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


Winner in 2017: Stuart McDonald (SNP)

Incongruous though it may seem, Cumbernauld was once part of an earlier incarnation of the East Dunbartonshire constituency currently being defended by Jo Swinson. If it hadn’t been long since removed from that seat, the chances are that the new Liberal Democrat leader would be on a much stickier wicket than she is right now, because the New Town is one of the few parts of the central belt where the SNP have a strong tradition that stretches back several decades. That factor was pivotal in October 1974 when the SNP’s Margaret Bain famously gained East Dunbarton-shire from the Tories by the tiny margin of 22 votes.

Bruised by that experience, the Tories seemed to make it their mission in government to gaslight the people of Cumbernauld into believing they had never lived in the eastern part of Dunbartonshire in the first place. The hugely controversial local government reorganisation of the mid-1990s saw the town being forced into North Lanarkshire against its wishes, with the intent of turning the rump East Dunbartonshire into a reliable Tory enclave. That didn’t exactly go according to plan.

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

What did prove to be reliable, though, was Cumbernauld’s continued willingness to give the SNP a chance when the rest of the central belt wasn’t much interested. Although the perennial pairing with the solidly Labour town of Kilsyth made it hard for the SNP to score outright victories, there were a few near misses – for example, in 1988, Labour and the SNP won an equal number of seats on Cumbernauld and Kilsyth District Council, and Labour only retained control on a cut of the cards. And then in 2003, Andrew Wilson almost won the local Holyrood seat for the SNP on a sizeable swing against the national trend.

With that track record, it was inevitable that this would become dependable SNP territory if the party ever took a decent national lead, and so it has proved. The Westminster constituency is now the sixth-safest SNP seat in the country, and on a uniform trend Labour would only take it back if they draw level with the SNP across Scotland. It’s reasonably safe to assume that won’t be happening this time.