Lothian - Region Overview

Confusingly, the Lothian region doesn’t actually cover all of the historic area of the same name. Although it incorporates the entirety of both West Lothian and the city of Edinburgh, it’s missing large parts of the others. Most of Midlothian makes it in, with just the southern portion around Penicuik and Gorebridge absent. The vast majority of East Lothian lies outside the region, with only Musselburgh included. The original 1999 version included even less of East Lothian as Wallyford and the east of Musselburgh weren’t in it, but it did have more Midlothian thanks to Gorebridge.

That precise division gives the region an interesting split between the historic mining communities of West and Midlothian, versus the relatively but of course not universally more affluent capital in Edinburgh. Whereas the former followed the same trend as other central belt areas like Lanarkshire and south Fife by becoming heavily Labour through the 20th century, some Edinburgh seats maintained Conservative MPs right up until their famous wipeout in 1997. 

At that election, they were replaced by the Lib Dems as Labour’s main competition in the city, whilst the SNP were the leading opponents but didn’t break through in West Lothian. As ever with First Past the Post however, the substantial political diversity in the region wasn’t expressed in its MPs.

With the new Scottish Parliament elected by partly proportional representation, that diversity really came to the fore. Although Labour won eight of the nine constituencies, with just Edinburgh Western going Lib Dem, the region saw a trio of SNP MSPs elected via the list, two Conservatives, an additional Lib Dem, and most interestingly, a Green. As with the SSP winning in Glasgow, this was a surprise. PR was meant to make things fairer, sure, but letting new parties through wasn’t foreseen. Robin Harper therefore became the first elected Green Parliamentarian anywhere in the UK.


8 Labour (all Constituency)
3 SNP (all Regional)
2 Conservative (all Regional)
2 Liberal Democrat (1 Constituency, 1 Regional)
1 Green (Regional)

In an election where every part of Scotland really seized the chance to do new and different things with their regional vote, Edinburgh really, really lived up to the Rainbow Parliament moniker. In the Constituencies, the Conservatives won Edinburgh Pentlands and the Lib Dems Edinburgh South from Labour, which meant both parties dropped a corresponding list seat, as did a weakened SNP. In their place came a second Green, a Scottish Socialist Party MSP, and an Independent in Margo MacDonald, after the SNP made the same mistake Labour had in Falkirk West in 1999 by failing to select a very popular figure for a winnable position. Famously, Margo won so many votes she almost qualified for a second seat – not that it’d have been allocated!


6 Labour (all Constituency)
2 SNP (all Regional)
2 Conservative (1 Constituency, 1 Regional)
2 Green (all Regional)
2 Liberal Democrat (all Constituency)
1 Independent (Margo MacDonald, Regional)
1 SSP (Regional)

Unlike many other parts of Scotland, the Rainbow didn’t entirely dissipate in Lothian, with the Greens holding onto one of their MSPs and Margo likewise retaining her seat, though the SSP died a death here as everywhere else. Meanwhile, Labour’s haul of constituencies continued to be nibbled away at, as the SNP gained both Livingston and Edinburgh East and Musselburgh. Their support grew enough to also gain a third list seat, whilst Labour found themselves eligible for one for the first time.


5 SNP (3 Regional, 2 Constituency)
5 Labour (4 Constituency, 1 Regional)
2 Conservative (1 Constituency, 1 Regional)
2 Liberal Democrat (1 Constituency, 1 Regional)
1 Green (Regional)
1 Independent (Margo MacDonald, Regional)

For a region that had been one of Scotland’s most diverse at all of the previous elections, 2011 was a big shakeup. In the SNP’s surge to majority government, they won all but one seat in the redrawn region, with Labour only holding on to Edinburgh Northern and Leith. The complete collapse of the Lib Dems not only saw them lose both constituencies but also fail to hang on via the list. Labour were partly compensated for their lost constituencies by two further list seats, and the Conservatives simply saw a one-for-one trade off. The Greens again held their single seat, and Margo MacDonald was elected for a final time, before sadly passing away in early 2014.


8 SNP (all Constituency)
4 Labour (3 Regional, 1 Constituency)
2 Conservative (all Regional)
1 Green (Regional)
1 Independent (Margo MacDonald, Regional)

Traditional constituency diversity was partly restored at the last election, as though the SNP picked up that Edinburgh Northern and Leith seat Labour had held in 2011, they lost Edinburgh Southern to the party, whilst the Lib Dems regained Edinburgh Western and Conservative Leader Ruth Davidson picked up Edinburgh Central. The latter combined with an additional list seat meant the Conservatives doubled their representation in the region, as did the Greens who won a second seat, with Labour dropping one of theirs.


