Election forecasts

The SNP’s advance: will it really be as big as Lord Ashcroft’s polls suggest?

Last week I drew up a list of all the seats in Scotland currently held by parties other than the SNP. I grouped the seats into five categories based on how much of a struggle I thought it would be for the SNP to win.

I promised to revisit my list once Lord Ashcroft published his headline-grabbing polls of the Scottish battleground, so here we go.

I’ve highlighted in bold the seats in which a poll was conducted, and added the poll’s result.

1: Easiest gains

Ochil & South Perthshire (5.2% swing)
Falkirk (7.7)
Dundee West (9.8) SNP ahead by 34 points
Inverclyde (10.4)
North Ayrshire & Arran (10.8)
Aberdeen North (11.1)

Lib Dems
Argyll & Bute (6.4)
Gordon (6.9) SNP ahead by 17

No surprise to find the SNP ahead comfortably here. The seats in this category are the party’s best chance of gains and the ones I think Labour and the Lib Dems are most likely to lose.

2: Likely gains

Livingston (11.3)
Edinburgh East (11.5)
Linlithgow & East Falkirk (12.2)
Midlothian (13.2)
Kilmarnock & Loudoun (13.3)
East Kilbride, Strathaven & Lesmahagow (14.3)
Lanark & Hamilton East (14.5)
Glasgow South (15.8) SNP ahead by 15

Lib Dems
Edinburgh West (11.4)
West Aberdeenshire & Kincardine (11.4)
Dunbartonshire East (14.1)

We’ve only one poll to go on here, but it shows the SNP well ahead. The nationalists will have a good chance in these seats and both Labour and the Lib Dems will struggle to hold them all. The SNP will expect to do well in Glasgow – one of the few places to vote Yes in last year’s referendum – so a 15-point lead in Glasgow South is not unexpected. It would have been useful to get an idea of the state of play in places like Edinburgh and Aberdeen, however. My instinct is the race in these seats could be a lot tighter.

3: Tricky but not impossible gains

Aberdeen South (12.3)
Stirling (12.3)
Edinburgh South (13.5)
Edinburgh North & Leith (14)
East Lothian (14.3)
Central Ayrshire (14.4)
Ayr, Carrick & Cumnock (14.6)
Cumbernauld, Kilsyth & Kirkintilloch East (16.7): SNP ahead by 18
Airdrie & Shotts (17.3): SNP ahead by eight

Lib Dems
Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch & Strathspey (11) SNP ahead by 29
Caithness, Sutherland & Easter Ross (11.1)

I predicted the SNP could make some gains in this category, and Lord Ashcroft’s polls suggest this could well be the case. Danny Alexander in particular looks to be in real danger in Inverness. But again I wonder if some seats, particularly in Edinburgh, might not swing in such dramatic fashion.

4: Unlikely gains

Edinburgh South West (15.3)
Glasgow North (16.3) SNP ahead by 12
Dumfries & Galloway (16.8)
Glasgow Central (17.3) SNP ahead by 10
Paisley & Renfrewshire North (17.5)
Dunfermline & West Fife (17.9)
Glasgow East (18.4) SNP ahead by 14
Glasgow North West (19.4) SNP ahead by six
Glenrothes (20.3)
Dunbartonshire West (20.6) SNP ahead by nine

Lib Dems
Fife North East (15.1)

Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale (13.6)

Just look at how well the SNP seems to be doing in Glasgow. I wrote previously that for these seats to change hands would be remarkable, though not impossible. Glasgow does look like it could well be the SNP’s best chance of a notching up an impressive number of gains.

5: Hardest gains

East Renfrewshire (20.5)
Paisley & Renfrewshire South (20.8) SNP ahead by 8
Motherwell & Wishaw (21.5) SNP ahead by 11
Rutherglen & Hamilton West (22.4)
Glasgow South West (23.1) SNP ahead by three
Coatbridge, Chryston & Bellshill (24.9) SNP ahead by three
Kirkcaldy & Cowdenbeath (25.1)
Glasgow North East (27.1) Labour ahead by seven

Lib Dems
Berwickshire, Roxburgh & Selkirk (18.1)
Ross, Skye & Lochaber (18.8)
Orkney & Shetland (26)

I admit to being staggered that the SNP is ahead in any of these seats. The necessarily selective approach of Lord Ashcroft means it’s ill-advised to extrapolate any kind of uniform pattern from his polls. Remember they are also snapshots, not predictions. But for the SNP to be registering any kind of lead in this category is news in itself, not least for the way it will boost the party’s morale and buoy the ambition of its supporters.

Now for the crunch question. Could the SNP’s advance really be as big as Lord Ashcroft’s polls suggest? It depends what you believe they are suggesting. I’m still minded to think gains for the SNP in categories four and five of my list will be the exception rather than the rule. I’m waiting to see sustained evidence of a surge before stating confidently that the party will win over half of Labour’s current seats. One thing should no longer be in doubt, however. The SNP is advancing.


3 responses to ‘The SNP’s advance: will it really be as big as Lord Ashcroft’s polls suggest?

  1. The strange thing these Ashcroft polls reveal is the uniformity of the Lab to SNP swing across different constituencies – defying conventional wisdom that UNS is no longer a good model for the British electoral system.

    I was assuming Scottish Labour would follow the (nationwide) Lib Dem pattern of shedding most of their votes in areas they were relatively weak already and therefore holding more seats than the swing would suggest, maybe two dozen. I was very wrong.

    • We might see more evidence of uniform regional swings at this election, with areas like Scotland and south-west England being good examples. But I doubt there’ll be anything approaching a uniform national swing.

      How many seats do you think Labour might hold on to in Scotland?

  2. Er… twelve? But the changes are so seismic here I am hesitating before ascribing a Lab/LD hold to just about anything.

    I feel that Labour may do better at the ballot box than in the polls – there may be a “Shy Labour” effect, and the SNP’s generally younger supporters are more likely not to vote on the day. Hence that twelve figure is a little less apocalyptic than some forecasts.

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