Winner in 2017: Deidre Brock (SNP)

We’re all well aware of the problems caused over the last three years by the Scottish Tory recovery, but we tend to forget that it has sometimes worked in the SNP’s favour as well. One case in point is Edinburgh North and Leith, which the 2015 landslide left as one of the very few SNP seats that looked vulnerable to Labour if there was a relatively modest swing – the lead was less than 10%.

With the national SNP vote plunging in 2017, and with Labour regaining territory elsewhere, the constituency really ought to have changed hands. Part of the reason it didn’t is that the Conservative surge made it impossible for Labour to fully harness the strength of the Unionist vote. The anti-SNP vote was split virtually down the middle between Labour and Tory, enabling the incumbent MP Deidre Brock to retain her seat on an extremely modest 34% of the vote.

That said, the drop in the SNP vote was only 6%, so Brock’s victory was also a story of remarkable SNP resilience. Not even the most hopelessly divided Unionist vote would have saved the day if the SNP had fallen back 13% in line with the national average. Support similarly held up in other Edinburgh seats. The SNP have traditionally been weaker in the capital than in many other parts of Scotland, but it appears the opportunity for the electorate to see MPs such as Brock and Joanna Cherry in action for two years may have changed that to some extent.

If tactical voting was as simple as it’s sometimes portrayed, Tory voters would now be looking at Brock’s result from two years ago, switching en masse to Labour as the Unionist party starting as the (marginally) strongest challenger, and bringing about an SNP defeat with ease.

But it appears the Conservatives have successfully steered hardline Unionists away from Labour by messaging about Corbyn’s supposed weakness on “Our Precious Union”, and in any case those voters are entitled to conclude from opinion poll evidence that the Tories actually now stand a better chance in the constituency than Labour. To defeat Brock, though, it looks like the perennial local Tory candidate Iain McGill is going to have to substantially outperform the national trend, and that will be a phenomenally tough thing for a pro-Brexit politician to achieve in a seat that is estimated to have been in the top six Remain-voting UK parliamentary constituencies. The only crumb of comfort for McGill is that the constituency also voted against independence by the higher than average margin of 60% to 40%. But if Remain supporters who are comfortable with independence drift towards the SNP, and if Remain supporters who oppose independence drift towards the Liberal Democrats, the outcome will not be a Tory gain. As for the LibDems, although they have a strong tradition in the constituency and almost won it as recently as 2010, they’re probably starting from too far back to contemplate outright victory this time. The likelihood is that a complex four-way split in the vote will allow the SNP to keep the seat.

Winner in 2017: Douglas Chapman, pictured, (SNP)

Connoisseurs of Willie Rennie’s pearls of wisdom are likely to have a distant memory from a previous political era of the great man repeatedly gloating that Gordon Brown “must be quaking in his boots”. The context was that the Liberal Democrats had just spectacularly gained the formerly safe Labour seat of Dunfermline and West Fife in a 2006 by-election, with Rennie as their successful candidate. He went on to inform the world’s press that no Scottish Labour constituency, not even the neighbouring seat held by Brown, was safe from the oncoming LibDem tsunami.

That claim obviously looks laughable with the benefit of hindsight, and actually it looked fairly laughable at the time. Rennie did make a respectable fist of defending his seat in the 2010 General Election but, having fallen short on that occasion, the local LibDem vote subsequently withered away, and the by-election breakthrough might as well never have happened. Just 6% of voters in the constituency backed the LibDems in 2017.

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But from Labour’s perspective, what occurred in 2006 did matter, because it was a sneak preview of the horrors to come. It was an early sign that voters in heartland seats might be receptive to an alternative to Labour, even if they hadn’t yet worked out what they wanted that alternative to look like in the longer term. In 2015 Labour lost the seat once again, to the SNP rather than the LibDems, and that time the shift in public opinion was the real deal. Even with a swing back to Labour of more than 8% in 2017, the SNP clung on by a narrow margin of 2%, and Labour must now be wondering if that’s as close as they’ll ever get to recapturing the constituency. With the new YouGov poll suggesting Labour’s Scotland-wide vote share is barely half of what it was two years ago, it’s perfectly possible that the top two parties in Dunfermline and West Fife this time will be the SNP and the Conservatives.

The Tories, however, start from 11% behind, which means on a uniform swing they’d need to be ahead of the SNP on a Scotland-wide basis to gain the seat. That’s almost certainly not going to happen, so at best they’ll be enjoying the moral triumph of finishing as runners-up. All routes here appear to lead to a straightforward SNP hold.

Winner in 2017: Martin Docherty-Hughes, pictured, (SNP)

To understand why the political map of Scotland has been transformed since 2014, we only need look at West Dunbartonshire. It was one of the four council areas to produce a majority Yes vote, and yet in the preceding decades its politics had been utterly dominated by a Unionist party.

In 2010, for example, Labour took 61% of the vote and the SNP only 20%.

Plainly that wasn’t a sustainable situation in the post-indyref world unless Yes voters did what Labour had been banking on them doing, and immediately drew a line under the issue of independence. But it was probably always unrealistic to expect voters to “agree to differ” with their party of choice on a cause that had inspired them so much, and in 2015 they unceremoniously resolved any contradiction by turfing out incumbent Labour MP Gemma Doyle in favour of the SNP, with Doyle’s majority of 17,408 turned overnight into a deficit of 14,171.

The National:

Despite a significant chunk of that swing being reversed in 2017, the SNP held on with a touch more of a safety-margin than in some SNP-Labour battleground seats.

It’s currently only the 16th most vulnerable of the 35 SNP-held constituencies, and only the 10th most vulnerable of the seats where Labour are the main challenger.

Perhaps the only sliver of doubt in the SNP’s minds will be caused by Jackie Baillie’s success in holding the overlapping Holyrood seat of Dumbarton for Labour in 2016, a feat she pulled off in spite of her party slumping to an all-time low national vote share. She even did it without taking any real steps to make her peace with Yes voters.

However, that can probably be explained by her constituency encompassing the Helensburgh area, where jobs related to the Faslane base are more of an issue. By contrast the Westminster constituency is wholly within the West Dunbartonshire council area, and the SNP shouldn’t face any real obstacle in a true Yes heartland.