Argyll & Bute

2015 Result:
Conservative: 7733 (14.9%)
Labour: 5394 (10.4%)
Lib Dem: 14486 (27.9%)
SNP: 22959 (44.3%)
UKIP: 1311 (2.5%)
MAJORITY: 8473 (16.3%)

Category: Semi-marginal SNP seat

Geography: Scotland, Highlands and Islands. The whole of the Argyll and Bute council area.

Main population centres: Oban, Helensburgh, Rothesay, Inveraray, Tobermory, Lochgilphead, Campbeltown.

Profile: A Scottish seat covering a huge swathe of sparsely populated countryside. The seat includes the whole of the Argyll & Bute council area including many Scottish islands such as Mull, Bute, Jura, Tiree, Islay and the religious community on the isle of Iona, the burial place of the early Kings of Scotland. Other industries include tourism, forestry and fishing and, more recently, energy production through the expansion of wind farms. The seat also includes Faslane, the base of the UK`s Trident nuclear armed submarine fleet. The constituency is mainly rural. The two largest towns are the ferry port of Oban and Helensburgh, a commuter town for Glasgow.

Politics: Between 2001 and 2010 this constituency was something of a four way marginal, with as little as 10% dividing first to fourth place. In 2015 it followed most of the rest of Scotland in delivering an easy victory for the SNP.


Current MP
BRENDAN O`HARA (SNP) Born Glasgow. Educated at St Andrews Secondary and Strathclyde University. Former television producer. Contested Glasgow Springburn 1987, Glasgow Central 1992. First elected as MP for Argyll & Bute in 2015.
Past Results
2010
Con: 10861 (24%)
Lab: 10274 (23%)
LDem: 14292 (32%)
SNP: 8563 (19%)
Oth: 1217 (3%)
MAJ: 3431 (8%)
2005
Con: 10150 (23%)
Lab: 9696 (22%)
LDem: 15786 (37%)
SNP: 6716 (16%)
Oth: 881 (2%)
MAJ: 5636 (13%)
2001*
Con: 6436 (21%)
Lab: 7592 (25%)
LDem: 9245 (30%)
SNP: 6433 (21%)
Oth: 1251 (4%)
MAJ: 1653 (5%)
1997
Con: 6774 (19%)
Lab: 5596 (16%)
LDem: 14359 (40%)
SNP: 8278 (23%)
Oth: 713 (2%)
MAJ: 6081 (17%)

2015 Candidates
ALASTAIR REDMAN (Conservative) Born 1987. Postmaster.
MARY GALBRAITH (Labour) Born Campbeltown. Educated at Glasgow University. Contested Highlands and Islands 1999 Scottish election, Argyll and Bute 2007 Scottish election, East Dunbartonshire 20107.
ALAN REID (Liberal Democrat) Born 1954, Ayr. Educated at Ayr Academy and Strathclyde University. Computer project manager. Renfrewshire councillor 1988-1996. Contested Paisley and Renfreshire South 1992, Dunbartonshire West 1997. MP for Argyll and Bute 2001 to 2015.
CAROLINE SANTOS (UKIP) Educated at Dunoon Grammar.
BRENDAN O`HARA (SNP) Born Glasgow. Educated at St Andrews Secondary and Strathclyde University. Television producer. Contested Glasgow Springburn 1987, Glasgow Central 1992.
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Comments - 377 Responses on “Argyll & Bute”
  1. I would like to apologise and bring the chat back “on topic” 🙂

    Is it looking likely the Lib Dems could fall to 4th in this seat?

  2. @ Woof – Yes it seems pretty likely.

  3. If there is a unionist vote in this seat where is it most likely to go in order to keep SNP out? Or is it too segmented for tactical voting to have any effect?

  4. 2011 Scottish Parliament election result:

    Mike Russell (SNP) 13,390 51%
    Jamie McGrigor (Con) 4,847 18%
    Mick Rice (Lab) 4,041 15%
    Alison Hay (LD) 3,220 12%

    Lib Dems should be up a bit on that, with the SNP down because Mike Russell is better known than Brendan O’Hara. The Tories may be down a touch as Jamie McGrigor has been an MSP for some time.

