Aberdeen South

2015 Result:
Conservative: 11087 (22.8%)
Labour: 12991 (26.8%)
Lib Dem: 2252 (4.6%)
SNP: 20221 (41.6%)
Green: 964 (2%)
UKIP: 897 (1.8%)
Independent: 139 (0.3%)
MAJORITY: 7230 (14.9%)

Category: Semi-marginal SNP seat

Geography: Scotland, North East. Part of the Aberdeen City council area.

Main population centres: Aberdeen, Cults, Peterculter, Milltimber.

Profile: Aberdeen South consists of the Southern part of Aberdeen itself and the more rural areas to the West of the city, including the middle class suburbs of Peterculter, Bieldside and Cults. There are also more working class areas included in the seat, such as the post-war estates in Torry, Kincorth and Nigg..

Politics: The seat was won by Labour in 1997, having had the distinction of being the only seat that Labour lost in the 1992 election. It had been held by the Labour MP Dame Anne Begg, only the second full time wheelchair user elected to the Commons, but was lost to the SNP in their 2015 landslide.

Current MP
CALLUM MCCAIG (SNP) Educated at Edinburgh University. Former Parliamentary assistant. Aberdeen councillor since 2007, former leader of Aberdeen council. First elected as MP for Aberdeen South in 2015.
Past Results
Con: 8914 (21%)
Lab: 15722 (37%)
LDem: 12216 (28%)
SNP: 5102 (12%)
Oth: 1080 (3%)
MAJ: 3506 (8%)
Con: 7134 (17%)
Lab: 15272 (37%)
LDem: 13924 (33%)
SNP: 4120 (10%)
Oth: 1171 (3%)
MAJ: 1348 (3%)
Con: 7098 (19%)
Lab: 14696 (40%)
LDem: 10308 (28%)
SNP: 4293 (12%)
Oth: 495 (1%)
MAJ: 4388 (12%)
Con: 11621 (26%)
Lab: 15541 (35%)
LDem: 12176 (28%)
SNP: 4299 (10%)
Oth: 425 (1%)
MAJ: 3365 (8%)

2015 Candidates
ROSS THOMSON (Conservative) Born Aberdeen. Educated at Bridge of Don Academy and Aberdeen University. Retail store trainer. Aberdeen councillor since 2012. Contested Gordon 2010.
ANNE BEGG (Labour) Born 1955, Bechin. Educated at Brechin High School and Aberdeen University. History and english teacher. MP for Aberdeen South 1997 to 2015. Begg was born with Gaucher Disease and is the first full time wheelchair user to be elected to the Commons.
DENIS RIXSON (Liberal Democrat)
CALLUM MCCAIG (SNP) Educated at Edinburgh University. Parliamentary assistant. Aberdeen councillor since 2007, former leader of Aberdeen council.
Comments - 246 Responses on “Aberdeen South”
  1. NYC UK @ if there is some kind of Labour SNP coalition….obvious Tory targets next year are Eastwood, Dumfriesshire, Edinburgh Pentlands, Angus North & Mearns, Perthshire South & Kinross, Perthshire North, Aberdeenshire West and Stirling….

  2. @ Delek – I’m not sure those targets are viable, they’re very far behind in pretty much all of the northern seats.

    Edinburgh Pentlands is an affluent suburb of Edinburgh whilst Eastwood a more affluent suburb near Glasgow – these have an extremely wealthy high-earning population which ultimately make them more likely to go Tory (which explains why the conservatives have previously done well in these constituencies), this feature is shared with a handful of seats (eg. Strathkevlin & Bearsden and Edinburgh Western) which have generally voted in a more socialist manner, and so the two are very unique in that sense.

    The northern seats have all seen a fragmented unionist vote, and even with a Tory recovery in seats such as Stirling, it’s very unlikely that this could result in a Conservative gain given that in three out of the five seats you’ve mentioned has the SNP on an outright majority over 50%, with Stirling going 49% SNP. None of the seats have the Tories on over 30% of the vote, whilst in all seats in the south which I have mentioned the conservatives are on or above 30%.

