The National:

Winner in 2016: Jackie Baillie (Labour)

BY all accounts, some of Jackie Baillie’s campaign literature in Dumbarton presents her practically as an independent candidate, with her affiliation to Labour as almost an afterthought.

That may give a clue as to how she and her allies interpret the meaning of the totally unexpected result in 2016 when she managed to narrowly hold a seat that would have fallen easily to the SNP if the national swing had been replicated.

The SNP’s local vote actually rose by 2%, which was more or less in line with the national trend, but what was missing was the large swing from Labour to Tory that was seen elsewhere. Baillie’s vote only slipped by 4%, compared to a 9% drop for Labour across Scotland, and the Tory candidate’s vote only increased by 3%, compared to an 8% national Conservative surge.

The most likely explanation is that the sort of voter who was moving to the Tories in other constituencies felt that Baillie was a sufficiently atypical Labour candidate to warrant a vote.

Part of the reason for that may have been her hardline Unionism, but she’s also known as an outspoken supporter of the presence of weapons of mass destruction in her constituency – which is paradoxically a popular stance in some quarters due to the local employment that the Faslane base generates.

Will she be able to pull off the great escape for a second election in a row? One advantage for the SNP is that they know where the danger lies this time.

In 2016 they had no particular reason to think that Dumbarton was a seat that needed special attention. They had gained the nearest equivalent Westminster constituency of West Dunbartonshire the previous year by a huge margin, and they had run Baillie extremely close in the Holyrood seat in 2007 as well as in 2011.

It seemed entirely logical that the seat would fall, but this year they’ll presumably be taking no chances and will pour in extra resources.

It’s absolutely imperative that they do gain Dumbarton if they can because they won no list seats at all in the West Scotland electoral region five years ago, which means that any constituency gain in the region this year may be a “bonus” seat that won’t be cancelled out when the list seats are allocated. That could make all the difference between winning an overall majority in the Scottish

Parliament and falling short.