Holyrood 2016: 5 constituencies that will decide the election

Scottish Labour Leader Kezia Dugdale will be contesting the Edinburgh Eastern seat when veteran SNP member Kenny MacAskill stands down. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

Scottish Labour Leader Kezia Dugdale will be contesting the Edinburgh Eastern seat when veteran SNP member Kenny MacAskill stands down. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

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While some polls suggest the SNP could be on track to swwwp the constituency board in May, here are five areas where the contest could get interesting.

EDINBURGH CENTRAL

In the heart of the capital the SNP’s Marco Biagi is standing down to pursue an academic career after serving as minister for local government and community empowerment. The 33-year-old won the seat from Labour by just 237 votes in 2011. He was elected with the second-lowest vote share of any successful SNP constituency candidate and Labour’s Sarah Boyack will be battling to regain one of Holyrood’s most marginal seats. Ms Boyack, who was a Lothian list MSP and Labour spokeswoman for environmental justice, will hope to take back the constituency she held between 1999 and 2011.

Just next door in the UK parliamentary constituency of Edinburgh South, Labour’s Ian Murray managed to increase his majority last year to be elected the party’s sole MP. Edinburgh teacher and former Scottish Parliament official Alison Dickie is tasked with holding onto the Holyrood seat for the Nationalists but will face a challenge from Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson, who is transferring her political base from Glasgow, where she was a list MSP, to the capital.

Current Lothian MSP Alison Johnstone is also standing in the constituency for the Scottish Greens, with the party hopeful of strong support in the seat while the Liberal Democrats are fielding youth worker and student Hannah Bettsworth.

GLASGOW POLLOK

Johann Lamont has represented the Glasgow Pollok area since the establishment of the Scottish Parliament in 1999 but faces a tough battle to be returned in the seat. The SNP’s Humza Yousaf, who was elected as a Glasgow list MSP in 2011 and served as minister for Europe and international development, is bidding to oust the former Scottish Labour leader, who is also second on her party’s Glasgow regional list. Ms Lamont’s majority fell from 4,555 in 2007 to just 623 in the 2011 Scottish Parliament election.

Chris Stephens, her challenger that year, went on to win with a huge 35% swing from Labour in the overlapping UK Parliament constituency of Glasgow South West in last year’s general election. His veteran Labour opponent Ian Davidson had represented the constituency at Westminster for a decade, and before that served as MP for Glasgow Pollok and Glasgow Govan. Mr Yousaf will be hoping that in a city that voted Yes in Scotland’s referendum on independence, he can follow Mr Stephens’ success. Also standing in the constituency for the Scottish Conservatives is retail manager and Ibrox resident Thomas Haddow.

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GLASGOW KELVIN

Scottish Greens co-convener Patrick Harvie will be seeking a breakthrough for his party as he stands for election in Glasgow Kelvin. Mr Harvie, who has been an MSP for Glasgow region since 2003, believes the time is right to contest the constituency vote as the Greens seek to capitalise on a rise in membership and positive polls in the wake of the referendum on Scottish independence. The party points out that in the 2014 European election, votes in Kelvin were split three ways between the Greens (4,764), Labour (4,799) and the SNP (4,817).

The Greens have contested the seat before, with Martin Bartos winning 12.6% of the vote in 2007, but Mr Harvie believes they can run a winnable campaign this time around. He will be up against the SNP’s Sandra White, who took the seat from Labour’s Pauline McNeill in 2011. Mr Harvie’s run could have the potential to split the vote, giving Labour candidate Michael Shanks a better chance. Solicitor Sheila Mechan will be standing for the Scottish Conservatives while the Liberal Democrats are fielding former head teacher Carole Ford.

EDINBURGH EASTERN

Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale, who has been a Lothian list MSP since 2011, will be contesting the Edinburgh Eastern seat, where the SNP’s Kenny MacAskill is standing down. The high-profile and at times controversial former justice secretary has represented the constituency since 2011 but is moving on to “pursue new challenges”. Ms Dugdale, who lives locally in Lochend, will be hoping to assail the SNP’s 2,233 majority under Mr MacAskill as she takes on the SNP in the face of predictions her party could fail to secure a single constituency seat.

She will be taking on the nationalists’ Ashten Regan-Denham, a prominent voice in the Women for Independence movement who works as head of campaigns at the Common Weal organisation. Also standing in the constituency for the Conservatives is Edinburgh’s youngest councillor Nick Cook, who represents the Liberton/Gilmerton ward. He has been a vocal critic of the Edinburgh tram extension in his role as Conservative spokesman for transport and environment.

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ORKNEY/SHETLAND

Former Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Tavish Scott has represented Shetland in the Scottish Parliament since 1999 while party colleague Liam McArthur has served the Orkney constituency since 2007. The islands have remained a bastion of Liberal Democrat support, with Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael the only Lib Dem in Scotland to survive the SNP onslaught in last year’s general election, albeit with a much reduced majority of 817.

But the former Scottish secretary was rapidly engulfed in scandal when it emerged he had lied about a leaked memo that wrongly claimed First Minister Nicola Sturgeon wanted David Cameron to remain in Downing Street. He survived a rare legal bid to oust him brought by four constituents but suffered an embarrassing court appearance with judges concluding he had told a “blatant lie”. It remains to be seen whether the fallout will have damaged the chances of party colleagues hoping to hold on to their Holyrood seats.

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