    Stirling is an interesting seat in that it shares similar characteristics with that of Ayr, only Ayr has a higher proportion of people living in the top 20% datazones in Scotland, Ayr is perhaps the most mysterious Tory seat in the south in my view, but perhaps it’s simply due to the strong Conservative history and candidates in the area along with it’s geographic location (even then I can think of more likely Tory seats in Scotland). Ayr voted 39% Conservative in 2011 vs. Stirling’s 15% Conservative.

    I think it’s simply due to geography and local factors, perhaps even a lower turnout amongst former Tories, but it is clear that there remains to be some form of underlying ‘unionism’ along Stirling, Perth & Kinross-shire and parts of Aberdeenshire and Angus based on the referendum results within the area, however I don’t foresee a strong Conservative recovery in any of these areas which would make them credible targets for the Tories in Scotland, when their resources are already so sparse. The Tories are definitely advantaged with the three borders seats due to their rural tradition – and I would assume that if the northern seats ran along the borders then they’d probably go strongly Tory, so in terms of those seats I think their support is based on cultural and geographic tradition.

    Out of interest, why do you think Angus North & Mearns should be targeted by the Tories? The area doesn’t seem like natural Tory territory, yes there’s some support for them in Kirriemuir and Stonehaven but I imagine that this is very limited, and that on the whole the constituency is more favourable to the Nationalists.

  3. YouGov’s NowCast prediction for Aberdeen South as of 16 April. YouGov classification – “Too close to call” between SNP & Labour.

    SNP 26.4-36.5%
    LAB 24-33.7%
    CON 11-18.2%
    LIB 4.6-9.5%
    OTH 4.2-9%

  4. NO – Kirriemuir is in the Holyrood seat of Angus South.

  5. Sorry about that NTY – predictive text changed your moniker to *NO*. Didn’t mean to shout in a snarly way!

  6. @NTY UK

    As with some other Nowcasts, the central point of those forecasts doesn’t add up to 100%. I’m doubting the reliability of those figures.

    SNP 31.5 + Lab 28.9 + Con 14.6 + LD 7.1 + Other 6.6 = 88.7

  7. @ James- the figures are ranges, not precise figures (they’re adapted from YouGov’s election centre) showing what the approximate range in party political support is for each constituency based on YouGov’s findings, the accuracy is questionable but it gives a good reflection of the political situation in constituencies and how close fought they are predicted to be.

    I think Aberdeen South’ll go Labour due to the affluence in the area and a breakdown in the Liberal vote which will help to keep the Labour vote propped up slightly (even though I think it will fall slightly, I don’t think it will fall as drastically as other constituencies). Since my last post on here, YouGov have suggested that at the moment Labour are leading in this constituency yet the results are still ‘too close to call’.

    Minor added (irrelevant) comment: As I said on the Glasgow South page I think compass constituency names are slightly dull: I think like the symmetry of my suggested constituency names for the two Aberdeen constituencies- Aberdeen Woodside (North) and Deeside (South).

  8. I wonder if the fact that Labour are accustomed to having to defend this seat as a marginal will help them here, where in seats they have previously taken for granted they might not be prepared for a fight.

  9. If Labour hold 5 seats it wouldn’t surprise me if this is one of them. The sitting MP is unusually popular and both LD and Tories could vote tactically for her to stop the SNP.

  10. Labour win….I think that based on comments on this site then Labour will win about 30 seats in Scotland

  11. Now going for an SNP gain, but it will be close.

    This is the most tempted I have ever been to put a tactical vote in the Labour box but I don’t think I will be able to bring myself to do it. If it was a high profile Labour politician whom I respected then possibly but not for Anne Begg who I have only ever seen around the constituency when she is canvassing at general elections and is largely anonymous in large parts of a relatively small geographical constituency.

    It is quite amusing here that the Labour and SNP constituency offices are literally within spitting distance of one another in Torry, wonder if they share the runs to the coffee shop?

  12. Oh, and @ Neil Turner – I have found another crazy prediction from you on a post. Labour to win 30 seats in Scotland? No chance. 10 if they are very very lucky and get a lot of tactical votes from Tories and LD’s, although Jim Murphy is doing his level best to alienate Scottish Tories by attacking them almost as vehemently as the SNP. He should be courting them and toning down the rhetoric….

  13. “Labour win….I think that based on comments on this site then Labour will win about 30 seats in Scotland”

    Then why have you entered into a bet with me that the Tories will win more Scottish seats than Labour? Either you are very schizophrenic or have no intention of honouring the bet!

