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Place your bets

Written by Chris Deeran, guest writer
13 August 2019

This has been the tartan election. For weeks, Scotland has dominated the news north and south of the border. The election result is impossible to call, although I predict the SNP will win 56 of Scotland’s 59 seats, and a Tory government with an overall majority at Westminster. But what do I know?

Given the Scot-centric nature of the campaign, I turned the spotlight on those who’ve been spouting off throughout.

I asked the participants for two predictions: 1) how many seats will the SNP win; and 2) what will the make up of the next government be?

Here are the responses.

Fraser Nelson, editor, The Spectator

CD: ‘Will you take part in my mini survey?’

FN: ‘No fear. Too close to call, but I will enjoy reading your blog to see egg on everyone’s face.’

CD: ‘Come on, it’ll be a laugh.’

FN: ‘Yes, laugh is just what I intend to do when I read the suckers who respond to your poll!’

Magnus Llewellin, editor, The Herald

‘My guess for the SNP is 47 seats with a Con/LibDem/DUP pact — though Tory UK campaign has been inept.’

Andy Harries, editor, Scottish Daily Mail


‘The SNP will win 42 seats. Cameron will be PM in coalition with the Lib Dems. Tories 292, Labour 276, Lib Dems 34. Start commissioning the Miliband political obituaries. And crank the SNP Legitimacy/Grievance dial up to 11.’

Gordon Smart, editor, The Scottish Sun

‘Think I’m already on the record saying 37 Nat seats, 20 Lab, one Lib Dem and one Tory. I suspect a minority Tory government.’

Kevin McKenna, columnist, The Observer

‘The SNP to get 46 seats. Tory minority administration supported by DUP and Lib Dems. Shares in company that makes Diacalm trading at record levels on stock market floor; Syria sends peace envoy to Edinburgh.’

Alex Massie, columnist, The Spectator, The Times

‘45 seats (an appropriate number!). Govt to be Lab + LD + tacit SNP support. (But not, perhaps, formal Lab-Lib coalition)’

David Torrance, columnist, The Herald

DT: ‘Trouble is, I just don’t know on either count. But ok. SNP will win between 40–50 seats. And, initially at least, there’ll be a Tory minority government of some sort.’

CD: ‘40–50? Stick your neck out and give me a number.’

DT: ‘Ugh.’

CD: ‘David, David, David. Come on.’

DT: ‘43. I’ll regret this, I know it.’

Isabel Hardman, writer, The Spectator

‘When I visited Scottish seats as part of this election campaign, I found Ruth Davidson dressed as a piper. I also found Jim Murphy surrounded by a rubber ring of Labour activists in an Edinburgh street, while bemused

passers-by peered at him. I found an incredibly engaged electorate, trying its hand at tactical voting on the one hand, and rejecting a Labour Party that hasn’t knocked on doors for years. But I also saw hardworking candidates for re-election who have been knocking on doors out of season and who might just slip back in, thanks to their own efforts and not their party. Yes, voters were keen on a nationalist party, but they also seemed keen on the idea of kicking out MPs who had taken them for granted for years. You might fervently disagree with the first, but it’s difficult to feel sorry for MPs guilty of the latter. So, SNP to take 46 seats, and next government to be just about

do-able between Conservatives, Lib Dems and DUP.’

Ian Bell, columnist, The Herald

‘A) four dozen seats, give or take; B) that’s up to Miliband. October: Daily Mail calls for ring of steel around Kensington.’

Iain Martin, editor, CapX

‘I’m wary of making firm predictions, but here goes. It feels to me as though there may be a late swing to the Tories in England, but if there is not then there won’t be. In Scotland it’s still too close to call, with the SNP leadership needing to ask serious questions of their inept campaign. How did they manage to get so little media attention? Anything below 40 seats is a disaster for under-fire Sturgeon. It is a good job Labour decided to introduce a Scottish Parliament, in order to see off the Nationalists. David Cameron will be Prime Minister, or perhaps Ed Miliband.’

