FALKIRK Winner in 2019: John McNally (SNP)

THE Falkirk constituency is assured of its place in history as the accidental birthplace of the current era of British politics that we are all enjoying living through so much.

The 2013 scandal over alleged vote-rigging in Labour's internal selection for a candidate to replace their Falkirk MP Eric Joyce led directly to the review that introduced one member, one vote for UK-wide Labour leadership contests, which made it possible for Jeremy Corbyn to become leader.

That in turn paved the way for a hard Brexit, because the Liberal Democrats and the Labour right refused to work with Corbyn to stop it. And although the original scandal was a British drama played out on Scottish soil, it nevertheless ultimately had a deliciously Scottish twist to it, because it turned out that those involved in the Falkirk selection battle were seeking a prize that wasn't even worth having.

They had assumed that becoming Labour candidate would guarantee them a place in parliament in 2015, but by then the indyref had intervened, the SNP had surged in popularity, and Labour were heavily defeated in Falkirk, just as they were almost everywhere else in Scotland.

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John McNally has been the local SNP MP for the nine years since, and he wasn't unduly troubled on the two occasions he faced re-election.

Even in the 2017 general election, which saw the SNP lose six Scottish seats to Labour and pull off many other close escapes, McNally's margin of victory was still a comfortable 9%.

The substantial Scotland-wide swing from Labour to the SNP in 2019 practically guaranteed that his majority would once again become truly mountainous, but what was a little more unexpected was that his majority at that time was over the Conservatives.

They had moved into second place by quite some distance due to yet another local difficulty for Labour, who withdrew all support for their candidate due to allegations of anti-Semitism.

McNally is retiring this year and handing the baton on to the new SNP candidate Toni Giugliano (below), who previously stood for the Scottish Parliament three years ago but came unstuck in the notoriously tricky terrain of Dumbarton.

It might be assumed that Giugliano is practically nailed-on to have more luck this time, given the golden legacy he inherits from his predecessor.

In terms of raw numbers, McNally's majority of almost 15,000 was the biggest in Scotland at the 2019 general election, and even after quite a drastic boundary revision, Falkirk is notionally the fifth safest SNP seat in percentage terms.

Better still, there is basically no chance whatsoever that the SNP can be beaten by the second-placed Conservatives, which means that the only realistic challengers are Labour, who would have to come from a distant third place and overturn a massive deficit of thirty-nine percentage points.

On a uniform swing, they would need to be thirteen points ahead of the SNP nationally to make the gain, and no opinion poll so far has shown that scale of Labour lead.

But things are not as they appear.

The nineteen-point drop in support for Labour in Falkirk in 2019 was vastly in excess of the national average, and can be assumed to have been a freakish outcome caused by the alleged anti-Semitism episode.

A corrective effect must be expected on 4th July, with a much bigger swing from SNP to Labour likely to occur in Falkirk than elsewhere in Scotland.

The 2017 result may therefore be a better guide to where Giugliano really stands, and it suggests he could potentially lose even if Labour only have a very modest national lead.

So in fact he may face every bit as tough a battle as he did in 2021 against Jackie Baillie in Dumbarton.

READ MORE: Defection won’t be major factor but SNP will struggle here

Even the constituency-level projections at the weekend from Survation, which were favourable for the SNP across Scotland, suggest he may be very slightly behind in Falkirk.

But it's still all to play for, and a solid ground campaign could be enough to defeat Labour again in the very place where they've proved most accident-prone.