6 SNP (all Constituency)
4 Conservative (3 Regional, 1 Constituency)
3 Labour (2 Regional, 1 Constituency)
2 Green (all Regional)
1 Liberal Democrat (Constituency)

The two constituencies to watch this time are Edinburgh Central and Edinburgh Southern. It really rankled the SNP to lose a constituency to the Conservative leader, as demonstrated by the out-sized attention both the party and the media have been giving to the SNP selection there. Davidson isn’t standing again this time, which may help boost the SNP’s chances. Meanwhile in Edinburgh Southern, which despite the name does not match up particularly well with Westminster’s Edinburgh South seat, unless polling improves substantially then Labour would be hard-pressed to retain it.

Given the imperfect nature of proportionality via AMS and the possibility for parties to win “too many” constituencies and throw it off, that may be the biggest contributor to changes in the list seats. The Greens only won their second seat very narrowly last time, and would have missed out on it had any of the three non-SNP constituencies went another way. They’ll need to grow their vote substantially to secure that seat.

If the SNP were to win back either or both of those constituencies, then in addition to the Greens, both Labour and the Conservatives could see one of their regional MSPs in the firing line. Overall, Lothian in 2021 is very likely to come out as a strong argument for moving away from AMS as it currently works to a more properly proportional system.

Lothian - Overall Regional Results

Total MSPs Elected 2016


6 SNP (all Constituency)
4 Conservative (3 Regional, 1 Constituency)
3 Labour (2 Regional, 1 Constituency)
2 Green (all Regional)
1 Liberal Democrat (Constituency)

Changes to MSPs since 2016


Labour Regional MSP Kezia Dugdale resigned to take up a new post in July 2019. She was replaced by Sarah Boyack .

Regional List MSPs Elected 2016


#1: Conservative - Miles Briggs
#2: Green - Alison Johnstone
#3: Labour - Kezia Dugdale
#4: Conservative - Gordon Lindhurst
#5: Labour - Neil Findlay
#6: Conservative - Jeremy Balfour
#7: Green - Andy Wightman

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Regional List Candidates 2021

Almond Valley

Constituency MSP Elected 2016, Majority and Turnout


SNP: Angela Constance
Majority: 8393 (24.1%)
Turnout: 53.9%

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Constituency Candidates 2021

TBC

Edinburgh Central

Constituency MSP Elected 2016, Majority and Turnout


Conservative: Ruth Davidson
Majority: 610 (1.8%)
Turnout: 57.3%

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Constituency Candidates 2021

TBC

Edinburgh Eastern

Constituency MSP Elected 2016, Majority and Turnout


SNP: Ash Denham
Majority: 5087 (14.4%)
Turnout: 56.7%

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Constituency Candidates 2021

TBC

Edinburgh Northern and Leith

Constituency MSP Elected 2016, Majority and Turnout


SNP: Ben Macpherson
Majority: 10576 (18.2%)
Turnout: 55.3%

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Constituency Candidates 2021

TBC

Edinburgh Pentlands

Constituency MSP Elected 2016, Majority and Turnout


SNP: Gordon MacDonald
Majority: 2456 (7.4%)
Turnout: 60.6%

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Constituency Candidates 2021

TBC

Edinburgh Southern

Constituency MSP Elected 2016, Majority and Turnout


Labour: Daniel Johnson
Majority: 1123 (2.9%)
Turnout: 64.5%

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Constituency Candidates 2021

TBC

Edinburgh Western

Constituency MSP Elected 2016, Majority and Turnout


Liberal Democrat: Alex Cole-Hamilton
Majority: 2960 (7.4%)
Turnout: 64.6%

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Constituency Candidates 2021

TBC

Linlithgow

Constituency MSP Elected 2016, Majority and Turnout


SNP: Fiona Hyslop
Majority: 9335 (24.3%)
Turnout: 54.1%

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Constituency Candidates 2021

TBC

Midlothian North and Musselburgh

Constituency MSP Elected 2016, Majority and Turnout


SNP: Colin Beattie
Majority: 7035 (20.3%)
Turnout: 54.9%

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Constituency Candidates 2021

TBC