Winner in 2017: Alan Brown (SNP)

ANOTHER seat that was a Labour-SNP sub-marginal in times past was Kilmarnock and Loudoun. Particularly in the 1990s, it was often cited as one of the very few central belt constituencies that the SNP might have an outside chance of nabbing if they enjoyed a particularly good night. But unlike Ochil, the elevated level of support wasn’t in any sense a relic of a past history. In fact, the MP for Kilmarnock in that decade had been none other than the high priest of “anti-separatism” himself, the long-serving Labour secretary of state for Scotland Willie Ross. Even at their high watermark in October 1974, the best the SNP could do was to keep Ross’s margin of victory down to 16 points.

The local SNP outperforming their colleagues elsewhere in Scotland was thus a much later phenomenon. The first signs of it were seen in 1987, when the SNP candidate George Leslie polled four points higher than the party’s national share. But things really took off when Alex Neil became the candidate in 1992 and secured a remarkable 31%. He went even better at his second attempt by taking 35% in 1997, by which point he was out-polling the national SNP by a striking 13%.

Disappointingly, the party slipped back somewhat in subsequent Westminster elections, but they did manage to carry over their relative run of success into Holyrood elections once the devolved parliament was set up in 1999. After a couple of near misses, Kilmarnock and Loudoun was one of the minority of first-past-the-post Holyrood seats that the SNP gained en route to winning power for the first time in 2007.

With a track record like that, it’s no surprise that the Westminster constituency emerged from the post-indyref realignment as one of the safest SNP seats. It’s one of four potential Labour target seats that the SNP would narrowly hold on a uniform swing if Labour draw level across Scotland. At this late stage in the campaign there seems to be no danger of the race getting that close. The SNP’s Alan Brown should retain his seat with ease.