Winner in 2017: Andrew Bowie (Conservatives)

In several parts of the north-east, the SNP are mounting a confident bid to win back former heartland seats from the Conservatives that they feel they should never have lost in the first place.

But in other portions of the region, they’re trying to recapture seats where they barely had a foothold before making a sudden breakthrough in the 2015 landslide. That’s obviously a different proposition entirely. Perhaps the toughest challenge of all is West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine, where prior to 2015 the SNP had never recorded more than 16% of the vote. Even in the mid-70s, when an SNP surge was causing carnage for the Tories in seats such as Moray and Banffshire, the predecessor constituency of West Aberdeenshire showed little interest in joining the bandwagon. But that didn’t mean the Tories were having things all their own way – instead there was a strong Liberal challenge. The Liberals won the seat outright in 1966, and having lost it in 1970, came within a few percentage points of taking it back in all of the three subsequent elections.

A later incarnation of the seat, under the name Kincardine and Deeside, saw the Tory-Liberal battle continue, but with the Tories usually holding the upper hand. The only exception was a famous LibDem by-election gain in the run-up to the 1992 General Election.

The adoption of the present name coincided with the Blair landslide and, in common with many other Tory-held seats in which the LibDems were in a strong second place, tactical voting helped to oust the incumbent Tory MP. Sir Robert Smith of the LibDems went on to hold the seat for 18 years. Until the last few months of his tenure, it probably didn’t even cross his mind that the real threat to his position might come from the SNP. After his shock defeat in 2015, the LibDems suffered a further total collapse two years later, presumably due to his ex-voters picking a side between the Tories and the SNP based on their views on independence.

And judging by the scale of the Conservative gain from the SNP in 2017, most of them plumped for the Tories. As in the neighbouring Gordon constituency, the puzzle in the 2019 election is this: now that the national LibDem vote has recovered, what do former LibDem voters do in a former LibDem seat which is now a Tory-SNP battleground? If the YouGov projection model is to be believed, there’s been only a very modest LibDem comeback in this constituency, and that probably means the SNP will have to win the seat back the hard way – they won’t be able to rely on anti-independence Remain voters weakening the Tory vote by defecting to the LibDems in large numbers.

On a uniform swing, the SNP would need a Scotland-wide lead of 23 or 24 percentage points before they’d win here. Judging from the current state of the opinion polls, they may have only a sporting chance.