Saturday, 21 March 2015

Predictions for Scottish seats-how tall will the garden of thistles grow?

With just 10 days to go until this Parliament dissolves, and with so many different predictions of what the political map of Scotland could look like, I believe that with more PPCs from different parties in place in Scottish constituencies, and with the SNP likely to replace the Liberal Democrats as the third largest party in the UK (they almost did so in October 1974, with 11 SNP MPs compared to 13 Liberal MPs) it is time to make my seat-by-seat prediction in Scotland.

Aberdeen North: The SNP are in a good second place here, and Frank Doran is retiring as MP. Without a Green candidate standing, an SNP win is a foregone conclusion with the SNP's poll ratings over the last few months. Dead cert SNP gain.

Aberdeen South: The SNP's prospects here are considerably more limited than in Aberdeen North-and a large proportion of the Liberal Democrat vote is more likely to back Labour than the SNP in my opinion, as are any Conservative voters who switch sides. Likely Labour hold.

Airdrie & Shotts: Despite Pamela Nash's incumbency, the fact the seat's predecessors have shown strong SNP potential in the past, and the fact swings from Labour to the SNP will probably be at least 20% on average, mean that Neil Gray (SNP PPC) is likely to succeed where Kay Ulrich narrowly failed in 1994 (when Airdrie & Shotts was Monklands East). The SNP will have to fight for such large swings, however-the seats where large swings to the SNP are predicted will not just fall onto their lap. Likely SNP gain.

Angus: The SNP already represent this seat, so they will clearly hold it. The question is, how high can the SNP climb in the six Westminster seats they already have? Let us see-it could climb from just under 40% to 55% here, in my opinion. Dead cert SNP hold.

Argyll and Bute: This may look like a four-way marginal on paper, but the reality is that it will be a straight fight between the Liberal Democrats and the SNP due to Labour's poor local base, and the Conservatives not showing a recovery anywhere in Scotland. The SNP has always had latent strength in this area, and in the highlands they can win over many Liberal Democrat voters in addition to Labour voters, and will crash through easily in 2015 on current polling. Dead cert SNP gain.

Ayr, Carrick & Cumnock: Even though this Labour stronghold has never been particularly good for the SNP (especially in Ayr itself), the SNP looks set to win it from third place, as I do not believe Labour will able to convince enough Conservative voters to back them tactically in May 2015. Likely SNP gain.

Banff and Buchan: This time, Eilidh Whiteford, who ended up experiencing a 10.6% swing from the SNP to the Conservatives in 2010 when she replaced Alex Salmond (now contesting Gordon), will be safe and sound. Not much more to say apart from how low both the Labour and Lib Dem vote could plummet in this constituency. Dead cert SNP hold.

Berwickshire, Roxburgh & Selkirk: The Liberal Democrats are faring particularly badly in Scotland, and the Scottish Greens could win over vital votes. Also, John Lamont, Conservative MSP, is standing once again against Michael Moore, and a split ticket (both Labour and the SNP stand to win over some ex-Lib Dem voters, although neither of them can realistically win this seat themselves) could possibly lead to a tight Conservative gain. Probable Conservative gain.

Caithness, Sutherland & Easter Ross: Viscount Thurso (aka John Sinclair, grandson of former Liberal Party leader Archibald Sinclair, who once represented this seat), has generally been a respected MP, and in rural areas like the Highlands of Scotland, personal votes matter more than average. However, with the SNP surge relatively strong in this area, the SNP's latent strength might finally push them through in May-it will be an interesting contest. Likely SNP gain.

Central Ayrshire: Another hitherto safe Labour seat that the SNP will gain if they push hard enough-not much more to say. Likely SNP gain.

Coatbridge, Chryston & Belshill: One of the safest Labour seats in the whole of Scotland. Even with good potential for the SNP here, they will have to mount a great effort to overturn Tom Clarke's 20,714 majority (especially with this seat's turnout being below average) despite a recent Ashcroft poll predicting a narrow SNP gain and the fact that in seats like these, the swing from Labour to SNP will be greater than average. Probable Labour hold.

