The SNP turnaround in the polls was ‘unprecedented’
As the results continued to filter through on the morning of 6 May, it became clear that the SNP’s victory was going to be of emphatic proportions.
But just weeks before the electorate turned out to vote, many were expecting a very different result.
It is often thought that the bookmakers give an accurate reading of what to expect – but in this case, even the bookies have had to concede they were behind on what was to occur.
Graham Sharpe, a spokesman for William Hill, agreed the result was a shock.
“It was probably the biggest ever turnaround in a major election that we have seen,” he said.
“The result was virtually unprecedented. You may in some elections get a turnaround but that only happens when both parties start off very close to each other. That wasn’t the case here, Labour were initially so far ahead in the polls and then it completely reversed.
“I have spoken to colleagues and no one can remember seeing or hearing of anything as drastic as the Scottish election.
“The closest we can get to is when Neil Kinnock held his victory party prior to the 1992 election that he didn’t win and that affected the odds, but that was nowhere near as spectacular as this turnaround.
“The only other one that does spring to mind was when the Tory leadership campaign began and David Davis was widely regarded as being virtually unbeatable and David Cameron seemed to come from nowhere to beat him.
Shocks do happen – but not normally on the scale of the SNP’s victory.” Sharpe said those bold enough to bet on the SNP a month before were well rewarded.
He added: “You could have bet the SNP at around 6-1 about a month before the election.
At that point, Labour was virtually unbackable because their odds were so short at 1-12 on.
“The prices then started to completely flip- flop and come the day of the election, it was the SNP that were 1-12.
“Some people did back the SNP when the odds were high. As we were trading it was around 80 or 85 per cent of the bets we were taking were for SNP victory.
“Alex Salmond is a shrewd punter himself and no doubt he’ll have a wry smile at his party’s odds. If the SNP was a racehorse it would have gone from being one with three legs to some kind of supercharged animal.” The bookies have now turned their attention to the question of independence.
Sharpe added: “We’ve now opened the book on the independence question and this will no doubt be interesting. There are the very short odds of 1-3 that a referendum will be held within the five years. It is the same 1-3 odds that the referendum will result in a ‘no’ vote for independence.
“Political betting has become increasingly popular over the years. It is an interesting one because you get political experts who think it is easy to win because they know more about it than the bookies. But as the Scottish result shows us, there can be big surprises in politics.”