Edinburgh South West

2015 Result:
Conservative: 10444 (20.2%)
Labour: 14033 (27.2%)
Lib Dem: 1920 (3.7%)
SNP: 22168 (43%)
Green: 1965 (3.8%)
UKIP: 1072 (2.1%)
MAJORITY: 8135 (15.8%)

Category: Semi-marginal SNP seat

Geography: Scotland, Lothian. Part of the Edinburgh council area.

Main population centres: Edinburgh.

Profile: The south west segment of Edinburgh, running from Fountainbridge near the city centre out along the A70 and the Water of Leith to the villages of the Pentland hills like Balerno and Currie. It includes Heriot-Watt and Edinburgh Napier Universities.

Politics: This is the successor seat to Edinburgh Pentlands, once a safe Conservative seat. The then Foreign Secretary Malcolm Rifkind was defeated here in 1997 and the seat was held by Alistair Darling between 2005 and 2015 when it fell to the SNP.

Current MP
JOANNA CHERRY (SNP) Former advocate. First elected as MP for Edinburgh South West in 2015.
Past Results
Con: 11026 (24%)
Lab: 19473 (43%)
LDem: 8194 (18%)
SNP: 5530 (12%)
Oth: 1239 (3%)
MAJ: 8447 (19%)
Con: 10234 (23%)
Lab: 17476 (40%)
LDem: 9252 (21%)
SNP: 4654 (11%)
Oth: 2310 (5%)
MAJ: 7242 (16%)
Con: 14055 (36%)
Lab: 15797 (41%)
LDem: 4210 (11%)
SNP: 4210 (11%)
Oth: 660 (2%)
MAJ: 1742 (4%)
Con: 14813 (32%)
Lab: 19675 (43%)
LDem: 4575 (10%)
SNP: 5952 (13%)
Oth: 727 (2%)
MAJ: 4862 (11%)

2015 Candidates
GORDON LINDHURST (Conservative) Educated at Edinburgh University. Advocate. Contested Linlithgow 1999, 2003 Scottish election, Linlithgow and Falkirk East 2001, Livingston by-election 2005, Edinburgh Western 2011 Scottish election.
RICKY HENDERSON (Labour) Edinburgh councillor.
DANIEL FARTHING-SYKES (Liberal Democrat) Educated at Lancaster University. CEO of Haemophilia Scotland.
RICHARD DOHERTY (Green) Born 1983, Glasgow.
Comments - 190 Responses on “Edinburgh South West”
  1. What was incredible was that the SNP mostly won Edinburgh in 2011 with 5 of the 6 constituencies while Labour held 4 of the 9 constituencies in Glasgow. This enabled Labour to present themselves as the Glasgow party standing up to the Holyrood SNP government and retain Glasgow City Council in 2012.

    Now the tables have turned in both cities with the unionists now having half the seats in Edinburgh (and 3 SNP scalps) but being wiped out in Glasgow.

    I don’t see Labour retaining Glasgow next year but I could see unionist supporters taking advantage of STV to rout the SNP in Edinburgh.

  2. This doesn’t really work because the SNP will meet the quota to get someone elected in almost every ward. In more deprived areas, they may well have the vote to get two.

    At present, Labour preferences tend to split roughly evenly between the SNP and the Tories. In the smaller number of cases where a significant number of Lib Dem preferences are reallocated, the SNP can still get a non-trivial number of these too. Finally, many voters don’t bother ranking preferences, or don’t do so fully.

    While these things can change over time, I think the problems with what you are suggesting are still that many Labour supporters don’t want Tory councillors, and that it would require official co-ordination between the unionist parties, which is a non-starter.

  3. SNP won most areas where Yes got about 40% or more.

  4. “Did any areas that voted β€œyes” not see SNP victories? Dumbarton?”

    Dumbarton (the town) voted Yes and SNP.

    Dumbarton (the constituency) voted No (I have it down as 54-55% NO iirc) and Labour.

    The Dumbarton constituency is the only area in Scotland where Simon’s “rule” does not apply, all other unionist constituencies returned NO votes in excess of 60% (the closest of which was Ayr at 61% NO).

    In saying that there was some movement away from the “Yes” (likely down to turnout discrepancies) in certain areas such as Paisley, Eastwood and Rutherglen. Orkney and Shetland were the most notable by far.

