THE SNP are facing a tough fight tomorrow to take Scotland’s most marginal Holyrood constituency from Labour.

Party veteran Jackie Baillie has been the MSP for Dumbarton since 1999, though the 4758 majority she won then was slashed to just 109 at the 2016 election.

On paper the numbers should make it an easy win for the SNP.

However, it would seem the pro-Union parties and Tory voters in particular in the area are intent on playing hardball.

There was a virtual absence of a Conservative campaign locally - even traditional Tory voting areas - yesterday and many long-standing Tory supporters told The National they are preparing to back Anas Sarwar’s party in a bid to keep out Nicola Sturgeon’s party.

Baillie is being challenged by the SNP’s Toni Giugliano, a first-generation Italian Scot who wants to oust the Scottish Labour deputy leader in a bid to help deliver an SNP government and a second independence referendum.

The stakes are high for both the SNP and Labour. 

Dumbarton is just one of three first past the seats currently held by the latter (the others are East Lothian and Edinburgh Southern).

A defeat in one of its former heartlands would be a humiliating blow, while a win for SNP would go down in history as a totemic victory and symbolise Sturgeon's grip on contemporary Scotland.

Voters in the constituency are well aware that all eyes will be on them when the result of the poll is announced.

The seat combines parts of West Dunbartonshire and Argyll and Bute councils.

It is represented at Westminster by the SNP, which also runs West Dunbartonshire Council.

Baillie is a prominent figure both locally and nationally with, it would seem, much backing among pro-Union supporters in the area well aware of her role in the anti-independence Better Together campaign in 2014.

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Despite considerable Conservative support in Helensburgh – where the party won a council by-election in March – there was little sign of an active Holyrood campaign yesterday. There were no “Vote Tory” signs in sight anywhere along the drive into the town on Sinclair Street.

Normally, along a road lined with large detached houses behind high fences, there would be at least a few posters encouraging their owners to vote for Douglas Ross’s party.

But his face and the name of his party were absent. Instead the lamp posts carried only SNP and Labour signs. It seemed that the town is a hotbed of Tory tactical voters prepared to back Labour.

The National: From left: Robert McKay, Louise Spence and Alan BiggsFrom left: Robert McKay, Louise Spence and Alan Biggs

“I normally vote Conservative, but this time I will be voting Labour. We have to get rid of the SNP,” said Robert McKay, 81, a retired civil servant who spoke to me on the bustling West Princes Street.

“I would never vote for Labour in a general election but I suppose I am a tactical voter.”

Fellow Helensburgh resident Alan Biggs, 73, was of a similar mind.

“It’s all about how you use your vote here,” said the retired driving instructor, who voted for Brexit in 2016 and against independence two years earlier.

“I voted Tory last time and I would vote Tory this time too, but I want to use my vote to keep the SNP out so I will be voting Labour this time.”

Biggs admitted that while he is a Conservative supporter, very few, if any, leaflets from the party have come through his letterbox.

Five years ago 4891 votes were recorded in Dumbarton for the Tories, but judging by the mood on the ground it is likely they will win considerably fewer votes.

But further up the Clyde in Yes-voting West Dunbartonshire, there was significant support for the SNP with the party focused on getting its voters in core areas out to polling stations tomorrow.

The signs dotted along the streets beside the bonded warehouses were all either SNP or Labour.

Local man Peter McConnachie had already filled and sent his postal vote.

“I voted SNP 1 and Alba 2,” said the 35-year-old as he headed out to take his dog for a walk in Levengrove Park in the historic town of Dumbarton.

“I want Scotland to be independent. It is going to be a close contest here but I think more and more people are backing independence. Jackie Baillie is useless. She’s doesn’t do anything to help.”

In the village of Renton, Louise Spence said she will be voting SNP in both the constituency and the regional list.

“I voted Yes in the independence referendum and I think I will vote SNP on both votes, that is the way I am going at the moment,” said the 33-year-old cleaner.

Outside the Robert the Bruce Centre in Renton, Duncan Thomson will also be voting SNP on both parts of the ballot.

“I’ve always been a patriot. I don’t want to have to go cap in hand to someone to ask ‘is it okay to do this?’ We are the only country in the world which discovered oil and got poorer,” he said.

The SNP’s Giugliano underlined the positive response he has received. “People want change in Dumbarton,” he said.

“They’ve had Labour in these communities for 22 years and people are wondering ‘what have they done?’ They tried to close the Vale of Leven Hospital, they removed the A&E while the SNP has invested in the hospital. The First Minister has set out plans to invest tens of millions of pounds to refurbish the Vale.”

Giugliano was aware of tactical voting, describing it as “once again the Better Together coalition”.

He said: “We are seeing very clearly this area needs change. Younger voters are not considering Labour as they are not offering them anything, they are denying them the opportunity to shape a new direction in Scotland, to move in a different direction and have policies that benefit the people of Scotland.”