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


Winner in 2017: Philippa Whitford (SNP)

IF you’re looking for a constituency that is a political microcosm of Scotland, a decent candidate would be Central Ayrshire. In 2017 it re-elected an SNP MP on less than 40% of the vote, with the Conservatives in second place and Labour in a strong third. Crucially, the Tories had previously lagged well behind Labour but stormed into the runner-up spot on a large swing, just as happened nationally.

There are a few subtle differences from the national picture, though. The SNP’s advantage over the Tories is very slim at less than 3%, which means that even on a uniform swing the Tories could grab the seat while still being a few points behind the SNP across Scotland. 

READ MORE: General Election Analysis: Tight target for SNP in Stirling

And the constituency’s Leave vote in the 2016 referendum was estimated to have been higher than the Scotland-wide figure of 38%, which ought to make the Tories’s task of overcoming their small deficit a tad less daunting. 

They’ve been given a boost by the Brexit Party’s decision to sit the contest out, even though fielding a candidate wouldn’t have breached Nigel Farage’s self-imposed rule of not standing in Tory-held seats. On the other hand, the SNP’s own chances have been helped by the Greens similarly deciding not to intervene.

If there was such a thing as a Unionist bloc vote which automatically swings behind the party most likely to defeat the SNP, the incumbent MP Philippa Whitford would be in major trouble, because the combined Tory and Labour vote in the constituency two years ago was comfortably in excess of anything the SNP is likely to manage on December 12. YouGov’s projection model suggests the local Labour vote has indeed slumped this time, but in fact it isn’t only the Tories who have benefited from that. 

The SNP vote appears to have increased by around 5%, leaving them with a modest overall lead. The reality is Labour’s support in 2017 was a complex coalition of both Unionists and Yes supporters, and there was never any reason to assume that all of those people would prefer a Tory MP to an SNP MP.

There will justifiably be nerves at the count, but Whitford looks in good shape to hold on.