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: Angus MacNeil (SNP)

The constituency known unofficially in English as the Western Isles is one of two in Scotland to be entirely comprised of islands, and just like Orkney & Shetland its politics often seem detached from those of the mainland. It has changed hands in spectacular fashion three times since the Second World War, and on each of those occasions, there was no Scotland-wide trend that could adequately explain the sudden change.

In 1970 the SNP’s Donald Stewart grabbed the seat from Labour on a mind-boggling swing of 33%, in a General Election which otherwise saw the SNP fail to properly capitalise on Winnie Ewing’s famous by-election breakthrough three years earlier. After Stewart’s retirement in 1987, Labour took the seat back on a merely huge swing of 19%, in an election which elsewhere in Scotland actually marked a slight turning of the tide in the SNP’s favour. And most recently in 2005, Angus MacNeil reclaimed the seat for the SNP on a swing of 9%, even though nationally the SNP’s vote dropped by 2% in that election.

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The 2017 result should perhaps be taken as a timely warning sign that the SNP are not immune to a fourth bolt from the blue. MacNeil recorded a majority over Labour of just 7% – his slimmest in four elections as an SNP candidate. That means he did worse than in 2005 and 2010, when the SNP were miles behind Labour nationally. Beyond uniquely local factors, was there any obvious explanation for that? As in other constituencies there may have been some sort of backlash against plans for indyref2, but there was no particular reason to expect the backlash to be disproportionately fierce in the Western Isles, which had a Yes vote of 47% – slightly higher than the national figure of 45%.

If this was almost any other constituency, we’d conclude that the SNP dodged a bullet in 2017, and that it should be much more straightforward this time. Labour remain the only credible challengers, and they appear to be firmly in the doldrums across Scotland. But this is Na h-Eileanan an Iar, and until the votes are counted it’s impossible to entirely exclude the possibility that Labour could pull off an astonishing gain even as they go backwards on the mainland.