The National:

Result in 2016: SNP 6 seats (6 constituency, 0 list), Conservatives 4 seats (1 constituency, 3 list), Labour 3 seats (1 constituency, 2 list), Greens 2 seats (0 constituency, 2 list), Liberal Democrats 1 seat (1 constituency, 0 list)

NOT only is Lothian one of the regions in which the SNP failed to take a list seat in 2016, it’s also the only one of the eight regions in Scotland in which they failed to take a list seat when they won an overall majority in 2011. It’s therefore often cited as the region in which the case for “both votes SNP” is most dubious.

Nevertheless, as in most other places, there are two ways in which it’s perfectly possible that the SNP could pick up one or more list seats in Lothian this time. Either they could boost their own list vote to a much higher level than in previous elections or they could lose constituency seats in the region, thus entitling them to compensatory list seats.

The former possibility doesn’t seem very plausible on the face of it. The SNP’s share of the list vote in Lothian has always been lower than their national vote – in 2016 it actually slipped by 3%.

Although on paper that was in line with national trends, it was arguably a relatively poor result because the 7% of votes in the region that previously went to Margo MacDonald as an independent candidate had become free since 2011, and the SNP should really have been picking up quite a few of those. It may be that the most realistic target for them this time is to get back to the 39% of the vote that they managed in 2011 - and of course that wasn’t actually enough to win any seats.

The one glimmer of hope for them may be the political realignment caused by Brexit. They did particularly well in a number of Edinburgh constituencies at the 2019 UK General Election due to the very high Remain vote in the capital. If that phenomenon feeds through to the list vote this year, it’s conceivable that they could exceed their 2011 high watermark. But whether they can exceed it by enough to bring a list seat into play is another question.

It’s also doubtful that the SNP will be getting list seats due to a net loss of constituency seats. They’re potentially vulnerable to the Tories in Edinburgh Pentlands, but they’ll feel that they only lost Edinburgh Central last time due to the Green intervention and that they should be able to take it back. It may be that a loss in one constituency would be offset by a gain in another. On paper, Edinburgh Western and Edinburgh Southern are also realistic targets for SNP gains, so on a particularly good day the party may make a substantial net gain of constituency seats, rendering the prospect of a list seat more or less dead.

On the other hand, we could have a complete surprise, with the Tories or Labour making constituency gains that no-one saw coming, in which case the SNP would desperately need all the list votes they can get in Lothian. That’s not at all likely, but given the frequency with which shock election results have occurred in recent years, it can’t be ruled out.

One pro-independence party that almost certainly will be taking a list seat is the Scottish Greens. They’ve had continuous representation in Lothian since the Scottish Parliament was established in 1999, although ironically for the first 12 years that representation partly or wholly consisted of their anti-independence former co-leader Robin Harper.

In both 2003 and 2016 they managed two seats in the region, and they can realistically aspire to more of the same this year – although unless they increase their vote share, the second seat could be touch and go. The current Green co-leader Lorna Slater is in second spot on the list behind the incumbent MSP Alison Johnstone, so she could be in for a nervous wait when the votes are counted.

The Alba Party are the third pro-independence party in the hunt for list seats. Their big advantage is having a higher-profile lead candidate than any of their rivals in the shape of former justice secretary Kenny MacAskill. The SNP’s list does boast an equally big name in Angus Robertson, the party’s former depute leader and Westminster group leader – but, crucially, he’s only in second spot, which essentially leaves him with no safety net at all if he fails to gain election as the constituency MSP for Edinburgh Central.

Robertson’s counterpart in second place on the Alba list is the very different figure of Alex Arthur, the former super featherweight world boxing champion. The tactic of running sporting legends as candidates worked brilliantly for the Scottish Senior Citizens Unity Party in 2003, so it will be intriguing to see if it’s just as profitable for Alba.

Barring a dramatic change in fortunes, Labour are unlikely to improve on their current solitary constituency seat in Lothian, which means they can once again expect to take list seats. However, the personnel has completely changed since 2016 because their successful list candidates five years ago were Neil Findlay, who is standing down, and Kezia Dugdale, who is long gone.

MEANWHILE, we may have to reconcile ourselves to five more long years of Alex Cole-Hamilton. Even if he loses Edinburgh Western, he should be returned by virtue of being top of the LibDem list. That said, the LibDems only took 5.6% of the Lothian list vote last time around, so there are no guarantees.

Arguably the second best known person on the LibDem list is Caron Lindsay, a prolific blogger and editor of Lib Dem Voice. However, she has no chance of being elected due to her lowly ranking of seventh. We in the bloggers’ union are deeply unhappy about this.

The Tories won three list seats in Lothian last time. Whether they improve on that, stand still or go backwards will depend to some extent on how they fare in the marginal constituency seats of Edinburgh Central and Edinburgh Pentlands.

Bidding to follow in Margo MacDonald’s footsteps as an independent MSP for Lothian who supports an independent Scotland is Ashley Graczyk, who was elected to Edinburgh City Council as a Tory but dramatically left her party and came out for Yes due to the impact of UK Government policies on disabled people. It’s highly unlikely that she has a high enough profile to be elected, but her presence on the ballot paper is symbolic of Ruth Davidson’s ultimate failure to transform the Tories’ reputation as a nasty party.

Among the long list of fringe parties standing in the region, a blast from the past is provided by the Social Democratic Party (SDP).

Technically they’re not a legal continuation of the party co-founded in 1981 by Shirley Williams, who sadly died a few days ago. However, they do use the original party’s once-familiar logo and over the years they’ve managed to have a small number of local councillors elected in England and Wales. They also briefly had an MEP in England after a defection from Ukip. They’ve yet to enjoy much success in Scotland, but evidently they still live in hope.