Ok, now we're talking, let's get some real SNP gains on the board here....
So far I have written about my thoughts on the results for Central, Glasgow and Lothians. Results that would have you believe a Labour landslide is around the coroner for a dying SNP. My natural cautious pessisim notwithstanding, things are brighter for SNP the further north you go. And you don't get much northern than the Highlands and Islands.
Now, I'm very much a central belt kind of guy, born in Glasgow and I went to univeristy in Edinburgh so I am far removed from the Highlands. Actually, being in Sydney right now, I'm about as far removed from the Highlands as I could possibly be unless a sudden career change into astronomy was to occur. (Ok, so the correct word is probably cosomonautry or space-mannery or whatever, but as a claustrophobe, i never really looked into the area too much as a child. It didn't help that our books on this were kept in a pokey wee windowless cupboard underneath the stairs.)
So yes, I will be updating my knowledge on Highland Politics from a suitable blog. I suspect http://highlandpolitics.blogspot.com/ is the perfect one.
But here are my thoughts so far on the Highland and Island results, as of today...
Argyll and Bute - The current incumbent is one George Lyon of the Liberal Democrats. The MSP who has claimed the highest level of expenses, the MSP who has managed to anger the local fishing community and the MSP who (personally speaking) just doesn't seem like a particularly nice guy.
I also think Jim Mather has acquitted himself very well, the Holyrood version of John Reid (yes, I like John Reid, don't hate me). Jim seems to have a very sensible, pragmatic mind and his assessment of the Scottish economy is widely accepted as the most suitable for Scotland going forward - http://scotlandonsunday.scotsman.com/business.cfm?id=1671862006
Dare I say it, forget John Reid, Jim Mather has a touch of the Leo McGarry about him. (If you don't watch The West Wing, please stop reading my blog, switch off your computer and go buy series 1 today).
So as I say, I don't know much about Highland Politics but this 'should' be a no-brainer. Jim Mather to win hands down. But is Argyll and Bute the kind of area where people vote Lib Dem regardless of the candidate? I hope not.
Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross - I have this down as a fairly easy hold for Jamie Stone. He seems a fairly uncontroversial guy and the type of likeable bloke that constituents would vote for election after election.
Labour finished 2nd last time so SNP voters may wish to consider voting for Jamie to make sure he wins but I suspect Rob Gibson will finish 2nd so it's probably best to push Labour into 3rd given they probably won't win here anyway.
Inverness, East Nairn and Lochaber - That Ewing surname may well just pull it out the bag again here. A popular character up north and despite a fairly slim majority, the current strong showing of SNP in the polls suggests that this consitituency should be an easy hold.
SNP to win, by my reckoning. No tactical voting required.
Moray - This is where I lose the respect of SNP fans reading this. I don't really know very much about sitting SNP MSP Richard Lochhead although I'm vaguely aware that I should.
Anyway, it doesn't really matter as he has a large majority and should win very easily. Closest challengers are the Tories who have the candidate Mary Scanlon as the embodiment of their hopes here. She kind of let herself down at the Moray by-election with some dubious behaviour and I daresay she won't do any better than second place this time around. As she is first on the Tory regional lists, I'm sure she's not that concerned though.
Easy SNP victory, no tactical voting required.
Orkney - Jim Wallace's old seat of course. Jim's majority was slashed at the last election and I thought this quote was interesting as I knew nothing about it really... (courtesy of alba.org.uk)
'Following in the tradition of Cromwell in 1653 and L. Amery to Neville Chamberlain in May 1940, the electorate of Orkney have sent a clear message to Jim Wallace: "You have sat too long here for any good you have been doing. Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!".'
Scottish Politics, May 2003
So, it's a tricky one, I see it as a genuine 3way race between Lib Dem, SNP and Conservatives. The Tories came second last time and they have a good candidate in Helen Gardiner but then the SNP guy John Mowat seems strong too. I can't predict this one as, basically, if I was a floating voter, I'd attend the debates and then just see how I felt on polling day basically.
I've given it to Lib Dem in my predictor but only as a tip of the hat to Jim Wallace.
No tactical voting required. Labour not expected to feature in the running for this one at all.
Ross, Skye and Inverness West - I put a lot of stock in photos. Really, I do. It's all in the eyes and it was for those reasons that I just didn't take to Mary Scanlon or George Lyon. I don't know these people at all, it's just first impressions or a gut feeling you know? I've checked out the photo for the sitting Lib Dem MSP John Farquar Munro and I predict a landslide for him. Great lad, he'll go far that one.
Also, it is the same SNP candidate as 2003 and he has a 23% margin to make up against an MSP who has voted against the coalition on such issues as fishing and fire stations.
Lib Dem to win, Snp to finish a relatively distant 2nd. No tactical voting required.
Shetland - SNP are so unlikely to make a dent here that they haven't fielded a candidate. Tavish Scott made a strong showing in 2003 but I wouldn't have said he was invincible.
Regardless, Lib Dem expected to breeze through this one. Tories to finish 2nd. Tactical voting not required as SNP take the 7th regional seat by my reckoning, so any change to the status quo could feasibly boost Labour and/or deny SNP.
Western Isles - This seat is held by Labour's Alasdair Morrison but it is SNP's 6th most likely target seat based on 2003 figures and, given that a mere 3% swing is required for Alasdair Allan to take it, I cannot see anything other than an SNP victory here.
SNP to win Western Isles. No tactical voting required.
And there it is, a bit of a mixed bag. I would say the big highlight here, and possibly one of the biggest head to heads is Jim Mather vs George Lyon. Jim Mather is an SNP heavyweight now, and much like Nicola Sturgeon in Govan if he cannot get in on FPTP then I don't see SNP forming any sort of government come May.
My reckoning on the regional list is that Labour will get 3 seats (Peter Peacock, Rhoda Grant and David Stewart) with 23% of the vote, SNP 2 seats (Jim Mather and Rob Gibson) with 31% of the vote, Tories 2 seats (Mary Scanlon and Jamie McGrigor) with 15% of the vote. Note that the greens marginally miss out with only 6% of the vote but it's all guess work this early on in the proceedings of course.
If anyone wants my Excel spreadsheet to play around with the numbers, just let me know.
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