Ah Edinburgh, home of the Scottish parliament where the Holyrood magic happens. I would like to say the city is pulsating with political thought but I think a few bursts with the fibulator pads may be required before that can hold true.
But this is one of the more interesting areas where the true rainbow nature of the election result in 2003 was on show. Who can forget 2 Green MSPs being elected in the same constituency? Or the image of Colin Fox racing through the crowds when he realised he had snared the 7th regional seat? Or the Lib Dem stalwart Mike Pringle shaking his cane in joy at limping over the finish line to claim Edinburgh South? Not to mention the finest head to head of that year, McLetchie vs Gray.
Labour have always had a fairly strong hold in Edinburgh however, if SNP were to match Labour here, I personally think they would be doing well. Very well. They may triumph in the regional vote but there are just one too many strong personalities in the first past the post stakes for SNP to really challenge.
Edinburgh Central - Sarah Boyack is a strong candidate and in my predictions will win the seat but her vote share has gone from 14,224 in 1999 to 9,066 in 2003. However, SNP and Lib Dem seem to be battling for second place here with each taking votes from the other. There's no reason why SNP should tactically vote here as they have a strong challenger in Shirley Anne Somerville and, anyway, it is unknown who the Lib Dem challenger is. I don't see a Lib Dem win here so hopefully some of their voters will see the merits in voting for Shirley.
Also, I personally think that her spiel on why Scotland should be independent is as persuading as anything else I have read on the matter. See here - http://www.alba.org.uk/scot07constit/l01.html
No tactical voting required.
Edinburgh East and Musselburgh - This one is fascinating. And is the kind of seat that if SNP takes it then they can expect to have a really good night.
On the face of it, it's a safe seat for Labour. A 21% majority in 2003, that needs a massive swing for Kenny MacAskill to make up. But the highly popular Susan Deacon is not seeking another term as the MSP here, with Lord Provost Lesley Hinds looking like the favourite to take the Labour candidacy. This would be a bit of a switch from "firebrand" Susan Deacon to a more middle-of-the road Labour type and, I think, would close that 22% gap a fair bit. Add to this that Kenny MacAskill's profile has been particularly high over the past 4 years and, hopefully, the electorate want some people with real character in there.
Again, this one is too close to call between SNP and Labour and no tactical voting is required here.
Edinburgh North and Leith - I always read the extremely likeable SNP candidate Davie Hutchison's blog here - http://northtoleith.blogspot.com/
This is my home consituency and I can never remember the SNP challengers being anything more than than a faceless name on a list. But then, my little interest in politics back then might have had something to do with it. Davie seems to be really pushing much harder this year but sadly, going up against Malcolm Chisholm is no easy feat especially with the tactically astute resignation over Labour's commitment to all things nuclear.
In 2003 Malcolm Chisholm received double the votes of Anne Dana (SNP), the nearest challenger. I think Davie Hutchison will close that gap to a small majority, and not just because of the natural trend towards SNP in the polls at the moment, but I can't see a well-liked character like Malcolm Chisholm losing his seat.
There's a great blog regarding this consitituency here - http://northandleith.blogspot.com/
No tactical voting required. Get behind Davie and see if he can pull off a shock.
Edinburgh Pentlands - An easy David McLetchie victory. Nuff said.
This is acceptable for SNP as they may well profit in the regional listing. (Tories getting one extra MSP as opposed to two if Labour had won the seat. Note that labour are expected to get 0 regional seats in Lothian)
Tactical voting? Seems odd, but vote for McLetchie I suppose.
Edinburgh South - This seat was won by Mike Pringle in 2003 by 158 seats. The SNP finished fourth.
Labour have brought in a bit of a heavyweight for this one in the shape of Donald Anderson, leader of Edinburgh City Council from 1999 until August 2005. Donald is also a board member of Visit Scotland.
Now, my non-partisan opinion is that Donald Anderson would be a strong addition to the parliament, a genuine character and someone who's opinion would be highly valued (if he doesn't easily fall into party lines of course). My head says he will win this seat, and a part of my heart does too.
However, with SNP seemingly not in the hunt for this seat, a vote for the Lib Dems may be the sensible option. Granted, it is difficult to tell the difference between a Lib Dem and a Labour vote given the past 8 years but (1) Lib Dem may well be the SNP's governing partners come May and (2) a Lib Dem victory here could feasibly allow an extra SNP MSP to sneak in on the regional count.
Therefore, a vote for Mike Pringle is the sensible thing to do here for all those who want an overall SNP victory. Unless you think Donald Anderson is a really nice guy of course.
Edinburgh West - An easy hold for Lib Dem Margaret Smith is expected.
No tactical voting required
Linlithgow - This is Mary Mulligan versus Fiona Hyslop basically. And my analysis and thoughts has it as a Fiona Hyslop victory.
It would only take 1,000 voters switching from Labour to SNP for Fiona to win here and it is the SNP's 9th target seat based solely on 2003 election data.
Linlithgow also doesn't strike me as "staunch Labour" like some areas in the West so with a little bit of a change in the air, I can easily see those voters being amongst the first to mix things up. And with Fiona Hyslop as the candidate who has had a high profile over the life of the parliament and, from what I can tell, does more than a decent job then I see this being a fairly comfortable win once the dust settles.
No tactical voting required.
Livingston - This is a seat that I have marked for special attention when I am sitting in front of BBC News on May 3rd with my bottle of irn-bru and the proclaimers playing softly in the background. I think SNP can win out here and take the dubious scalp of Bristow Muldoon.
I don't profess to know too much about most of the Holyrood personalities but (unless I have my names muddled up) Mr Muldoon hasn't come over too well in the press recently and Angela Constance I believe is extremely popular around Livingston. She stood in the 2006 by-election after Robin Cook's sad passing and managed a 10.2% swing there. The same result would mean she would take the seat for SNP and, let's face it, it's easier to get such swings in Holyrood elections than in Westminster elections. However, by-elections are a tricky business and tend to screw polling data around a bit.
Even still, no tactical voting required, Angela Constance is favourite here in my eyes despite this not being an SNP target seat based on the 2003 result.
Midlothian - Another tricky one.
You see, on one hand, you have Rhona Brankin who even local Labour delegates didn't want to stand in the constituency. Then on the other hand you have a 24% winning margin for Rhona in 2003. So it's not easy to call.
I have decided 23% is too large a swing for SNP to make up but that's my natural prudence, I mean caution, coming in to play there.
This is a 2 horse race between Colin Beattie (SNP) and Rhona Brankin. Maybe with some Lib Dem or Tory tactical voting, it will be an SNP victory. Clearly, no tactical voting on the SNP side is required.
And that, as they say, is that.
Using current polling info and local knowledge I have on Edinburgh and 2003 results etc etc. I have predicted that the regional vote will give a result of -- SNP (3), Green (2), Tory (1) and Margo McD (1).
(The fantastic Comrade Fox will have to wait another four years to go charging through the crowds in celebration, by my reckoning)