Nicola Sturgeon has said the SNP plans to hold the 56 seats the party won in 2015 when voters return to the polls in June, as well as “having a go at the other three”.
The SNP famously enjoyed its best ever performance at a Westminster election two years ago, winning 56 of the 59 constituencies in Scotland. On a turnout of 71 per cent, the Nationalists claimed 49.97 per cent of the vote - a swing of 30 per cent on the previous election in 2010. This success was largely at the expense of Scottish Labour, which lost all but one of its MPs and saw its vote share drop by 24 per cent.
But can the SNP repeat its achievement at the snap General Election called by Theresa May?
One recent poll on Westminster voting intentions in Scotland found the SNP on 47 per cent - a drop of just three points on 2015 polling. If that translates into votes come June 8, Nicola Sturgeon will once again take charge of by far the largest group of Scottish MPs in the House of Commons.
Professor John Curtice of the University of Strathclyde told The Scotsman that while the SNP was still polling strongly, holding all 56 of its constituencies would prove difficult.
“If you look at the current polls, the Tories are up by around 12 points on where they were in 2015,” he said.
“The SNP is not far short of the 50 per cent they earned, so I would assume they will hang on to most of their seats. But there are three constituencies in which the Tories start off less than 15 points behind the SNP. It is quite possible the SNP might lose a couple of seats to them.
“Berwickshire (held by Calum Kerr) I think the Tories will particularly fancy, but in that seat they have to watch out for the possibility of a Lib Dem revival.
“Then you come to the Lib Dems. They’ll be campaigning hard in Edinburgh West and in North East Fife, as they did so well there in the Holyrood elections last year. So even though the party may be going no where nationally, they could manage to regain a constituency where they have previously had strength.
“So you can see how perhaps the SNP may lose a couple of seats to the Tories and a couple to the Lib Dems. If they don’t pick up Edinburgh South, they are left with a total of 52 MPs. But all the polling evidence, particularly from last year’s share of the vote, suggests the SNP are going to be not a million miles from where they were in 2015.”
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Any nationalist confidently predicting a clean sweep of constituencies is likely to be disappointed.
“Let’s look at the three seats the SNP currently don’t have,” Prof Curtice said. “David Mundell is safe in Dumfriesshire - the Tories’ numbers are up, so even if the SNP match their performance in 2015, he should hang on.
“Alistair Carmichael I would assume is safe, given the success of the Lib Dems in Shetland and Orkney at the Holyrood elections last year.”
Edinburgh South - the seat of Scottish Labour’s sole MP, Ian Murray - is “very complicated”, according to Curtice.
“Edinburgh South could be anybody’s,” he said. “Ian Murray may not hold on, but equally I would say the SNP might not necessarily be the beneficiaries. But it remains their best chance of a gain.
“It’s a multi-party marginal. In theory, the SNP start off in second. But the Tories will fancy their chances in coming back there. It depends on whether their vote is squeezed by Murray, who in turn benefitted from squeezing the Lib Dems last time.”
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