    But anyway, the point is that, in an election where the SNP won comfortably across Scotland, they were miles ahead in this seat. Even if there’s a bit of a shift in their vote from rural areas to central Scotland, they have plenty margin for error here. I can’t see this being particularly close.

  5. @ NTYUK

    The only seats I would have Labour as favourites right now are:

    Glasgow NE
    Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill
    Glasgow SW
    East Renfrewshire
    Edinburgh South
    Dumfries & Galloway
    East Lothian

    I think they’ll probably end up with more than 7, because I think there are quite a lot of seats that the SNP is a relatively marginal favourite in, and I doubt they win every single one of those seats. I did think that Labour might do a bit better in some of the more unionist seats, but I think the Ashcroft polling in seats like Edinburgh South West and Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock suggests that probably isn’t the case.

    Then again, if the SNP do a little better than I anticipate, Labour could be left with Glasgow NE and East Ren, and that might be about it. Those are about the only two I would put real money on Labour to win.

  6. @ Simon – Why do you believe that Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill will vote Labour when it had a high Yes vote? I don’t think this will collate with the 2011 election results, turnout figures will no doubt differ – it’s two different elections with in a different context for a different body with different boundaries. Coatbridge & Chryston voted Yes by 53%. It may share similar features with Glasgow NE but I suspect the SNP will gain this seat: Lord Ashcroft and YouGov have been much kinder to the SNP in this seat, and I can certainly think of more likely Labour holds in the area.

    In my view Edinburgh N&L is much more likely to go Labour than Coatbridge and Chryston given that it would fit into the referendum results and what national opinion polls suggest. I am more doubtful over your suggestion that Labour will keep Dumfries and Galloway, I think that the Tories and SNP are probably ahead of Labour in the seat, and I would put Labour as the least likely to win the seat given that the area has never really had a history of being a strong Labour seat.

    It’s slightly hypocritical that on one hand your saying the results in Edinburgh N&L will be exactly the same as the referendum, only some how the SNP will convince more No voters, whereas in a Yes voting area you suggest that the opposite is true?

    Also you’ve only mentioned 7 seats whereas before you suggested 10.

  7. There are a load of seats that the SNP are narrow favourites in – say, they have something between a 50% and 75% chance of winning. Off the top of my head, I’d have seats like North & Leith, Ayrshire Central, Midlothian, Paisley, Inverclyde and so on in this category. If you made me say who I think will win each of these seats, I think the SNP is most likely for each of them. I think they’re unlikely to run the table, but I don’t know which ones they won’t get.

    I suspect that most seats that Ashcroft found as being really close (say, a lead of 4 or 5%) will probably end up going to the incumbent at the end of the day, so that’s why I’m giving Coatbridge to Labour, but, as I said, I wouldn’t put real money on that.

    On D&G, I think the Tory ceiling is pretty limited without Alex Fergusson’s personal vote. For them to win, the combined Labour and SNP vote would have to split just right. Similarly, it’s a difficult seat for the SNP – they might get 35% and squeak through but that’s about their limit. I think that Russell Brown is well liked, and that they will probably get just enough tactical votes from both sides to see them over the line.

    In North & Leith, while I don’t think the SNP will get significant numbers of No voters. I don’t see why they won’t consolidate the Yes vote pretty well though. I’d suspect the Greens will not save their deposit, so something around 36-37% is reasonable, and would likely be enough. I think the Tories get their usual 15%, 5% for the Greens and UKIP between them, and 10-15 for the Lib Dems. That probably leaves Labour around 30%.

    In a lot of ways, Ashcroft’s Edinburgh South West tells us some useful things for this seat. It suggests Labour will be significantly down on 2010, and that the SNP can do a decent job of gathering the Yes votes. N&L is probably better for Labour, because Lazarowicz is a decent incumbent, and the Greens are better in N&L than South West, but not by a huge amount.

