HIGHLANDS & ISLANDS
Formerly a Liberal Democrat stronghold, Highlands and Islands looks set to be one of the more interesting regions to watch on election night. The region is the largest geographically with the lowest population. Three of the constituencies are an anomoly to the boundary based on electorate rule in recognition of their island status making them each unique - both from the mainland and each other.
IN DEPTH ANALYSIS
Any change in elected representatives in Highlands and Islands has been a gradual one, with the 2015 General Election result being all the more shocking for the almost complete collapse of the Lib Dems.
For Holyrood 2016, the Liberal Democrats will be hoping to hold Orkney and Shetland, whilst the new SNP candidates for the islands will be looking to upset that apple cart. John Finnie, formerly an SNP list MSP is leading the Greens regional list, and David Coburn, UKIP's MEP has chosen to lead the list for that party in the region.
CURRENT CONSTITUENCY MSPs
Argyll and Bute - Michael Russell SNP
Caithness, Sutherland & Ross - SNP (current MSP is standing down)
Inverness & Nairn - Fergus Ewing SNP
Moray - Richard Lochhead SNP
Na h-Eileanan an Iar - Alasdair Allan SNP
Orkney Islands - Liam McArthur LIB DEM
Shetland Islands - Tavish Scott LIB DEM
Skye, Lochaber & Badenoch - SNP (current MSP standing down)
CONSTITUENCIES TO WATCH
The SNP won all but two of the Highland and Island constituencies in 2011, with both Orkney and Shetland returning their incumbent Liberal Democrat MSPs. The Northern Isles are joined for a Westminster constituency and saw a 27% swing to the SNP's Danus Skene, with Alistair Carmichael only narrowly holding the single Lib Dem seat in Scotland. Since then, a group of islanders have undertaken an unusual court action to unseat the MP. Although they were eventually unsuccesful it remains to be seen what impact this will have in both the islands.
Other constituencies to watch are: Caithness, Sutherland and Ross where Highland councillor Gail Ross is looking to hold onto the seat Rob Gibson first won from the Lib Dems in 2011 - having been the last list candidate to be declared in 2007 - giving the SNP a majority of 1; and Skye, Badenoch and Lochaber, where Kate Forbes, former assistant to retiring SNP MSP Dave Thompson will be hoping to take his place.
CURRENT REGIONAL LIST SEAT ALLOCATION
SNP 3 (2 resigned the party whip)
REGIONAL LIST WATCH
The regional results in Highlands and Islands veer between highly easy to predict - there will probably still be 2 Labour and 2 Conservative regional MSPs on 6th May, and almost impossible.
If the Liberal Democrats can hold on to the Northern Isles then the SNP could repeat their 2011 tally of three regional seats, meaning two new SNP faces will join Mike MacKenzie. However, if the SNP can win either of Orkney or Shetland (or both) then that becomes less certain.
Throw previous SNP MSP John Finnie, standing for the Greens, and Jean Urquhart standing for RISE plus David Coburn for UKIP and the later list seats could be won by any combination of folk.
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