UK Target Seats, Part 8: Scotland

I suspect that this is the installment for which many of you have been waiting. Sorry I did it last, but it required some extra research. Try as I might, I couldn’t find a breakdown of Independence Referendum results by parliamentary constituency. There a few useful exceptions on wikipedia, but the list is far from complete. However, there shouldn’t be large variations among parts of council areas (especially with the seats we’re dealing with), so I’ll give council area numbers for most seats. At first, it looked like the Tories were headed for as high as 15 gains north of the border, but Labour has rallied as of late. It now looks like the range is 3-10. The current party totals stand at Scottish National Party 56/59, Scottish Conservative and Unionist 1/59, Labour 1/59, and Liberal Democrats 1/59.

Here is where the parties stood after the 2015 election:


#1 Berwickshire, Roxburgh, and Selkirk – 0.3% swing from Scottish National Party required, 43.3% Leave, 66.6% No (Scottish Borders)

This is pretty much a guaranteed pickup for the Tories. It’s basically the old constituency of longtime Liberal leader David Steel. The southern reaches of Scotland are significantly to the right of the rest of the country. This was an SNP gain fro the LibDems in 2015. Only a very split Unionist vote handed it to the Nationalists. Given the recent gains in polling that the Tories have made in Scotland, I don’t see how this doesn’t fall.

#2 Dumfries and Galloway – 5.8% swing from Scottish National Party required, 45.1% Leave, 65.7% No (Dumfries and Galloway)

Though the swing needed is obviously larger than the previous seat’s, the game is still the same. the unionist vote is very strong, and the Tories have done well here lately in local and Holyrood elections. Team Blue held on here a lot longer than in other Scottish seats, losing it to Labour in 2005 after the redraw. Come what may outside of Caledonia, I’d be shocked if all three border seats weren’t painted blue after June 8th.

#3 West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine – 6.4% swing from Scottish National Party required, 39.2% Leave, 60.4% No (Aberdeenshire)

Believe it or not, the Tories are so strong here (relative to their status in the rest of Scotland), that they actually hold the Scottish parliamentary constituency that covers most of this seat. That’s not strange near the border, but it is up in Northeast Scotland. What’s more, they captured that seat last year. They’ve done even better in polling since then.

#4 Moray – 9.2% swing from Scottish National Party required, 49.9% Leave, 57.6% No (Moray)

Here is where we move from the insta-pickups into the zone of uncertainty.This is one of the few seats where the Brexit number actually makes a huge difference. It being so close to 50% (likely due to the local fishing industry) makes things a lot easier for the Tories in getting crossover votes. Angus robertson, the SNP’s leader in the House of Commons, is the current MP here. Taking him down would be a big massive scalp on the Scottish Tories’ belt.

#5 Perth and North Perthshire – 8.9% swing from Scottish National Party required, 39.9% Leave, 60.2% No (Perth and Kinross)

Up until 1997 this was still a Tory area, so it survived the erosion in the ’80s. Still, the SNP did (barely) top 50% in 2015, so there’s a tough hill to climb. There has been talk (somewhat backed up by local election results) that one of the areas disproportionately affected by the Tory surge is North East Scotland (along with Southern Scotland and Edinburgh). This is one place where a recovery by Labour or the LibDems would probably be of more help than harm.

#6 Aberdeen South – 9.4% swing from Scottish National Party required, 32.1% Leave, 58.6% No (Aberdeen)

This seat befuddles me somewhat. On the one hand, it’s pretty pro-Remain. On the other, the referendum number is decent, and that’s what will probably matter more. Funnily enough, the city’s other seat is significantly more pro-Leave, but that may be because it’s the poorer side of town.

#7 East Renfrewshire – 12% swing from Scottish National Party required, 25.7% Leave, 63.2% No (East Renfrewshire)

This is the wealthiest part of Scotland, serving as it does as Glasgow’s chief ritzy suburb. In the local elections, Team Blue did very well, taking 7/18 seats and becoming the largest party on the council. The Brexitiness of Theresa May’s government may turn off some voters here, but a lot of them also despise Nicola Sturgeon.

