#sp11 Regions revisited – Highlands and Islands

It was such a dandy idea, the burd is wishing she’d thought of it herself.  Over at Better Nation, Jeff and Malc are visiting each of the electoral regions in turn, offering their views on how recent poll findings will translate into seats in the 2011 election (#sp11 for the unitiated is the Twitter hashtag for the elections).

And it’s very interesting.  So interesting I, after consultation, thought I’d add my views.  Jeff is an exact scientist – he’s even got a predictor thingy set up.  The burd prefers to play a little fast and loose with the science.  Politics is, after all, an art form and will always throw up surprises.  So, in response, I’ve taken the most recent poll findings – which updates it all a little – from ICM, put the data into ScotlandVotes predictor, looked at what it says, and then made my own mind up.  It’s a burdz prerogative.  In doing so, I have applied the knowledge gleaned from a lifetime’s unhealthy interest in elections and all things political.

Let’s get the easy ones out of the way – the ones where I agree with Jeff.

Orkney and Shetland will both be Lib Dem holdsInverness and Nairn, and Moray will both be SNP holds.  Four down, four to go.

The seats of Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch and Caithness, Sutherland and Ross have been held since 1999 (in their previous incarnation) by the Liberal Democrats but both incumbents are retiring.  Additionally, the equivalent Westminster seats have been occupied for a long time by Lib Dems.  ScotlandVotes suggests the Lib Dems will hold on to both;  Better Nation reckons that both will fall to the SNP, which has the benefit of existing list MSPs standing as candidates.

For once, guilty of sitting on the fence, the burd is splitting the difference.  Caithness will fall to the SNP – the majority is smaller, the SNP MSP has been the candidate before, and the party has a number of councillors doing good work in this part of the Highlands.  But Skye will stay Lib Dem.  Don’t ask me why but instinct suggests that the Lib Dems will hold most of their rural seats and take the kicking the polls are predicting in urban constituencies.

Argyll and Bute fell to the SNP at the last election and despite a change in candidate, I reckon Mike Russell will hold the seat for the SNP.  No controversy there then.

Both Better Nation and ScotlandVotes are applying the science strictly and stating that Labour will retake Na h-Eileanan an Iar from the SNP.  But the polls said last time round in 2007 that Labour would hold on to this seat, albeit by the skin of its teeth.  These are the kind of constituencies that national polls find it difficult to cater for.  Lots of local circumstances, a certain independence of mind and the candidates still counting for a lot, if not more than the parties.  The burd believes the SNP and Alasdair Allan will hold this seat, but his majority might be squeezed.  I’d go so far as to predict a recount before the seat is settled.

So, on the constituencies, it will be SNP 5, Lib Dems 3, which would be remarkable really.  And this could impact on who takes the regional seats.

In 2007, the SNP and Lib Dems shared the constituency spoils equally with four seats apiece.  The regional vote produced three Labour MSPs, two SNP and two Conservatives.

This time round, the burd predicts that Labour will keep three, the Tories two but the SNP will lose one seat.  It could go to the Lib Dems but I doubt it, and if Labour are having a very good night, they could just squeeze a fourth MSP out of this region, but it could also go to the Scottish Greens.  Maximising its ability to take list seats in regions like this are crucial to Labour’s hopes of forming the next Scottish Government.  But if the Scottish Greens take a six per cent share of the vote, as other polls have indicated they might (ICM puts them at four per cent), then that might just give them enough votes to take the last seat and return Eleanor Scott to Holyrood.  Which do I reckon will happen? Labour will take a surprise fourth seat here.

If your head is reeling from all these numbers, here’s the round up:

Orkney – Lib Dem hold;  Shetland – Lib Dem hold;  Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch – Lib Dem hold; Moray – SNP hold;  Inverness and Nairn – SNP hold;  Na h-Eileanan an Iar – SNP hold;  Argyll and Bute – SNP hold;  Caithness, Sutherland and Ross – SNP GAIN

Seven seats in the region – 1 Lib Dem, 1 SNP, 2 Conservatives and 4 Labour.

