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Too close to call? 2024 election set to be major shake-up of Scottish politics

Anas Sarwar with Michael Shanks at the Rutherglen by-election count | PA Images/Alamy

Too close to call? 2024 election set to be major shake-up of Scottish politics

Anas Sarwar’s buoyant speech as he welcomed in 2024 last week appears to have been validated by a recent YouGov super-poll. This year’s election could very well be the one Scottish Labour finally gets its long-talked-about revival.

A survey of over 14,000 voters estimates Labour could win 385 seats across the UK, including 24 in Scotland.

As well as the two seats the party already holds – Edinburgh South and Rutherglen – it is set to take a further 22 from the SNP. Most of these are in its old central belt heartlands, with a clean sweep predicted in Glasgow. They’d also take the Western Isles seat, Na h-Eileanan an Iar, which is currently held by former SNP MP Angus Brendan MacNeil.

While undoubtedly bad news for the SNP, the party still comes out on top. Just.

According to YouGov, the party could win 25 seats. Two of those would be gains from the Conservatives: Dumfries and Galloway (held by Scottish secretary Alister Jack, who has already announced he won’t be re-standing), and West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine (held by nuclear minister Andrew Bowie).

The Conservatives would drop to four seats: Dumfries, Clydesdale and Tweeddale; Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk; Gordon and Buchan; and Aberdeenshire North and Moray East. SNP defector Lisa Cameron, who joined the Scottish Tory group last October, would see her rebranded East Kilbridge & Strathaven seat go to Labour.

Douglas Ross’s Moray is set to be split in two under the new boundaries, partly into the Aberdeenshire seat above, and partly into Moray West, Nairn and Strathspey (which is predicted to be won by the SNP).

The Lib Dems will be pleased to know their four seats will be retained.

A closer look at the numbers reveals how much of a knife-edge this election result is on. In three constituencies, the SNP and Labour sit on roughly the same share of a vote.

In Dunfermline and Dollar, the two parties are predicted to get 34 per cent of the vote apiece; in Edinburgh North and Leith it’s 33 per cent; and in Livingston it’s also 33 per cent. YouGov’s analysis hands the first of those three to Labour, but the latter two to the SNP.

Then there’s numerous other seats which are also very close. The Tories would only win both Aberdeenshire North & Moray East and Gordon & Buchan by a single percentage point (28 per cent to the SNP’s 27), while Dumfries & Galloway would go SNP only by a single percentage point too (27 per cent to the Tory’s 26).

There’s also a few three-horse races. Former Scottish secretary David Mundell would keep his Dumfries, Clydesdale & Tweeddale seat – which he’s held since 2005 – with 28 per cent of the vote. But hot on his tail is the SNP (25 per cent) and Labour (24 per cent).

Mid Dunbartonshire – which is replacing East Dunbartonshire – is a three-way race between the Labour (27 per cent), the SNP (25 per cent) and the Lib Dems (23 per cent). The predecessor seat was of course once held (and infamously lost) by Scottish Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson.

North East Fife – the constituency won by the SNP in 2017 by two votes, before being lost in 2019 to the Lib Dems (though some say the campaign efforts here five years ago meant the party took its eye off Swinson’s seat) – is set to return the Lib Dems again with a decent lead. But with the SNP and Labour both eyeing it up, this could be closer than YouGov suggests.

As for dead certs, Labour look set to comfortably hold Ian Murray’s Edinburgh South and Michael Shanks’ Rutherglen, and the Lib Dems will easily retain Alastair Carmichael’s Orkney & Shetland and Christine Jardine’s Edinburgh West.

Every other seat is too close to call. The SNP’s best performer is Paisley & Renfrewshire South, with a predicted vote of 40 per cent. Labour is seven percentage points behind.

The Tories’ best is Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk with 30 per cent – but the SNP is just three percentage points behind.

After a tumultuous decade since the independence referendum turned politics on its head, the electoral map of Scotland seems set for another very big shake-up.

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