The area includes a high number of pro-Leave fishermen, Yes-voting Dundee and a region still under pressure from reduced oil prices. In the second edition of our blog series on key challengers, we take a look at potential movement in four seats in the North East of Scotland, Mid Scotland & Fife.
Gordon is a seat unionists would love to take. Much in the way that the SNP targeted former Scottish Secretaries Ian Lang or Michael Forsyth at previous elections, the opportunity to take down Alex Salmond and all the symbolic capital that would entail is something the parties would relish. Spanning central Aberdeenshire, Gordon returned the former First Minister to Westminster with 27,717 votes, amounting to a share of 47%. The seat had been Liberal since 1983 when it was won by Malcolm Bruce, with the Conservatives as the traditional challengers in this largely prosperous rural constituency. The Liberals finished some 8,000 seats off the pace last time while the Conservatives were a distant third. A split in the unionist vote seems likely to keep Salmond in office, however the area did have an above average Leave vote in Scottish terms at the recent EU referendum and voted firmly for the union. It would be a proper ‘Portillo moment’ if these factors came together to dislodge one of the SNP’s big beasts. Councillor Colin Clark is standing as Conservative candidate while Kirsten Muat runs for Labour.
The West Aberdeenshire & Kincardine constituency covers the southern portion of the Aberdeenshire Council area, stretching down the coast from Portlethen past Inverbervie, and skirting across to encapsulate Westhill, Ballater, Aboyne and Banchory. The SNP’s Stuart Donaldson took the seat in the 2015 General Election with 41.1% of the vote and a 25.9% swing, ousting Liberal Democrat, Robert Smith, who had held the constituency since 1997. Despite the 7,033 majority enjoyed by Donaldson, the seat seems marked for a strong challenge from the Conservatives, with Theresa May and Ruth Davidson canvassing the area in support of their candidate, Andrew Bowie, and pledging to take action against “separatists that want to break up our country”. The Tories have recorded a surge in the region, coming in second with Alexander Burnett in 2015, who then went on to take the Aberdeenshire West constituency seat from the SNP in the Holyrood elections of 2016. Brexit and independence will be the hot topics for the Tories to target, as Aberdeenshire voted decisively against independence in 2014, returning a No vote of 60%, and recorded a Leave vote of 45% in the EU referendum (in contrast to the 38% average across Scotland). All this aside, a lot may ride on where votes previously afforded to the Liberal Democrats end up.
Mid Scotland & Fife
In what was once a bellwether seat with all four major political parties regularly gaining over 15% of the vote, Perth & North Perthshire became a two-party seat overnight in 2015. The incumbent of three terms, Pete Wishart, and his Conservative rival, now regional MSP for Mid Scotland & Fife Alexander Stewart, received 83.2% of the vote between them, with Pete Wishart gaining 50.5%. With such solid numbers, the SNP’s Westminster Leader of the House of Commons would generally expect to retain his seat. Nonetheless, this constituency encompasses tracts of rural land such as the Forrest of Atholl to the north and Glen Lyon to the west, in addition to the majority of the city of Perth. This area also saw a 24.7% swing from the SNP Deputy Leader, John Swinney, towards the Conservatives in the equivalent Scottish Parliamentary constituency in 2016. That the Conservatives have chosen a prominent candidate in current MEP Ian Duncan, a former Perthshire native, indicates their optimism of at least making a challenge for the seat.
The North East Fife seat was won by the SNP’s Stephen Gethins in 2015, with the Liberal Democrat candidate Tim Brett finishing 4,344 votes behind in second place. Prior to 2015, the constituency had been represented by former Liberal Democrat Leader, Menzies Campbell, since 1987. Gethins, the SNP’s Westminster spokesperson for Europe, increased his party’s share of the vote by 26.7% while the Liberal Democrat vote fell by 13%. The Conservatives finished third and Labour fourth. The North East Fife constituency in the Scottish Parliament is currently held by Scottish Liberal Democrat Leader, Willie Rennie, who unseated the SNP’s Roderick Campbell in 2016. Bordered by the River Tay to the north and Firth of Forth to the south, the constituency includes St Andrews, Cupar and Anstruther.
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