#8 East Lothian – 11.5% from Scottish National Party required, 35.4% Leave, 61.7% No (East Lothian)

Like East Renfrewshire, East Lothian is coextensive with the local council area of the same name. That means that the referendum number is definitely accurate. This area is a tad odd. Most of it isn’t actually that connected to Edinburgh, but it votes like it is, being (these days) a three-way fight due to residual Labour strength and a strong Unionist streak. Taking it would be a real sign of the times, as the Tories haven’t done so since 1974.

#9 Edinburgh South West – 11.4% swing from Scottish National Party required, 26.4% Leave, 61.6% No (constituency only)

The City of Edinburgh was kind enough to provide ward-by-ward results for the referendum, so we actually know for sure how this seat voted. As with East Lothian, this is a three-way fight. The Tories were the top vote-getters in most of this constituency’s wards at the local elections, so the odds are decent.

#10 Stirling – 11.3% swing from Scottish National Party required, 32.3% Leave, 59.8% No (Stirling)

This is the last norma seat on the list. I definitely don’t like the Leave number, but the referendum number is solid enough to warrant inclusion. It would likely be even higher if the southern parts of the seat weren’t so close to the Yes-happy Glasgow area.

#11 Banff and Buchan – 15.7% swing from Scottish National Party required, 61.4% Leave, 60.4% No (Aberdeenshire)

This is a huge long shot. There is one reason, and one reason only, that I’m even including it: that monster Leave number. It’s by far the highest of any constituency in Scotland. The culprit is likely the local fishing industry, which, just as in Moray and other North Sea fishing areas in the UK, has been strangled by the EU. Again, this seat probably won’t fall, but that much pro-Brexit sentiment can’t be ignored.


#1 East Dunbartonshire – 2% swing from Scottish National Party required, 26.9% Leave, 61.2% No (East Dunbartonshire)

Unlike in other areas of the country, the LibDems’ prospects in Scotland are pretty decent. They have several seats that were very close last time, and this is one of them. This is suburban Glasgow, and it votes like it. As they are in so many of their other former seats, the Liberals are running their old MP.

#2 Edinburgh West – 2.9% swing from Scottish National Party, 31.4% Leave, 65.5% No (Constituency only)

Edinburgh, connected to the rest of the UK as it is by governmental and financial industry ties, was not a fan of the Independence Referendum. Nowhere is this more evident than this upscale part of Scotland’s capital. The LibDems also did well in the local elections in this part of the city.

#3 Fife North East – 4.8% swing from Scottish National Party required, 36.3% Leave, 55% No (Fife)

Interestingly, though they took horrific losses in voteshare in England, the LibDems weren’t hit quite as hard north of the border (like Labour was). Consequently, a lot of these seats that they’re trying in are eminently winnable. They weren’t able to get their old MP back for this seat, but it’s still within reach.

#4 Caithness, Sutherland, and Easter Ross – 5.6% swing from Scottish National Party required, 51.3% Leave, 52.9% No (Highland)

The LibDems used to be pretty strong in the Highlands and North Easr Scotland. They’d trade seats back and forth with the SNP on a regular basis. They could definitely get this one back (though they didn’t get their old MP to run again), but they might bump heads with the Tories and allow the SNP to keep it due to their strong Remain stance.

#5 Ross, Skye, and Lochaber – 6.1% swing from Scottish National Party required, 43.5% Leave, 52.9% No (Highland)

The story here is similar to the one in caithness, though the Leave number is lower. It looks like the Scottish Liberals weren’t nearly as good as the English ones at getting their old MPs to run again.

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1 Comment

  • Jon June 2, 2017 at 10:30 pm

    I’m thinking that Scotland is probably has the majority of Labour’s best chances of picking up seats (all their targets here currently held by SNP)

    45, M, MO-02

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