Holyrood 2016: Can the SNP win every constituency seat?

Nicola Sturgeon on the campaign trail in Falkirk. Her party is riding high in opinion polls ahead of the Scottish Parliament elections on 5 May. Pictue: Michael Gillen

Nicola Sturgeon on the campaign trail in Falkirk. Her party is riding high in opinion polls ahead of the Scottish Parliament elections on 5 May. Pictue: Michael Gillen

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BOOKMAKERS have reported a rise in bets for the SNP to win every constituency at next month’s Scottish Parliament elections as Nicola Sturgeon’s party continue to dominate opinion polls.

Odds on the Nationalists to make a clean sweep of seats have been shortened to 4/1 ahead of the vote on Thursday, 5 May.

The party won a record 53 constituencies in 2011, as well as gaining 15 list MSPs through the regional vote.

Many observers now expect the SNP to win even more members next month following their success in last year’s General Election.

“The 2015 landslide by the SNP has put a completely new spin on political betting in Scotland,” said Paul Petrie of McBookie.

“It would have been unheard of to only be offering 4/1 that SNP would win all constituency seats at the 2011 Scottish Elections. But now people are prepared to back it as they believe anything might be possible.”

Despite punters’ confidence, and the party’s famously effective campaigning team, the SNP still face a difficult task to unseat several well-known opposition MSPs.

GALLOWAY AND WEST DUMFRIES (Previous incumbent: Alex Fergusson, Conservative. Majority: 862)

Former Scottish Parliament presiding officer Alex Fergusson narrowly retained this largely rural constituency for the Conservatives in 2011. The well-respected MSP has since retired from front-line politics and Finlay Carson is charged with retaining the seat for the party. The SNP have high hopes of victory, however.

The party’s defeated candidate in 2011 was Aileen McLeod, who was subsequently elected via the list vote. She was appointed environment minister by Nicola Sturgeon in 2014. McLeod’s relatively high profile could prove crucial in what is certain to be a closely run race.

Read More: Six key Holyrood constituency battle grounds

ETTRICK, ROXBURGH AND BERWICKSHIRE (Previous incumbent: John Lamont, Conservative. Majority: 5,334)

If the SNP are to win every constituency they must overcome established MSPs such as John Lamont. The solicitor, originally from Kilwinning, increased his majority in 2011.

He recently led a popular campaign to improve flood defences in the region. But the Nationalists will draw confidence from last year’s General Election when Calum Kerr won the equivalent Westminster seat for the party - defeating Lamont by 328 votes. Predicting a winner in the constituency is further complicated by it once being a Liberal Democrat stronghold. Winning over floating Lib Dem voters will be key to victory for both the Tories and SNP, but Willie Rennie will hope his party can pull off an unlikely victory.

ORKNEY (Previous incumbent: Liam McArthur, Liberal Democrat. Majority: 860)

In 2011, Orkney witnessed an extraordinarily close three-way contest between the Lib Dems, SNP and independent candidate James Stockan. In the end, sitting MSP Liam McArthur was re-elected by a relatively comfortable 860 votes - but his rivals still managed to poll more than 2,000 votes each. With no independent candidate to split the vote this time, the SNP will hope they can squeeze over the line in what is traditionally viewed as one of the safest Lib Dem seats in the country.

Political observers will also be interested to see if the recent court case involving the islands’ MP Alastair Carmichael - in which four constituents unsuccessfully tried to have his reelection overturned - will have any impact on local voting preferences.

GLASGOW POLLOK (Previous incumbent: Johann Lamont, Labour. Majority: 623)

The political face of Glasgow has changed beyond recognition in the past 10 years. What was once viewed as a Labour citadel has been taken over at every level by the SNP - with the notable exception of the local authority, whose own elections take place in 2017. The Nationalists won every Glasgow seat at the General Election, and many expect them to repeat the trick next month.

One constituency in which they face a tough fight is Pollok, in the city’s south side. Johann Lamont has held the seat since 1999 and is well-known at both a local and national level thanks to her time as party leader and several years as a cabinet minister. She held the seat in 2011 despite a strong challenge from Chris Stephens of the SNP. This time around, Lamont can expect an even tougher test in the shape of Humza Yousaf, the SNP’s minister for Europe and international development.

Read more: Holyrood 2016: New polls show further increase in SNP support and UKIP breakthrough

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