  14. Courting Tory tactical votes might help Labour in the short term, but it would further alienate many of the voters who have moved from Labour to the SNP. These are the people that Labour need to get back if they are to win elections in Scotland again.

    Then again, it does appear that Jim Murphy might manage to annoy both those who were considering a tactical vote for Labour and those who used to vote Labour but are currently unwilling to do so.

  15. Simon – No openly court them obviously, but a couple of soundbites to put Tory inclined voters minds at ease while not further alienating those he has lost to the Nats should work. Short term might be all it takes to let the Nats furore post IndyRef die down.

    Credit the SNP, they knew exactly what they were doing getting the IndyRef to take place just 8 months ahead of a general election, strategically brilliantly played.

  16. @LSST

    I would never credit any politician with that much intelligence, even one(s) I support!

    I think the delay in referendum date had more to do with SNP knowing that Yes was well behind and hoping that something would crop up in the (long) interim.

  17. Cameron also had a hand in agreeing the referendum date. Scotland has certainly rescued him from what would otherwise have been an almost certain Labour majority.

  18. They’d probably still be a touch short. Even if you gave Labour 40 seats in Scotland, expecting 280+ from England and Wales is a bit of a stretch.

  19. @H.Hemmelig –

    Unionist Parties – Short Term Tactics, no overriding strategy

    SNP – Long Term Strategy coupled with Tactical analysis

  20. That’s pretty much it.

  21. I think Labour will hold on here. SNP in 2nd. Tories 3rd. Lib Dem 4th.

  22. It’s another SNP gain, and the normally strong LD vote here has taken a battering

  23. @bbcqt. From Aberdeen.

    What a clever, clued up and articulate lot the Scottish people continue to demonstrate that they are.

    Just one example is the exchanges about the Palace of Westminster & HoC:

    not enough room for elected representatives and the fact that no MP can speak until after their “maiden speech”.

    # living in the 19th century

  24. @ Max “Interesting that the Tory vote went up here”

    Some naturally Tory voters presumably voted tactically for the Lib Dems in previous years. The Lib Dem vote collapsed this time, hence said voters backed their natural party instead.

  25. @ Robbie – on a reduced turnout the Conservative vote was roughly the same (numeritically) as it was in the 1997 election, in an election where the Conservatives were incumbents in the Aberdeen South constituency and achieved a vote share of 17.5%.

  26. 17.5% nationally* which is 2.5% higher than in 2015.

  27. “It had been held by the Labour MP Dame Anne Begg, only the second full time wheelchair user elected to the Commons”

    Who was the first full time wheelchair user elected to the Commons?

    Could it have been Julian Critchley.

    He became a full time wheel chair user as a result of Post Polo Syndrome but I’m not sure that this happened while he was still an MP.

    Julian Critchley passed away just over 3 years after retiring as MP for Aldershot, so it may have been him.

  28. The first full-time wheelchair user was Arthur MacMurrough Kavanagh, Conservative MP for Wexford County, 1866-1868, and for Carlow County, 1868-1880. See this article – http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/life/article2903850.ece (£). It actually suggests he didn’t sit in a wheelchair in the chamber like Dame Anne did, but instead was lifted onto the benches and presumably spoke sitting down (something temporarily crippled MPs have occasionally done more recently).

  29. An interesting question is what would happen if a wheelchair-bound MP were ever appointed a minister or opposition frontbench spokesperson, something that never happened to Dame Anne. Would they have to bring their wheelchair up to the despatch box or would they speak as a frontbencher from the position in the chamber where there is space for a wheelchair?

  30. I assume that modern parliament chambers such as the Holyrood Paliament or Welsh Assembly are designed to allow a wheel chair user to sit directly behind their table?

  31. Yes, I would think so. Though I don’t think a possibility that hasn’t happened yet, and is likely to remain rare in future although it probably will happen at some point, is a reason to redesign the whole chamber.

  32. @jack sheldon It could be argued that It’s one of many things that together make the Westminster buildings, impressive as they are, unfit for purpose now.

  33. @Saintstevie

    I disagree with that argument.