Cumbernauld, Kilsyth & Kirkintilloch East: This is prime, working-class, strong Lab-SNP swing territory-at the moment, it is an almost bolt-on SNP gain. Dead cert SNP gain-if they push it.

Dumfries and Galloway: This is quite interesting, although the fact that former MP Peter Duncan is not trying to regain this seat (which contained Galloway and Upper Nithsdale, which he represented from 2001 to 2005 until it was abolished) weakens Conservative potential. The SNP stands well at the moment despite only achieving a poor third here in 2010-this is where utilising all those extra members will be crucial to success. Likely SNP gain.

Dumfriesshire, Clyesdale & Tweedale: The last remaining Conservative-held Westminster seat in Scotland, and David Mundell's majority is unsafe. This is not good base territory for the SNP, but because of their surge they have at least a slim chance of winning here from fourth place simply due to how well they are polling in Scotland overall. In addition, UKIP will experience a minor boost in Scotland, and that could fatally undercut the Conservative vote just enough-but what of the directions of the Lib Dem and Labour vote? 50/50 Conservative hold/SNP gain.

Dundee East: Sitting SNP MP Stewart Hosie will end up with a safe majority instead of a marginal majority over Labour now, and cement this into an SNP stronghold as the Labour vote here will surely collapse. Dead cert SNP hold.

Dundee West: The city of Dundee overall has been very supportive of the SNP in recent years, which is not only shown in their support for independence last year. Jim McGovern is standing again for Labour but he is doomed to lose at the moment. Dead cert SNP gain.

Dunfermline & West Fife: Without Willie Rennie (who won this seat in a 2006 by-election but lost it in 2010, albeit with a large swing against Labour compared to the result of 2005) trying again for the Liberal Democrats, the Lib Dem vote share will collapse heavily. Where will it go, however? I do not believe all of it will go to the SNP in May, although the SNP could snatch this seat nonetheless. 50/50 Labour hold/SNP gain.

East Dunbartonshire: This seat is marginal but the Liberal Democrats are pouring resources from their Scottish branch here because of (in their minds) the potential of Jo Swinson. Nevertheless, it looks pretty certain she will lose-the SNP have high chances but it is by no means certain that they will come out on top instead of Labour. Dead cert Lib Dem loss-either to Labour or the SNP.

East Kilbride, Strathkelvin, & Lesmahagow: With strong potential for the SNP having been exhibited in the past and present here, and with current swings from Labour to the SNP being so high, the SNP looks pretty certain to win this seat in May, particularly with no Green PPC this time around. Dead cert SNP gain.

East Lothian: The SNP only finished fourth in East Lothian in 2010, but it was a good fourth and I do not believe it will stop them gaining this seat (although tactical voting from unionist inclined Lib Dem voters just might) particularly with experienced candidate George Kenevan standing here. Likely SNP gain.

East Renfrewshire: This is the most unionist constituency in Scotland, and that will count for a lot when Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy defends his seat soon. The SNP are not entirely out of play even in such an affluent constituency, so it is not a home run for Mr Murphy just yet as his notoriety may mean that SNP voters here will be more likely to turn out to vote. Probable Labour hold.

Edinburgh East: Out of all the Edinburgh seats, this has the best SNP potential, but also the best Scottish Green potential in the whole of Scotland (alongside Glasgow North). Peter McColl is standing for the Scottish Greens, and his impressive track record (as a former Rector of Edinburgh University and the editor of the Bright Green blog) will ensure a good performance. With a strong performance from both the SNP and the Greens likely, Labour will almost certainly lose-but to whom? Dead cert Labour loss-either to the SNP or the Greens.

