North East Fife

2015 Result:
Conservative: 7373 (16.3%)
Labour: 3476 (7.7%)
Lib Dem: 14179 (31.3%)
SNP: 18523 (40.9%)
Green: 1387 (3.1%)
Independent: 325 (0.7%)
MAJORITY: 4344 (9.6%)

Category: Marginal SNP seat

Geography: Scotland, Mid Scotland and Fife. Part of the Fife council area.

Main population centres: St. Andrews, Cupar, Newport-on-Tay, Newburgh, Auchtermuchty, Anstruther, Ladybank, Pittenweem.

Profile: The "East Neuk" end of the Fife peninsula, this is a prosperous rural area, popular with tourists and for second homes and far less industrial than other parts of Fife. The electorate is spread across a large number of small towns, the largest is St Andrews, home to the famous golf course and Scotland`s oldest university.

Politics: North East Fife has a long Liberal tradition - it was once represented by Herbert Asquith, the Liberal Prime Minister. The Liberal MPs here in the 20s and 30s were part of the factions who backed the National Government and would eventually merge into the Conservative party after the Second World War bringing this seat with them - it was represented by a National Liberal MP from 1929 until 1961 and the victor of the 1961 by-election stood as a Conservative and National Liberal candidate. With the final extinction of the National Liberals it remained a Conservative seat until 1987 when it was won by Menzies Campbell, later to serve as Lib Dem leader. The similar North East Fife seat in the Scottish Parliament was gained by the SNP in 2011, and the Westminster seat followed in 2015.

Current MP
STEPHEN GETHINS (SNP) Educated at Dundee University. Former consultant and advisor to Alex Salmond. First elected as MP for Fife North East in 2015.
Past Results
Con: 8715 (22%)
Lab: 6869 (17%)
LDem: 17763 (44%)
SNP: 5685 (14%)
Oth: 1032 (3%)
MAJ: 9048 (23%)
Con: 7517 (19%)
Lab: 4920 (13%)
LDem: 20088 (52%)
SNP: 4011 (10%)
Oth: 2020 (5%)
MAJ: 12571 (33%)
Con: 8190 (24%)
Lab: 3950 (11%)
LDem: 17926 (52%)
SNP: 3596 (10%)
Oth: 1030 (3%)
MAJ: 9736 (28%)
Con: 11076 (26%)
Lab: 4301 (10%)
LDem: 21432 (51%)
SNP: 4545 (11%)
Oth: 485 (1%)
MAJ: 10356 (25%)

2015 Candidates
HUW BELL (Conservative) Business consultant and former RAF officer.
BRIAN THOMSON (Labour) Born St Andrews. Chartered town planner. Fife councillor since 2012.
TIM BRETT (Liberal Democrat) Educated at Gravesend Grammar school For Boys and Bristol University. Former NHS manager. Fife councillor since 2003.
STEPHEN GETHINS (SNP) Educated at Dundee University. Consultant and former advisor to Alex Salmond.
Comments - 392 Responses on “Fife North East”
  1. @ Bill Patrick – It looks like the SNP-Conservative swing is strongest in the North East of the country, particularly in rural areas where there was a stronger No vote in 2014 and Leave vote in 2016.

    After that I would assume that there’s a good swing over to the Conservatives in Ayrshire and the Borders, and in the possibly Highlands.

    The SNP will probably hold up best in Dundee and the Central Belt, where there was a better Yes/Remain vote. Edinburgh and the Glasgow suburbs are difficult to call (as they had a strong No vote in 2014 and strong Remain vote in 2016), but I would guess a below average swing from SNP to Conservative.

  2. Disappointingly the Scotland yougov poll did not segregate respondents geographically so strictly it’s speculation where the biggest swings to the Conservatives are. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if NTY is close to the mark.

  3. The trouble with segregation would be that it leaves us with subsamples which have huge MoE, so they become fairly useless anyway

  4. One of the Survation polls had subsample breakdowns by geographic region, it just goes to show how useless subsamples are.

    Apparently the Conservatives are ahead in South Scotland (believable) and the Highlands & Islands (what?)

    The SNP only on 45% in Glasgow and the Central Belt and on over 50% in the North East (what?)

    Because you’re dealing with such small, unweighted samples of the electorate subsamples can’t be taken seriously. Just like that infamous Lord Ashcroft poll immediately after the 2014 referendum which had Yes on 70% among 16-24 year old’s when the opinion poll asked less than 20 of them and was thoroughly disproven afterwards.

