27 May 2009

The Boundaries are A-Changin: East Central Scotland

There's quite a lot of chopping and changing in the layout of this seat, though the internal boundaries don't change as much as we might have expected. The loss of Hamilton, Larkhall & Stonehouse, East Kilbride and Kilmarnock & Irvine Valley and their replacement with Clydebank & Milngavie, Strathkelvin & Bearsden and Linlithgow cause this rather odd shaped region, though in fairness, Central Scotland had a bit of an odd shape about it as well. You know how Italy is described as The Boot? Central Scotland could have been described as The Sock. East Central Scotland looks more The Briefs.


Airdrie & Shotts is saved from the carving up that it received in the provisional proposals - and it's still very marginal between Labour and the SNP: Labour have a notional lead of just 400.

Clydebank & Milngavie may move, but it doesn't change much (though it would have done - Milngavie would have been paired with Bishopbriggs while Clydebank nearly ended up in a cross-Clyde constituency): a majority of 3,000 for Labour.

Coatbridge & Chryston - another seat which would have seen serious chopping and changing - survives with a 4,300 majority for Labour.

Cumbernauld & Kilsyth would also have seen major changes (and would have been turned into an ultra-marginal SNP seat had it lost Kilsyth and picked up a chunk of Airdrie) but instead continues largely as is - that means a 2,000 notional majority for Cathie Craigie.

Falkirk East stays red, and maintains a majority of just short of 2,000 for Labour, while Falkirk West retains an SNP lead of just under 700.

Linlithgow, of course, moves into the region, and has a notional Labour majority of 600, so Mary Mulligan is not on secure ground. However, eyes will be on Fiona Hyslop: will she stick with Linlithgow, and pitch for a spot on this region's List? Or will she find a seat further East, and stay in Lothian? There is a third possibility, of course: she could take a 'win-or-bust' approach, fight Linlithgow and sod the List, but that would doubtless freak various senior SNP figures out were it actually attempted. As long as she's in the Cabinet, anyway.

Motherwell stays solid Labour, with a majority of 6,000. The question is, who will inherit it? David Whitton probably won't need to: he has a notional majority of around 3,500 in Strathkelvin & Bearsden.

The last constituency in the region - and the last of all of them alphabetically - is Uddingston & Bellshill, with a notional Labour lead of 5,700.

Now, the List stays as is: the SNP will have five seats notionally and one thing that a number of incumbent MSPs may have to consider is whether to follow their constituency into a new region, or find a new base and stay in relatively familiar territory. It will be easy for Gil Paterson to come in: his 2007 constituency comes over the border and was a Central Scotland MSP in the first term of the Parliament. Linda Fabiani has made three attempts to win East Kilbride and will have to move to West Central if she wants to make it four. And of course, Fiona Hyslop has some thinking to do. One thing to note though: the departure of two Labour seats and one SNP seat, and their replacement with three Labour seats mean that this region effectively sees a net SNP loss of one, offset with an additional seat in West Central Scotland.

For the Tories, they retain one seat, but Margaret Mitchell has to find a new Constituency or move west along with Hamilton, Larkhall & Stonehouse, so facing a selection contest for the List there that will involve Annabel Goldie and - notionally - only one slot with Eastwood going blue and probably electing Jackson Carlaw. Now of course, Mitchell is the Tories sole backbencher (the only one not to be a spokesperson or deputy spokesperson for something or other) and exiled in the Convenership of the Equal Opportunities Committee, much to Helen Eadie's disgust, as we know, so her future in the Parliament at all may potentially be at risk if members in Central are particularly exasperated at having an MSP who is at best an outrider and at worst a passenger. Going west and falling to second or (more likely) third in the rankings wouldn't make re-election impossible, but it could offer a more dignified exit than de-selection (assuming she finds a Constituency, would she even get the #1 spot on the East Central list?).

The LibDems, however, find it simple. There's no change in their one seat, and there are no potential challengers from incumbent MSPs linked with an incoming constituency. Hugh O'Donnell to hold on if he wishes and the members agree.

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