Thursday, 27 August 2009

Scotland's Swing Seats 4way marginals in the North and East

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.


stjohn said...

Another excellent article Easterross. Thanks.

Sean Fear also feels Aberdeen South will fall and expects a Lib Dem gain but with an outside chance of Tories or SNP doing so.

Lib Dems 5/2 with Ladbrokes to win this seat. I'm on!

Easterross said...

St John, yes both South seats in Edinburgh and Aberdeen should be easy LibDem gains but their councillors in both cities are doing their best to destroy the chances of their PPCs.

stjohn said...


Best prices for Edinburg South are 11/8 Tories and 7/4 Lib Dems. Seems too hard to call that one to me. You could back both at effective combined odds of 1/4 but I'm not tempted.

There is a market for number of Tory Scottish seats at the next GE. What's your best guess for this?

Richard Nabavi said...

Thanks, Easterross - very helpful (although I think betting on these seats is exceptionally hard to assess).

BTW I assume a typo in your first line: "The 31 seats that matter Part 7" - Part 2 I think, unless I've missed a whole lot.

Stephen B said...

Thanks Easterross for the ongoing series - having had a sneak preview I think these are working well and are really going to come into their own next year. It's also great to tackle these away from the heat and light of the main site!

As someone who only moved to Scotland in 2003, could you let me know what you mean by the 'heartland' Tory vote in the Scottish context? I've got an inkling but I suspect that, despite everything, I'm probably missing a few significant cultural identifiers in recognizing what the heartland vote looks like outside of pockets of resistance like Morningside and the Borders.

At the back of my mind there is the suspicion that the heartland has become SNP as evidenced in places like Moray.

Stephen B said...

" I think these are working well and are really going to come into their own next year."

Could have expressed that better...what I meant by that is that I think people are going to be coming back to these time and time again as the election draws near!

Easterross said...

St John I suggested in June last year the likely scenario is
Labour -14 seats
LibDems -4 seats
SNP +12 seats
Tories +6 seats.

If you work within the range
Labour -10 to 15
LibDem -2 to 6
SNP + 10 to 15
Tories + 4 to 8

You will not be far wrong in my estimation

Easterross said...

Richard no you haven't missed 5 parts. I am just publishing them as seems appropriate and with today's poll, the 4 way marginals seemed the most relevant.

Easterross said...

Stephen if I use an Inverness context you will understand.

The traditional Tory voter in Scotland was a one-nation Tory like Whitelaw, MacMillan, Younger Rifkind.

You can think of the typical lawyer or accountant in the Crown. they were the Tory voters in seats like Glasgow Hillhead, Bearsden and Milngavie, East Renfrewshire, West Renfrewshire and the genteel southern suburbs of Edinburgh and Aberdeen.

Thinking of the hard working folks who didn't believe in debt and aspired to improve the lives of their families, a bit like the families who have bought their council houses in Dalneigh or moved from Smithton and Hilton out to Culloden and Balloch, these are like the traditional Scots Tory voters who lived in places like Lenzie and Bishopbriggs, Thornliebank, the more prosperous council estates in Edinburgh and Dundee (which used to return Tory councillors well into the 1980s) and indeed in places like Carntyne, Garrowhill, Shettleston, Pollokshaws and Queens Park (all in Glasgow)

Finally if you think of the well heeled villages surrounding Nairn or places like Kingussie and Grantown-on-Spey, that would be similar to the sort of Tory voters who were the backbone of seats like Stirling, Perth, North Tayside, Angus, Dumfries, Galloway and the Borders.

ChristinaD said...

Excellent article Easterross.
Long thought that Aberdeen South could prove a surprise on the night.
If you took the 2005 GE result, you would fancy the Libdems to take it. But the local/Holyrood and Westminster political landscape has changed beyond recognition.

So a surprise maybe in store as the very strong indicators now point to this becoming a four way marginal.
And that would include Begg hanging on, or the SNP or Tories coming from further down the field to take it.

But I think the high tide mark for the Libdems here was in 2005, perfect conditions for them and they couldn't quite manage it.
Lots of local problems for the Libdems both in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire right now. They are worried about the SNP in Gordon, and the Conservatives in West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine. I think that the local infrastructure is no longer there for them to concentrate on all three seats this time.

Stephen B said...

Thanks Easterross.

That was the kind of image I had in my mind but the fact of destruction of the Tory vote in Scotland made me wonder.

I remember having tea with some well-to-do ladies of a certain age and background back in 2005 and the subject of the election was raised. They should have been natural Tory voters but they went through all of the parties one by one considering their virtues and vices - and didn't even mention the Conservatives. The Tories were as fringe to them as Solidarity and more so than the Greens! I also recall that the Tories got just 2% of the vote in (a deeply shambolic) campaign in Lochardil in 2006(?) - another area that once would have been 'natural' territory.

Mark Senior said...

Wasterross , you will not be surpised that I disagree with you that the Conservatives will poll 20 - 25 % in Scotland and that you are way too optimistic of the likely number of Conservative gains . On many occasions you have stated that the opinion polls in Scotland always understate Conservative support and that they poll 3% or so higher .
Having looked at the Scottish polls in the run up to the 2005 election that was in fact not true . There were in fact 8 purely Scottish polls published in 2005 prior to the GE . The Conservative share varied from 14-19% with a mean of 16.5% . For interest the LibDem figure varied from 11 to 23% with a mean of 15.5% .

stjohn said...

Easterross or anyone.

Could you please give me a breakdown of the current situation re: Scottish seats.

How many do Labour hold, SNP etc? I thought the Tories were on zero. Are they actually on 1?

Stephen B said...

stjohn - have a look at this towards the bottom of the page for Westminster seats.

stjohn said...

Stephen B. Many thanks.

So I make that Labour 39 (+ Speaker = 40), LibDems 12, SNP 6, Tories 1. Total 59.

Anonymous said...

Voice from Lothian (who does not have a Google Account!)

I prefer to comment on the seats I know so as a Voice from Lothian I could hardly pass up on Edinburgh South. Easterross is correct to highlight Mike Pringle's win in 2007 in the Edinburgh South Scottish Parliament seat. Worth noting it represents 83% of the Westminster Seat of the same name and that the Tories came fourth!

The Scotland Office's box counts from May 2007 as published in 2008 are an interesting source of numbers here. The Lib Dems are trumpting that they won more votes on the Edinburgh South Westminster Boundaries in May 2007 on the constituency ballot than any other party using those figures so maybe the boundary difference is not as significant as Easterross thinks.

Lib Dem gain - if they keep working hard!