Every time I think I’m catching up, Better Nation forges ahead. That’ll be because there are two of them and one of me huh?
Anyway, we’re off to the Lothians where Jeff (possibly) has an advantage in that he doesn’t live here and so can take a wholly objective view, which is one of the reasons why he and not Malc did this region. So what of my calculations? Let’s factor in a little of the local circumstances first:
- Labour left the biscuit tin empty, making it difficult for the incoming Lib Dem/SNP council administration in Edinburgh to do anything than take the tough decisions Labour avoided by spending its way out of trouble
- West Lothian council has been run by the SNP for the first ever time and they have made a decent fist of it
- Three constituencies have SNP ministers – Almond Valley, Linlithgow and Edinburgh Eastern – standing again
- One constituency has a retiring Labour MSP as well as a redrawn boundary: Midlothian North & Musselburgh (and part of the constituency in an SNP run council are which again has performed well)
- this region returned the only Independent MSP in 2007 in Margo McDonald
- the trams!
The points of agreement. Labour will hold Edinburgh Central, Edinburgh Northern and Leith, Linlithgow and Midlothian North & Musselburgh. It pains me, in particular, that Fiona Hyslop will still not take Linlithgow, at the fourth time of asking and with a redrawn boundary in the SNP’s favour. But the national swing is against it. And I am delighted that Sarah Boyack will make it back. A nicer, more hard working, more consensual MSP you’d travel hard to find. She is also bright and while many in Labour claim to have been lifelong devolution supporters, Sarah is one of the few who can claim it for real. When she makes it back, she is long overdue a return to the front bench. Finally, Edinburgh Pentlands will be a Conservative hold.
Which leaves four. And at last, a stushie, or at least significant disagreement.
The SNP will hold Almond Valley. Labour needs an infinitesmal swing but it still won’t be enough. It’s the kind of prediction where the burd ignores the science and goes with instinct. The same applies to Edinburgh Eastern and that will be two SNP Ministers back as constituency MSPs in the central belt.
Edinburgh Southern, currently held by the Lib Dems, will fall to Labour. Urban seats, particularly where the Lib Dems rely on a hidden Tory vote, are most vulnerable. Labour kept this seat in the General Election, despite predictions that it would fall to the Lib Dems and the constituency has a high number of Labour councillors, benefitting from being in opposition rather than in charge of the cuts.
Which leaves the wild card of Edinburgh Western. On the figures alone, this should be the safest Lib Dem seat in the country. But the SNP have closed the gap in recent Scottish elections and Labour fought its way back into contention with a second place showing at the UK election last year. Again, there has been a hidden Tory vote which may be less inclined to “lend its vote” to the Lib Dems and in wards where the Lib Dems have traditionally been strong, there have been some controversial council decisions. Finally, the Labour candidate is a longstanding and popular councillor, Lesley Hinds, who is also a former Lord Provost. The burd might be deemed to have fallen off her perch with this one but I reckon she will win this seat by the narrowest of margins. This seat might well provide our Portillo moment of 2011…. And yes, I know this makes a mockery of one of my year ahead predictions.
Where do we differ? Mainly on SNP and Lib Dem seats – they say none for the SNP, I say two; they say two for the Lib Dems, I say they will end up with none. Which of course has a bearing on which parties might take the list seats.
Better Nation indicated – purely on the science – that the SNP would take 4 seats, the Greens 1, the Tories 1 and Margo will also get back. But the burdz constituency predictions mean that the Lib Dems are bound to scrape one back through the regional vote but at whose expense? It has to be the SNP. In 2007, their high water mark, they took a total of five seats in this region. I cannot see them taking more and indeed, may even take one less. Margo will definitely return and the Greens will also keep at least a single seat. The Tories should keep their list seat but Labour will lose theirs. So, no more fudging: the burd predicts 2 SNP, 1 Independent, 1 Conservative, 1 Lib Dem and 2 Greens.
And if that doesn’t make James at Better Nation smile, I don’t know what will.
Final tally – 6 Labour, all in constituency seats; 4 SNP, 2 in constituencies and 2 on the list; 2 Conservatives, 1 of each; 1 Lib Dem, on the list; 2 Greens, both on the list and 1 Independent, again on the list. I’m expecting an incredulous response or two….