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


Winner in 2017: John Lamont (Conservatives)

Of the many gravity-defying feats the SNP pulled off during their 2015 landslide, Calum Kerr’s victory in Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk was perhaps the most astonishing of the lot. The Borders seat had looked an even tougher proposition than the neighbouring constituency held by David Mundell, but the miracle happened just the same. Reality annoyingly intervened two years later when the Tories easily captured the seat in what is, after all, their natural habitat.

But with Kerr having another crack this year, and in the wake of the SNP topping the Borders popular vote in the European election in May, supporters of independence are daring to dream that a famous triumph might be repeated. Nobody should be under any illusions about how difficult that task is going to be, though. A considerable slice of luck was involved in making the 2015 result possible.

Although the Tories proved to be the SNP’s main rivals, the seat was actually being defended at the time by the Liberal Democrats’ former Cabinet minister Michael Moore, a factor which ensured that Moore’s party kept a significant residual vote share of 19%. Without the advantage of incumbency two years later the LibDem vote melted away to practically nothing, allowing the Tories to completely dominate the Unionist vote and record a formidable vote share of 53%.

Plainly, if that had been the situation in 2015, Calum Kerr’s winning share of 37% would have been woefully insufficient.

READ MORE: General Election analysis: Will Jo Swinson lose East Dunbartonshire?

So if the SNP are to have any chance in December, they won’t only need to recover lost ground themselves, they’ll also need the Tories to go backwards. And realistically, that will have to mean a sizeable Liberal Democrat revival at Tory expense. It’s hard to judge how likely that is to happen, because voters who have previously moved between the LibDems and the Tories may find themselves tugged in two different directions.

On the one hand, John Lamont is by all accounts a popular MP, and holds considerable appeal to moderate voters who in the past were the backbone of the LibDems’ local support. But on the other hand, many of those voters are also pro-European. The constituency’s Leave vote in the 2016 referendum was somewhat higher than the Scottish average at 43%, but there was still a decisive Remain majority, which inescapably means that a significant chunk of Lamont’s coalition of support from last time must be completely at odds with the Tories’ flagship policy at this election. There is, then, just about a plausible scenario in which the Unionist vote could be split between the Tories and the LibDems in a way that gives the SNP enough of an opening. But the path to victory is exceptionally narrow, and the likelihood must be that the Tories will hold on, albeit perhaps with a reduced majority.