Monday, 18 April 2011

A Look @: South Scotland (Part II)

This post concentrates on the four seats in the east of this region, which cover the Scottish Borders Council area along with most of East Lothian and South Lanarkshire with a bit of Midlothian too. To find the seats in the west of this region click here
and to find the regional discussion click here.




Swing Required

First Elected


Karen Gillon




LAB Lean

East Lothian

Iain Gray




LAB Safe

Ettrick, Roxburgh & Berwickshire

John Lamont




CON Lean

Midlothian South, Tweeddale & Lauderdale

Jeremy Purvis




SNP Lean

Karen Gillon has been an MSP for Clydesdale (South Lanarkshire) since 1999 but this year the boundary changes have made her constituency a lot more marginal. The Larkhall ward has been moved into the Hamilton, Larkhall & Stonehouse constituency along with the Stonehouse part of the Avondale & Stonehouse ward. As a result Gillon is defending a majority barely a third of that which she won four years ago. The Scottish Nationalists are Labour's closest rivals on the South Lanarkshire Council, which they run as a minority, and the same is true in this Scottish Parliament seat. Notionally the SNP require a swing of just 1.9% to gain Clydesdale and they have selected their regional MSP Alieen Campbell to fight this seat. Campbell came second in this constituency at the last election and was the youngest MSP to be elected in 2007.

The wildcard in this contest is that due to an 'administrative error' the Liberal Democrats do not have a candidate for this constituency. Apparently Scottish Borders Councillor John Paton-Day was all set to stand here for the Lib Dems' but as he is also their #7 candidate on the regional list he thought only one nomination paper was required. By the time the mistake was noticed the deadline had passed; a lesson for forward planning if ever there was one! Notionally there are 2664 Liberal Democrat votes up for grabs in this constituency so how they break could have a huge impact on the battle to win this seat. I think they'll favour Gillon so this is down as a Labour Lean.

Party Leaders very rarely lose their seats, especially when they are polling 7-8 points higher than they were at the last election. Therefore Labour's Scottish Parliamentary leader Iain Gray is very unlikely to lose his East Lothian constituency. Gray has led his party since 2008 when he won the AV ballot with 58% of the final round vote. The boundary changes have made things marginally more favourable for the Scottish Nationalists here and they have selected local Councillor David Berry. He is unlikely to reproduce his party's excellent performance at the last election when they managed a 10% swing from Labour. Gray is looking pretty safe.

In 2007 John Lamont gained the Roxburgh & Berwickshire constituency from the Liberal Democrats on an impressive 9.4% swing. Since then Lamont has got in a spot of bother with his office expenses and was unsuccessful in his bid to become an MP for the Berwickshire, Roxburgh & Selkirk constituency. The boundary review has brought in the ward of Selkirkshire into this constituency, which has resulted in a renaming of the seat to Ettrick,
Roxburgh & Berwickshire and has shaved 500 votes off Lamont's majority. The Liberal Democrats have kept faith with their losing candidate from 2007 Euan Robson and he needs a 2.7% swing to once again represent this area. Robson was the MSP here between 1999 and 2007 before his defeat at the last election. Both parties are suffering in the polls at the moment but Lamont should have enough to hold on here.

The most interesting seat on this side of the region has to be Midlothian South, Tweeddale & Lauderdale. As the current Liberal Democrat MSP Jeremy Purvis narrowly held off the Scottish Nationalist challenge in the Tweeddale, Ettrick & Lauderdale constituency that preceded this one it was bound to be a tight race. However, the boundary review was not kind to Purvis as they removed the Lib Dem leaning Selkirkshire ward and added the SNP leaning Midlothian South. It has meant Purvis now requires a 1.9% swing towards him to remain an MSP, which doesn't look likely given his party's current polling. The SNP have re-selected their candidate from the last election Christine Grahame who has been a South of Scotland regional MSP since the Parliament's creation and has been the runner up in this constituency in all three elections. It looks quite likely Grahame will finally make the switch from regional to constituency MSP this May.

It is worth briefly considering Labour's chances in this constituency given that they only narrowly lost out on second place to the SNP in the first two elections to the previous seat. The 8% drop in their vote in 2007 would have left them seemingly out of contention for the previous constituency but the boundary review has been kind to them here. Their candidate Ian Miller requires a notional swing of 7.3% to win from third and as they are eating into the Liberal Democrat vote quite significantly then there is an outside chance of a surprise gain. They could certainly push Purvis down to third but I fancy Grahame will do enough to gain the seat for the SNP. This new constituency has all the ingredients to become a three-way marginal in future elections though.


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