Kenny Farquharson, columnist, The Times

‘A) 47; B) Another Tory-Lib Dem coalition.’

Andy Nicoll, political editor, The Scottish Sun


‘Ten minutes ago, I’d have gone Labour 12, Tories 1, Libs 1, SNP 45, but a Lab chum says 12 is “wildly optimistic”. Tory-Lib Dem coalition.’

John McDermott, columnist, Financial Times

‘Ever since Peggy Noonan said that “vibrations” told her Mitt Romney would be president, the idea of defying the psephologists has carried with it the danger of appearing downright pre-Enlightenment. As someone who likes his vibrations with probabilities attached, I’d go for 51 SNP seats and a Labour minority government. But the great Ms Noonan tells me that the SNP will suffer from tactical voting, the Tories and Libs will find a way to hold on, and that Mitt really should run again given the sold-out Broadway run of The Book of Mormon.’

Iain Macwhirter, columnist, The Herald

‘SNP: 45 seats. Next government: Labour-Liberal Democrat coalition with SNP backing on Queen’s Speech. But I’m always wrong.’

Andrew Wilson, columnist, Scotland on Sunday; managing partner, Charlotte Street Partners

‘56 SNP seats. It just feels different doesn’t it? Normally the SNP are squeezed at this moment but the numbers are so strong. I suspect Labour will hold Edinburgh South, but that will be all. At a UK level the onslaught on Ed Miliband will deliver an overall majority for David Cameron, and — you heard it here first — Ed Balls will lose his seat. Whatever the outcome the behaviour culture and conduct MUST change. Bridges need built and institutions need to work sensibly and inclusively. This is the death of elective dictatorship and — we hope — the birth pains of a better way of doing things.’

Malcolm Robertson, managing partner, Charlotte Street Partners

‘56 SNP seats. A few specific guesses: Simon Hughes out. Charles Kennedy out. Jim Murphy out. Danny Alexander out. Vince Cable out. Douglas Alexander out. SNP to get more than 50% of the vote in Scotland. Andrew Wilson to be insufferable’

Hugo Rifkind, columnist, The Times

‘I’m going low. Say, 37. And the next government will be another Tory-Lib Dem coalition.’

Euan McColm, columnist, Scotland on Sunday

‘I predict the SNP will win 214 of Scotland’s 59 Westminster seats, and that David Cameron will emerge as leader of the largest party, setting the scene for another Tory-led coalition. When Cameron re-enters Downing Street, Nicola Sturgeon will accuse Jim Murphy of betraying Scotland by failing to defeat her party. “Jim Murphy’s red Tories let the blue Tories in by losing to the black and yellow Tories,” she will say, adding “Tories, Tories, Tories…” Later, some SNP members with no links to the SNP apart from their SNP memberships will release wasps through Murphy’s letterbox, and Sturgeon will say “Jim Murphy is happy to share a platform with the insect Tories. Scotland will never forgive or forget this.”’

Me — that is, Chris Deerin, columnist, Scottish Daily Mail; partner, Charlotte Street Partners

‘There is no doubt whatsoever that there will be a massive Unionist tactical vote to hold down the SNP numbers, apart from in Falkirk, where my Uncle Johnny is the SNP candidate. I’m going for six SNP wins, with most of the rest going to the Tories under the brilliant Ruth Davidson. Danny Alexander will definitely win, as will Douglas Alexander. If Stirling goes SNP I will make Andrew Wilson’s coffee for the next five years. Luckily, there’s no chance of that happening.’

So there we have it. Most of the Scottish opinionati expect the SNP to hit the 40s, but no higher (unless you’re Euan McColm). But most predict a second Tory-Lib Dem coalition. Only Charlotte Street Partners think the SNP will win 56 seats and that there will be an overall Tory majority. But hey, what do we know?

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