General Election: 3 Scots seats to watch for Lib Dem revival

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron
Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron
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“Lib Dems winning here” are what the famous election signs of the Liberal Democrats have said for years.

But in Scotland’s recent political history, the placards have become more comically ironic than any indication of performance.

Former MP Jo Swinson will contest her old East Dunbartonshire seat. Picture: John Devlin

Former MP Jo Swinson will contest her old East Dunbartonshire seat. Picture: John Devlin

Elections in 2011, 2015, and 2016 have seen the Lib Dems slip from the second force in Scottish politics to arguably the fourth, with less Holyrood seats than the Green Party.

However, with Brexit seemingly the defining issue in this snap election, Tim Farron is dreaming of escaping the indignity of having the number of Lib Dem MPs in single digits.

With the coalition (they hope) in the rear view, Farron wants to ride a wave of anti-Brexit sentiment to double his number of representatives in the House of Commons.

That becomes easier to be achieved in his party can win back some of the 10 seats that they lost to the SNP just under two years ago.

Voters had no respect for status or experience as everyone from Cabinet members like Danny Alexander to long-serving politicians like the late Charles Kennedy were punished at the ballot box.

Here are three seats to keep an eye on in Scotland for signs that the Liberal Democrats are ready to start ‘winning here’ again.

READ MORE: Labour MP criticised for welcoming tactical voting

Orkney and Shetland (Lib Dem Majority – 817)

In theory, this seat shouldn’t be an issue for the Lib Dems to win, especially if they are having a good night across the rest of the UK.

It has been held by a member of the Lib Dems (or their predecessor party, the Liberals) at every election since 1950, when future leader Jo Grimond won the seat.

If the Lib Dems can hold this seat on a bad night, as they did in 2015 even as they lost 10 of 11 seats to the SNP, it should follow they will do so again on June 8.

However, their MP, Alistair Carmichael, who was the Scottish Secretary under the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition, might be up for a tougher fight than we assume.

Mr Carmichael was caught up in scandal when it emerged he had lied about his role in the so-called ‘NikiLeaks’ memo, which alleged that the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon had expressed a preference for David Cameron in conversations with the French Ambassador.

Mr Carmichael decided to forego his ministerial severance payment for his dishonesty, but that didn’t stop his constituents mounting a legal challenge to have his win over the SNP by 817 at the election overturned.

They were ultimately unsuccessful, but Mr Carmichael’s reluctance to simply resign and stand in a by-election makes one wonder whether he fears losing his seat to the SNP.

Their candidate in 2015, and at the equivalent Holyrood contest last year, Danus Skene, has sadly since died, and so they will need to find someone knew to take on Mr Carmichael.

Expect that seemingly innocuous memo about Nicola Sturgeon to play a big part in the local campaign.

Edinburgh West (SNP/Independent Majority – 3,210)

Alistair Carmichael wasn’t the only Scottish MP to have a whiff of scandal about them after being elected to the parliament.

Michelle Thomson, MP for Edinburgh Western, withdrew from the SNP party whip after being accused of amassing a property portfolio by purchasing from indebted families.

Inquiries into property deals that involve the MP for Edinburgh Western are still ongoing, and as of today she remains an Independent.

Her majority, when she was a member of the SNP, was a modest if manageable 3,000 or so, but her resignation puts the seat up for grabs again.

One newspaper today reports that to be eligible for a redundancy payment from Westminster, Mrs Thomson would need to stand as an independent in the election.

That risks splitting the pro-independence vote, and giving the Lib Dems a path to victory.

They also won the equivalent seat at the 2016 Holyrood election, when the sitting SNP MSP was ousted for their candidacy by his own former parliamentary aide.

It is not yet known who will stand for either party.

READ MORE: Analysis of today’s clashes at Holyrood

East Dunbartonshire (SNP Majority – 2,167)

One former Lib Dem MP who is definitely attempting a parliamentary return is former coalition minister Jo Swinson.

Once the youngest MP in the House of Commons, she made her name in her initial MP as an outspoken opponent of tuition fees for university.

After subsequently joining her Lib Dem ministerial colleagues in voting to triple, rather than abolish them, she came in for substantial criticism.

Ms Swinson, did, however, put up a surprisingly strong fight in East Dunbartonshire in 2015, even as Lib Dem seats fell like dominoes across the West of Scotland.

She was defeated by the SNP’s John Nicolson in that election, losing out by just 2,000 votes to the former broadcaster.

He has enjoyed a high profile as an SNP front bench spokesman in Westminster, though he was accused of attempting to silence free speech by criticising an STV journalist to his bosses.

Ms Swinson, who has moved into consultancy since losing her seat, has already cranked her election machine in to gear.

A formidable local campaigner, if anyone can snatch this constituency back from the SNP it is Jo Swinson, making this one seat to watch on the night of June 8th.