Winner in 2019 – David Linden (SNP)

SCOTLAND is being stripped of two of its 59 constituencies in this General Election to help make way for even more MPs from England.

One of the losses will occur in Glasgow, which is being reduced from seven seats to six. Glasgow Central has been abolished, and as a result, the surviving six constituencies have all been subject to radical boundary revisions.

The redrawn Glasgow East seat has a particularly deceptive name, because a substantial chunk of the old Glasgow East has now been transferred to Glasgow North East.

The remainder of the old seat has merged with a large part of Glasgow Central to form an extremely different new Glasgow East.

It might be assumed that this does not matter in party political terms, because Glasgow East and Glasgow Central have behaved similarly to each other in general elections since the independence referendum, with both electing SNP MPs in 2015, 2017 and 2019.

But voting patterns have masked huge demographic differences between the two constituencies, and those could come into play now that Labour are on the comeback trail.

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Glasgow Central had a much more diverse population than the old Glasgow East – 34% of its residents were born outside the UK and 23% were Asian.

By contrast, Glasgow East’s demographics were more reminiscent of the type of white working-class urban seat that would have been heavily supportive of Brexit if it had been in England, with only 12% born outside the UK and only 4% from an Asian ethnic background. And while Glasgow East was true to its Scottish location by rejecting Brexit in the 2016 referendum, it recorded a Leave vote of 44% that was predictably much higher than the 29% seen in the more cosmopolitan Glasgow Central.

The newly merged constituency is inevitably somewhere at the midpoint between these extremes, with an 11% Asian population and 21% born outside the UK. It’s estimated that the Leave vote within the new boundaries would have been below the 38% recorded across Scotland as a whole.

All of this is potentially encouraging for David Linden, who has been the SNP MP for the old Glasgow East seat since 2017 and is now taking up the challenge of standing in a considerably more diverse and more pro-European new constituency.

Although Brexit is not as prominent an issue as it was in 2019, Remain support in Glasgow is likely to correlate with more liberal attitudes towards immigration.

Linden (below) may therefore benefit from a new electorate that will not have been impressed by Keir Starmer attacking the Tories from the right on immigration using Farage-like language, and that will have been more sympathetic to Stephen Flynn repeatedly stressing that Scotland’s only immigration problem is that it doesn’t have enough of it.

(Image: PA)

A new electorate with more Muslims also presents an opportunity for Linden (left) due to the colossal anger in the Muslim community over Starmer’s statement in October that Israel had the right to cut off water and electricity supplies to Gaza.

Right-wingers have accused Linden of “sectarianism” for raising the issue during the campaign, and attempted a “gotcha” on him by showing he handed out targeted leaflets outside the Al Farooq mosque in Govanhill describing himself as “standing up for Palestine”. But that was very obviously a strategically smart thing for him to do, and it may pay dividends at the ballot box.

In spite of these plus points, the notional results suggest that if the new boundaries had been in place for the 2019 election, Linden would “only” have defeated Labour by fifteen percentage points, which is just slightly higher than the margin he actually enjoyed in Glasgow East in its previous form.

In normal circumstances that would be a healthy cushion, but the scale of the pro-Labour swing currently implied by opinion polls means that it’s nowhere near enough to make the seat safe for the SNP.

Linden came within just 75 votes of losing to Labour in 2017, even though Labour were 10 points behind the SNP throughout Scotland at that election.

The SNP’s weaker national position this time means he’ll need to extract every last drop of advantage from the local factors in his favour to have a realistic chance of returning to Westminster for a third term.