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


Winner in 2017: Martyn Day (SNP)

CURIOUSLY there is a Brexit Party candidate in Linlithgow and East Falkirk, even though the estimated Leave vote in the constituency was slightly lower than in neighbouring Livingston. Anyone would think Nigel Farage is deliberately trying to sabotage the Conservatives’ chances in a genuine three-way marginal. After suffering a 16% drop in support in 2017, the SNP incumbent Martyn Day knows he would lose his seat on a swing of less than 3% to Labour, or of less than 4% to the Tories. Neither swing is particularly probable if the opinion polls are to be believed, but if there is any threat it may be more likely to come from the Tories, given the way their vote appears to be holding up. The SNP may yet have cause to raise a glass to Farage for choosing the right constituency to seek to nab some Tory votes.

Just like Livingston, though, this is a seat where the SNP should expect a better than average showing if past history is any guide. As far back as 1987, the predecessor constituency of Linlithgow was considered a good enough prospect for the party that Jim Sillars opted to stand there. He took 25% of the vote, which was close to double what the SNP managed nationally in that election. Kenny MacAskill went one better in 1992 by breaking through the 30% barrier. Perhaps surprisingly, the Holyrood seat of Linlithgow wasn’t one of the minority of first-past-the-post seats that the SNP took when seizing power for the first time in 2007, but they came agonisingly close, missing out by a margin of less than 4%.

The 36% of the vote Martyn Day recorded two years ago is actually a rare example of an SNP candidate in Linlithgow falling slightly below par – it was 1% lower than the SNP’s national vote share. Whether that was a blip or the start of a new trend remains to be seen. Either way, there would have to be a major momentum shift in this campaign before Day would look genuinely vulnerable. For now the real contest is for second place, and on current trends it looks entirely possible that the constituency held for so long by the legendary Labour MP Tam Dalyell will in future be a solid SNP seat in which the Tories are the leading challengers.