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


Winner in 2017: Alister Jack (Conservatives)

A few months ago, at the height of the Brexit Party surge, Tories in the south-west of Scotland must have been panic-stricken about the possibility of a nightmare from the past revisiting them. A Conservative Secretary of State for Scotland once had his front-line career ended at the hands of the SNP in the old Galloway and Upper Nithsdale constituency, and it looked for all the world like the current holder of the office Alister Jack might be hurtling towards the same fate in the modern Dumfries and Galloway seat.

On paper, it’s the sixth-toughest seat in Scotland for the SNP to take, with a daunting 5.5% swing required, but a batch of YouGov and Panelbase polls in the spring suggested that the national swing from the Tories to the SNP was running in excess of that. Even as late as October, the polls were still showing that the swing was just about high enough.

READ MORE: General Election Analysis: LibDem growth to boost SNP margin

The situation has changed out of all recognition since then. Nigel Farage’s unexpected decision to give the Tories a free run in seats they already hold, and in the majority of other Scottish seats as well, has seen the Brexit Party’s support in Scotland collapse to practically zero. Those voters have largely headed straight back to the Tories, who suddenly appear to be not that far off the 29% of the national vote they achieved two years ago. Although the SNP can still be optimistic of securing a limited number of gains from the Tories, they probably no longer expect Alister Jack to be on their list of targets. The initial estimates from YouGov’s projection model put them a hefty nine percentage points behind in Dumfries and Galloway.

But all may not be lost quite yet. The new Ipsos MORI telephone poll found a bigger swing from Tory to SNP than implied by the YouGov model, and although that wouldn’t be sufficient for the SNP to oust Jack, it would be enough to keep the contest competitive. Much may depend on how the 21% of voters who backed Labour in 2017 react to the prospect of a tight race. Will they tactically switch to the SNP due to fears over the imminence of Brexit and the chance of a sizeable overall majority for Boris Johnson? Or will they prove to have entirely different priorities, and tactically switch to the Tories in a bid to stop an independence referendum? If it’s the latter, the SNP will have no plausible route to victory. But if it’s the former, they may have a slim chance of defeating Jack – albeit only if their national performance is at the higher end of expectations.