Edinburgh North & Leith: Even though Lib Dem support has collapsed locally in Edinburgh, that is no guarantee of a Labour hold due to the rise the SNP will experience, even in such a pro-union city as this. The Scottish Greens also stand to do well, and this could possibly scupper the SNP's chances, as could Left Unity to a lesser extent. One to watch for May 2015. Probable Labour hold.

Edinburgh South: A month may be a long time in politics, but nothing much has changed since I last predicted this seat a month ago. Probable Labour hold.

Edinburgh South West: Were Alistair Darling still standing, his infamy among nationalists in Scotland for his key role in the 'Better Together' campaign last year would sound the alarm among Edinburgh's SNP branch and call high numbers of activists to the constituency. The fact he is not seeking re-election still means Labour is likely to lose due to the lack of incumbency. Likely SNP gain.

Edinburgh West: This is the most prosperous of Edinburgh's seats, although boundary changes in 2005 have made this more competitive than in previous years. It will also be quite tightly fought, particularly with Cameron Day standing again for Labour (he managed an 11.4% swing from the Lib Dems to Labour in 2010) although the Conservatives' best hope is to finish second in spite of speculation from other political commentators. There is only an outside chance of Mike Crockart holding on, but who will he lose it to? Likely Liberal Democrat loss-either to Labour or the SNP.

Falkirk: The scandal surrounding the Labour selection to replace Eric Joyce, and the SNP already being in a good second place, will combine for a surefire SNP gain in May-need I say more?. Dead cert SNP gain.

Glasgow Central: Glasgow, like Dundee, was one of the few areas that voted for independence last year-and the contest here is a straight fight between Labour and the SNP. In by-elections in Glasgow, the SNP have generally been able to draw on a lot of latent support from traditional Labour voters, and this time they will finally see it through. There is also a large student electorate here, and the size of Labour's majority (exacerbated by relatively dreadful turnout levels) means that it will not be a walk in the park for the SNP. Likely SNP gain.

Glasgow East: The easiest of the Glasgow seats for the SNP to win, and the weakest of all for the Con-Dems. The Lib Dems barely got their deposit returned in this constituency in 2010, and the Conservatives lost theirs in 2010, meaning that Labour has virtually nothing to draw on to stop an SNP win. Dead cert SNP gain.

Glasgow North: The Lib Dem vote will collapse here, and the Scottish Greens stand to obtain at least third place in May. I am not entirely certain how much of the Lib Dem vote will transfer to the SNP, the Greens, and Labour respectively, but I nonetheless believe Labour will lose Glasgow North. Likely SNP gain.

Glasgow North East: The safest Labour seat in Glasgow (and all of Scotland)-this may be a mountain too high for the SNP to climb, although if they push hard enough, they can narrowly gain it.  Likely Labour hold.

Glasgow North West: The SNP can gain this seat if they push hard enough-but will Lib Dem voters in any significant numbers end up backing Labour? Likely SNP gain.

Glasgow South: This appears on current polling to be an easy win for the SNP-and the Ashcroft poll was pretty conclusive in stating that. After Glasgow East, this is the easiest Glasgow seat for the SNP to win. Dead cert SNP gain.

Glasgow South West: Despite the huge majority (46%) commanded by Ian Davidson, this will be a relatively easy win for the SNP, particularly when the hard left is in a better position than in most constituencies to drag down the Labour vote. In addition, Chris Stephens (SNP's PPC) is a proven campaigner who nearly gained an otherwise unassailable Labour stronghold in the last Scottish Parliament elections. Likely SNP gain.

Glenrothes: Without Lindsay Roy standing again, and with the SNP's Peter Grant (who did well in the 2008 by-election here to shake this traditionally Labour stronghold) standing here, Labour's fate is sealed as the 20% swing the SNP will need to win will be no problem in this type of area. Dead cert SNP gain.

