Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Scotland's Swing Seats SNP v Labour in the East

Scotland 2010: The 31 seats that matter Part 1: SNP v Labour Battleground in the East of 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 5 Labour v SNP “battleground seats” in the East of Scotland.

Aberdeen North: (Lab) held by Labour’s Frank Doran, one of their more able Scottish performers. In the 2007 Holyrood elections (where Aberdeen is represented by 3 seats), North was an SNP hold with a 6.6% Lab-SNP swing increasing the majority to 3,750 or 15%. Central a Labour hold saw a 2.1% Lab-SNP swing shaving the majority to under 400 votes or 1.8%. It is hard to see Labour holding this one.

Dundee West: (Lab) remained Labour when East went SNP and held by James McGovern with a majority of over 5,000 in 2005 but in 2007 popular local councillor Joe Fitzpatrick turned Labour’s 2003 majority of 1,000 into an SNP majority of almost 2,000. I expect the SNP to throw the kitchen sink at this seat in 2010 so expect an SNP gain, especially as the city council is now SNP run. This seat falling would make Dundee the first city in Scotland ever to be SNP controlled at Westminster, Holyrood and city council level.

Glenrothes: (Lab) the seat which Labour held in last year’s by-election on a quadrupling of the postal votes and then the marked register promptly disappeared. Incredibly the Labour vote increased from 2005 but away from the media frenzy and party workers coming from all parts of the country, will the SNP be able to benefit this time from running the council and holding the Holyrood seat since 2007? The 3rd and 4th party votes are likely to return to normal so will Labour or the SNP benefit from the lack of squeeze?

Edinburgh East: (Lab) a seat long held by Dr Gavin Strang, one of Labour’s most able Scottish parliamentarians, in 2005 he retained the seat with a majority of just over 6,200 votes or almost 16%. The Holyrood seat which is smaller was taken in 2007 by Kenny MacAskill, now the very high profile Justice Secretary in the SNP cabinet on a swing of 13% giving the SNP a majority of almost 1,400 votes or just over 4.6%. Gavin Strang is retiring and Labour was rocked by outrage over the imposition of a women-only shortlist so if the SNP take any Edinburgh seat it should be this one.

Livingston: (Lab) was for some years the seat of the late Foreign Secretary Robin Cook who won the seat in 2005 with a majority of over 13,000 votes or 30%. Following his sudden death soon after the General Election, he was succeeded by Jim Devine his former election agent who held the seat at the by-election. However having suffered a 10% swing to the SNP, Jim Devine’s majority was reduced to less than 2,700 votes or 9% making it highly marginal. Sure enough at the Holyrood election in 2007, Cllr Angela Constance who just failed against Jim Devine captured the seat from Bristow Muldoon the sitting Labour MSP on a 7.5% swing giving her a slender majority of 870 or just over 2.6%. Facing an SNP opponent boosted by the presence of an SNP MSP and SNP run council, Jim Devine is like Canute trying to hold back the tide. Of course Jim Devine will not be defending the seat due to him being barred by Labour’s star chamber over his expenses so that may be enough for an SNP gain.


Richard Nabavi said...

Thanks Easterross. Yes people do read PB2!

I shall be studying what you say carefully.

C said...

I second that - many thanks for the article. Very useful as we get nearer the election and I look forward to the remaining parts.

AndrewG said...

I'm not especially well informed on how a General Election campaign is covered in Scotland, so I'd be interested to know whether a general anti-government mood affects Labour or the SNP more.

Easterross said...

AndrewG an anti Government mood in this context is anti-Labour

Kezia Dugdale said...

With regards to Edinburgh East, the idea that "Labour was rocked by outrage over the imposition of a women-only shortlist" is absolutely laughable.

If anything, that selection process has united the local party and has certainly seen a significant increase in the active membership.

Alastair said...

