Winner in 2017: Ross Thomson (Conservatives)

Perhaps the greatest tragedy of the 2019 election is that we’ve been robbed of the chance of discovering whether the outgoing MP for Aberdeen South is worthy of his nickname. Ross Thomson was apparently known in Westminster as “SNP Gain”, on account of the likelihood that his personality and track record would cost the Tories his seat, even if they held on elsewhere in the north-east.

Alas, we’ll never know for sure if that would have proved true, because Thomson succumbed to pressure to stand aside in favour of a different Tory candidate in this campaign. But even in the absence of the SNP’s greatest asset, hopes are still high that the seat could change hands. A local by-election last month in a ward covering a portion of Aberdeen South saw an increase in the SNP vote of almost 12% – much greater than the national improvement in the party’s position suggested by opinion polls.

READ MORE: General Election: Aberdeen North is a forgotten SNP triumph

There again, the Conservative vote in the same by-election nudged up by a couple of percentage points too, meaning the overall swing to the SNP was only around 5%. If that swing is replicated on December 12, the Tories would actually hold the constituency by a tiny margin. The initial data from YouGov’s projection model tells a similar story – it has the SNP on 36%, which is significantly up on two years ago, but isn’t quite enough to overtake the Tories who remain stubbornly high on 39%. This is the problem the SNP face throughout the north-east, which has been rapidly transformed into an SNP-Tory duopoly. Nicola Sturgeon’s party are racking up impressive vote shares that in past elections would have been more than enough to win seats, but nowadays there’s always a severe risk that the Tories will perform even more strongly and take all the spoils under first-past-the-post.

It would obviously be a help if other Unionist parties come back into the game at the Tories’ expense, and on the face of it, Aberdeen South ought to be the sort of place where that might happen. It’s distinctive for having been represented very recently by all four major parties. The Tories, the SNP and Labour have all held the Westminster seat within the last decade, and the Liberal Democrats held the equivalent Holyrood seat (with different boundaries) between 1999 and 2011. The LibDems also came very close to deposing the local Labour MP Anne Begg in 2005, at a time when both the Tories and the SNP were also-rans. In theory, then, there ought to be potential for a LibDem recovery at Tory expense, especially if anti-independence voters who backed the Tories in 2017 are reluctant to do so again this time because of Brexit.

And attitudes to Brexit are what distinguish Aberdeen South from the other Tory-held seats of the north-east. In total contrast to Moray and Banff and Buchan, which both saw evenly matched Remain and Leave votes, Aberdeen South is estimated to have voted Remain by a greater than two-to-one margin – well above the Scottish average. So keep the faith: there’s still at least one good reason to believe that Ross Thomson’s nickname will be getting an airing on election night.