IT’S worth starting with a few caveats: critically, national polling doesn’t reflect local circumstances. Equally, the system used for allocating regional seats (the D’Hondt method) is an exact science, with a relatively simple formula, but without the key variable – the level of vote in each region – there is some educated guesswork involved in how national polling can best be applied regionally.

In this election in particular, there’s an added problem – in national polls, more people tend to say they are going to vote Green than actually do when it comes to the election, so perhaps we need to treat their national figure with a bit of caution.

Finally, given the fine margins in play for the sixth and seventh seats in some regions, tactical voting is somewhat of a misnomer – at the time of voting, nobody will have the required level of knowledge of the variables affecting the list allocation in order to vote tactically with any level of confidence.

With all of that said, we can use Professor John Curtice’s poll of polls (average of the last four polls conducted by BMG, Panelbase, Survation and YouGov between the sixth and twentieth of April), and a new election forecasting tool produced by Cutbot, to take a stab at working out not only which parties will win which constituency seats, but also to identify those candidates likely to be elected on the regional list as well.

UNSURPRISINGLY, on a national vote share of 52 per cent on the constituency vote, the SNP would be poised to win seven of the eight seats in the region, with only the Lib Dems’ Tavish Scott withholding the SNP tide in Shetland.

SNP MSPs would increase substantially their majorities in each of their previously held seats, with Alasdair Allan projected to take 75 per cent of the vote in Na h-Eileanan an Iar.

Caithness Sutherland & Ross, and Skye, Lochaber & Badenoch would have their first ever female MSP or MP (Gail Ross and Katie Forbes respectively) as would Orkney Islands, which would see Donna Heddle replace Liam McArthur. Twenty-five-year-old Forbes will also be among the youngest MSPs in the new Parliament.

Orkney Islands is the key constituency in the region, as the victor in it will have significant consequences for the allocation of list MSPs.

If we assume that each region sees the same ratio between that region’s list vote and the national list vote as it did in 2011, we can adapt the national list poll figure to project region-specific vote shares.

For Highlands and Islands, that’d likely give the SNP around 45 per cent, Labour 10 per cent, Conservatives 16 per cent, Lib Dems 13 per cent, Greens eight per cent and Ukip seven per cent.

On that basis, and given the constituency seat division (seven to the SNP, one to the Lib Dems) we can establish that the Conservatives would likely take the first and fourth allocated seats, with Labour taking the second and the Greens’ John Finnie (elected last time around as an SNP MSP) taking the third.

Ukip Scotland’s leader David Coburn would be fairly comfortably elected in fifth, the Lib Dems would gain compensation for the loss of Orkney by winning the sixth seat, and the SNP – perhaps surprisingly for the casual reader – would take the final seat. Why? Well, if the SNP’s list vote share remains as high – if they manage to retain voters from the constituency vote to the list – they will continue to have a large vote to divide by seats won.

List MSPs elected on poll-of-poll figures: 1. Douglas Ross (Con) 2. Rhoda Grant (Lab) 3. John Finnie (Green) 4. Edward Mountain (Con) 5. David Coburn (Ukip) 6. Jamie Stone (LD) 7. Maree Todd (SNP).

However, if the Lib Dems hang onto Orkney, the net result from the region would likely remain the same – the SNP’s Laura Mitchell would be elected from the list with Lib Dem Jamie Stone making way – with only the order that the list was returned in differing.

Highlands and Islands appears to be Ukip’s best chance of returning an MSP – which is why David Coburn chose this region to stand. However, even with a vote share of six per cent in the region they could miss out on a seat by a very small margin.

Ukip's David Coburn tipped to take party’s first seat in Holyrood despite embarrassing gaffes

Dr Malcolm Harvey is a research fellow at the University of Aberdeen and the Centre on Constitutional Change