The National: Yes election 2021 banner image

Winner in 2016: Aileen Campbell (SNP)

THE other constituency where the Tories might hope to benefit from their Westminster near-miss in Lanark & Hamilton East is currently held by the outgoing SNP Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Local Government, Aileen Campbell. Clydesdale contains the town of Lanark.

In contrast to the Hamilton seat, the Tories will start from second place there. They overtook Labour by almost 2000 votes five years ago. However, outright victory looks a long way off – they were 18 percentage points behind Campbell. This means that on a uniform swing they would need to be within about six points of the SNP nationally before they could be expected to capture the seat. Polls show no sign of anything so dramatic, so an unusually big local swing will be their only hope.

In any case, Labour will have other plans. For the second election in a row their candidate is the list MSP Claudia Beamish, who will be looking to at least reclaim the respectability of second place in a seat where her party was once totally dominant.

Karen Gillon was the Labour MSP for Clydesdale from 1999 until the SNP won their overall majority in 2011, and in that time her majority never fell below 2800 votes. The equivalent Westminster constituency was synonymous for almost two decades with the veteran Labour MP Jimmy Hood, whose own majority never slipped below 7000 votes.

It was also held for a few years in the 1980s by Judith Hart, towards the end of an illustrious parliamentary career that was pioneering for Labour women.

It’s perhaps fitting that the new Clydesdale MSP will almost certainly be a young woman who stands at the very outset of what could be a brilliant career in the Scottish Parliament – although she represents the SNP rather than Labour.

Aileen Campbell’s successor as SNP candidate is the lawyer and folk musician Màiri McAllan, who first came to political prominence in 2017 when she took on David Mundell in Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale & Tweeddale. A geographically enormous Westminster constituency which – as the name implies – partially overlaps with her likely future Holyrood seat. It was also at the time the only Tory-held Westminster seat in the whole of Scotland, although sadly that had ceased to be the case by the time the election was over.

McAllan has inherited enough of a cushion to be confident of winning with ease, and the real interest may be the intra-Unionist battle for second place.