One of the 2017 election’s big shocks was just how marginal Scotland as whole became after taking a huge chunk out of the SNP’s vote share. As noted when I kicked off the Ballot Box Battlegrounds series (accessible via the GE19 Hub), a whopping 46 of Scotland’s 59 constituencies were marginal after that election. That meant they had majorities of 10% or less of the vote. So rather than cover every marginal in the country, I took a run through the 20 most marginal. Now that we’ve seen the SNP vote rebound whilst the Conservatives slump and Labour collapse yet further, we have a whole new set of battlegrounds for next time.
Before we get onto those in tomorrow’s post however, let’s take a quick look at the swings that have set them up. These will obviously just relate to the four parties that stood in every seat, since there’s very little to compare for the other parties. The larger the positive swing, the deeper the party colour. Going the other way, the closer to pure black, the larger the negative swing.
As you’d expect from a party pulling a weighty 8.1% swing nationally, the SNP’s map is pretty colourful. The only place to record a decrease in the SNP vote was Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath, which will obviously be down to suspended (yet successful) candidate Neale Hanvey. There were notably low swings in their favour in Banff and Buchan (1.3%) and Edinburgh South (3.0%) as well. Apart from East Renfrewshire, the biggest gains all came north of Glasgow, particularly in seats around the Forth, Tayside and Aberdeen city.
- Best Swing – Stirling (+14.4%)
- Worst Swing – Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath (-1.0%)
- Safest seat – Aberdeen North (majority 33.9% vs Con)
- Most vulnerable seat – East Dunbartonshire (majority 0.3% vs LD)
- Nearest Miss – Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross (-0.6% vs LD)
Although the drop in Conservative vote share was a relatively modest 2.5%, it was felt in almost every constituency. Just 8 constituencies out of 59 saw their share go the other way, and they are all quite scattered around the country. The 2.2% in Banff and Buchan may not be huge, but it’s a further explanation for how that constituency is now their highest vote share. The huge drop in North East Fife would seem to confirm the theory of a big tactical swing to the Lib Dems there. Of the seats they lost Aberdeen South (-6.2%), East Renfrewshire (-4.9%) and Angus (-4.8%) had the largest swings, whereas the other seats were more about being swamped out by SNP gains than huge declines in vote share, especially in Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock (-1.6%).
- Best Swing – Na h-Eileanan an Iar (+5.7%)
- Worst Swing – North East Fife (-11.1%)
- Safest seat – Banff and Buchan (majority 9.7% vs SNP)
- Most vulnerable seat – Moray (majority 1.1% vs SNP)
- Nearest Miss – Gordon (-1.5% vs SNP)
Continuing the grim theme for Scottish Labour in this election, there isn’t a single splash of colour on this map. Their massive -8.5% nationally came about from going backwards in every single seat in Scotland. Some of their lowest losses were in seats they held going into the vote such as Glasgow North East (-3.5%) and Rutherglen & Hamilton West (-3.1%) or places they were extremely weak already like Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk (-3.9%).
The fact Glasgow North was the least bad result is something I would risk breaking impartiality to say (as someone who lives in the constituency) very likely comes down to the quality of the candidate. The biggest loss here is in Falkirk but that was also a place where a candidate was suspended, so this is what a sensible reaction to suspension looks like, albeit compounded by the general collapse. Other huge drops include Stirling (-14.0%), Aberdeen North (-16.8%) and East Renfrewshire (-14.3%), all seats the party held before 2015.
- Best Swing – Glasgow North (-3.0%)
- Worst Swing – Falkirk (-18.6%)
- Safest, most vulnerable, and only seat – Edinburgh South (majority 22.3% vs SNP)
- Nearest Miss – Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath (-2.6% vs SNP)
Had they not lost their leaders seat, the Lib Dems might have been thought of as the other winners of this election. Going up 2.8% nationally saw them pick up more votes almost everywhere, going the other way in five constituencies. Interestingly, all of those backwards locations were historically Lib Dem seats. Orkney and Shetland (-3.8%) and that lost East Dunbartonshire (-3.8%) were seats they held going into the election, whereas Gordon (-1.0%), Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch & Strathspey (-1.6%) and their worst negative in Argyll & Bute (-4.0%) were seats they held until 2015, suggesting they might not be taking any of those back anytime soon. Interestingly enough some of the deeper colours here are in Central Belt seats they aren’t ever likely to take but could bode well for them at least making some headway on the councils next time. They also returned to second in Charles Kennedy’s old Ross, Skye & Lochaber seat thanks to a swing of 3.7% and a big Conservative decline.
- Best Swing – North East Fife (+10.2%)
- Worst Swing – Argyll and Bute (-4.0%)
- Safest seat – Orkney and Shetland (majority 10.8% vs SNP)
- Most vulnerable seat – Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross (majority 0.6% vs SNP)
- Nearest Miss – East Dunbartonshire (-0.3% vs SNP)
We’ll take a look at how this changed the list of marginal seats in Scotland tomorrow, in what I reckon will be Ballot Box Scotland’s last bit of major analysis coming out of the GE19 results.