  5. The old Pentlands at Holyrood would have probably been notionally neck and neck between Con and SNP probably (because two favourable old Tory FPTP wards are now in Southern where the Tories were a good third) and about the same for Lab

    E.g. SNP 36 Con 36 Lab 24 LD 4

    Edinburgh SW

    I guess good for SNP as contains best SNP parts of central and Southern as well as nearly all of Pentlands and a Green friendly part of Central

    SNP 39
    Con 27
    Lab 26
    Grn 4
    LD 4

    Anyway the idea of the Tories gaining much additional ground anywhere in Edinburgh or East Renfrewdhire after Brexit is surely fantasy land even if Ruth Davidson holds things together in the short term.

    The dynamics of (relatively eurosceptic) rural Scotland e.g Galloway, Banffshire, Moray etc are surely much more interesting.

  6. I think that it is a reasonable position for the Scottish Conservatives to take across the medium term, especially given Ruth’s widespread popularity, though within the current political context in Scotland it is impossible.

  7. There are only two scenario’s I can think of –

    a) Unionist packs in 2021 that result in a Unionist majority and Davidson remaining the largest unionist party and being able to claim leadership of the Unionist coalition.

    b) All Scotland’s unionist parties merging into a single party of which Ruth Davidson becomes the leader which then wins more seats than the SNP in 2021.

    Both scenario’s are quite unlikely.

  8. They still have to be semi-competitive in chunks of the central belt, and I see no real sign of that happening. There are far too many areas where they’ll struggle to get more than 15%.

  9. I agree with Simon here: it is wishful thinking at the moment. What I meant was that campaigning to become the government of Scotland is a good platform for Ruth to campaign on across the medium-long term, even if it is unattainable.

    Yes the Conservatives perform reasonably well in small pockets of the Central Belt (what: Ayr, Eastwood and parts of central/western Edinburgh?) the problem is that they are almost non-existent elsewhere, even in some of the more affluent parts of the Central Belt like East Dunbartonshire, Edinburgh West and East Lothian. They tend to underperform in just about every part of the Central Belt outside of South Ayrshire…

    For them to realistically win across Scotland they would need to be polling ahead in places such as Banff & Buchan, North Ayrshire and North Renfrewshire, which I can’t see happening any time soon.

  10. With (lots of) time I think that it is possible for the Conservatives to ascend towards the 30% mark in Scotland, even so the brand has limited appeal (particularly in Scotland).

    Just as likely they could remain stagnant at under 20% of the vote…

  11. If the Scottish Tories relaunched themselves as a completely independent centre right Scottish unionist party with a new name they would increase their ceiling somewhat. Otherwise their ceiling is 25% at Holyrood and 20% at Westminster.

  12. There are still an awful lot of people who wouldn’t consider voting Tory in Scotland, and a good number of them are unionists.

  13. The whole separate party thing is such a red herring, unless they’d actually not take the Tory whip at Westminster.

  14. It always seems to me to be one of those attempts to create a ‘silver bullet’, a panacea for all problems. You should be instinctively suspicious of such things.

  15. Plus Ruth Davidson won the leadership expressly on a platform of opposing the creation of such a new party.

    Now that the Tories have seen some green shoots springing up in Scotland they’d be silly to go down that road at this point in time IMO.

  16. I think that the past few years have suggested that it was never mainly the brand or the link with Westminster that was the Tories’ problem, but the perception that they were “agin’ us”.

    The referendum changed that for a number of unionists, and as a result the Tories are now doing almost as well as you’d expect a random centre-right party to do in Scotland. (About 25-30%, I would say.) They’ve gone from underperforming, relative to an ahistorical analysis, to performing near to where they’d probably be if it wasn’t for the Poll Tax, being the “English party”, “That Wummun!” etc.

    I can see them polling about 30%, but I would be astonished if we see a Tory first minister for decades to come, if ever. I still think that another Labour-Lib Dem coalition is the most likely alternative, followed by independence + a new party, probably split from the SNP. And it’s also conceivable that the SNP remain in power for 20+ years, by which time there might be a whole new anti-SNP party that ends up replacing them.

    For the SNP, I think it would actually be good if there was a single centre right/centre unionist party to serve as a functional opposition. Being seemingly secure in power forever is extremely unhealthy and can rot a party from the inside, as the Tories found out in the 1990s and Labour found out in about 2003-2015. (It wasn’t until 2015 that it was beyond dispute that Labour were no longer the natural party of government in Scotland: some people thought that 2007/2011 SNP voters would drift back after the referendum.) Like the Tories at Westminster, the biggest worry for the SNP is the lack of a viable opposition.

  17. Excellent post Bill!

  18. “I still think that another Labour-Lib Dem coalition is the most likely alternative…”

    II think that is most unlikely. Its not reasonable to assume that all the former safe Labour seats in Scotland will just return.

