Winner in 2019 of predecessor seat of Banff and Buchan: David Duguid (Conservatives)

THE SNP may appear to be firmly on the defensive in this General Election but it shouldn’t be overlooked that, remarkably, there are several seats they didn’t win in their 2019 landslide but that they can realistically aspire to gain this time.  

All are Conservative-held and surely the most symbolically rich gain would be in Aberdeenshire North and Moray East. To a large extent it’s a rebranded version of the old Banff and Buchan constituency, which for almost a quarter of a century was synonymous with the former SNP leader Alex Salmond.  

He held that seat from 1987 until 2010 when the SNP never had more than a total of seven seats at Westminster. Over the last seven years, their tally has been in the 30s and 40s, and yet Banff and Buchan hasn’t been one of them.  There are two main explanations.

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Firstly, the 2014 independence referendum forced a number of the SNP’s traditional voters in the rural and coastal north-east to finally confront the disconnect between their own coolness towards independence and the fact that was the party’s single-minded goal.  

Odd as it may seem, that hadn’t mattered much in the past because independence seemed such a distant prospect that Unionist voters in the north-east felt safe in plumping for the SNP as a non-Labour alternative to the Tories.

There was a brief golden period for a couple of years after the indyref when it looked as if the SNP would be able to have their cake and eat it and could hold their traditional seats such as Banff and Buchan with the help of No voters while also claiming dozens of former Labour seats in the central belt and beyond with the help of Yes voters who had never previously backed the SNP.

Ruth Davidson’s success in rallying the rural  anti-independence vote under the Tory banner put an end to that unlikely coalition of support. 

The 2017 General Election saw the former Labour heartlands mostly stick with the SNP, while Banff and Buchan was one of 12 SNP seats that fell to the Tories on dramatic swings.

More than half of those losses were reversed in 2019, but at that point the second key factor, one much more specific to Banff and Buchan, kicked in.

That factor was Brexit.  Banff and Buchan is believed to be the only constituency in Scotland to have voted in 2016 to leave the European Union, in large part due to the vital local importance of the fishing industry. 

It was therefore not a coincidence that it was also the only constituency in Scotland to show a further swing from SNP to Tory (albeit a tiny one) in 2019, at a time when Boris Johnson was promising to “get Brexit done”.

Brexit is now long since done and voters in the renamed constituency may have moved on from the issue to some degree.

In this election they will perhaps be more motivated by their feelings towards the Tory government in Westminster, just as they were all those years ago in 1987 when they first elected Alex Salmond (below). 

The National:

The SNP have treated them with proper respect by selecting a serious candidate in Seamus Logan, who is not a career politician and has instead spent decades working in the NHS. The boundary revision has worked in his favour, leaving him in pursuit of a modest 2% swing from the Tories to win.  

Much will depend on whether he can prevent SNP voters drifting off to Labour by reminding them that he is the only candidate with a realistic hope of toppling the incumbent Conservative MP David Duguid (left) and thus directly helping to end Tory rule.