Scotland is heavily comprised of marginals seats, out of the 59 seats, around a quarter of those were won by fewer than a thousand votes in 2017. It is therefore a key battleground for all of the major parties making it an area that could determine the overall result of the General Election.
North East Fife:
The smallest majority of any constituency in the last century with only 2 votes separating the Lib Dems and the SNP. The Conservatives are also not far behind, only being 3,500 votes behind the SNP. It is this seat that could symbolise the election narrative of Scotland. Whether this election becomes a proxy referendum on Brexit or on Scottish independence, it ought to favour the SNP. Support for independence has risen since 2017. However, like in other parts of the UK, if the Remain issue becomes prevalent in this particular seat, and potentially more, it could open the door for the Tories to take the seat. Previously in 2015 the SNP held a 4000 majority over the Lib Dems, with the reduction of its majority to simply 2 votes, it highlighted the wider weakening of the SNPs stranglehold over Scotland. The North East Fife constituency is certainly the most interesting seat in the whole of Scotland. The seat exemplifies the closeness of the election in Scotland, and how parties can claim seats by only the barest of margins.
Gordon, a rural seat, in Aberdeenshire, is another fascinating seat in Scotland. In 2015 it was held by the Ex Leader of the SNP Alex Salmond, but in 2017 a massive 29% swing for the Tories, the largest swing for the party across the whole of the UK, meant they gained it from the SNP, with a 2000 majority. This seat is the best example of the Tories picking up rural Scottish seats that are sympathetic supporters of Scotland remaining in the UK. Gordon in the 2014 Independence Referendum voted around 60% for No. It is in this seat that the SNP’s new proposals for ‘IndyRef2’ may be unpopular, and it could be reflected at the ballot box. It is these sorts of rural constituency’s that the Conservatives need to hold onto to keep a foothold north of the border in Scotland, in order to secure a majority in Westminster. The battle, therefore, will not just be kept in the confines of ‘Leave vs Remain’ but also ‘Independence vs the Union’. The Tories will hope their Unionist stance will help carry them over the line in tight marginals like Gordon.
Like Gordon, Stirling was another seat where the Tories experienced a big swing against the previous holders of the seat, the SNP. A 13% swing from 2015, ensured the Tories gained the seat by only a small majority of 150 votes. Stirling, a predominately affluent area, has traditionally voted Conservative in the 1980’s and 1990’s. However, in 2015, as was experienced almost everywhere in Scotland, the insurgent wave of SNP support ensured the seat changed hands. However, it is important to recognise the strength of the Scottish Conservatives in 2019 is certainly not what it was in 2017. Under Ruth Davidson, a talismanic figure, she spearheaded the Conservatives to campaign passionately for the Pro-Union vote. It was also the organisation and leadership she showed which enabled the Conservative to counter the SNPs monopoly of 56 seats out of 59 in Scotland. After Davidson’s resignation from the party in July, the Conservatives are not predicted to offer quite the same standard of opposition to the SNP. It is marginal seats like Stirling that Johnson and the Conservatives must hold if they have any chance of securing a majority on the 12th December.
Midlothian is one of Labours seven seats in Scotland. It gained the seat from the SNP in 2017 with a majority 900 votes. The seat is also closely contested with the Conservatives, making it a three-way marginal. The seat, therefore, further highlights the closeness of the contest throughout most of the seats in Scotland. Labour in the 2015 Election suffered catastrophic losses in Scotland which cemented their defeat in the polls. Once a stronghold for Labour, Scotland now represents an opportunity to regain many of the urban working-class seats that they have a chance of winning. Midlothian was a prime example of this, and Labour must replicate this in many other seats in order to achieve success.
Perth and North Perthshire:
This seat is another ultra-marginal that the SNP hold in Scotland. The SNP hold a very slim 21 vote majority over the Conservatives. This seat represents the wider battle the SNP have in order to hold onto their electoral dominance of Scotland. Whereas for the Conservatives it represents a very good opportunity for them to nationally gain the 9 seats they need for an overall majority. The SNP will hope their anti-Brexit message will take them over the line in a constituency that voted 62% to remain in the EU. The seat therefore symbolises the wider narrative of the election in Scotland between the Anti-Brexit vote against the Pro-Union Conservatives. Tactical voting by Remainers could hold back the advances of the Tories, and this seat is no different.
Of the 21 seats the SNP lost in 2017, nearly all voted to Remain in the EU referendum. The hopes of the SNP rely therefore, on their anti-Brexit stance to help them recapture those lost seats. A chance of a coalition with Labour in a minority Government also increases the chances of a 2nd referendum on Scottish independence and could help swing many nationalist voters back to the SNP.
The Conservatives are without their leader Ruth Davidson, who inspire them to a good result in Scotland in 2017. Many in the party fear for their chances north of the border without her leadership. While for Labour and the Lib-Dems expectations remain low as recent Scottish polls seem to suggest a weaker performance than 2017.
On the whole the election in Scotland represents a key battleground. Littered with marginal seats it could become one of the most interesting parts of the 2019 General Election.