Easterross, many thanks for this analysis, which will be read more than commented upon, but read carefully. One thing that I don't really understand is the extent to which crossover is expected from the Scottish Parliamentary elections to the Westminster elections. We are very used to seeing the Lib Dems outperform at local election levels and we all have our own ideas about the importance of the EU elections, but of course the Scottish Parliament is rather more important than local elections and of more direct impact than the EU elections. To what extent do you think we should have regard to the parties' performance in 2007?

Easterross said...

Alastair, although I know it does not unsurprisingly meet with uniform support, my own view is that 2007 was a clearer indicator of what is likely to happen at the General election and that taking 2005 as the baseline is very misleading.

you will find that the Tory and SNP PBers think the Scottish LibDems are in for a major shock. I think they could lose
Aberdeenshire West
Roxburgh etc
East Dunbartonshire
without them picking up a single Scottish seat.

Between 2005 and 2007 they lost 150,000 votes and even taking account of the slightly lower turnout, that is a lot of votes. Remember that in contrast to the Tories, although both parties had a net loss of 1 seat, the Tories took a FPTP seat from the LibDems and the SNP took 2 FPTP seats from them.

BrianSJ said...

For non-Scots, Kezia Dugdale is not a neutral observer.

Many thanks. There are more personal factors in this than I had thought. The scale of SNP ambition will need to be carefully matched to its resources. Dundee would be a fine prize, but is that the ceiling of their ambitions in a Labour meltdown? Glenrothes will be interesting; I presume there will be a positive incumbency effect.

Easterross said...

Brian SJ I would expect the SNP to target the constituencies where they have already taken either the equivalent Holyrood seat or council.

Livingston and Kilmarnock are the obvious 2. I would be disappointed if they didn't take Frank Doran's seat with Alex Salmond being the neighbouring MP at present.

Easterross said...

Just so folks know Kezia Dugdale is the Scottish parliamentary assistant to Lord George Foulkes and was beaten for the nomination for Glenrothes.

BrianSJ said...

My question ref SNP ambition could be termed the Lothian question. How much of the capital and its surrounds are within reach,and how much is that worth in terms of resources? Perhaps for a future installment.

Easterross said...

Brian SJ there is a chance that after the GE Edinburgh will be
SNP 2 (North and East)
Tories 2 (South and South-West)
LibDem 1 (West) which would be an astonishing result.

Other than Livingston I cannot see the SNP having a real chance at any of the other Lothian seats

Mark Senior said...

Easterross , many thanks for an interesting article . I will only say that the blue tinted spectacles you wear are giving you a far too optimistic view of the Conservative's chances in Scotland . There is no evidence in either polls , Holyrood , local or Euro elections that the Conservatives will poll 20% of the vote let alone 20-25% .

Marcia said...

Thank you for the article. As I am on holiday I am missing my daily read of PB but logged in tonight to see that you have this article. One seat missing from the list is my own seat of Dundee East. The SNP are defending a tiny majority of only 383 over Labour. Labour seem quiet in the seat - the SNP are working away to increase the majority.

Labour are working away in Dundee West but so are the SNP.

Anonymous said...

A Voice for Lothian (who does not have a Google Account)

Re Edinburgh East I'm not a neutral observer (but then again neither is Easterross!) I suspect that the failure of the SNP Government to fund Portobello High School centrally as was expected by parents and the City Council will damage the SNP. Eventually after 18 months the Lib Dem/SNP council found the money internally in the city, but the SNP Government's failure resulted in a long delay which Labour's candidate - Sheila Gilmore - will try to exploit.

Easterross said...

Marcia, I dont consider Dundee East now anything other than a safe SNP seat hence the reason to exclude it. I may have been wrong but I doubt it.

A Voice from the Lothians, thanks for that nugget. If sheila Gilmore is a good candidate then she will work the failure of the SNP/LibDem council to her advantage. I have always been a Gavin Strang admirer and it will take a strong character to fill his shoes.

Anonymous said...

It would beg the question, why didn't Labour provide the school when they were in office? Local issues may attract a few voters to it but they get buried in the National election campaign and Labour in Scotland these days are just moaners and groaners.