    Overall, I think that the SNP and Green vote combined will be around 45% across Scotland. I think that starting with the Yes vote and then adjusting for local factors is a reasonable way of estimating the SNP share. I think they will do less well than Yes in some of West Central Scotland, because of incumbency and some people still finding it hard to vote for anyone but Labour, and I think in the seats they already hold, and probably some of the rest of the NE, they will outperform the Yes vote, because of incumbency and they do seem to be able to get some No voters to vote for them in that part of the world. Overall, I think it probably all cancels out, and they’ll end up with low-mid forties across Scotland.

  8. Re Edinburgh North & Leith
    Labour’s vote share in the seat was 35.7% last time. I don’t think it’s reasonable to suggest this will grow by much or any this year. We know that a large number of voters who voted Labour five years ago intend to vote for the SNP. We also know that the majority of 2010 Lib Dem voters will opt for the SNP, and are then divided between LD, Lab and Green. Labour will be fortunate to breach 35% this year. If we presume that 15% will go Conservative, that leaves 50% to be divided between SNP, Green and Lib Dem. If the Greens and LDs get 15% between them, that could stop the SNP, but even then, Labour would have to hold on much more strongly than elsewhere.

    Also, I don’t think this year’s election results will correlate so exactly with the referendum results. In and around Coatbridge, voting Labour is a tradition that is not so easily lost. Many will have voted Yes without abandoning Labour and, more importantly, withing being sympathetic to the SNP.

    I think Simon’s list is fair. I now see Glasgow SW as a more probable SNP gain, in particular due to Sturgeon’s popularity in Govan and the Southside. And as NTY says, D&G is looking to turn into an SNP/Tory battle. I would also class Dunfermline as touch and go at the moment.

  9. @ Simon –

    North and Leith has totally different characteristics to Ayrshire Central which is a gerrymandered mess, and inverclyde which voted No at 50%, and Paisley which voted Yes (although Paisley isn’t a seat, so I assume you mean the two Paisley seats?) Given it’s more consistent mix of affluence and deprivation I would place it under the red banner, especially due to the limited Tory support. I think Labour can cling on with the support of the Lib Dem’s in the area. My thought it that the progressive turnout will be slightly lower in the area, and so it would mean less SNP support in the area vs. the referendum, and additionally I’d put the Greens at 6%, possibly 7% – I think your really under-estimating the Greens by giving them, what, 1% of the vote? Edinburgh SW is a much more divided seat in terms of support (almost like ACC), and as such it’s quite a likely SNP gain. What the 2011 election indicates is that Liberal Democrat vote has dropped substantially for N&L – this could explain the rise in support for Labour in the area: if this same tactical vote were to be achieved in N&L for Westminister then a Labour hold would be very likely, and in my view it is.

    On Dumfries and Galloway – the Tories won it in 2001 without his PV, and this election is much different in nature and will likely have a higher turnout among Tory voters nationally through a reactionary response to the referendum.

    I don’t think you should rely too heavily on the referendum for N&L and then completely ignore it for Coatbridge, Chryston & Bellshill – which has demonstrated through Lord Ashcroft polling etc. that it looks on the verge of going SNP. I feel that this seat has a different culture to that of Glasgow NE where EXTREMELY low turnouts could also have an impacted on Labour’s performance.

    Glasgow North East turnout 2010 – 49.1%
    Coatbridge, Chryston & Bellshill turnout 2010 – 59.4%

  10. So YouGov’s NowCast now has Labour in the lead in the following constituencies –

    Dunfermline & West Fife
    Edinburgh East
    Edinburgh North & Leith
    Edinburgh South
    Glasgow North East
    Glenrothes
    Paisley & Renfrewshire North

    They are all defined as “too close to call” with Labour suggested to be in the lead.

  11. Edinburgh East would surprise me. The others less so.

  12. NTY UK

    I note that East Renfrewshire is not included on the list you just posted. Is that now being predicted as a SNP gain?

  13. @ Stephenpt – according to YouGov it’s too close to call with the SNP in the lead, followed by Labour and the Tories – which they suggest could be a 3-way marginal. In my view the seat is a definite Labour hold, an SNP gain would suprise me and indicate that the SNP’s surge in the polls is true, if this were to happen then no doubt the unionist’s would be left with 1-3 seats.