    More valuable would be constituency polls and fully fleshed regional polls: the most important things to be established are how big the swing actually is in the North East of Scotland and how the vote is going in Edinburgh and the Glasgow suburbs.

  5. While the Lib Dems were down 3 seats to 7 overall in Fife Council, their total first pref vote in the 5 whole wards of North East Fife gives LD 38% with SNP 25%

  6. Yes, they won every single ward in this seat, actually. I think the picture looks clear for LD gain.

  7. Have the Lib Dems selected here yet?

  8. Yes, their local council leader Elizabeth Riches.

  9. Riches actually lost her place on the council today, but she switched ward to Cowdenbeath where the Lib Dems came last in 2012. Strange

  10. Perhaps hoping her name recognition would win her the seat or at least bolster the LD vote and possibly expecting to win the Westminster seat and not wanting to cause a byelection

  11. Although she would have been confirmed as the candidate there before the general election was annoinced.

  12. From BritainElects: “North East Fife:
    Third recount sees ONE VOTE difference between Lib Dems and SNP.”

    Is it me, or are there many more recounts this time than last?

  13. Recount apparently has SNP and LD 1 vote apart!

  14. They’re now on a fourth recount here.

  15. Good lord. I think at least 3 in RP as well.

  16. My god

  17. Just declaring now and the SNP have held it by TWO votes.

  18. Amazing. Either way, amazing.

    Last time this happened (an election this close) was Winchester in ’97, and of course it was overturned in a legal challenge. While the winner there (Oaten, LD) won the by-election in a landslide, I don’t know if that would be the case here, since the Conservatives have 10,000+ votes probably more likely to go LD than SNP.

  19. A few of these final results are going to be dead dead close….

  20. SNP hold by 2 votes.

  21. Stephen Gethins victory must be the silver lining to the cloud having over the SNP’s night.

    While the SNP lost many seats they never expected to lose, here they held a seat that they were more likely than not to lose.

  22. Ironic

  23. Paisley & Renfrewshire South and Glasgow Central were also easier Labour targets than many other constituencies that Labour won or lost by 2 or 3 figure majorities.

  24. According to the BBC , the Lib Dems were ahead on the first count, the SNP ahead on the second and third:

    A legal challenge would seem highly likely.

    Its Winchester 97 all again!

  25. Yes, and a legal challenge might go as well for the Libs as that one did for the Tories. The question being whether the “sore loser” drop goes SNP or perhaps gives the Scottish Tories another seat as they’re only 3000 behind

  26. Looks like the LDs were scuppered by a bigger than expected Tory vote here. Equally on the basis of the result the Tories may well have won if they’d tried.

  27. Remember that as part of the boundary review this constituency is to gain the heavily working class towns of Methil, Buckhaven and the remainder of Leven not covered by the constituency at the moment on the mouth of the River Leven to the south. Big Yes vote in the independence referendum in that area (over 60% Yes in Methil & Buckhaven I believe) and the Lib Dems are virtually non-existent in that area.

    2 votes in the general election was the difference here between having a Liberal Democrat MP and potential resurgence next time around for the party as unionist voters flock to them in opposition to the SNP, which might have allowed the party to retain the seat even with boundary changes at the next general election, and what seems to be SNP representation for the foreseeable future as the unionist vote in North East Fife fractures off to the Conservatives.

    It’s difficult to excuse the Lib Dems abysmal performance here considering they started the contest as the favourites, having done extremely well in the 2016 Scottish Parliament election and 2017 locals in the constituency (better than in Caithness, Sutherland & Easter Ross, East Dunbartonshire and Edinburgh West which were easy pick-ups for the Lib Dems).

    The only thing that could really save the party here for the next UK general election would be a by-election held as a consequence of the extremely marginal result here, but that is very unlikely to happen – especially knowing Stephen Gethins’ reputation.

  28. NTY UK: I think it’s highly likely there will be another election well before any boundary changes!

  29. Whether the Lib Dems were favourites or not, this seat was below the others including Caithness in several of the seat projections, as I recall.
    Plus NTYUK and others may have underestimated the personal vote of Willie Rennie in the Holyrood election..
    Personally I think if there is another election in the next 12 months, the SNP will lose many further seats, mostly to Labour, and will come 3rd in this seat…

  30. So, where are the new SNP heartlands? They’re certainly not in the Northeast any more, and Labour looks to have taken a big step towards resuming normal service in the West. Crucially the election result means the “Independence or perpetual Tory rule” argument fails to hold any water.

