The National:

Winner in 2016: Clare Haughey (SNP)

I MUST declare a strong personal interest in this one, because since I became a political blogger I’ve been endlessly mistaken for my Labour MSP namesake James Kelly.

That’s been a real treat, because Kelly is of course renowned for his eloquence, his charisma, and the musicality of his speaking voice.

But the election in the Rutherglen constituency is cruelly threatening to deprive me of that benefit in the future. Kelly requires a middling swing of just under 6% to take back the seat he lost in 2016 to the SNP’s Clare Haughey.

If he fails, it’s quite possible he’ll lose his place in the Scottish Parliament altogether, because he’s only ranked fifth on the Labour list in Glasgow – and Labour claimed just four list seats in the city-region last time around.

Hope is not yet lost, however, because Rutherglen is one of the places where Labour have retained some residual strength since the collapse of their Scottish vote. Kelly held the constituency with a bit to spare when the SNP won an overall majority in 2011, and the overlapping Westminster constituency of Rutherglen and Hamilton West was one of six Scottish seats that was taken back from the SNP when there was a partial Labour comeback under Jeremy Corbyn in 2017.

That result was reversed in the 2019 General Election, but the SNP’s margin of victory was still more modest than in most central belt seats at just under 10%. A further complicating factor for the SNP is that they’ve since suspended their MP Margaret Ferrier for breaching Covid restrictions, although it’s unclear whether that will affect voter behaviour in a Holyrood election.

Rutherglen is also distinctive for having a moderately strong Liberal and Liberal Democrat tradition.

Robert Brown, who served as a Lib Dem list MSP for Glasgow between 1999 and 2011, contested the Westminster constituency on no fewer than six occasions between 1974 and 2017, with his share of the vote peaking at 28% in 1983 when the Liberal-SDP Alliance were at their height. He also stood for the Holyrood seat four times, and managed to overtake the SNP to move into second place in 2003 – although paradoxically his own vote share was higher when he finished third in both 1999 and 2007.

But Rutherglen wasn’t immune to the nationwide collapse of the LibDem vote after Nick Clegg went into coalition with David Cameron.

The local LibDem vote share nosedived to just 4% in the 2011 election, and since then the constituency has been a straight fight between Labour and the SNP. Assuming a uniform swing, Labour would only have to cut the national gap between themselves and the SNP to around 12 percentage points to take Rutherglen back this year.

That makes it a much less daunting target for them than the vast majority of SNP-held seats.

However, opinion polls currently suggest they’re falling well short of where they need to be, which means that Clare Haughey stands a good chance of being re-elected for the SNP.