  14. * Revision of my estimates –

    I forgot to include Edinburgh West as an SNP gain.

    Looking back at my estimates I’m actually quite happy with a Lab hold in the South Lanarkshire constituencies, Renfrewshire and Livingston. Renfrewshire South is a little questionable, but I’ll leave it for now.

    The one change I would like to make is Airdrie & Shotts which I’d put at an SNP gain in place of Coatsbridge, Chryston & Bellshill – after Simon mentioned this constituency I decided to double check the Lord Ashcroft poll for the area, which put Labour and the SNP neck and neck. I’d therefore put it Labour. Also, more generally I think the national picture could look more like-

    SNP 40%
    LAB 29%
    CON 17%
    Lib 6%
    UKIP 4%
    Green 3-4%

  15. @NTY UK – that’s not a bad prediction North of the border, I think you could be close.

    The SNP are totally getting away with it just now, the Nats are relying purely on bad feeling for this election following Indy ref. There are a couple of things the unionist parties should be going for them on but despite how obvious it seems to me they either aren’t or are not getting traction:

    1) Oil price – The whole economic argument of the SNP was based around oil revenues. I work in the industry and their figures were ridiculously optimistic even without the halving of the oil price. Aberdeen is now in the start of a major downturn due to the oil price. There are hundreds of people getting paid off every week. The town is going to feel like the rest of the country did in 2008. If Scotland were independent it would be a disaster.

    2) Following on from above, the SNP have for years said the UK has stolen Scotland’s oil. I am surprised that the Unionists haven’t taken advantage of this following the recent find in Gatwick to show how Scotland could get some back and hence we all win (for info, I’m dubious to the size of the find announced in Gatwick, they have done the equivalent of put a straw in a football field and extrapolated their small amount of information across a huge area of complex geology!)

  16. Lesser – I agree, oil was hardly touched on by Con, Lab, LD during the Referendum. Only the DUP pointed out that not all oil North of Glasgow was Scotland’s and some would have been rUK’s (NI’s) due to landmass, int law and Rockall.

  17. The UK position is that Rockall is part of Scotland.

  18. ^ Simon’s right it forms part of Scotland under the Island of Rockall Act 1972

  19. IIRC that’s only if Scotland was part of the UK. Prof Vernon Bogdanor said it was one of the unresolved matters for any post-Yes vote negotiations. In the same way that Scotland legally needed Westminster to allow a Referendum, Leaders of Con, Lab, LD didnt make a big deal about it. Probably because Salmond simply failed to recognise that as fact and much of the SNP such as Sillars behave like a child having a tantrum and would hold a non-binding vote anyway.

  20. I’m not really sure that the territory of Scotland was one of the areas that would have required negotiation following a Yes vote. Pretty sure the legislation doesn’t contain a clause saying Rockall is only Scottish as long as Scotland is part of the UK.

  21. You also have to consider Orkney and Shetland, there is strong feeling there that Edinburgh is as bad as London, what would happen were they to reject independence? I’m sure rUK would be happy to support their right to self determination were that the case and check what that would do to the oil and gas licensing entitlement both in the legacy North sea basins East of Shetland and the expanding activity west of Shetland….

  22. yes, Orkney and Shetland might want autonomy, and the SNP could hardly deny it… Of course they might want to join Norway…

  23. There’s a good chance they would vote to stay part of the UK, would be a nice little exclave for rUK!

  24. Yes, O and S could turn out to the Scotland’s Crimea! (oil rich, strategic naval base, don’t think of themselves as part of Scotland….)

    Losing O and S would really dent the SNP economic case….

  25. Simon – I think Prof Vernon Bogdanor said the intention in Hansard is considered by Courts in any such dispute. [Of course the Treaty of Utrecht hasnt stopped Spain’s claim to Gibraltar]. It would have been amusing for the SNP to have relied on the Sovereignty of a UK Act of Parliament. True re Orkney and Shetland. I suspect any ind Scotland would find its territorial waters rather smaller than Salmond’s dreams, mainly due to N Ireland as well as offshore rigs paid for by UK plcs.

