SNP vs Tories part 2: Four to watch in the #GE2017

CommonSpace completes its overview of the top races that will define Scotland politically, this General Election

THIS YEAR’S GENERAL ELECTION will see the SNP attempt to consolidate its place as the overwhelmingly dominant political force in Scotland by attempting to unseat all remaining unionist MPs from Scottish Labour, the Scottish Tories and the Liberal Democrats.

The Tories who overtook Labour in the Holyrood elections last year will seek to make gains in the local election this week (4 May) as well advance on their total of 1 remaining MP in Scotland, David Mundell.

Previously we took look at the top five constituency struggles between the SNP and Tories who are becoming the two political forces defining the political divide in Scotland.

We now complete our in-depth analysis of how the parties are squaring off for the UK General Election of 2017 in Scotland.

1). Moray:

This is a major target for the Scottish Tories. Angus Robertson, the SNP’s leader in Westminster, would be the ultimate scalp for them and the party has confirmed that they will put a significant amount of resources towards the seat.

Crucially 58 per cent of residents voted No in the 2014 independence referendum and just under 50 per cent voted Leave during the EU referendum last summer. The SNP depute has, in the view of many commentators, performed effectively in holding the UK Government to account over Brexit but in a constituency which is split over the EU, the Tories will look to exploit any Euroscepticism.

The Scottish Tories are also standing Douglas Ross, the MSP for Highland and Islands, who caused controversy over earning up to £40,000 a year as a football referee.

When both men contested the seat in 2015, Ross lost to Robertson by 15,319 votes to 24,384. Yet in the Holyrood election, the SNP majority was sliced from 11,000 to around 3,000 in 2016.

2). Aberdeen South:

Aberdeen City voted No in 2014 by a large margin and one in three voters cast their ballot to Leave the EU, so Ross Thompson MSP and the Scottish Tories will be looking to take this seat from the SNP’s Callum McCaig who is the party’s spokesperson on energy.

McCaig came out during the last SNP conference in March this year stating that the party would have to be flexible over its position on the EU and possible membership of Efta given the views of fishermen in the region.

A passionate advocate of the single market, McCaig is aware of the disconnect between the SNP’s message on Europe and fishing communities who have last week demanded a pledge from all MPs to back Brexit.

Ross Thompson, who came to prominence as a Leave campaigner, will have to fight off memories of his expenses debacle as an MSP for the North East when he charged hotel room expenses of £120 only to be told by party bosses to pay it back. 

3). Ochil & South Perthshire:

Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh MP who is the SNP’s trade and investment spokesperson at Westminster will be defending this seat against a Tory candidate not yet chosen by Ruth Davidson’s party. It is low down on the Tories target list.

South Perthshire voted to stay in the UK and also had a 40 per cent vote to Leave the EU and in the Holyrood elections, the overlapping Perthshire South and Kinross-shire constituency saw the SNP majority slashed from over 7,000 to under 1,400 votes.

But it will be hard for the Tories even with the decline of the Scottish Labour vote as Ahmed-Sheikh received 26,620 votes in 2015 beating her second place rival, the Scottish Labour candidate by around 9,000. 

Under boundary change plans by the UK Tory Government, both Perth and Kinross’s two constituencies will face a radical shake-up under plans to cut the number of Scottish seats at Westminster from 59 to 53. If approved, the current Ochil and South Perthshire seat would be dramatically cut up to form the Kinross-shire and Cowdenbeath county constituency, pairing parts of Fife with Strathearn and Kinross-shire under the proposals. They will not apply in this election.

4). West Aberdeenshire & Kincardine:

Ruth Davidson welcomed Theresa May to a small village hall near Banchory in Kincardineshire where they both did their best to look “strong and stable”. Yet the visit left the UK PM looking unaccountable and undemocratic despite the area having a strong Tory base. Tory aide Andrew Bowie will fight the seat for theConservatives at the General Election this June.

Bowie, aged 29, currently works at Holyrood as head of office operations for Tory MSP Liam Kerr and was forced to apologise last year after sending an e-mail to a constituent branding her a “flipping woman”.

The SNP are protecting a majority of over 7,000 here and Davidson’s party is aiming to capitalise on the area being strongly No in 2014. The EU referendum saw it vote almost 40 per cent to Leave the European bloc and the Tories have been emphasising their intention to see the Brexit deal through.

SNP’s Stuart Donaldson has North East politics in the blood as his grandfather was the SNP MP for Banffshire, winning the seat and holding it during the twin elections of 1974, and was later an SNP councillor. His mother Maureen Watt was elected to the Scottish Parliament in 2006.

However, the Tories unexpectedly won in the Holyrood seat of West Aberdeenshire in 2016 and are now looking to boost resources in the constituency. 

Picture courtesy of CCC

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