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


Winner in 2017: Jamie Stone (LibDems)

In light of the bruising campaign Jo Swinson has endured so far, is it just conceivable that one or more of the four Scottish LibDem seats could unexpectedly come back into play for the SNP ? And if so, which might be the most promising target? Incumbent party leaders are rarely ousted from Parliament , and Orkney and Shetland is a long-term LibDem stronghold, so perhaps the most intriguing possibility is Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross – a constituency whose Holyrood equivalent is held by Gail Ross of the SNP. As an added twist, the LibDem candidate defeated by Ross in the 2016 election was none other than Jamie Stone, who turned the tables on the SNP a year later to become the local Westminster MP.

On the face of it, the idea of the SNP grabbing the seat back shouldn’t be fanciful – they start from less than 7% behind, which means they require a slightly smaller swing than in their former heartland seats of Moray, and Banff and Buchan.

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The only reason Stone has generally been assumed to be totally safe is that the LibDems have been polling significantly higher than in 2015 or 2017, but if their recent downward trajectory continues and takes them closer to the 7% Scotland-wide vote they had two years ago, the equation would obviously change. Stone failed to meaningfully boost his party’s local vote when he gained the seat – he won by default because the SNP vote slumped by 17%. If the LibDem vote remains more or less static once again, and if the SNP motivate their natural supporters to make the trip to the polling stations in a way they didn’t last time, an upset could theoretically be on the cards.

The challenge for the SNP could be made much tougher, though, if the LibDems successfully squeeze the constituency’s sizeable Tory vote. The potential for that to happen in a LibDem-SNP battleground seat was vividly demonstrated in the last election in East Dunbartonshire – a natural Tory area that contrived to record a much lower Conservative vote share than some of the most working-class, anti-Tory parts of the central belt.

But achieving that effect required the Tories to essentially run a paper candidate who didn’t full-bloodedly campaign. There must be a doubt over whether they’ll be prepared to make a similar sacrifice in a constituency where they have realistic hopes of gaining ground thanks to an estimated pro-Brexit vote of around 50%. It’s presumably for the same reason that the Brexit Party have opted to put up a candidate here.

Any seat that has been represented by all four main parties since the Second World War, and that is split down the middle on EU membership, is bound to be difficult to read. However, it’s probably fair to say that things would have to get even worse for the LibDems in this campaign than they already have before a serious opportunity would open up for Stone’s rivals.