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


Winner in 2017: Stephen Gethins (SNP)

OF the many factors that make it difficult to motivate people to cast a vote, the most inescapable is that it’s phenomenally unlikely that any individual voter will actually make a difference to the election outcome.

In the vast majority of cases, someone who makes the effort to vote will wake up the next morning with exactly the same MP that they would have had if they’d voted in a different way. But North East Fife in 2017 was a possible exception to that general rule. After numerous recounts, the SNP’s incumbent, Stephen Gethins, finished with 13,743 votes, two ahead of his Liberal Democrat challenger, Elizabeth Riches, on 13,741. If just one SNP voter had voted LibDem instead, the result would have been tied on 13,742 apiece and the returning officer would have broken the deadlock by drawing lots or tossing a coin. In other words, there’s a 50/50 chance that every single SNP voter in the constituency was personally responsible for there being 35 SNP seats in the last parliament, rather than 34.

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There’s no particular reason to suppose they’ll be able to make the same boast this year, because the special circumstances that generated the 2017 outcome no longer exist. Gethins owed his narrow victory to a split in the Unionist vote that didn’t occur in other similar constituencies.

The pattern of results across Scotland left the distinct impression that the Tories and LibDems had reached an informal agreement on carving up territory, with one of the two parties being effectively given a free run against the SNP in a number of target seats.

The National:

But if there was indeed such an understanding, it clearly didn’t extend to North East Fife, where the Tories made a genuine attempt to win the seat and ended up taking 10,088 Unionist votes that could have helped to defeat the SNP by a landslide if they had mostly been in the LibDem column instead.

This time the LibDems should have less difficulty in convincing anti-SNP voters that they are the best-placed local challengers. If so, the LibDem vote will increase in the constituency, which means that Gethins can’t secure re-election simply by standing still. He’ll need to find extra votes of his own, and perhaps get close to returning to the 41% of the vote he took in 2015. But as it happens, that’s exactly how the initial YouGov projection for the constituency suggests things may work out. It’s a tight race once again, but somewhat against the odds, Gethins appears to have a genuine chance of pulling off another epic victory.