Stephen Daisley Stephen Daisley

Holyrood 2021: Seats to watch out for

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar on the campaign trail. Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images.

Scotland goes to the polls today to vote for 129 members of the Scottish Parliament. Polls forecast victory for the ruling SNP but there are a string of seats where the result last time was close enough to inject some unpredictability into proceedings.

SNP targets

Dumbarton

Incumbent: Jackie Baillie (Labour) 

Majority: 109

This is the seat the Nationalists want more than any other. Politically, it is a stubborn west-coast hold-out against the glories of nationalism. Symbolically, it is home to the Clyde Naval Base and the UK’s nuclear deterrent, which the SNP wants to scrap. But perhaps most important of all is the personal dimension. Jackie Baillie, the Labour MSP who has held Dumbarton for all 22 years of the Scottish Parliament’s existence, sat on the Holyrood inquiry committee and was noted for her exacting questioning of Nicola Sturgeon. She was just as exacting with Alex Salmond, but that hardly matters. You don’t try to hold Nicola Sturgeon to account and get away with it.

Baillie, who is moderate, pro-Union and pro-Trident, will need tactical votes to survive. The Conservative candidate in Dumbarton has no chance of winning but Tory voters hold the key to the seat. If they vote Conservative, the pro-Union vote splits and Sturgeon gains another seat and moves even closer to a majority. If enough Conservatives vote tactically for Baillie, she will see off the Nationalist challenge and sour the SNP’s election night.

Edinburgh Central

Incumbent: Ruth Davidson (Conservative)

Majority: 610

Former Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson delivered a surprise victory in 2016 in this very liberal, very affluent and very young seat. Davidson isn’t standing this time (she’s off to the House of Lords) and the SNP’s former Westminster leader Angus Robertson hopes to win the constituency back. Given the politics of the city — Edinburgh voted 61 per cent against independence but 74 per cent for Remain — and Robertson’s advocacy for EU membership, he has to be considered the favourite.

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