Now the burd has to declare a personal interest in a number of constituencies in this region, for reasons which will remain largely mysterious. A bit harder, then, to be objective but I shall do my best. Maybe.
And I’ve just realised that I haven’t actually been keeping a tally of seats from all the previous regions so I might not actually have any left to allocate to the parties… which is the downside of taking a more gung-ho than scientific approach to this predictions malarkey than the one deployed by Malc and Jeff over at Better Nation. Oops.
But lots to disagree with!
Though I do agree with Malc on Ayr (Conservative hold); Cumnock and Doon Valley (Labour hold); and Clydesdale (Labour hold but by a pip squeak methinks).
I also agree with East Lothian. I’d like to think the SNP’s Dave Berry will run Iain Gray close, as he has almost single handedly built an elected SNP presence in the area – first councillor* elected and only recently stood down as council leader to concentrate on this election – but I suspect that Iain Gray will get the usual bounce that party leaders always seem to get in their own backyards. It won’t be any reflection on the quality of the SNP candidate or his campaign.
(*eek – memory fail! George Thomson was first SNP councillor in East Lothian – he defected from Labour and later held the ward for the SNP in 1992. Thanks @calummiller!)
The Conservatives will also hold Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire but Paul Wheelhouse of the SNP will leapfrog the Lib Dems into second place, cutting John Lamont’s majority in the process. Which will be well deserved for all the hard work put in and sacrifice made.
And Malc is right, though it pains me to say it, that the Conservatives will hold Galloway and West Dumfries, though again, the majority will be cut by the SNP challenger Aileen McLeod, which if she sticks around and works the constituency between times should make it a target SNP seat again in 2015.
That’s six down and I make it three each for Labour and the Tories. What of the rest?
Malc predicted that the Tories will take Dumfriesshire. They won’t. Elaine Murray will hold this seat for Labour. He also reckoned the SNP would take the new seat of Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale. Sorry, but the Lib Dems will hold it – just. It’s that funny rural Lib Dem thing going on that will buck the poll trend and unfortunately, for Christine Grahame is a fine campaigner and a hardworking, good MSP, that should be her last shot at winning it.
And then there is Kilmarnock and Irvine Valley: the cuckoo in this regional nest. The result in this seat in the 2011 election matters hugely. Since 2003, it has been neck and neck between the SNP and Labour. Roughly speaking, in 2003, Labour won the constituency 51 -49 (or thereabouts) but the SNP took the regional vote in the constituency by the same margin. In 2007, the result was reversed with the SNP winning the seat but Labour winning narrowly on the regional vote. If either party could change this trend and take the seat and the regional vote, it might be enough to deliver an extra list seat out of South of Scotland and consequently, add to that party’s chance of winning the election. This is a key battleground seat and I imagine both parties are throwing resources at it right now to secure it. God help the poor citizens of Kilmarnock and Irvine Valley.
But who is the burd plumping for? Labour – they will gain the seat because they have a targeted organisational strategy; they have a popular Unison backed candidate who will benefit from the extra resources this brings in; and on the ICM poll, Labour is ahead on constituency vote. There are a few other local issues I won’t trouble you with but it will mean the loss of Willie Coffey from the Parliament, as he is not standing on the list.
My seat tally (Malc’s in brackets): Labour 5 (3); Conservatives 3 (4); Lib Dems 1 (0); SNP 0 (2). As you might expect, this influences considerably the allocation of list seats.
The Lib Dems will lose the list seat they hold. The SNP will take 5 seats, as they did in 2007, which means Aileen McLeod will make it after all and the South of Scotland will have contributed hugely to reducing the SNP’s gender deficit in its group’s make up. Which leaves two seats. Last time round, the Conservatives took a list seat but I doubt that will be repeated, which does indeed mean the untimely demise of Derek Brownlee. How utterly careless and incompetent of them frankly.
But will they go to the SNP or Labour? You see now why the inclusion of Kilmarnock and what happens there matters? The burd reckons whoever takes the regional vote there effectively wins an extra list seat. And at the risk of copping out, they will win one each. Which means Paul Wheelhouse makes it – hurrah! And so does another woman, this time for Labour. Labour taking that seventh seat will be the pay off for the list strategy they have been working and would prove crucial to the election outcome.
Final scores: Labour 6 (5 seats + 1 regional); SNP 6 (all on the list); Conservatives 3 (all constituencies) and Lib Dems 1 (constituency).
How does this differ from Malc’s totals? He called it 6 for Labour, 5 for the SNP, 4 for the Conservatives and 1 for the Lib Dems, which gives us a grand differential of precisely one. Oh.