Sebastian Payne

Betting on the future of Scotland — Parris vs. Massie

How would you bet on the outcome of the Scottish independence referendum? With Ladbrokes offering odds of 1/5 on a ‘No’ vote, its a much better return than any savings account. But should writers put a wager on something they can possibly influence? Matthew Parris discussed how he might bet with Alex Massie on our podcast last week — a conversation that has stuck in his mind. This was what Parris says on the matter in his Times column today (£):

‘Something came over me. Last Wednesday, in the middle of a debate about Scottish independence with Alex Massie, a Scottish columnist who writes for The Spectator and The Times, I was asked how I’d bet on the result of the September referendum. Obviously, I said, I’d bet on a No to independence. I went further: I’d take a bet on that outcome at odds of one to seven, I said, meaning that I’d get £8 back for every £7 staked. In that case, retorted Mr Massie, I’d better get online fast, because odds nearly twice as good were available.

‘So I did. I bet a substantial sum. Having just closed a small savings account (Virgin Money had reduced the interest rate yet again, to almost nothing) and now being offered odds of two to nine, I calculated that I would get an untaxed return of almost 20 per cent on my savings. My hands shook at the keyboard. I felt incredibly sinful. I could hear my late grandmother tut-tutting. But I placed the bet.

‘Should journalists have undeclared interests in outcomes on which they might comment? One cannot feel that Scotland’s pencil is poised over the ballot slip as the nation awaits Parris’s advice; but still, if ever I write on the subject again, I shall declare this bet. Anyway I, don’t suppose there’s the least risk I’ll lose .

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