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)
Dundee West (9.8) SNP ahead by 34 points
North Ayrshire & Arran (10.8)
Aberdeen North (11.1)
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
Edinburgh East (11.5)
Linlithgow & East Falkirk (12.2)
Kilmarnock & Loudoun (13.3)
East Kilbride, Strathaven & Lesmahagow (14.3)
Lanark & Hamilton East (14.5)
Glasgow South (15.8) SNP ahead by 15
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)
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
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
Dunbartonshire West (20.6) SNP ahead by nine
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
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.