  26. This is getting kind of ludicrous. The intention of the UK Parliament is abundantly clear from the Act of Parliament that it passed stating that Rockall was part of Scotland. Norway has no interest in acquiring Orkney or Shetland. There is minimal serious political activity in Orkney or Shetland in favour of separating from the rest of Scotland.

  27. If the SNP wants to play resource grab games it would be unwise of them to assume others won’t respond in kind.

  28. On the Labour Party’s chances, I think I’d struggle to see much past Glasgow NE and Edinburgh South that I’d consider them favourites in now.

  29. I’m confused as to which resources that are not pretty clearly within Scottish borders the SNP are trying to claim. Or is the argument just that retribution is required in the event of independence?

  30. Back to polling, Edinburgh North 14 point SNP lead according to Ashcroft whereas YouGov had Labour winning. Somebody is wrong…

  31. Yougov don’t do constituency polls, though

  32. Simon – precisely, its a UK Act of Parliament. Although I realise these days, Salmond says he’s in favour of the Crown, currency, NATO, etc unlike the SNP of yesteryear.

  33. SNP: 40%
    Con: 27%
    Lab: 16%
    Lib Dem: 15%
    Other: 2%

    SNP gain

  34. @ Lesser & Andrew – Whilst Orkney & Shetland have clearly demonstrated themselves to among the most be constitutional “Unionist” part of Scotland I question the legitimacy of the isles forming part of the United Kingdom. The only practical way in which the isles could remain a part of the UK would be by becoming British Overseas Territories, which would effectively give them nearly full autonomy.

    There are two reasons why I doubt that the isles would become a separate entity from the rest of Scotland:

    1 – Identity: The isles remain to have a majority Scottish identity. The 2011 census found 62% of people living within the Orkney council area and 60% of those living in the Shetland council area identified themselves as “Scottish” only on the census. This would suggest that should the communities within Orkney and Shetland be asked to decide whether to form part of an independent Scotland or become a crown dependency of the UK it would appear as though the majority would back being part of Scotland. This makes unity with Norway especially questionable given that 3.4% of Shetlanders and 1.6% of those in Orkney had a national identity other than any UK identity (this would include Norweigan).

    2 – Underlying support for independence: Orkney rejected independence by the highest margin in Scotland, Shetland had the fourth highest % No for any council area. 67% of voters in Orkney and 64% of voters in Shetland voted No, meaning that 33% and 36% voted Yes. Polls have shown that only around 20% of Scots NEVER want to have another referendum on independence held. An opinion poll on forced choice national identity between Scottish, British or Other found 36% of Scots would describe themselves as “British” – if we applied this to the referendum and assume the referendum results collate to this identity, and that those who would call themselves British would desire Orkney and Shetland to remain part of the UK as a BOT, then 44% of Orkney islanders and 41% of Shetlanders would back an overseas arrangement. Although this is just a basic and assuming calculation, it demonstrates that there isn’t really enough unionism in the isles. In my view a No vote at 70-75% would be more along the lines of what a “unionist enclave” would look like.

    It’s impractical and unlikely that the borders between England and Scotland – as part of the UK or as two independent nations – would alter. What I would see as more likely to remain part of England would be patches of the Scottish borders such as Gretna etc. – yet even this seems very difficult to envisage. The only other areas in Scotland which I could see becoming “enclaves” as such would be patches of Ayr, Prestwick and Troon (eg. southwest Ayr) and possibly Galloway and Bridge of Weir, but this seems unreasonable and I’m not sure whether it would have enough momentum and support locally and across the Scottish/UK governments to be achieved.

  35. *Minor fix – I meant North Berwick not Bridge of Weir 😛 but still, in most of the areas I’ve outlined above national identity tends to be around 50-60% Scottish only.

  36. SNP Gain

  37. Quite surprised how well the LibDem vote help up here (compared to other seats) as they clearly had zero chance of holding it, the defending MP is relatively low profile, and their vote had fallen through the floor in 2011. They must have got the tactical vote message across very effectively indeed.

