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.