Winner in 2017: Neil Gray (SNP)

IF the campaign was going better for Labour in Scotland, a seat that would look much more promising for them is Airdrie and Shotts – one of several hyper-marginal constituencies where they fell just short last time around. The SNP’s Neil Gray is defending a barely there majority of 195 votes, although incredibly that makes it only the fifth most vulnerable SNP seat and only the third most vulnerable to Labour. It’s quite natural that this is tougher terrain for the SNP when Labour poll well because it’s the former stamping ground of heavyweights such as John Smith, Helen Liddell and John Reid (albeit when Smith was MP it had different boundaries).

Prior to the 2015 landslide, the SNP generally underperformed in the constituency compared to their national vote. But everything suddenly changed in the 1994 by-election caused by Smith’s death, when they were able to take advantage of allegations of sectarianism in the local Labour-run district council and came close to what would probably have been considered their most spectacular by-election gain of all time. The after-effects of that contest helped them to retain a higher-than-usual 24% of the vote in the 1997 General Election, but thereafter normal service was resumed and Labour started racking up dauntingly huge majorities again – until an intriguing mini-surge for the SNP against the national trend in 2010 and the rude interruption of an enormous national pro-SNP swing after the indyref.

But the area’s relatively Labour-friendly status is likely to count for little now unless the SNP’s national lead in the polls drops back or proves to be illusory. On current trends Gray can expect to hold the seat for the SNP with a much-increased majority.