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#GE2017 Key Seats: City Challengers

We are quickly hurtling ever closer to the 8th June and Theresa May’s snap General Election. So much has changed since the 2015 contest and, mindful of these new circumstances, parties across Scotland have identified their battlegrounds. The SNP saw extraordinary gains last time round, gains which the opposition parties seem confident will not be maintained. However, the SNP have said they will be fighting for all 56 seats they took in 2015, as well as posting strong candidates in the three which eluded them. We will have to wait until the early hours of 9th June to see for sure what impact Brexit, a possible independence referendum and the ongoing primacy of the SNP have had on the electorate, but in the meantime, we’ve taken a look at some of the most interesting seats and election challengers.

First in the series, we take a look at city seats...

Edinburgh

Edinburgh South is predominantly city/suburban constituency which covers roughly the same area as Holyrood’s Edinburgh Southern constituency, though in 2005 it was enlarged to include areas from the former Edinburgh Pentlands. Currently represented by Labour’s Ian Murray, the party will dedicate the bulk of its resources to keeping its sole MP in place. Murray has held the seat since 2010, when he replaced Labour MP Nigel Griffiths, who held the seat since 1987. Labour will go into the fight with some optimism, as in 2015 Murray increased his majority from 316 to 2,637, ahead of the SNP’s Neil Hay. Similarly, at the Holyrood elections in 2016, Labour’s Daniel Johnson won the seat from incumbent SNP MSP Jim Eadie with a 1,123 majority. However, Eadie will return to contest the Westminster seat in June and, as a popular former MSP, is thought to be a strong contender.

Edinburgh West stretches from South Queensferry down as far as Ratho, Bonnington and Dalmahoy and covers the Clermiston, Drylaw, Corstorphine and Murrayfield areas of the city centre. Michelle Thomson and the SNP secured Edinburgh West by just over 3,000 votes in 2015, ousting Liberal Democrat Mike Crockart, who has been a political presence in Edinburgh since 1985. Thomson resigned the whip and was then suspended from the SNP in September 2015 for her ties to disgraced property lawyer Christopher Hales and the ongoing police investigation into related mortgage transactions. She maintained her position as an independent MP until the SNP National Executive Committee announced she would not be eligible to stand for the party for this General Election, and she has subsequently stepped down. Given the SNP controversy, the Liberal Democrats have a real opportunity to take back this seat, especially since Edinburgh voted by 61% to remain in the United Kingdom. The area’s current MSP, Alex Cole-Hamilton, took the constituency back from the SNP in the Scottish Parliament elections last year and the party achieved over 50% of first preference votes and two councillors for the Almond ward in the recent local elections.

Christine Jardine has been nominated to take on the task for the Lib Dems this time. A former policy adviser to Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, and special adviser to Secretary of State for Scotland, Michael Moore, she has stood in a multitude of elections over the last four years, including against former SNP party leader, Alex Salmond, in the General Election of 2015. The SNP's Holyrood challenger in 2016, Tony Giugliano, has been selected to try and hold on to the seat for the SNP. Sandy Batho, a director of Edinburgh Zoo who was the Conservative candidate for Holyrood in 2016, is also running for the seat, but as the party’s 2015 candidate only attracted 6,732 votes it is unlikely he will come close.

Glasgow

A new MP will be elected to Glasgow East at the General Election following Natalie McGarry’s decision not to seek re-election. McGarry has been charged with a number of fraud offences and has been sitting as an independent MP since being suspended by the SNP in 2016. Covering the areas of Baillieston, Carmyle, Easterhouse, Parkhead, Shettleston and Tollcross, Glasgow East has historically been one of the Labour Party’s safest seats. Until the SNP’s by-election victory in 2008, Labour had held the constituency since the 1930s. While Margaret Curran reclaimed the seat for Labour in the 2010 election, she was defeated by McGarry in 2015, who won with a swing of 32% and a majority of over 10,000. Kate Watson will contest the seat for Labour, while David Linden has been selected as the SNP’s candidate.

Aberdeen

Aberdeen South, the former seat of prominent Labour MP and disability rights activist, Anne Begg, saw her defeated by the SNP’s Callum McCaig by 7,230 votes in 2015. Conservative Ross Thomson also contested the 2015 poll, finishing third with the Conservative vote only increasing by 2.1%. Undeterred, Thomson also competed for the equivalent Scottish Parliament seat last year, finishing second with 33.5% of the vote and less than 2,800 votes behind the SNP incumbent, Maureen Watt. The 19.4% vote swing he achieved that election would place him within 2% of Callum McCaig’s majority if replicated this election, placing McCaig, who is the current Business, Energy, Industrial Strategy & Climate Change spokesperson for the SNP at Westminster, in danger of the current upsurge in support for the Conservatives within the North-East region. An examination of the constituency boundaries, however, reveals that the Westminster boundaries do not include the large swathes of coastal and rural land of its Holyrood equivalent, where Conservative voters would be more likely located. That the constituency is instead more urbanised, covering suburbs such as Peterculter, would indicate a harder task for Thomson this time around.

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