    Of course the restoration that is now planned (though details and extent not yet decided on) is desperately needed, I am not suggesting that shouldn’t go ahead. When it does more people will probably start saying what a few are saying already, that we should build some new parliament building and stick it in Birmingham, and the PoW should become a museum. I am very opposed to this idea. Not only would any new building be enormously expensive and probably take decades to bring about, but it couldn’t be in Birmingham because our system relies on government and parliament being close. Even with super high speed trains having them in different places would be very problematic. And it is hard to see where you could build something new in London. But quite apart from that I think ‘modern’ parliament buildings with a desk for every member and so forth tend to be soulless places even when full, and of course for most parliamentary procedings the chamber isn’t full and then they are even worse – especially if the room has to be big enough to fit 600 people in. Most of the time having a chamber too small to fit everyone is a very good thing, as Churchill argued last time this was debated seriously. As for the argument that politics would somehow be transformed into a consensual multi-party utopia if we did away with opposing benches and sat our MPs in a semi-circle I just don’t buy it. And anyway, why is adversarialism such a bad thing? It indicates where the dividing lines are to the public and parliaments are for debating, not always agreeing with each other, no?

  34. Practically, Westminster may be the best option.

    However, I think the London-centric nature of parliament leads to the disconnect in the North East and Scotland, I don’t know about other regions but I presume that attitudes may well be the same.

    We have allowed parliament to become to ‘fixed’ and this needs to be addressed. Moving Westminster may not be the answer, but it should be considered.

  35. If the SNP were to hold this seat after the boundary changes, I would expect the Tories to be 2nd. Corbyn’s policies won’t go down well with ex-tory Labour voters in the seat. However, he could get the less well off ex-Labour SNP voters to come back if he sorts Labour out. Tories would ultimately gain the seat of course.

  36. @jacksheldon – I wouldn’t choose to have it in Birmingham either, but I do think not having the adverserial seating does serve democracy better and stops Parliament descending into the playground-style grunting. Holyrood debates tend to be much more civilised in tone for example.

    I don’t for one second believe it will transform us into a “consensual multi-party utopia”, but it is much more the tone in which I would like my elected representatives to behave.

  37. When you omit Begg’s personal vote, Labour could slip into third place here in 2020.

    The Conservatives seemed to have benefitted from the collapse in the 2010 Lib Dem vote, which may have been comprised of more centre right voters than in other constituencies.

  38. I’m not really sure why this seat was so inclined to vote Conservative compared with, say, Edinburgh South. I agree that without Anne Begg’s personal vote Labour could see themselves in deep trouble here, especially in next month’s Holyrood election. The Conservatives could edge in to second here.

  39. Perhaps the Conservatives success here could be linked to the oil industry.

  40. Edinburgh seats likely to have a different demographic – younger, plenty of students, more ethnically diverse, not inclined to vote Tory. Just like similar seats in England really.

  41. @NTYUK It’s very similar to Edinburgh South in a lot of ways. Edinburgh South had Tory MPs from 1918 constantly through to 1987. The main difference is that the Tories won this one back in 1992, but they’ve gone in similar directions post-1997, with the Lib Dems as the main challengers until 2015.

    I think the difference in results this time round was caused partly by the sorts of reasons Jack Sheldon mentioned, although I think they’re also (to a lesser extent) an ongoing problem for the Tories in Aberdeen South as well. Also, the whole Neil Hay thing in Edinburgh South didn’t help the Tories, as it probably persuaded more people to vote tactically for Labour. I don’t see either of them as prospects for the Tories in the longer term, even if the SNP decline substantially.

  42. The two constituencies are very similar in terms of demography. Both seats have a large managerial and professional population based around a set of affluent suburbs (for Aberdeen South this is around the West End, for Edinburgh South this is around Morningside, Newington and Fairmilehead), with some social housing (Torry and Kincorth in Aberdeen South, Gracemount in Edinburgh South). As Simon points out the two seats have traditionally been Conservative-Labour battlegrounds before 1997, after which point the seats were both held by Labour until 2015, with a strong Liberal Democrat challenge.

    I have a notional of 64% “No” in Aberdeen South at the Scottish independence referendum in 2014. The result in Edinburgh South was 65% No.

