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by Jack Thomson
05 April 2021
Where are the key battlegrounds in the Scottish Parliament election?

There are just over four weeks until the Scottish Parliament election. (Anita Gould)

Where are the key battlegrounds in the Scottish Parliament election?

There are just over four weeks left until the Holyrood election on 6 May. The candidates have been confirmed, the campaigning is well under way and parties are trying to get their message across to voters as we close in on an election with a marked difference to that of 2016.

There will be no overnight counting, numbers at individual polling stations will be restricted and candidates themselves are currently only allowed to carry out leafleting in their campaign activity, instead of face-to-face canvassing because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Despite the restrictions, there has been no shortage of twists and turns in the run-up to the election so far.

The emergence of the new pro-independence Alba Party and the resulting SNP defections mean the Sturgeon-Salmond narrative and the independence question will continue to dominate. Meanwhile, the Conservatives are looking to hold on to their position as Scotland's second largest party and Labour are looking to rebuild under new leader Anas Sarwar.

But where can some of the key battlegrounds be found in Scotland ahead of the election next month?

Aberdeenshire West

Candidates: Andrew Brown (Labour), Rosemary Bruce (Liberal Democrats), Alexander Burnett (Conservative) Fergus Mutch (SNP)

This constituency has existed in its current form since 2011, having been formed from parts of Gordon and West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine.

In 2016, the Conservatives won the seat from the SNP and Alexander Burnett served as the MSP for the five years that followed, including most recently as his party's spokesman on energy and connectivity.

There were only 900 votes in it last time around. It's a tight margin and it will mean Fergus Mutch, a former SNP head of communications, and his party will feel it is an achievable target in May.

Ayr

Candidates: Chic Brodie (Scotia Future), Esther Clark (Labour), Siobhian Brown (SNP), Jamie Ross (Liberal Democrats), John Scott (Conservative)

John Scott, a former deputy presiding officer, has been the MSP for Ayr for over two decades.

He won the first-ever Scottish Parliament by-election in March 2000 and was re-elected in 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2016.

The margin dropped to just 750 in the last election. The closing gap suggests it's all to play for in 2021 and Siobhian Brown, an SNP councillor for Ayr West, will be hopeful of claiming the seat from the Conservatives' long-held grasp.

Dumbarton

Candidates: Jackie Baillie (Labour), Maurice Corry (Conservative), Andy Foxall (Liberal Democrats), Toni Guigliano (SNP), James Morrison (Independent), Andrew Muir (Independent) and Jonathan Rainey (Libertarian)

Jackie Baillie, Scottish Labour's deputy leader, who stepped in as acting leader following Richard Leonard's resignation until Anas Sarwar took charge, has held the Dumbarton seat since 1999.

Over the years she has fought off stiff competition from the SNP for the seat but the margin is now the tightest in Scotland, having been cut to just 109 votes in 2016.

Baillie's performance as acting leader and notably as a member of the Committee on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints may stand her in good stead. It has been widely suggested that Baillie was one of the more effective questioners on the committee, which took evidence from Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond among others, as the inquiry tried to get to the bottom of what went wrong in the government's internal probe.

Toni Giugliano, a mental health campaigner, is the candidate the SNP have entrusted with winning the seat from Baillie, while Maurice Corry, currently a list MSP for the West Scotland region, will stand for the Conservatives.

Edinburgh Central

Candidates: Bonnie Prince Bob (Independent), Scott Douglas (Conservative), Alison Johnstone (Greens), Maddy Kirkman (Labour), Tam Laird (Libertarian), Donald Mackay (UKIP), Angus Robertson (SNP), Bruce Wilson (Liberal Democrats)

Edinburgh Central is the seat departed by former Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson, who most recently served as the party's Holyrood leader.

It was a gain from the SNP in 2016, with just 610 votes in it, but Davidson is stepping down as an MSP and will soon take up her seat in the House of Lords.

Scott Douglas, a Conservative councillor, has been tasked with holding on to the seat for his party and he will go toe-to-toe with seasoned politician Angus Robertson as he tries to do so.

Robertson is a former MP, who represented Moray for 16 years in the House of Commons, eventually losing his seat to Douglas Ross, leader of the Scottish Conservatives.

From 2007 to 2017, Robertson was the SNP's Westminster leader and has also had a spell as the party's depute leader from 2016 to 2019.

The ex-journalist's campaign experience could prove crucial in the SNP's quest to win back the Edinburgh Central seat and return a majority in the Scottish Parliament.

Glasgow Southside

Candidates: Carol Dobson (Freedom Alliance), Greg Energy Adviser (Independent), Carole Ford (Lib Dem), Jayda Fransen (Independent), Deek Jackson (Liberal Party), Anas Sarwar (Lab), Nicola Sturgeon (SNP) and Kyle Thornton (Conservative)

Glasgow Southside is a key seat because of the names in it.

Nicola Sturgeon, leader of the SNP, and Anas Sarwar, leader of Scottish Labour will go head-to-head. It's a constituency which could tell us a lot about how the two are perceived by the public, but ultimately the SNP's lead in this area is significant.

It would take an almighty swing for Sarwar to even unnerve Sturgeon, who has been front and centre during the COVID-19 pandemic and who, polls suggest, is still a popular leader.

Read the most recent article written by Jack Thomson - Scottish Parliament recalled to pay tribute to Prince Philip

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