    While the Liberals made a recovery in NE Fife and Edinburgh West, elsewhere they have fallen further behind in the seats that they lost in 2011. In most they have been overtaken by the Conservatives as the main challengers to the SNP.

  19. Dalek,

    It is true that where the Lib Dems fell into 3rd place or below in 2011, they have not made progress.. The exception being Argyll and Bute, where they moved from 4th back to 2nd with a 13.6% increase, thanks to Alan Reid standing, no doubt. However they are still 1st or 2nd in 5 of the 8 Highland seats, plus NE Fife and Edinburgh W as you mention.

    The only seat I can find where the Tories overtook them in 2016 (as opposed to before..) is Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale.. Maybe there are one or two others..

    I agree though that they are a long way from having the 19 Holyrood seats they had in 2007..

  20. There’s also Dunfermline (where the Conservatives replaced the Liberal Democrats as the third party), Glasgow Kelvin (the Conservatives remaining in fourth here due to the standing of Green candidate Patrick Harvey, Liberal Democrats falling to fifth place), Edinburgh Southern (Tories replacing Lib Dems in third) and Edinburgh Central (Tories moving from fourth place to first here, Lib Dems falling into fifth place).

  21. And there’s Aberdeen South & North Kincardine, where the Tories moved from 4th to 2nd.

    Counting by-elections there’s also Aberdeen Donside.

  22. “Its not reasonable to assume that all the former safe Labour seats in Scotland will just return.”

    They don’t need all of them. They just need enough + list seats + Lib Dems, so that they can at least form a minority administration.

  23. The best conceivable result for the Tories in 2021 would be an SNP-Labour coalition or formal pact of some sort. That would seal Labour’s coffin and make the Tories’ position as the party of opposition less ambiguous.

  24. Which is probably one of the reasons why the SNP now prefer to run a minority government, rather than trying to form a coalition or pact. Obviously it helps that they only need 1 of the 4 opposition parties to abstain or vote with them to get things through Parliament, but they managed pretty well in the 2007-11 Parliament as well.

    I think the problem that Ruth Davidson is going to have is in dealing with a shift to the right in the UK party, especially if that’s combined with economic difficulties due to Brexit. I wouldn’t assume that the movement from Labour to Tory amongst unionists is either a desire for radically more right-wing politics or irreversible.

  25. The result in Edinburgh Pentlands was really the worst result in Scotland for the Conservatives: it was their lowest percentage vote change in Scotland outside of Orkney, Shetland, North East Fife and Edinburgh Western, where they lost out due to Liberal Democrat tactical voting: perhaps a big factor was the loss of David McLetchie’s incumbency, though I suspect even if he stood the Tories would have finished behind the SNP here.

  26. * Same applies for Ruth I suspect!

  27. There’s no evidence to suggest that she could’ve managed it. In Edinburgh Central the Tories only managed the same share of vote on the regional list and constituency votes, (which is the same as how they performed in Edinburgh Pentlands). The SNP took Pentlands with a 7.4% majority….

  28. The Conservatives traditionally under-performed in Central, not the case in Pentlands. Also, as I just mentioned, Pentlands was the most disappointing result for the Conservatives across the board. She only managed the same vote share on the constituency vote as on the regional vote in Central, which was the same result as in Pentlands: so no evidence she would’ve gotten close to overturning that 7.4% SNP majority.

  29. The Tories also managed to take Central on the list, but not Pentlands…

  30. No they didn’t do well on the Pentlands list: they did the same on the constituency vote, and they were quite far off winning.

  31. The Conservatives took 32.2% of the vote on the constituency vote in Pentlands and 32.3% on the list vote. The Greens split the Yes vote on the list here which reduced the SNP’s lead on the list, however they didn’t stand on the constituency vote so how well or otherwise the SNP alone did on the regional list vote in Pentlands is rather irrelevant. Even then, that Green vote splitting the Yes vote was significant enough to allow the Tories to poll ahead in Central – it was not enough in Pentlands. On the constituency vote the SNP were ahead by 7.4%. 900 is also good lead for the SNP on the list vote.

    In Central the Conservatives took 30.4% of the vote on the constituency vote and 29.1% on the regional list vote

  32. I suppose you might need some help with your mathematics here, let me help you: Ruth Davidson’s personal vote was presumably 30.4 – 29.1 = 1.3 (ignoring Tory tactical voting), 32.3 + 1.3 = 33.6 (list vote in Pentlands + the proposed Davidson personal vote), 39.5 – 33.6 = SNP Majority of 5.9%. That’s a stronger majority that the Conservative majorities in Galloway, Dumfries, Ayr, Aberdeenshire West and Edinburgh Central!

