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

Winner in 2017: Martin Whitfield (Labour)

ONE of the many Remain tactical voting websites is rather eccentrically recommending a vote for the Labour incumbent in East Lothian, even though the second-placed party in the constituency last time were the SNP, who unlike Labour actually take a pro-Remain stance.

The explanation given is that the Conservatives are in a close third place, and that it’s therefore too much of a risk to vote for anyone other than the strongest anti-Tory party. Such perverse advice shows the danger of imposing a one-size-fits-all UK model onto Scotland. At the moment the polling evidence clearly suggests that Labour are well down on their 2017 showing in Scotland, and that the SNP are up. The logical conclusion to draw about a three-way Scottish marginal like East Lothian is that the top two parties this time may well be the SNP and the Tories, and that any vote for Labour carries the risk of being a wasted vote that could help the Tories win.

In any case, there’s also less chance of the Tories improving on their 2017 showing in Scottish constituencies than there is in England. The 29% Scotland-wide vote under Ruth Davidson was probably pretty close to the party’s natural ceiling of support, and a successful election for them in December would involve holding steady or not dropping back very much. Their problem in East Lothian is that down the years their local vote share has generally only been a little higher than their national vote, and it’s extremely difficult to win a constituency when you can’t realistically expect to ever take more than around 30% of the vote. Admittedly it’s not completely impossible if the anti-Tory vote is split evenly enough, but that just makes it all the more important to ignore the siren voices calling for a “tactical” Labour vote.

READ MORE: General Election analysis: Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill

Of course there’s always an outside chance that a party might significantly outperform national trends, but if the Tories do that in East Lothian it would breach decades of precedent. It’s hard to see why that would suddenly happen now, especially bearing in mind that the constituency’s Remain vote was a little higher than the Scottish average at 65%. What is perhaps slightly more plausible is that the local Labour vote may yet prove unexpectedly resilient in defiance of a national swing to the SNP. Iain Gray, the Labour MSP for the equivalent Holyrood constituency, has already shown the way by holding on in the last two elections when by rights he really should have lost his seat in both.

Thanks to Labour’s dismal showing in the polls, the SNP once again start as strong favourites to prevail, and justifiably so. But on recent form this may prove to be the second-toughest Labour seat to seize, after Edinburgh South. It certainly won’t be a formality.