The National:

Winner in 2016: Stewart Stevenson (SNP)

ALTHOUGH Moray was the local authority area with the highest Leave vote in Scotland, the Westminster constituency of Banff & Buchan was estimated to have an even greater concentration of Brexiteers – so much so that it was thought to have voted by a clear majority to have left the European Union.

That explains not only why it was one of the 12 Tory gains from the SNP at the 2017 UK General Election, but also why it bucked the trend in 2019 and showed a further small swing of votes from SNP to Tory. SNP members in the closest equivalent Holyrood constituency of Banffshire and Buchan Coast must have been watching those developments with a mixture of bemusement and foreboding – because the local MSP over the last five years has continued to be the SNP’s Stewart Stevenson, who shrugged off the Ruth Davidson surge in 2016 to effortlessly win the seat by 23 percentage points.

But of course that was a few weeks before the EU referendum changed the dynamic.

Stevenson won’t be defending his seat this time, and at times it must have looked like the chances of his replacement SNP candidate Karen Adam were doomed from the outset.

But the Brexit narrative has moved on since the 2019 Westminster election, and there’s now considerable anger in fishing communities that Tory promises about the UK becoming an independent coastal state immediately upon leaving the EU have turned out to be worthless.

This will be the first electoral test since that betrayal, and it remains to be seen whether Leave supporters will be prepared to punish the Tories by voting for a pro-European party like the SNP, or whether they’ll hold their noses and continue voting Conservative in the hope that Brexit might belatedly meet their hopes after a few years.

One reason for the more optimistic interpretation is that this isn’t just any old SNP seat – it’s the former stamping ground of Alex Salmond. The former leader continuously held the Westminster constituency from 1987 until 2010, with his majority peaking at almost 13,000 votes in 1997.

The SNP dominance didn’t end after his departure either – his replacement Eilidh Whiteford won with an even bigger majority of more than 14,000 in 2015. Admittedly that can be partly explained by the SNP landslide that year, but it’s not hard to see how turning to the SNP may feel as comfortable as putting on an old jacket for voters who think that their dalliance with the Tories hasn’t paid off.

Banffshire and Buchan Coast undoubtedly remains the SNP’s most vulnerable constituency seat, in spite of the size of their majority. But at least they now have a sporting chance of squeezing out some sort of victory, which is more than seemed likely even a few months ago.