The National:

Winner in 2016: Jeane Freeman (SNP)

CARRICK and Cumnock are still recovering from the shock of being represented by a Tory MP, Bill Grant, between 2017 and 2019 as part of the Westminster constituency of Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock.

They need have no fears about a repeat performance this year, though, because the Holyrood constituency of Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley is a very conventional SNP-Labour battleground. Even in the Ruth Davidson surge year of 2016, the Tories were still in third place on 24% of the vote, although admittedly that left them just 3% behind Labour in second.

The former Westminster constituency of the same name existed between 1983 and 2005 and was won on every single occasion by Labour veteran George Foulkes.

The Tory vote varied between 17% and 24%, but that was always good enough for second place due to the SNP’s weaker performance in those days. The most notable Tory candidate was Struan Stevenson in 1987, who became a member of the European Parliament representing the whole of Scotland many years later.

The Labour left-winger Cathy Jamieson was the comfortable victor in the first three elections to the Holyrood seat – even in 2007 when the SNP took power nationally, she still won by a 12-point margin.

She stepped down in 2011 after a switch to Westminster in 2010 (yes, she’s yet another parliamentarian who held a “dual mandate” for a time), leaving her fellow left-winger and future party leader Richard Leonard to attempt to defend the constituency in 2011.

He failed dismally due to the unexpected national Labour collapse, with long-standing SNP list MSP Adam Ingram making the gain on a huge swing.

The further post-indyref Labour slump in 2016 saw Ingram’s successor as SNP candidate, the current Health Secretary, Jeane Freeman, build up a large majority of around 6000 votes. That now leaves Labour in the sorry state of requiring a huge swing of almost 10% to win back one of their former heartland seats.

Freeman herself is retiring this year, but the new SNP candidate Elena Whitham should be relatively untroubled in May.

As in many similar constituencies, the greatest interest may be in whether Labour can hold the Tories at bay and cling on to the runner-up spot.