The totals:  Better Nation’s analysis suggests the SNP will take six seats – the burd agrees;  the Lib Dems will take three seats – the burd agrees;  we also agree that the Tories will keep two seats;  Better Nation says four for Labour and I agree again.  So far, so dull but it is in how these totals will be arrived at, that we differ.  And sorry, but no seat for the Scottish Greens from me, but one from Better Nation.

Aren’t we going to have fun seeing who’s right and who’s wrong?  In fact, we should set up some kind of side wager on it….

9 thoughts on “#sp11 Regions revisited – Highlands and Islands

  1. Pingback: #sp11 Regions revisited – the totaliser « A Burdz Eye View

  2. Mark, your analysis doesn’t make sense when you say that LDs will go back to Labour. The LD vote was down at the last SP election and it’s only going down again but Labour was also down in 2007 so if there is a correlation of the type you suggest it certainly wasn’t evident then. LD voters in LD held constituencies outside the Highlands are mostly petit bourgeois with not the slightest interest in ‘leftism’. Sorry but I don’t believe your assertions stack up or that there is any evidence to support them.

  3. I might have made the case for (at least) three different sets of lib-dem voter to you – as you say, there is a suburban/small town vote that would vote Tory in England, but votes lib-dem in Corstorphine, St Andrews and Inverurie, and a West Highland vote that has been voting Liberal since Mr Gladstone’s government passed the crofting acts, but the third group to me are the urban ‘left of labour but not as left as the SSP/Greens’ vote, who really came into their own as a lib-dem vote bank after Iraq. While urban lefties will abandon the lib-dems, and probably go back to labour, the suburban centre-right might secretly quite like the coalition. No clue what celtic fringe voters will do!

    • Yes, I admit, I stole that from you! Your perceptiveness was too good to pass up. I agree with that soft mid left vote and that is what will migrate home to Labour. And not sure if the secret Tories will have any reason to stay hidden? They do tend to quite like voting for their own when their tails are up – Galloway experience taught me that much! Celtic fringe vote might go Green?

    • Inverurie – you mean the constituency of the First Minister? don’t they vote SNP there?

  4. “Better Nation” doesn’t say anything – these are Jeff’s numbers (and I disagree with him on Western Isles, though it doesn’t matter to the overall outcome) and James hasn’t been contributing!

    But this is great – between us, we’ll have a decent shot at predicting the election (aye right)…

    • Oops sorry – I do say that it is only the two of you. But yes it is a good game – and Jeff gave me lots to disagree with on the Lothians list. Definitely think someone should start a book – see Michael’s prediction below!

  5. Kate, in general agreement with you re the constituencies but I’m not so certain that the LDs will get anything on the list. I have a feeling their O & S voters might shift on the list vote – they have done in the past. Similar views on the one with the big name where I think we will also see some movement on the regional vote away from the LDs but holding the constituency. I also believe Alasdair Allan will hold NhES. That leaves two free list seats. Maybe Eleanor Scott but the Greens face another monumental squeeze which was what pushed them out last time. Maybe another SNP seat? Maybe the Cons? So, here’s my prediction: LDs 3, Labour 3, SNP 6, Tory 1

    • The problem with the LD vote, as someone pointed out to me the other day, is that there is no LD vote – there are at least three LD votes. The urban Tory vote that couldn’t possibly be seen to be Tory in Scotland; the rural Gladstonian hangover vote and the 3rd one escapes me!! So who knows whether or not they will get a list vote. The reason why I think they will at least in H & I is that people might give them a sympathy list vote for shifting on the constituency. And there is still a latent LD vote in the likes of Argyll and Bute to factor in. I’d love Eleanor Scott to get back but cannae see it, due to the squeeze as you point out. I think the final seat will fall between Labour and the SNP – could be another Dave Thomson moment!

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