Every day until the election we will profile all 59 of Scotland’s contests. Can the SNP hold what they have or win any new seats? James Kelly of ScotGoesPop has the answers


Winner in 2017: Alistair Carmichael (LibDems)

When the exit poll flashed up on screen in 2015, and the SNP were sensationally predicted to have won 58 of the 59 Scottish constituencies, most people’s instinctive guess was that Orkney and Shetland must be the odd one out. It had been continuously held by the Liberals and the LibDems since 1950, usually with enormous majorities, and was generally considered the least likely seat in Scotland to change hands. It was particularly challenging terrain for the SNP given the local hostility to independence. In the 2014 referendum, both the Orkney and Shetland council areas voted No by roughly two-to-one margins.

READ MORE: General Election analysis: Safe bet for the SNP in Dundee West

Remarkably though, the constituency didn’t prove immune to the nationwide Yes-fuelled SNP surge. Alistair Carmichael held on for the LibDems, but only by the skin of his teeth, and suffered a mammoth 24% swing against him that wouldn’t have looked out of place in many other parts of Scotland.

But nobody should be fooled by that result into believing that the Northern Isles are usually plugged into the political trends of the mainland. As is the case in Scotland’s other exclusively island constituency, big increases or decreases in the local MP’s majority often seem to have little or no correlation with what is happening elsewhere in the country. Earlier this year, the divergence became apparent once again when the SNP ran the LibDems astonishingly close in the Shetland count for the European elections, and didn’t do at all badly in Orkney either. That simply shouldn’t have been happening in a traditional LibDem stronghold on a day when the LibDems were surging into a historic second place across the UK.

It’s that degree of unpredictability that might lead the SNP to be more optimistic about their prospects in Orkney and Shetland than in the other Scottish LibDem seats, even though on paper it’s by far the toughest to snatch. However, they fell short by a 15.5% margin in August’s by-election for the Shetland seat in the Scottish Parliament. If that was the result even when they could commit greater resources to the area than will be possible in a General Election, it seems unlikely that they’ll be able to oust Carmichael in December. A more realistic aim may be to once again slash his majority, which recovered to a healthy 4563 two years ago.