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#GE2017 Key Seats: Highlands & Islands

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Ahead of this, we take a look at those precarious seats in the Highlands and Islands...

The constituency of Orkney & Shetland, covering Scotland’s northern isles, has specially-protected boundaries and been in continual existence since 1708. The seat has voted for the Liberal Democrats consistently, although the incumbent, former Secretary of State for Scotland, Alistair Carmichael, had his majority cut from 9,928 to 817 in 2015. In the months following the election, Carmichael was involved in a controversial court proceeding following the “Frenchgate” scandal. In spite of this, the Liberal Democrats performed much better during the separate Holyrood elections for both Orkney and Shetland, increasing their majorities in 2016. The seat also voted strongly against independence in 2014. The SNP’s candidate in 2015 and 2016, Danus Skene, has since passed away following heart surgery. Miriam Brett, a former Yes campaigner, will take his place and the party is likely to campaign heavily on Carmichael’s personal reputation.

Na h-Eileanan an Iar, or the Western Isles, is the most sparsely populated constituency in the UK and another island constituency with protected boundaries. The SNP has held the seat since 2005, with the incumbent, Angus MacNeil, successfully increasing his majority in the elections that have followed. Labour is the main contender for the seat, having held it through the 90s. During the 2015 and 2016 elections, the Conservatives came a distant third and were followed in fourth by the Scottish Christian Party. There have been suggestions that Labour will seek to highlight Angus MacNeil’s social media activity during the campaign, particularly given the constituency voted against independence in 2014.

With the Cairngorms National Park located to the south of the Moray constituency, it is hard not to reach for metaphors relating to mountains when discussing the prospects of current MSP and now General Election candidate, Douglas Ross, as the main challenger to the current incumbent and SNP Depute Leader, Angus Robertson. Robertson’s 9,065 majority would generally be viewed as unassailable, particularly as he has been elected for four successive terms and the seat itself has been held by the SNP since 1987. Nonetheless, several polls have indicated this is a seat which the Conservatives stand a good chance of gaining, on the back of increased support for the party nationally. Angus Robertson’s opposition to Brexit may also not be well received due to the fishing industry’s support for leaving the EU and its Common Fisheries Policy. To win here, Douglas Ross will likely have to gain on the 38% share of the vote he received when contesting the equivalent constituency at the 2016 Scottish Parliament elections.

This is the third in a series of blogs on the key seats and challenges. The first part focused on city challengers, while part two looked at the North East and Mid Scotland.

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