Gordon: Sir Malcolm Bruce, the only reason the Liberals/Liberal Democrats hold this seat in the first place, is stepping down after 32 years as an MP. More importantly, Alex Salmond himself is the SNP candidate here, and the SNP managed a good second place without him in 2010-at this point, his return to Parliament is practically assured. Dead cert SNP gain.

Inverclyde: Inverclyde as an area only narrowly voted in favour of continuing the union last year, and this will give a useful campaigning plank for the SNP to use against Labour. Even before the SNP experienced their great surge in 2014, they proved their potential in the 2011 by-election. Likely SNP gain.

Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch &Strathspey: This seat's predecessors have been particularly competitive in the past-former Lib Dem MP Russell Johnston still holds the record for lowest winning percentage in any seat at a general election (26%) which occurred here in 1992. Highland Council leader Drew Hendry is SNP's PPC here, and he will surely win against Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander, who will be the highest-ranked casualty of this year's general election, particularly with the Greens nipping at the Lib Dem vote share. Dead cert SNP gain.

Kilmarnock and Loudoun: There are many constituencies like this which are straight Labour-SNP fights and have been held by Labour for decades, and this one will be very easy for the SNP by those standards. Dead cert SNP gain.

Kirkcaldy & Cowdenbeath: Former PM Gordon Brown, who has held this seat and predecessor seats in 1983, is retiring-however, the 50% majority Labour currently has might be too much for the SNP even when they are far ahead of Labour in Scottish opinion polls. Probable Labour hold.

Lanark & Hamilton East: Similar situation to Kilmarnock and Loudoun et al.-the ConDems' support is somewhat better but it is not likely to shift far enough to save Labour from an SNP win. Dead cert SNP gain.

Linlithgow and East Falkirk: The SNP only needs a 12% swing to win this from Labour, which should be no problem at all for them at the moment. Dead cert SNP gain.

Livingston: A similar story to the above-SNP in a good second place in a straight Lab-SNP contest and likely to win here given current opinion polls. Even a marginal rise for UKIP will just be another nail in Labour's coffin. Dead cert SNP gain.

Midlothian: Once again, the SNP are in a good second place, and the fact the Liberal Democrats have many more votes to lose than average will in reality not make enough of a difference to Labour, with David Hamilton standing down. Dead cert SNP gain.

Moray: The SNP already represent Moray and were pretty safe in 2010, and will be even safer in 2015. UKIP polled reasonably well (by Scottish standards) last time, and Moray may well be one of a handful of saved deposits for UKIP in Scotland, which will just make the SNP even safer by splitting the LibLabCon pro-union ticket. Dead cert SNP hold.

Motherwell & Wishaw: The SNP has an enormous Labour majority to overturn (16,806!) in order to win, but in constituencies like this they will find the task easier than average. If the hard left Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) stand a candidate again, they could play a decisive role in the final result despite their limited potential. Likely SNP gain.

Na h-Eileanan an lar: An easy hold for the SNP of course-how high will the SNP vote share climb, given that this is the smallest constituency in the UK? This could also post the worst Conservative result in May 2015, and probably the best Christian Party result in the UK due to the religiously conservative nature of the people of the Outer Hebrides' inhabitants. Dead cert SNP hold.

North Ayrshire & Arran: Katy Clark is the most left-wing Labour MP in Scotland, but her good record will not save her with the SNP close enough behind and Patricia Gibson standing again (she was the candidate who got the SNP into second place in 2010). Dead cert SNP gain.

North East Fife: Former Lib Dem leader Sir Menzies Campbell is standing down after 28 years as an MP, and the Lib Dem vote will surely collapse here (particularly in the university town of St Andrews where the Greens will make an advance amongst the student electorate) as it will in most of Scotland. Labour can win over some of the Lib Dem vote, but they themselves will be scorched by an SNP surge (even though this has historically been poor territory for the SNP) in turn, making an SNP victory almost certain this year. Dead cert SNP gain.

