ON a chilly afternoon in Kirkintilloch, a small team are gathered round a table in the SNP’s campaign hub planning an afternoon of canvassing.

Three have come from Carluke for the day to help out – a sign of the importance of the East Dunbartonshire seat in this election.

The prospect of unseating Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson is a prize the SNP’s candidate Amy Callaghan has her sights firmly fixed on.

“It would be monumental,” she says. “But more so in terms of tackling poverty and austerity and standing up for the values we know matter to the people of Scotland.

“She is the architect of austerity and it has huge, huge impact on the people of East Dunbartonshire.

“I am wanting to show them how much I care and how much I want to change that.”

The challenge Callaghan faces is significant: she is up against a high-profile MP who was 10% ahead of the SNP in 2017.

A YouGov poll published last week predicted Swinson will hold the seat – although her lead is now standing at just four points.

Her campaign as party leader has shown little sign of success, starting off with proclamations she was aiming to be Prime Minister.

That message was quickly dropped with her party’s poll numbers slipping, a bruising appearance on the BBC’s Question Time leaders’ debate and questions over the stance of unilaterally cancelling Brexit if elected.

Another poll found that voters like Swinson less as they see her more.

Callaghan’s campaign leaflets accuse Swinson of being a “pop-up” MP, more focused on her ambitions of being Prime Minister than representing the community.

When asked about taking on such a well-known name, Callaghan is quick to point out recognition “doesn’t always necessarily go in your favour”.

“I think what people have seen of me locally so far has been positive,” Callaghan says.

“Whereas Jo Swinson standing on TV and saying she would push the nuclear button – that’s not resonating well with people in East Dunbartonshire by any stretch of the imagination.”

The moment when Swinson answered a quick-fire interview question of whether she would be prepared to use nuclear weapons as Prime Minister with a short “yes” is also highlighted in Callaghan’s election leaflets.

It replaces an accusation the Liberal Democrat leader accepted a £14,000 donation from a “fracking company”, which Swinson last week succeeded in obtaining a court ban on, arguing it was defamatory.

Callaghan says: “We respected the decision of the court and we amended the leaflet accordingly.

“But if anyone is going to criticise a leaflet it is incredibly hypocritical it is the Liberal Democrats that are doing so, given their dodgy bar charts.”

She says she has spoken to as many people as possible in East Dunbartonshire over the last few months to base her campaign around local as well as national concerns – ranging from education to parking charges.

A day on the election trail yesterday involved four campaigning sessions, three Christmas fairs and two events turning on Christmas lights.

“I am confident I can win this for the people of East Dunbartonshire,” Callaghan says.

One key challenge will be getting SNP voters to turn out in the numbers required – made even more difficult by a December election.

Swinson secured her seat in 2017 with a 4.3% increase in votes, while the SNP’s John Nicolson was unseated after a 10% fall.

Around 15,000 more people in the area went to the ballot boxes in 2015 compared to 2017.

Local SNP activist John, who declined to give his last name, says: “The interesting thing is Swinson won in 2017, but her vote didn’t really go up. It was that our vote didn’t turn out.

“If we can get the vote out, we will win it – but that is the ‘if’.

“Nobody around here is talking about the election – perhaps that will be different as it comes nearer the time, but it is not a subject people are talking about.

“I do think they are jaded.”

The constituency of East Dunbartonshire takes both affluent suburbs and pockets of deprivation – stretching from Bearsden and Milngavie to Lenzie and Bishopbriggs.

Once known for heavy industry – including the manufacture of puffer steamships and the iconic red telephone boxes – Kirkintilloch is split into two for Westminster election purposes.

THE east, along with Cumbernauld and Kilsyth, has been represented by the SNP’s Stuart McDonald since 2015, when the new constituency was created.

On the streets of the town, there’s a distinct air of apathy about the prospect of another vote.

“I’m not interested – not interested at all,” is the response given by one woman which typifies the mood.

Two elderly ladies, who decline to give their names, are on different sides of the political spectrum.

One says: “Jo Swinson is too big for her boots. If Labour had a new leader it would be fine.”

But the other says she will be content with anyone as long as it is “not Labour or SNP”.

“We will be in a bad, bad way if that man Corbyn gets in,” she says. “I liked Theresa May, I thought she was good and she tried so hard – and they kicked her in the backside more or less.

“If push comes to shove, I will be voting Conservative, I just feel they are more business-like.”

William Currie, 62. says he voted for Swinson for years, but now thinks she is “just the same as the rest of them.”

“The lassie who is standing for the SNP, I would like to see what she can do,” he says.

“I’m going to vote for her and to see what she can bring.

“This is all lost now, East Dunbartonshire. Things have really gone now. I will give her the vote and see how she gets on.”

Joanna Mclean, 22, says her vote is likely to be either SNP or Labour, but “definitely not” Tory.

“With the SNP I do agree with them more,” she says.

“But it is whether there would be enough votes for them to do anything, as they don’t have an impact UK-wide.

“I do agree with independence, but at the same time I don’t know how sustainable it would be if it actually happened.”

SCOTLAND-WIDE polls so far have predicted a boost in the SNP vote: whether this will happen in East Dunbartonshire remains to be seen.

The unpredictable nature of politics now and a December election means for Callaghan and her activists, there is all to play for over the next two weeks.

“If the country is knee deep in snow on the 12th, all bets are off,” John says, as he gets leaflets ready to go through letterboxes.

“Everyone will go: ‘what will we do now that just three people managed to vote?’

“The way things have been going for the past three and a half years, that just wouldn’t surprise me.”