The National:


Winner in 2016: Colin Beattie (SNP)

IN contrast to its southern neighbour, Midlothian North and Musselburgh is a very traditional SNP-Labour battleground.

It was created for the 2011 election from parts of no fewer than four predecessor seats – and in three of those four, the SNP and Labour had occupied the top two spots in the previous election.

The Musselburgh part of the seat had been Kenny MacAskill country for a few years. The former SNP justice secretary became a constituency MSP for the first time in 2007, succeeding the former Labour cabinet minister Susan Deacon in the seat of Edinburgh East and Musselburgh.

But the old Midlothian constituency remained in Labour hands in 2007 by a margin of almost 7%. The SNP’s majority of almost 3000 votes in the new constituency in 2011 can therefore be taken as evidence of a very substantial swing.

As was the case in most former Labour heartlands that the SNP had gained in either 2007 or 2011, the margin of victory substantially increased in 2016. However, if that led anyone to assume the threat from Labour had been extinguished for good, the following year provided a sharp wake-up call.

In the 2017 elections to Midlothian Council, Labour outpolled the SNP in several of the wards that make up the constituency, and a few weeks later the Westminster seat of Midlothian was one of six that Labour grabbed back from the SNP in the snap General Election.

The tide has since gone back out on Labour, with Owen Thompson reclaiming his place as SNP MP for Midlothian by a substantial margin in 2019. In spite of apparent optimism in Labour ranks that new leader Anas Sarwar can turn things round, there is no sign in opinion polls that they have anything even close to the necessary momentum to mount a serious challenge here.

On a uniform swing they’d need to be within about three percentage points of the SNP nationally before they’d gain the seat, and that plainly isn’t on the cards.

So unless there’s a very large localised swing, the SNP’s Colin Beattie should be able to look forward to several more years of tenure in the Scottish Parliament.