The National:


Winner in 2016: George Adam (SNP)

IN the not-too-distant past, Paisley was Wendy Alexander country. At the inaugural Scottish Parliament election in 1999, Alexander was Labour’s next big thing and won the old Paisley North seat with a healthy majority of 17 percentage points over the SNP. By 2007, that had increased to 22 points, suggesting that she must have built up a substantial personal vote, because the national swing was sharply in the opposite direction.

Soon afterwards she replaced the former first minister Jack McConnell as Labour leader. If she had stayed the course as leader until the end of that parliament, she would presumably have carried her personal vote into the new unified seat of Paisley in 2011, and would have stood an excellent chance of being re-elected due to the traditional “leader’s bonus” (there would also, incidentally, have been an independence referendum in 2010 rather than 2014, but that’s a whole different story).

Instead she was harried from office due to an obscure foreign donation scandal that most people have probably long since forgotten about, and ultimately she stepped down from parliament altogether, leaving the little-known economist Evan Williams to be Labour’s standard bearer in

Paisley in 2011. The SNP’s George Adam took full advantage and squeezed out an incredibly tight victory by less than one percentage point.

Inevitably, the further big national Labour slump in 2016 ensured that Adam’s margin of victory jumped massively. However, Labour may still be tempted to look back on the 2007 and 2011 results as proof that it’s perfectly possible for them to be competitive in Paisley even when the SNP are winning nationally.

The last round of local elections in Renfrewshire tell a very different story. The SNP comfortably outpolled Labour in all five wards in the town of Paisley in 2017 – in spite of the fact that Labour were doing unexpectedly well across Scotland as a whole. Similarly, at the snap UK General Election held a few weeks later at the height of Corbynmania, the two Paisley constituencies were not among the Scottish seats that Labour took back or had an extremely near miss in. And both constituencies reverted to having huge SNP majorities at the 2019 general election.

The indications are, then, that the SNP’s underlying position in Paisley has been tremendously strengthened by the realignment in voting patterns caused by the 2014 independence referendum. It’s almost impossible to imagine anything other than a third successive local victory for George Adam and the SNP on Thursday.