Insofar as there’s any received wisdom for Scotland the day after parliament approved a general election, it’s that the SNP might be vulnerable to losing seats on 8 June. But which seats? This post takes a look at some of the factors that might be involved and draws a few tentative conclusions.
The exercise you see below is simple. It takes into account three factors:
- the size of the majority the sitting SNP MP enjoyed in the general election in 2015
- the extent to which their constituents voted ‘Leave’ in the EU referendum
- the extent to which those constituents seem to be against a second independence referendum.
The first factor is a simple question of arithmetic. The second two reflect fundamental current SNP policies – independence and EU membership (or close alignment … they seem to have been wavering on this recently). Brexit is of course also the immediate cause of the June election.
For the data in the table below, the three factors were ranked for all 56 constituencies the SNP won in 2015. The table only shows the fifteen most vulnerable MPs based on these factors, where 1 is least favourable to the SNP and 56 is most favourable. So for example:
- Calum Kerr in Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk had the smallest majority of all SNP MPs and so is ranked 1 on that factor
- Angus Robertson’s constituency in Moray recorded the second highest percentage vote of all Scottish constituencies for ‘Leave’ in the EU referendum and so is ranked 2 on that factor
- the highest apparent opposition to another independence referendum is in John Nicolson’s Dunbartonshire East constituency and so it ranks 1 on that factor.
An overall ranking is obtained by simply adding the three ranks together, which of course assumes the factors are of equal importance. There’s a note on the data sources at the end of this post.
Here are the results of the exercise for the fifteen most vulnerable MPs (depending on how you view this post, clicking on the table may enlarge it):
Sources: see notes at the end of this post
I wouldn’t make any excessive claims for the exercise but it does raise some interesting issues.
Can you believe that dominant figures like Alex Salmond and Angus Robertson are so at risk? If you look at how out of tune they are with their constituents on Brexit and indyref2 (Salmond) or Brexit alone (Robertson), why not? In Robertson’s case there’s also the extent to which the Moray economy is dependent on RAF and Army employment, not quite the SNP’s strong suit in policy terms.
It’s also interesting to see that two other old hands are vulnerable – Angus MacNeil in the Western Isles, and Pete Wishart in Perth and Perthshire North. Apart from their majorities, both have what might be politely termed ‘interesting’ profiles in terms of personal behaviour. Search their surnames on this blog for various examples.
‘Interesting’ behaviour and attributes might also apply to some of the 2015 intake – Paul Monaghan (Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross) and John Nicolson (Dunbartonshire East) – again both featured elsewhere in this blog, as well as Ian Blackford (in relation to the late Charles Kennedy) and Michelle Thomson, currently an ‘independent’ MP following revelations of her property dealings.
Of the others, some are relatively well-known and have reputations (of sorts), others have scarcely appeared in the public prints since 2015.
What happens on 8 June to all of them is in the lap, if not of the Gods, then of numerous other factors – whether they all want to stand or are selected, their party’s manifesto and how it chooses to fight the election, the national mood to endorse independence/separation just now, the performance of other parties and their candidates, and so on.
It’s interesting in particular to see how many of the SNP’s top 15 vulnerable constituencies were previously held by the Liberal Democrats or had a Lib Dem come second in 2015. If ever there were a natural home for pro-EU non-nationalist voters, it’s the Lib Dems. I note with interest also that former Dunbartonshire East MP Jo Swinson has expressed her wish to stand against John Nicolson, whose political demise would be seen as a great boon by many.
Lest that be thought too partial, note that Labour and Conservatives also came second in a number of these constituencies in 2015. If I were looking for a party that might defeat the SNP in any of these seats, I’d start with the one that was second last time round.
- Majorities, sitting MPs and candidates who came second in 2015: all accessed via constituency lists in United Kingdom general election, 2015 (Scotland).
- Leave (i.e. the EU), proportion of voters by constituency who voted leave in the EU referendum: Areal interpolation and the UK’s referendum on EU membership by Chris Hanretty and the associated spreadsheet. Actual figures are only available where constituency and local authority boundaries match. Where they do not, Mr Hanretty’s estimates have been used.
- No indyref: in the absence of any local polling data for the strength of opposition to another independence referendum, constituencies have been ranked by the proportion of their electorate who have signed the current petition to the UK government/parliament that ‘another Scottish independence referendum should not be allowed to happen.’ The figures are shown here (hover over the constituency concerned to see the proportion).