  38. Yes, agreed re tactical votes. The ‘first preference’ vote would surely put Tories second, albeit still well behind SNP on this occasion.

  39. Yes, Alan Reid did very well. Of course, while relatively low profile nationally, he may not have been low profile in his own seat, where he had been MP for 14 years.

    While clearly many of his votes this time were tactical, if the Lib Dems keep up their organization and get a good candidate in place early, they might stay ahead of the Conservatives and Labour here. Depending on the national strength of the SNP, this could even be a target seat for them in 2020.

  40. Agree that’s possible too.

  41. The new SNP member made his maiden speech yesterday. While it is conventional to say something nice about the previous member, the tribute to Alan Reid may be material to the discussion above. An extract from Brendan O’Hara’s speech as recorded in Hansard.

    “Before continuing, I would like to take this opportunity
    to pay tribute to my predecessor, Mr Alan Reid, who
    represented the constituency for 14 years. Mr Reid was
    a hard-working, affable and popular Member of Parliament whose defeat in May was no reflection on him as an individual, but was rather a verdict by the Scottish people on the Liberal Democrats’ decision to go into coalition with the Conservatives in 2010, coupled with a burning desire on the part of the people of Scotland for radical change. I take this opportunity to wish Mr Reid all the best for his future.”

  42. Dunoon was not mentioned in the list of areas of population. As previously regarded as gateway to the Highlands Dunoon sits on the Clyde and despite a reduced passenger service from Gourock Town centre to Dunoon Town centre its a place to visit for all the family. However, Western Services provide a car service , every 20 minutes from Hunters Quay to McILroys point. The decline in support for the unionist parties will continue in relation to Argyll and Bute for both the Holyrood and local council elections in 2016/2017 respectively.

  43. There was a 2% difference in the Yes vote from last year for the Argyll and Bute council area and it’s equivalent Westminister seat (which follows the exact same boundaries).

    This is a very impressive result in the context of the election. I wonder how this will play out in the Scottish Parliamentary seat where the Liberal Democrats rank fourth as of 2011, behind the SNP, Conservatives and Labour.

  44. The No vote here was concentrated around Kintyre and Helensburgh, with Yes doing better around the north/Oban and Bute.

  45. For all interested, Alan Reid is standing as the Liberal Democrat candidate for MSP in the Scottish parliament equivalent of this seat.

  46. With the night the Tories had one might have expected them to do better here and establish themselves as the major challenger, instead their vote was only up a fraction with a big Lib Dem rebound back into 2nd.

  47. Good result for the SNP, mediocre for The LDs and poor for the Tories. Give it a few cycles and I can see this returning LD, but not for some time

  48. “poor for the Tories”

    The former Lib Dem MP standing here probably meant they kept hold of quite a few voters that would otherwise have gone Tory. Still, given how other results fell I’m not sure Ruth will be too concerned about this one!

  49. After 20 years of going backwards I’m sure the Tories are delighted that an increase in their share is viewed as a poor result!

  50. Having a look over some demographic data today it becomes evermore apparent the extent to which religion shapes the politics of Scotland.

    In respect to the 2014 Scottish independence referendum result I have identified that outside of the borders and northern isles, Argyll & Bute, East Lothian and the three local authority areas covering Ayrshire had particularly large No votes in relation to their social demographics (2-3% higher than what would be expected based on the national result). These areas all share large % Church of Scotland rates (particularly Ayrshire and Argyll & Bute), which could explain why the No side performed so much better in places like East Ayrshire and North Ayrshire in comparison to the areas of Inverclyde and North Lanarkshire (which are more Roman Catholic).

    This could also explain why there appears to have been a particularly resilient unionist vote in Argyll & Bute and South Ayrshire at the 2015 UK general election in comparison to other areas of similar social demography (in addition to their more elderly populations ofcourse!)

    The result in East Lothian is also rather astonishing, though perhaps the result here can be partially traced down to the areas proximity to the English border.

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