Tuesday, 3 May 2011

A Look @: Scotland West (Part I)

This post covers the constituencies in the central area of this region, contain within the East Renfrewshire, Inverclyde and Renfrewshire Council Areas. To find the other five constituencies click here, and to find the regional discussion click here.




Swing Required

First Elected



Kenneth MacIntosh




Too Close

Greenock & Inverclyde

Duncan McNeil




LAB Safe


Wendy Alexander




LAB Lean

Renfrewshire North & West

Trish Godman





LAB Lean

Renfrewshire South

Hugh Henry




LAB Safe

As with any boundary review there are a number of incumbents who face uphill tasks just to hold their seat and in this election Labour's Kenneth MacIntosh is a strong candidate for the most hard-done-by MSP. He held on to his Eastwood seat in 2007 with a majority of 891 but the constituency has been is vastly altered for this election. As the seat had the third biggest electorate in Scotland at the last election it has lost its northern areas, including Neilston and Uplawmoor parts of the Neilston, Uplawmoor & Newton Mearns North ward along with the Barrhead ward, to the Renfrewshire South constituency. As these were Labour leaning the notional result leaves a 3500 deficit for MacIntosh to overcome if he is to remain an MSP.

The Conservatives are the main beneficiaries from the boundary changes and their candidate Jackson Carlaw has an excellent chance of winning this seat. Carlaw contested this constituency in 2007 and although he lost his placement as the second candidate on the regional list saw him enter the Scottish Parliament for the first time. On uniform swing from the most recent polls Labour fall short here but MacIntosh should get a little incumbency bonus. Whether it will be enough to save his seat remains to be seen; this will be a tight one.

A few weeks ago Duncan McNeil looked safe as houses to hang onto his Greenock & Inverclyde seat, which now covers most of the Inverclyde Council area. Defending a 4500 vote majority should be pretty easy for a Labour incumbent this year but the surge in support for the Scottish Nationalists during the campaign has turned this election on its head. The SNP have selected one of their West of Scotland MSPs Stuart McMillan to contest this constituency for the second time. McMillan increased his party's vote share by an impressive 15% in 2007 to position the SNP as the main challenge to Labour here but I think it will be a tough ask to repeat that again this year. Although a UNS calculation would bring the SNP quite close the fact Labour have an incumbent to rally around in what wasn't regarded as a target seat before the campaign started should keep this constituency red.

In a parallel universe Wendy Alexander would be on the verge of becoming Scottish First Minister this week. When she replaced Jack McConnell as Leader of Scottish Labour in 2007 that would certainly have been the aim as she looked to make her party's time in opposition as brief as possible. Sadly her short stint in charge of her party was dogged by controversy surrounding donations she had received for the non-existent leadership campaign. Barely 10 months in the job Alexander resigned claiming the 'vexatious' campaign from her political opponents would be a continued distraction for Scottish Labour.

Alexander seemed set to defend the Paisley seat for her party but at the start of February she announced her decision to stand down, citing family reasons. Evan Williams has been selected the new candidate here and he is defending a fairly comfortable majority. This area has been completely redrawn as party of this boundary review and this Paisley seat has been constructed using the four wards that cover the town, which had been previously split between the Paisley North and Paisley South constituencies. The MSP for the former, Hugh Henry, is to defend the Renfrewshire South seat discussed below.

The Scottish Nationalists are notionally in second place and they have selected local Councillor George Adam, who contested the Paisley North seat in 2003, as their candidate. Recent polling has brought this seat into play somewhat and with the seat open the SNP might fancy scoring a surprise gain here. In truth it is probably out of reach for the Nationalists and Williams will hold it for Labour, albeit not quite as well as Alexander would have.

Nominally the Renfrewshire North & West constituency is the successor to the Renfrewshire West seat held by Labour's Trish Godman for the first three Parliaments but there are major changes as a result of the boundary review. The new constituency picks up Renfrew North and Renfrew South & Gallowhill from the old Paisley North seat and then covers the northern part of the Renfrewshire Council area. The old Renfrewshire West constituency did contain some wards from Inverclyde but aside from part of the Inverclyde East ward they are now mostly in the Greenbank & Inverclyde seat.

At 71 Godman did not seek her parties selection to defend the new constituency and so Labour have opted for local Teacher Stuart Clark to contest this election. He is starting in a strong position, although the recent surge in support for the SNP may be giving Clark the jitters. Under UNS the Scottish Nationalist candidate Derek MacKay would run this very close and he is currently the leader of the Renfrewshire Council so should be be well known locally. A major problem for MacKay is that the Conservative candidate is their Leader in the Scottish Parliament Annabel Goldie and so there is potential for the anti-Labour vote to be split. Clark should hold on but if the polling is accurate this could be quite a lot tighter than he would like.

Hugh Henry has been the MSP for the Paisley South constituency for three terms but the Renfrewshire South seat he is hoping to win this Thursday is significantly different to his old one. Henry has only represented a small part of the new constituency, which covers the southern wards of the Renfrewshire Council area, minus Paisley, and the northern part of the East Renfrewshire Council area. Luckily for Henry Labour have a big notional majority here so the fact he is campaigning in a virtually new seat shouldn't harm his chances. The SNP are second notionally and they have selected Andrew Doig as their candidate. This isn't the first time Doig has fought a constituency campaign having come second in Paisley North in 2007 and then again in Paisley & Renfrewshire South at last year's General Election. He is likely to come second again on Thursday as Henry should secure a fourth term in Parliament.


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