  33. So are most of your points to be honest, that doesn’t stop you talking about them at length.

  34. Some great, irrefutable evidence there Conservative Estimate. I just love that insightful post of yours.

    Southern might’ve been possible though even then Labour have built up a quite substantial tactical vote and the Conservatives vote was too low on the list vote to beat the SNP on the constituency contest. I think the Conservatives could become competitive there with boundary change.

  35. If the proposed Edinburgh South West & Central constituency remains intact then its very possible I think.

  36. Edinburgh Pentlands was perhaps the SNP’s best result in an SNP/ Conservative battleground last May.

    In contrast to Aberdeenshire West, Edinburgh Central (that was not even a Conservative target) and retained Con/ SNP marginal like Ayr and Galloway & West Dumfries there was actually a swing from Conservative to SNP.

    The factor has to be the omission of David McLetchie’s personal vote. Had he not sadly passed away and stood here again he surely would have won. Equally if Ruth Davidson had stood here, she would also almost certainly have won.

  37. Had the exact same thoughts of this being the worst Tory result upthread Dalek: I completely agree.

    The list vote here was somewhat reminiscent of the list vote in Ayr although Labour seem to have held on reasonably well here.

  38. It’s possible that Edinburgh Pentlands got away from the Tories in the same way that Carshalton & Wallington eluded them in the previous year’s GE – there was a higher-profile contest next door, which was on paper more difficult to win and which they put all their resources into. They assumed that if they won Edinburgh Central/Twickenham then naturally Pentlands/Carshalton would follow suit, and so didn’t really bother in the latter two. They were wrong on both occasions.

  39. It’s still their worst result…

  40. All things considered I’m very happy with the result in Ayr.

    For a start the Ayr constituency is much more deprived and working class in nature in comparison to the Edinburgh Pentlands constituency: it also had a weaker No vote at the 2014 independence referendum (61% No to Edinburgh Pentlands 63% No) and a very high turnout of 61.1%.

    Obviously the Tory vote has a high ceiling, and in Ayr they did very well in 2011 (taking 39% of the constituency vote), even though the SNP were well ahead on the list element of the vote. In 2016 they increased their constituency vote by +4.1 and regional list vote share by +11.5, giving Ayr the third largest % Conservative share of the vote in Scotland… You can only wish for so much, and considering the more working class nature of the seat – it was a good result: in fact it was the Conservatives best vote share in Ayr since 1979 (a boast that can only really be beaten by the result in Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire).

  41. They fell back by roughly 3% in Edinburgh Pentlands on 2007 and had plenty of Labour vote to squeeze: it was their worst result…

  42. In Ayr they were up by 3% on 2007 πŸ™‚

  43. Also, Ayr was the third highest Conservative share of the unionist vote in Scotland, Edinburgh Pentlands was the 14th…

    Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire – 80.9%
    Perthshire North – 75.2%
    Ayr – 73.0%
    Moray – 72.8%
    Banffshire and Buchan Coast – 71.6%
    Galloway and West Dumfries – 71.4%
    Angus North and Mearns – 68.6%
    Perthshire South and Kinross-shire – 68.5%
    Aberdeenshire West – 59.0%
    Aberdeen South and North Kincardine – 57.9%
    Dumfriesshire – 56.5%
    Stirling – 53.6%
    Aberdeenshire East – 53.5%
    Edinburgh Pentlands – 53.2%
    Clydesdale – 53.1%
    Edinburgh Central – 53.0%
    Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale – 52.0%
    Eastwood – 51.9%
    Cunninghame North – 51.1%

  44. Actually forgot about Angus South which was 69.4%.

  45. Odds of Ruth Davidson standing (and winning) here I wonder? I don’t know if she has any aspirations beyond being Scottish leader or not but her profile and popularity will likely never be higher than it is now

  46. My rough guess for Edinburgh South West based on current polling:
    Con 43
    SNP 40
    Lab 14
    LD 3

    Conservative GAIN from SNP

  47. That is a phenomenally bold prediction – but nobody knows Scotland on this site better than you.

    How much of this seat overlaps with the Ed Central Holyrood seat?

  48. Hardly: the only areas of overlap are Dalry and Fountainbridge which are better areas for the SNP. The more Conservative parts of Edinburgh Central are divided between Edinburgh North & Leith and Edinburgh West at Westminster.

    Edinburgh South West is comparable to the Edinburgh Pentlands constituency at Holyrood, covering some more affluent suburbs around Craiglockhart, which form part of Edinburgh Southern at Holyrood.

  49. Joanna Cherry is one of the most high profile SNP MPs.
    I cannot see her losing here

  50. She’s not standing. Not an impossible gain, but rather unlikely.

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