Every day until the election, James Kelly of ScotGoesPop is profiling Scotland’s UK Parliament constituencies.


Winner in 2017: Hannah Bardell (SNP)

IT’S rather startling to find a typical SNP-Labour marginal seat in the Central Belt in which the Leave vote at the EU referendum was estimated to be as high as 44% – some six percentage points above the Scottish national figure. Even more surprising is that the constituency is adjacent to Edinburgh, one of the most Remain-friendly locations in the whole UK. But it remains to be seen whether Livingston’s status as a quasi-hotbed of Euroscepticism will have a telling impact on the 2019 election. The Brexit Party have missed a trick by not putting up a candidate in the seat, and even if the Conservatives significantly outperform national trends, they’ll have little chance of winning outright.

That said, the Tories had their best local performance for decades in 2017 when they took one-quarter of the vote in Livingston and finished only 8% behind the second-placed Labour. If their vote holds up this time, and if Labour suffer the kind of sharp drop in support currently suggested by opinion polls, it’s conceivable that Boris Johnson’s party could sneak into the runner-up spot – although even if they do, they’re likely to remain a long distance behind the SNP incumbent Hannah Bardell (pictured above).

Livingston was one of many constituencies in former Labour heartlands that the SNP fretted about in the immediate aftermath of the 2017 election, but those fears were predicated on the false assumption that Labour might be well on their way to taking back the lead in the national popular vote. Despite suffering a hefty swing of 11% against her, Bardell had managed to retain a cushion over her Labour opponent, meaning that on a uniform swing Labour would need to cut the SNP’s Scotland-wide lead in this election to as little as two percentage points before she’d be deposed.

It’s no surprise that the SNP enjoy the luxury of a slightly greater safety net in Livingston than in a number of similar seats, because they have a history of comparatively good results in the area stretching back decades. Even when the Labour heavyweight Robin Cook was the local MP, his SNP opponents consistently outpolled their own party’s national vote share, and the by-election that followed Cook’s death produced a reasonably competitive contest that Labour won by only a 9% margin. Perhaps most notably, the old Holyrood constituency of Livingston fell to the SNP in the landmark election of 2007, on a night that actually saw a small majority of first-past-the-post seats throughout Scotland remain in Labour hands.

With a local SNP pedigree such as that, the chances that Bardell will lose must be slim, even if things don’t go quite as well as expected. On a good day she can look forward to a thumping majority.