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


The National:

Winner in 2017: Kirstene Hair (Conservatives)

The loss of Angus, and the two other constituencies the SNP had held continuously since 1987, caused an intense emotional reaction in certain quarters of the party in the immediate aftermath of the 2017 election. It was almost as if losing those few seats counted for more than winning a huge haul of central belt seats that would have been beyond the wildest dreams of any independence supporter until just a couple of years earlier. There was a sense that the SNP had made a terrible mistake by drifting too far from the aspirations and concerns of its former heartland voters in seats like Angus, and perhaps had to atone by putting an independence referendum firmly on the backburner for a few years.

The reality is that some kind of swing away from the SNP in Angus was probably unavoidable in the wake of the indyref – the only surprise was that the shift was deferred until after 2015. It was the flip-side of the process by which huge numbers of independence supporting Labour voters in places like Glasgow abandoned their party after suddenly realising that it didn’t really represent their views. In a similar way, a substantial chunk of the SNP’s traditional vote in Angus had always been firmly anti-independence, and that was an unsustainable situation once Scottish politics became totally dominated by the constitutional divide.

READ MORE: General Election analysis: Tough Labour-held target in East Lothian

Thanks to the passage of time, there now seems to be a greater sense of perspective about the tradeoff involved. The SNP leadership appear to accept that there’s more value in winning a majority of Scottish seats by emphasising independence than there is in winning back a small number of seats like Angus by de-emphasising it. And the beauty of that strategic shift is that Angus needn’t actually be a lost cause for a party campaigning on a full-bloodedly pro-independence, pro-Europe prospectus. The council area voted against independence in 2014 by a margin of 56% to 44% – higher than the national average, but only very slightly. And although there’s a somewhat stronger appetite for Brexit than in other parts of Scotland, there was still a clear local majority for Remain in the EU referendum. Bearing those facts in mind, it’s not surprising that the Conservatives’ margin of victory in the constituency, even at the height of the Ruth Davidson surge, was less than seven percentage points. This is very much a Tory-SNP marginal, rather than a safe Tory seat.

According to the initial figures from YouGov’s much-vaunted projection model, the contest is set to be even tighter this time – and that’s in spite of the sharp recovery in the Scottish Tory vote over the course of the campaign.

The SNP appear to be fractionally behind, but if they do pull out one or two victories in the north-east against the Tories on December 12, this could well be one of the seats where it happens.