    @ Jack – that is completely baseless. For one Aberdeen South had a considerably higher SNP vote compared with Edinburgh South (7.1% higher) which could also be pinned down to a youth vote. Aberdeen South covers the Robert Gordon University and much of its associated halls of residence alongside some fashionable inner city student areas such as Gilcomston. Admittedly Edinburgh South does have roughly double the number of students over Aberdeen South, however in terms of age demographics they are much the same (observe from the last census) –

    12 to 17: 5.7%
    18 to 24: 11.5%
    25 to 34: 17.5%
    35 to 44: 13.9%
    45 to 54: 14.3%
    55 to 64: 11.1%
    65 to 74: 7.3%
    75 onwards: 7.7%

    12 to 17: 6.2%
    18 to 24: 14.7%
    25 to 34: 14.0%
    35 to 44: 12.6%
    45 to 54: 13.3%
    55 to 64: 11.5%
    65 to 74: 7.3%
    75 onwards: 8.1%

    Aberdeen South is 92.6% White and 46.5% no religion, 27.0% Church of Scotland.
    Edinburgh South is 91.2% White and 45.1% no religion, 23.7% Church of Scotland.

    I don’t think the seats are divergent enough demographically to explain the Conservatives taking 22.8% of the vote in Aberdeen South over just 17.5% of the vote in Edinburgh South. It is likely a mix of different factors, perhaps partially down to a higher Church of Scotland population in Aberdeen South: among the most inclined faith groups to vote Conservative in Scotland.

  43. @ Simon – that could go in part to explain a lower Conservative vote, however as you have said politics is becoming less personal, more partisan.

    I think the vote in Edinburgh South comes down to the SNP candidate, the local Labour campaign, the central belt suburb effect (where suburbs in central Scotland had a much smaller swing to the SNP over their prior referendum vote) and a split Yes vote caused by the Greens. Without a Green candidate in the constituency I would have expected a modest rise on the referendum vote by the SNP.

    I do not believe that the Conservative vote was hit by Neil Hay’s candidacy.

  44. I think the campaign in the area probably hit the SNP by 1% of the vote. The combined SNP-Green vote in the seat was pretty typical at 38.0%, a rise of 4.0% from the independence referendum.

  45. There’s not really any evidence of “unionist tactical voting” benefiting either Labour or the Tories in Scotland in 2015. In Edinburgh South the Tory vote decreased by about 800, which is easily explained by the ongoing trend of Scottish Tory voters moving away from the party and to the nearest cemetery. The Lib Dems were arguably the only recipients of tactical votes in places like Edinburgh West and East Dunbartonshire.

    Neil Hay’s candidacy probably had more of an effect on drawing votes directly away from the SNP rather than impacting on tactical voting. If only he had followed his colleagues in waiting until after the election before making a public show of his deep unpleasantness.

  46. Arguably their was some tactical voting in Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk from the Lib Dems to both the SNP and the Conservatives (hence a moderate rise in the Conservative vote here).

    There also seems to have been something of a tactical vote towards Labour’s Jim Murphy in East Renfrewshire where the Conservatives lost 3,102 votes.

  47. The Conservatives also lost 1,366 votes in Ayr, Carrick & Cumnock: a seat which my own notionals suggest had one of the narrower swings towards the SNP at between 3-4% from the 2014 independence referendum.

  48. The evidence is less compelling for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine when the Conservatives managed their best result since 1997 numerically, with an increase of of 2,238 votes on 2010.

    The Liberal Democrats are still better placed to take the constituency in the long run. A direct swing from SNP to Conservative here just isn’t viable here.

    It will be interesting to see how Aberdeenshire West votes at the Scottish Parliament.

    It’s possible that the Conservatives faced a slight tactical vote in favour of the SNP in West Aberdeenshire & Kincardine.

  49. I agree with that.

    Minor (pedantic) point, which is the fault of political commentators and the boundary commission, the constituency names around this area area:
    * West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine
    * Aberdeenshire West
    * Aberdeenshire East

  50. To be honest the town of Paisley should never have been split into two separate constituencies to begin with. Most of the boundaries around the south-west of Scotland are abhorrent anyway at Westminster (such as those in Dumfries & Galloway, South Ayrshire, South Lanarkshire and Glasgow), although I do think that the boundaries around the north of Scotland are pretty logical, although it might’ve made more sense for WAK to stretch up to Huntly and Strathbogie, giving Westhill to Gordon.

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