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


Winner in 2017: Angela Crawley (SNP)

Although less well-remembered than the SNP’s knife-edge victories in North-East Fife and Perth and North Perthshire, arguably the most extraordinary Scottish result in 2017 was in Lanark and Hamilton East. SNP incumbent Angela Crawley had been defending an enormous majority of more than 10,000 over Labour, with the Conservatives seemingly not even at the races. As surprise results from other central belt constituencies started to come in, there must have been concern in SNP ranks that Crawley was in some danger of losing her seat back to Labour, who had been the dominant local party until two years earlier. In the end, she fended off the Labour challenge by the hair’s breadth margin of 360 votes.

READ MORE: New report shows Corbyn popularity decline significantly

But what few people saw coming was that the Tories would get even closer to toppling her in a part of the world where they hadn’t won a parliamentary seat since 1955. With a colossal 16% increase in their share of the vote, they fractionally pushed Labour into third place and fell short of the SNP’s tally by just 266 votes. To all intents and purposes, the result was a three-way dead heat, with the SNP, Conservatives and Labour more or less tied on around 32% or 33% of the vote apiece. And yet thanks to the vagaries of the first-past-the-post voting system, Crawley took all the spoils and carried on as MP with exactly the same authority as before.

At the start of this year’s campaign, the Labour blogger Ian Smart made the counter-intuitive prediction that the Tories would gain the seat, because Labour voters would flock to them now that it had become clear which party is best-placed to beat the SNP. That seems a bit of a stretch.

It implies that Labour supporters view the Tories in much the same way that many Tory supporters view the Liberal Democrats in certain constituencies, ie as a safe stick with which to beat the SNP.

But we know it doesn’t work like that – there are, in fact, multiple barriers that might prevent Labour’s 2017 voters from backing the party of Boris Johnson, not least the fact that a substantial minority of them want Scotland to become an independent country.

In any case, budding tactical voters won’t actually know in advance which Unionist party is most likely to mount the strongest challenge in the seat this time. It’s possible the Tories might struggle to maintain their 2017 surge in a constituency that was estimated to have voted Remain in the 2016 EU referendum by virtually a two-to-one margin – even higher than the Scottish average. On the other hand, if the opinion polls are to be believed, the Labour vote is also likely to fall back.

The Unionist party most likely to pick up votes are the Liberal Democrats, but they start with a mere 2% vote share from last time, and any advance they make at the expense of the Tories and Labour will simply improve the SNP’s chances of holding on.

There’s very little danger of SNP complacency after an almighty fright two years ago, but on current trends Angela Crawley should retain her seat with a healthier majority.