What to watch for – Scotland

With just two days to go until the country goes to the polls, Left Foot Forward assesses what to look out for on election Night in Scotland.

In the second in a series looking at what to watch out for on election night across the nations, Left Foot Forward looks at the race for Scotland’s 59 constituencies.

Following the 2005 General Election, the results across Scotland were:

Party No of seats Share of the vote
Labour 41 (-5) 39.5%
Liberal Democrat 11 (+2) 22.6%
Scottish National Party 6 (+2) 17.7%
Conservative 1 (+1) 15.8%

Since 2005, however, the SNP’s win in the Glasgow East by-election means the SNP now hold seven seats against Labour’s 40. The most recent rounds of polling data in Scotland confirm the long term trend which has seen Labour north of the border clearly leading their rivals by a handsome majority.

If polling for Scotland on Sunday were to be replicated, Labour would lose two seats from its 2005 return – one to the Lib Dems and one to the SNP – with the Tories staying steady at one seat. However, according to data in the Scottish Mail on Sunday, Labour would take 44 seats (up three), the Lib Dems would lose two seats to nine, the SNP would stay on six seats and the Conservatives would be completely wiped out of Scotland altogether at Westminster.

The SNP started its campaign with Alex Salmond continuing in his ambitious target of seeing 20 SNP MPs at Westminster. As the polling data shows, however, this target, as the Caledonian Mercury has concluded, is “slipping out of reach”. Why that is, however, is a matter of debate. It could be that voters agree with both David Cameron and Nick Clegg that the Scots Nats are simply “irrelevant” in an election that they have no chance of winning.

It could be that voters believe it is only by voting Labour they stand a greater chance of keeping the deeply unpopular Conservatives out of government – or it could be a failure of the SNP to get its message across clearly enough, having spent much of its time complaining at not being including in the UK leaders’ debate. Whatever it is, the SNP’s campaign does not appear to have taken off. It is near impossible to see them meeting the target set by Alex Salmond, which would be a body blow to a man who has the pursuit of power in his veins.

For the Liberal Democrats, their aim will be to capitalise on the “Cleggmania” which has swept the country. The most recent round of polls suggests the Lib Dems are likely to maintain their position as having the second largest number of Scottish seats in the House of Commons.

However, STV has reported the findings of the Scottish Mail on Sunday poll which suggests Nick Clegg is by far the most popular choice for Scots voters to be the next prime minister. With this in mind, Left Foot Forward predicts that the Lib Dems will gain a couple of seats in Scotland, probably at the expense of Labour.

At the start of the campaign, William Hague predicted that 2010 would see a Conservative “breakthrough” in Scotland. With all the evidence pointing to the Conservatives being lucky if they retain their current crop of one seat in Scotland, Hague’s predication seems delusional. It looks clear that if David Cameron is to form the next government, a lack of seats in Scotland will mean picking up more new seats in England than Tony Blair was able to achieve in 1997.

Left Foot Forward predicts the Tories will make no gains in Scotland, but will retain its one MP. It looks clear that Annabel Goldie’s conclusion that the Conservative Party wouldn’t need Scottish seats to govern the UK will be tested. However, with a poll for Sky News suggesting a UK Conservative Government would increase calls for independence in Scotland it is clear that the Conservatives remain both deeply unpopular and have the potential to face a constitutional headache in their relations with Scotland.

For Labour, the task on Thursday will be simple – convert the good polling data they have had into votes and ultimately seats. Labour will remain the largest party in terms of Scottish seats at Westminster – what will matter is whether they lose seats or not. A strong, anti-Conservative swing to Labour would prove a major boost as Iain Gray and Scottish Labour’s team attempt to regain the levers of power at Holyrood next year.

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