Ochil & South Perthshire: This is SNP target seat number one, needing only a 5% swing to the SNP. Tasmina Akhmed-Sheikh will almost certainly become the very first mixed-race SNP MP come May. Dead cert SNP gain.

Orkney & Shetland: The safest Liberal Democrat constituency by far, and it has been continuously held by them since 1950 (even when the Conservatives put up a candidate in the 1950s when they did not do so in other Liberal-held seats), and this will definitely continue in spite of all the Lib Dems' woes. On another note, increased potential for the SNP, and for UKIP to a lesser extent, means that this might possibly be the first constituency to record a lost deposit for both Conservative and Labour, which has never happened before in the history of British politics. Dead cert Liberal Democrat hold.

Paisley & Renfrewshire North: There is quite an interesting roster of PPCs lined up for this constituency this year, but the main point is that this is yet another Lab-SNP contest where the SNP have a strong advantage and will win if they try. Likely SNP gain.

Paisley & Renfrewshire South: Harder for the SNP to win than the aforementioned Paisley & Renfrewshire North, but the tactical voting potential is lower due to the weaker support for the coalition parties. Likely SNP gain.

Perth & North Perthshire: Pete Wishart will have no problems at all holding on this year, even if the Conservative vote is reasonably strong, as he can win over votes from Labour the same way other SNP candidates will. Dead cert SNP hold.

Ross, Skye & Lochaber: Some have said that Charles Kennedy, the only remaining SDP MP from 1983, and former leader of the Lib Dems, might suffer a shock loss this year-but his personal vote and experience means that this is unlikely in practice. However, this is a Highland constituency where the SNP have strong potential, so it will not be plain sailing for Mr Kennedy. Likely Liberal Democrat hold.

Rutherglen & Hamilton West: Very safe for Labour, and Tom Greatrex's criticism of ATOS and Work Capability Assessments will be to his credit at least a little. However,the SNP still stands to win this seat narrowly if they are lucky enough. Probable Labour hold.

Stirling: Anne McGuire, who won this from former Scottish Secretary Michael Forsyth in 1997, is standing down and the SNP has been polling well in Stirling recently. They should have no trouble leapfrogging from third place in May to win at the moment. Dead cert SNP gain.

West Aberdeenshire & Kincardine: Sir Robert Smith appears to be doomed as the Lib Dems are not faring well even in previously strong areas for them. The question is, without much of a Labour vote to squeeze, can the Conservatives still convince enough voters to prevent an SNP victory? Let us see. Dead cert Liberal Democrat loss-either to the Conservatives or the SNP.

West Dunbartonshire: Despite a strong majority for Labour's Gemma Doyle, West Dunbartonshire was in favour of independence last year, which will give a good morale boost for the SNP and almost ensure a win. Dead cert SNP gain, if narrowly.

You are probably wondering why I have not predicted so many certain SNP gains for 2015 across Scotland (I only predicted 21 'dead cert SNP gains', and 15 'likely SNP gains', giving the SNP a likely total of around 42 Westminster seats after May 2015). This is because of the Labour majorities in many of the seats the SNP want to gain, which will not just be handed to them on a plate-polling assumes the SNP will actually mount a decent campaign in those seats in 2015. They certainly have the members to do so, but they need to get them to turn out first. Also, the collapse of the Lib Dem vote makes the Conservatives competitive again in a few select rural constituencies where Labour have no hope of winning and never have done (although the SNP do have a chance except in Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk).

Given my predictions, this is how the Westminster map of Scotland could end up looking like after 7 May 2015:

SNP seats: 27-53 (+21 to +47)
Labour seats: 4-27 (-37 to -14)
Lib Dem seats: 2-4 (-9 to -7)
Conservative seats: 0-3 (-1 to +2)
Green seats: 0-1 (+0 to +1)

The SNP does indeed look set to overtake the Lib Dems as the third largest party in the House of Commons after polling day-apart from greater powers for the Scottish Parliament, what will it mean for us if they end up holding the balance of power in a hung parliament?


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