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Déjà vu

18th April 2017

Well here we go again!

The June 8th general election will be the fourth time Scots will have gone to the polls since the 2014 referendum.

So how will the election play out in Scotland? Will the SNP return the 56 MPs elected in 2015, or will it be seen as the high watermark for the SNP, remembering that at the 2016 Holyrood election the party lost its overall majority?  And will the Conservatives continue their revival north of the Border?

One thing that is certain is that discussion of Brexit or detailed policies will be secondary to the constitutional question. The SNP will urge Scots to send a message to Theresa May to “stand up for Scotland”, boosting their case for Indyref2, while opposition parties will urge Scots to use the election to say no to a further plebiscite.

It’s worth remembering just how well the SNP did in 2015. They secured all but 50% of the popular vote (49.97%); Labour trailed in second on 24% (losing 40 of their 41 MP’s along the way) while the Conservatives secured 14% and the Liberal Democrats 8%.

Locally that overwhelming national lead translated into massive majorities in individual constituencies. One example: in Dunfermline and West Fife, Labour’s majority of 5,470 was converted into a SNP majority of 10,352, a swing of 27.1%.

And current opinion polls provide little consolation to non-SNP parties. The most recent poll (Panelbase/Sunday Times March 2017) had the SNP on 47% (-3 from GE 2015), the Conservatives, 28% (+13%), Labour continuing its downward trajectory on 14% (-10 %) with the Liberal Democrats barely visible on 4% (-4%).

And of course with three parties chasing the “unionist vote” and consequently splitting that vote, the SNP has a huge advantage.

However the Scottish Conservatives are likely to do well. That section of the Scottish electorate which formerly voted Conservative until the 1990s before transferring to the SNP, is showing signs of returning to its natural political home. This is particularly true in rural Scotland where the SNP government’s problems with farm payments, the increased visibility of onshore wind and the centralisation of local functions to Holyrood, will all play into the Tories’ favour.

SNP seats in the north east, such as West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine and in the Borders, Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk will are likely to turn Conservative. Also at risk will be a number of SNP MPs who have experienced personal difficulties.

As we know, Theresa May will have thought long and hard before her announcement. In relation to Scotland she must have calculated that her party will return to Westminster with an increased Scottish contingent – with perhaps as many as 6 new MPs.

Overall, it is likely the SNP will again emerge as Scotland’s dominant party, but its share of the vote may well decrease, which could add uncertainty to the prospects for Indyref 2.

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