Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Scotland Votes: Central Scotland Part 1: North Lanarkshire

This post covers those seats broadly covering North Lanarkshire. The remainder of the constituency seats will follow soon as will the regional seats.

Central Scotland is the centre of the central belt. To its West sits Glasgow, to its East sits Lothian. It will surprise no one to know that like the rest of the Central Belt the area is dominated by Labour, with the SNP in second place. It is a region of small commuter towns between the two cities. In this post I shall be broadly covering North Lanarkshire.




Swing Required

First Elected

Airdrie & Shotts

Karen Whitefield




Too Close

Coatbridge & Chryston

Elaine Smith




Lab Safe

Cumbernauld & Kilsyth

Cathie Craigie




Lab Lean

Motherwell & Wishaw

Jack McConnell




Lab Safe

Uddingston & Bellshill

Michael McMahon




Lab Safe

Airdrie and Shotts MSP Karen Whitehead is Scottish Labour’s Shadow Children’s Minister. She has been MSP for this seat since 1999. The SNP are running Alex Neil against her. Neil is a well known figure on the party’s left, and in the party’s fundamentalist faction. He stood for the party leadership in 2000, he did not stand in 2004 claiming he had large support for a leadership run but that figures in the party’s gradualist wing had said that they would not work with him as leader. Neil is currently Housing and Communities minister, raising his profile further, however he suffered from an expenses scandal in 2010 when it was revealed he had flipped his second home, making about £100,000 in the process. According to the Daily Record when pressed on the issue he asked “Do you want us to stay in a caravan?” Despite this the 1.4% swing needed to unseat Whitefield is thin when compared against the SNP’s poll lead. Despite this, I think it’s fair to call this one as too close.

Coatbridge and Chrystonis held by Labour’s Elaine Smith. First elected in 1999, she has held this seat ever since. From what I can tell she appears to be a fairly typical backbencher with a low profile. The SNP’s John Wilson is a list MSP in the South of Scotland and was first elected in 2007. He, too, seems a fairly low profile backbencher, but he may also suffer from seemingly been parachuted in from South Scotland to fill a Central Scottish seat. Adding in the larger Labour majority, I think this one is Safe for the party.

Cumbernauld and Kilsyth’s Cathie Craigie is a veteran local politician, a former council leader who has held this seat since 1999. She was run quite close in 2003, but actually experienced a swing in her favour in 2007, during an election in which Labour generally suffered. Undoubtedly local forces were at work. She has gotten some attention for her support of the deaf, and a private member’s bill on British Sign Language she wrote. Her opponent is Jamie Hepburn a list MSP for the region. Hepburn came under fire for high postage stamp claims on his expenses early in the last term, but his expenses halved in size in 2010. On the one hand this seat, in theory, requires a 4% swing, well inside the projections from polls. However, on the other hand, there is almost zero third party vote here. Labour has a solid 48%, and the SNP has 40.2%, the Lib Dems are in third with 6.3%. Even if that entire vote went to the SNP they would still be behind. I suspect, therefore, that the Labour vote here is more solid than in most of Scotland and that swings here will be less than the average across Scotland. As such, I’m calling this as a Labour lean.

Motherwell and Wishaw is the seat of former First Minister Jack McConnell, who is standing down at this election. Labour are hoping to replace their former leader with John Pentland a North Lanarkshire councillor for 18 years and a former welder. Technically the SNP are in second place, and their candidate is Clare Adamson, a SNP councillor. Even in the circumstances in which we currently find ourselves the Labour majority in this seat is pretty much unassailable. It’s a safe seat for them.

And finally onto Uddingston and Bellshill the seat of Michael McMahon. He is Shadow Minister for Local Government. The SNP’s candidate is Richard Lyle, their group leader on North Lanarkshire council. As in Motherwell and Wishaw I just don’t see the SNP getting the 10.5% swing they need to defeat Labour here. Labour safe.


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