 2019 general election, when the Tories lost more than half of their seats in Scotland, going from 13 to six. Johnson has looked like he was on a collision course with Nicola Sturgeon ever since he entered Downing Street a year ago.

The public perception that the Scottish government's response to the pandemic was clear and more decisive has only intensified the sense that Sturgeon is stealing a march on Johnson.

Johnson adamant - no #IndyRef2

The SNP won 48 seats at the general election - a record for the party - but Johnson has repeatedly said he would not allow another referendum on independence.

Perhaps this is why Exchange bettors are not convinced that there will be a referendum any time soon and make it 4/61.66 that we won't see one for at least five years.

But there were strong words this week from Ian Blackford, who leads the SNP in Westminster, as Johnson headed north.

Blackford predicted the SNP would win a comfortable majority at next year's Scottish elections - a view backed up by a poll last month that said the party were on course to win 51% of the vote and add nine seats to the 61 they already hold.

"What we will see next year in the elections is a very strong support for the SNP and for independence. Boris Johnson has to recognise that vote, he has to recognise democracy. He cannot be a democracy denier."

Does Labour have a fresh strategy for Scotland?

Scottish politics is a problem for Labour too - arguably more so than it is for the Tories who can at last unequivocally back the union - and one about which new leader Keir Starmer has so far said very little.

At last year's election, Labour lost six of their seven seats - an exact reversal of their gains from 2017. There had been enthusiasm for Corbyn's Labour among some young Scots, who had previously supported the SNP, and that helped the party start to rebuild in 2017. But two years later they moved back to the nationalists.

Starmer, like Ed Miliband, looks like a Labour leader who will alienate Scottish voters. How can he appeal to the kind of English voters Labour needs to win back and attract Scots, to whom independence is appealing, at the same time?

Keir Starmer Labour 956.jpg

Leading figures in Corbyn's Labour - most notably John McDonnell - were sympathetic to Scottish independence, even if they didn't say so publicly. In Starmer's Labour that is not the case and it remains to be seen what they can offer Scottish voters.

One argument against Labour supporting Scottish independence used to be that, if Scotland went it alone, Labour would lose all its seats north of the border and dramatically reduce the chances of the party ever being in power in Westminster.

It was easy to make that argument while, say, Labour were winning 41 seats under Gordon Brown in 2010. But at the three general elections since the referendum on independence in 2014, Labour have won one, seven and one seats, so it's difficult to make that argument any longer. How they solve the conundrum will require deep and original thinking.

Trump on the drift with 100 days to go

A US president's 100 days is always eventful, as they try to hit the ground running and signal their ambitions for the country. But is there anything Donald Trump can do in the 100 days before the US election on 3 November to save his presidency?

Trump is 15/82.86 - the longest price of any incumbent in US election betting history - while Joe Biden is 5/81.62 to win the White House.

But one word of warning: at this stage of the 2016 election, Trump's odds were even longer yet he managed to spring one of the biggest shocks in the history of politics by beating Hillary Clinton.

The difference is that Americans now have four years on which to judge Trump's presidency. Still, the lesson of four years ago is that his opponents should take nothing for granted.

UK - Referendums: UK - Referendums (Year of Next Scottish Ind. Referendum)

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Tuesday 31 December, 11.59pm

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