Covering Dunbar on the east coast and Scotland’s most southerly point of Mull of Galloway on the west, the South region is as rural as the Highlands, similarly reliant on fishing, farming and tourism, and has a similar political outlook. The decline of woollen mills and the impact of ever more frequent flood events also play a large part in the border counties unique character.
IN DEPTH ANALYSIS
Despite its historic plurality, South Scotland has not been immune to the advance of the SNP. It is home to Scotland’s only Conservative MP in the person of David Mundell who just scraped home in Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale with 798 votes more than the second placed SNP in 2015.The Conservative do hold part of that constituency in the Scottish Parliament, but the sitting MSP, Alex Fergusson is retiring, succeeded for the Conservatives by Finlay Carson. Of the two other Conservative held constituencies in the region Ayr’s John Scott is hedging his bets as he is also top of the Tory list, but John Lamont has thrown all of his eggs into the Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire basket which he is widely predicted to hold against Alex Salmond’s Rural Affairs Minister Paul Wheelhouse.
CURRENT CONSTITUENCY MSPs
Ayr – John Scott CON
Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley – Adam Ingram SNP (standing down)
Clydesdale – Aileen Campbell SNP
Dumfriesshire – Elaine Murray LAB
East Lothian – Iain Gray LAB
Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire – John Lamont CON
Galloway and West Dumfries – Alex Fergusson CON (standing down)
Kilmarnock and Irvine Valley – Willie Coffey SNP
Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale – Christine Grahame SNP
CONSTITUENCIES TO WATCH
The three Tory seats are the ones worth watching. If Ruth Davidson’s efforts to lengthen the leash from Westminster are working, these will be the seats that show Conservative support holding up in traditional areas.
John Scott has held Ayr since a by election in 2000, Fergusson moved from the list to take his marginal seat from the SNP in 2003, and John Lamont beat Liberal Democrat Euan Robson in 2007.
Also of interest is whether former Labour leader Iain Gray can hold East Lothian. His 151 majority suggests not. Elaine Murray has a more comfortable majority over the Tories in 2011, but the Conservatives have selected David Mundell’s son Oliver to fight Labour for Dumfriesshire, and Joan McAlpine wants to take the seat for the SNP from only just behind the Tories.
CURRENT REGIONAL LIST SEAT ALLOCATION
Lib Dem 1
REGIONAL LIST WATCH
If the constituency vote doesn’t simply turn SNP yellow then the list vote should remain as varied as in years past.
Certainly the Parliament and the region will benefit if the Liberal Democrat vote holds up in the region and Jim Hume returns as an MSP. The Greens are expending some effort in the region, with Sarah Beattie-Smith their lead candidate.
As in some other regions, the Greens will need to almost double their vote to be in with a chance of a seat, but some of the polls do predict this happening. As in other regions where the SNP might not take all the constituencies, how large the SNP list vote is, and therefore if when divided it is still big enough to elect a regional representative will only become evident on election night.
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