Scotland 2010: The 31 seats that matter Part 3: Rural Battleground seats in the North and 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 rural “battleground seats” in the North and East of Scotland
Gordon: (LibDem) a seat in which the Tories used to weigh their vote, LibDem since 1987 when taken by Malcolm Bruce, his personal vote may just hold back the SNP tide. Alex Salmond took the Holyrood seat in 2007 on a 10% swing. The LibDems continue to face problems in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire Councils where the Group leader has been deposed and another leading councillor under investigation for alleged improper dealings in the former and 3 councillors have left the group and the ongoing repercussions of the “Donald Trump affair” in the latter. Malcolm Bruce will be hard to shift but give the Daily Telegraph expenses claims about Mr and Mrs Bruce; this could be an SNP gain.
Aberdeenshire West and Kincardine: (LibDem) a LibDem seat since taken from the Tories in 1997, a top target with a popular local Tory MSP standing again so the best Tory prospect in the north of Scotland. The 2007 Aberdeenshire Council results covering all 3 seats showed SNP up from 15 to 22 seats, Tories up from 11 to 14 seats, LibDems down from 28 to 24 seats and Others down from 14 to 8 seats. Aberdeenshire is Labour free. Malcolm Bruce’s wife recently gained a Tory seat in a council by-election which is partly in Gordon and partly in Aberdeenshire West but that was before she featured in the Telegraph expenses claims. This will only be a Tory gain if there is a general move back to the Tories in rural Scotland.
Angus: (SNP) was the most marginal SNP-Tory seat in 2005 and went solidly SNP so Mike Weir should increase his majority. However locally people are saying that as the SNP has already squeezed as much as it can from the other parties, any Tory recovery could see the SNP vote increase and them still lose this seat at a time when it takes other seats all over Scotland.
Dunfermline and West Fife: (Lab) provided a sensational by-election victory in 2006 for the LibDem’s Willie Rennie on the death of Rachel Squire, considered by many to be Labour’s most able Fife MP. This will be a Lab-LibDem gladiatorial contest of enormous proportions, especially since Gordon Brown is the neighbouring MP. In 2007 at Holyrood the LibDems just took the Dunfermline West seat which forms a large part of the Westminster seat on a huge swing so who would bet against Willie Rennie holding this seat, which technically makes it a LibDem gain from 2005.
Perth and North Perthshire: (SNP) another see-saw SNP-Tory seat which in England would have a 15-20% Tory majority. Pete Wishart, the sitting MP was a member of Runrig, one of Scotland’s top bands but the Tories consider they have only lent this seat to the SNP so in the same way Galloway bucked the trend at Holyrood in 2007, this will either be a big increase in the SNP majority in line with the rest of Scotland or a narrow Tory gain. It will come down to whether the SNP has already fully squeezed the non-Tory vote or whether enough former Tory voters return. It could see the SNP vote increase and still lose.