Thursday, 5 May 2011

A Look @: Central Scotland (Part II)

This posts looks at the constituencies wholly contained within the South Lanarkshire and Falkirk Council areas. To find the other five constituencies seats click here, and to find the regional discussion click here.




Swing Required

First Elected

East Kilbride

Andy Kerr




LAB Lean

Hamilton, Larkhall & Stonehouse

Tom McCabe




LAB Safe

Falkirk East

Catty Peattie




Too Close

Falkirk West

Michael Matheson




SNP Lean

A month ago Labour's Andy Kerr seemed set for an easy return to the Scottish Parliament but as his party have lost support during the campaign his East Kilbride constituency has become a key marginal. Kerr has held this seat since the first election for the Scottish Parliament but the surge in support for the Scottish Nationalists has left him fighting his toughest campaign yet. The constituency has undergone some changes as a result of the boundary review as the South Lanarkshire ward of Avondale & Stonehouse has been moved from the constituency and split between the Clydesdale and Hamilton Larkhall & Stonehouse seats. This has increased Kerr's notional majority slightly as the ward was marginally SNP leaning.

On most recent polls the Scottish Nationalists would have taken this constituency on a Uniform Swing but today's final poll from YouGov would leave them just short. They have kept faith with the same candidate that has contested this seat in every Scottish Parliament election Linda Fabiani. She has been a list MSP for the Central region since 1999 and will be hoping to beat the national swing to win this constituency. As the SNP tend to under perform their polling at the ballot box I think Kerr will just hold out, but it should be tight.

The newly created Hamilton, Larkhall & Stonehouse seat is quite different from the old Hamilton South constituency that the Labour MSP Tom McCabe has represented since 1999. It has lost the Blantyre ward to the Rutherglen seat and gained Hamilton North & East, Larkhall and the Stonehouse part of the Avondale & Stonehouse ward. On paper McCabe's notional majority is virtually unchanged from four years ago but he will not have the advantage of a personal vote in some areas of this new constituency.

The SNP are in second place and they have selected their Central Scotland MSP Christina McKelvie to contest this seat. She was first elected to Holyrood in 2007 when she won her regional seat after failing to gain this constituency. The 6.7% swing required for McKelvie to win is asking a lot and I expect McCabe to return for a fourth term.

The two constituencies within the Falkirk Council area have been virtually unchanged in the boundary review. Both seats are key LAB/SNP marginals in the battle to become the largest party in the fourth Scottish Parliament. Falkirk East MSP Catty Peattie is another Labour incumbent who has seen her chances of re-election diminish in recent weeks. Her notional 3.1% majority seemed enough at the start of the campaign but even as the SNP have dropped back from their polling high at the end of April this is right on the edge of the National Swing. The Scottish Nationalists have selected local Councillor Angus MacDonald as their candidate and he has to fancy his chances of winning this seat. The bookies regard this as very close and so do I.

The only constituency in Central Scotland that Labour are not defending is Falkirk West. In fact, despite holding the Westminster seat they have failed to win the equivalent Scottish constituency since the Parliament was set up. This is mainly down to an internal dispute in the lead up to the first devolved elections when the then Labour MP for Falkirk West Dennis Canavan left the party after failing to secure the nomination for the Scottish Parliament seat. He stood as an Independent and won with a huge majority as the official Labour candidate managed only 18% of the vote. Canavan held the seat in 2003 but then stood down in 2007, leaving behind one of the most unpredictable open seats in Scotland.

The SNP just came out on top four years ago as Michael Matheson was rewarded for his persistence and won the seat at the third time of asking. With a notional majority of just 743 he look vulnerable before the campaign got going but with the final polls showing the SNP significantly up on 2007 he looks set to win a second term. Labour have kept faith with Dennis Goldie, who narrowly missed out at the last election. It's likely to be close but I think Matheson should come out on top.


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