Issues & Ideas | 12th March 2015

The Tories could win more seats in Scotland than Labour or the Lib Dems

The SNP surge has made an laughably unlikely scenario possible.

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In 2010, party A won 41 seats and party B won 1 seat. Party C won 11 seats. Which party do you think is likely to win the most seats five years later? Not party B right?

And yet this is exactly what might happen in 56 days. The Tories (party B) – famously derided by Alex Salmond as having fewer Scottish MPs than Scotland has pandas – could win more seats in May than Labour (party A) or the Lib Dems (…party C). And Labour, who won seven in ten of all Scotland’s seats in 2010, could feasibly win the least.

Labour hold 40 seats and are trying to retake Eric Joyce’s seat of Falkirk, whom they withdrew the whip from in 2012, which my colleague Stephen Bush is adamant means they really ‘hold’ 41. Yesterday we ran through every seat in Scotland to show that the bookies think they will lose 26 of these seats (27 counting Falkirk). So we’re down to 14 Labour seats.

Labour could be reduced to the fourth largest party in Scotland.

The bookies are cautious about Ashcroft’s constituency polls, which imply another dozen Labour seats will vote SNP in May. Only Renfrewshire East, where Ashcroft put Labour ahead by 1 point, and Glasgow North East, where he put them ahead by 7, will remain Labour seats according to our model, which follows Ashcroft’s polls.

As for the Tories, they could end up with no seats in Scotland – last week Ashcroft showed them tied with the SNP in their only Scottish seat – but they could also win as many as three.

Election Forecast, an academic prediction model, gives them a 93 per cent chance of holding onto Dumfriesshire; a 53 per cent chance of taking Berwickshire from the Lib Dems and a 47 per cent chance of winning Dumfries from Labour.

The bookies aren’t quite as convinced: they back the Tories in Dumfriesshire and give them a good chance in Berwickshire, but doubt their chances in Dumfries. Yet it’s plausible the Tories win a second Scottish seat, and it’s possible they win three.

It’s plausible the Tories win two Scottish seats, and it’s possible they win three.

In turn, the Lib Dems will almost certainly hold Orkney & Shetland, seat of Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael; are favourites in Berwickshire, seat of former Scottish Secretary Michael Moore; and are favoured by the bookies and Forecast – if not Ashcroft – in Ross Skye, seat of former Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy.

It’s feasible that either the Tories or Lib Dems end up with three seats in Scotland, depending on who wins Berwickshire, and the other wins two. Labour could be left with as few as two, or, if they lose Jim Murphy’s seat of Renfrewshire East, just one.

The bookies and academics think Labour will hold onto around 10 of their Scottish seats. But there is nothing in Ashcroft’s polls to suggest as much.