Scotland 2010: The 31 seats that matter Part 7: The multi party Battleground seats in the North-east and Central Scotland
At the General Election, now expected to be held in May 2010, out of Scotland’s 59 seats, as many as 31 could change hands.
Since 2005, Scotland has voted 3 times, at the Holyrood and Council elections in 2007 and at the European elections in 2009. Every 4 years all Scottish councils elect all councillors simultaneously using the STV multi-member ward system and Holyrood a mixture of “first past the post” for 73 constituency MSP and 8 regional lists each electing 7 additional regional MSPs from party lists.
As polls have varied since 2007 but few Scotland only polls have been taken I have predicted outcomes on the basis of the SNP polling 30-35%, Labour 30-35%, Tories 20-25% and LibDems 10-15%. The problem predicting Westminster results is that few Holyrood seats resemble the 2005 created Westminster ones and the Council boundaries rarely match the Westminster seats either.
Here are the 4 multi party “battleground seats” in the North-east and Central Scotland
Aberdeen South: (Lab) was the only Scottish Tory gain in 1992 (from Labour) it fell to them in 1997 and Anne Begg (the lady in a wheelchair in the House of Commons) is an able MP. The LibDems came close in 2005 and this is probably their top Scottish target. In 2007 the Holyrood seat which is LibDem held saw their then party leader Nicol Stephen suffer an 11.2% LibDem-SNP swing shaving the majority to 2,700 votes or 9.1%. Labour’s best hope is that as in Edinburgh South the best alternative is unclear and the anti-Labour vote is split letting Anne Begg hold. If it is clear the LibDems cannot win then we could see a repeat of 1992 and a Tory gain but otherwise a narrow Labour hold. If the LibDems sort themselves out then they should take the seat.
Ochil and South Perthshire: (Lab) formed out of large parts of the former Perth and Kinross Tory seat and the neighbouring Labour seat, this is a 3-way marginal which Lab just held by 688 votes in 2005 against the SNP. In the Ochil seat at Holyrood, the very popular ex-SNP Westminster MP George Reid took the seat from Lab in 2003 and his successor held it in 2007 but by only 490 votes. If the Tory party is doing well in its heartland this will be a Tory gain. If the SNP achieve a swing across Scotland they will take the seat and if the anti-Labour vote splits evenly they may just hold on.
Stirling: (Lab) Scotland’s answer to Enfield Southgate in 1997, this was arguably Labour’s prize scalp in the shape of Michael Forsyth, seen as the architect of most of the Thatcherite policies which so alienated Scotland from the Tories in the 1980s and 1990s. The Tories want it back but in 2007 the Holyrood seat created one of the big surprises of the night when the popular SNP list MP Bruce Crawford captured the seat on a large 9.5% swing, mainly at Labour’s expense. The Holyrood seat is very different from the Westminster seat and Anne McGuire a very able but “mouthy” Lab minister whose majority of 4,700 looks very vulnerable. A 3-way marginal, this one should be a Tory gain if the heartland vote returns, SNP if it doesn’t but Labour should lose it.
Edinburgh South: (Lab) is a strange seat being a genuine 3-way marginal in 2005 when Nigel Griffiths the former Labour minister held off the LibDems by a mere 405 votes or less than 1%. Since then in 2007 at Holyrood, the LibDem Mike Pringle held the seat with the same name but much different boundaries by almost 2,000 votes or almost 6% having achieved a 2.5% swing from Labour. Now that Nigel Griffiths has been exposed due to his unusual activities on Remembrance Day, this is now seen as the top Tory target in Edinburgh and it would take a swing of 4.5% for them to come from third to first. Labour should lose but to whom? If the LibDems have a good election they will easily take the seat but if not, a Tory gain.