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May 6th, 2011
01:45 AM ET

From Scottish Elections to Summary Executions: The Art of Spawning Speculation

From Abbottabad to Aberdeen, speculation is rife.

On Sunday night, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer had us in the palm of his hand. Carefully chosen words ensured that we stayed tuned to hear the headline news he was harboring.

“I suspect I know what’s going on, but I don’t want to speculate at this point.”

Closely followed by…

“Other news organizations are wildly speculating right now.”

Well, if they’re “wildly” speculating, then we probably shouldn’t reach for the remote, should we? Blitzer thought it more prudent to tantalize us – and we were, in turn, almost subliminally moved to indulge in a little “safe” speculation of our own…

Right at this moment, I’m watching STV’s coverage of the Scottish Parliamentary elections. 6500 miles away from the action, I’m nevertheless as enraptured as I would be covering the count. Nothing has happened yet. In much of Scotland, nothing will happen for hours. But rolling coverage needs rolling reportage. And the courageous correspondents of STV News know exactly how to fill their allotted timeslots.

Veteran newsman Harry Smith in East Lothian has just upped the ante.

“The SNP contingent is certainly smiling more than the Labour contingent. They reckon they’ve done even better in the west of the region than they'd hoped. But we’ve got no reason to believe that this is true.”

Perhaps not, Harry. But by implying a potential upset in the Scottish Labour leader’s constituency, you’ve successfully kept viewers hooked. Good job.

Cue STV Political Editor Bernard Ponsonby – an old hand at managing election night conjecture.

“It’s very early and it’s anecdotal, so we have to heavily qualify this – but the Liberal Democrats could be heading for total wipeout.”

Not Bernard’s speculation, you understand. He’s just keeping us abreast of what unidentified others are saying. And just to prove he’d rather have some actual results…

“We believe the Rutherglen declaration is imminent. We hope it is imminent. If it isn’t, we’ll just be here, chatting and chatting and chatting.”

Self-aware to a fault.

But if the pundits are able to chat and chat and chat with just the right dose of second-hand speculation, they’ll certainly keep one expat Scot glued to his laptop screen.

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