Winner in 2019 of predecessor seat of Linlithgow and East Falkirk: Martyn Day (SNP)

ONE of the favourite pastimes of political commentators during elections is to identify a locality which is a supposed "microcosm of the nation", and where any new voting trend – plus its underlying causes – can be assumed to be representative of what is happening nationwide.

In some respects, the new constituency of Bathgate and Linlithgow might be a strong contender in this election. Other than the area around Bo’ness and Blackness, which is in the Falkirk local authority, the constituency is located in West Lothian, which voted against Scottish independence by a margin of 55.2% to 44.8% in the 2014 referendum.

That’s practically identical to the Scotland-wide figures of 55.3% and 44.7%.

The notional results of the 2019 General Election in Bathgate and Linlithgow were also uncannily similar to the national results.

It’s estimated that the SNP would have taken 44% of the vote in the constituency five years ago, just one point lower than what they managed across Scotland.

And the Tory and Labour vote shares of 25% and 19% were bang in line with those parties’ national showings.

READ MORE: Argyll, Bute and South Lochaber: Smart money is on SNP despite polls

So regardless of whether Labour gain the constituency this year, or whether the SNP hold on, the good people of Bathgate and Linlithgow locals may find TV cameras descending upon them on the day after the election in an attempt to understand why Scotland voted the way it did.

Look a little closer, though, and you’ll find a few key differences between the constituency and the country at large which suggest that the similarity in some voting percentages may be partly coincidental.

For starters, Bathgate and Linlithgow has a somewhat less diverse population than Scotland as a whole. Just over 2% of the local population describe their ethnicity as being either Asian or African, with the equivalent figure throughout Scotland being around 5%.

The constituency was less hostile to Brexit than the national average, with 41% of the local population estimated to have voted to leave the EU in the 2016 referendum, compared with the national Scottish figure of 38%. Conversely, though, the relative local strength of the Conservatives is not all that it seems, because prior to the Ruth Davidson (below) surge of 2017, the Tory vote in the predecessor constituency of Linlithgow and East Falkirk was consistently several points below the Scotland-wide Tory vote.

The National: File photo of former Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson

That’s reflective of comparatively working-class terrain, although the town of Linlithgow itself is an exception.

It may be that the anti-independence vote in the area in 2014 can be explained as a disproportionately “Labour No” phenomenon. Notably, the Labour MP until 2005 for the old Linlithgow constituency was Tam Dalyell, who by the 1990s was the sole remaining anti-devolution holdout in the parliamentary Scottish Labour party– although admittedly that came to be regarded as an almost eccentric personal position and thus didn’t necessarily have much impact on the attitudes of local Labour voters.

But even if Bathgate and Linlithgow is distinctive enough that it doesn’t quite qualify as Scotland in conveniently pocket-sized form, the convergence of the local and national results in the last General Election does at least make it exceptionally easy to work out the local significance of national trends this time around.

On a uniform swing, Martyn Day can expect to hold the seat for the SNP as long as his party are ahead of Labour nationally, unless the lead is truly microscopic.

READ MORE: Alloa and Grangemouth: Will Yes vote splits hand Unionists a win?

But if Labour are ahead nationally, as the polls suggest they currently are, the seat would change hands on a uniform swing.

All is not lost for the SNP, because they still have several weeks to turn their national position around and move back ahead of Labour.

And even if they fail to do that, a strong campaign at constituency level wouldn’t necessarily have to outperform national trends by all that much to get Martyn Day safely returned to the House of Commons.