    Highlands perhaps? They could benefit from split opposition there between Tories and Lib Dems.

  31. @. Polltroll – they’re in a rather awkward position at the nomen between Scottish Labour surging up back to where they were in 2011, the Conservatives certainly back in play in the vast majority of seats they took in 1979, and the Lib Dems ahead in some key heartland constituencies.

  32. @Plopwellian Tory – Ayr, Carrick & Cumnock has not gone Conservative since the 1950’s at the very least.

    It’s nothing like the old Ayr constituency which covered Prestwick, Troon and Kyle alongside the town of Ayr itself, which are the very best parts of South Ayrshire for the Conservatives.

    Ayr, Carrick & Cumnock instead covers the town of Ayr and excludes Prestwick, Troon and Kyle, covering Carrick to the south of Ayrshire, which is a good area for the SNP usually but seems to have just gone Conservative this time, and Cumnock and Doon Valley in East Ayrshire, where the Conservatives likely took less than 25% of the vote behind Labour in first and the SNP in second.

    My figures suggest that the Ayr holyrood constituency voted:
    Con 48%
    SNP 31%
    Lab 19%
    LD 2%

  33. Probably but always good to keep things in perspective: boundary changes will inevitably do the Conservatives a bit of damange in Argyll & Bute by adding in the southern half of Lochaber to the seat from the Highlands, which has a solid SNP vote.

    Some trivia from the election:
    The SNP only have two “safe” seats with a majority of >15%. These are:
    Dundee East – 6,645 (15.5%)
    Ross, Skye and Lochaber – 5,919 (15.4%)

    Edinburgh South went from being the most marginal constituency in Scotland in 2010 with a Labour majority of 316 (0.7%) to 15,514 (32.4%).

    North East Fife was the closest result in the United Kingdom with an SNP majority of 2 (0.0%).

    Lanark & Hamilton East had the smallest margin separating the first place and third place candidate, with the SNP taking 16,444 votes (32.6%), the Conservatives on 16,178 votes (32.1%) and Labour on 16,084 votes (31.9%).

  34. Lib Dems have confirmed they won’t be challenging the result here. Willie Rennie has given an insight into his thoughts on the count via his public Facebook page here:

    “That Count…

    It was the tightest of tight margins. Who could have imagined that after weeks of long days campaigning that only two votes would separate winner from loser.

    It was only when the fire door to the Michael Woods Leisure Centre was opened to reveal the early morning sun that we realised just how long we had been poring over thousands of ballot papers.

    The camaraderie between the SNP and Liberal Democrat activists hid a shared anxiety about the final result. In the first two counts Elizabeth Riches was the winner by three votes then two. Yet because the two results did not match another count was ordered.
    Reports emerged from around the tables of errant votes in the wrong piles. But who would it benefit was the unanswered question.

    Elizabeth would smile, encouraging our team to smile too. Stephen Gethins and I would share a joke. A retired bank teller conducting the count would deploy thirty years’ experience to ensure accuracy.

    My heart sank when Elizabeth pointed to the ground with two fingers to indicate we were now down by two votes as the candidates were informed of the second recount. So once again back to counting. My ears were tuned to hear reports of errant ballots but as the minutes ticked by, nothing.

    Our Iain Smith, standing in for the unwell Agent Derek Barrie, protested when the Returning Officer Steve Grimmond proposed to move to the result. Surely another count was justified was his argument. No came the answer.

    In the following days we consulted our lawyers who told us a legal challenge was possible but we have decided to win at the ballot not in the courts. Congratulations Stephen Gethins MP.”

  35. It would be interesting to hear the story from the returning officer’s point of view. How do you decide when a result is conclusive when it’s this close?

  36. They clearly take counts far more seriously than i ever gave

  37. This could have been Winchester in 1997 all over again…

  38. “I know coz I was there”

    NEF and the recounts.
    Count LD Winners by 3
    1st Recount LD Winners by 2
    2nd Recount SNP Winners by 2
    3rd Recount SNP Winners by 2

    There were count errors at 3 of the 14 tables, at one table during the 1st recount a vote was found for Riches in the Gethins block and 2 votes for Gethins in the Riches block.
    The RO rotated staff between the recounts so no one counted votes that they counted earlier – Fife uses a mini-count system so that the votes in the boxes opened at a table stay at that table.

    The ‘spoilt’ votes were also reassessed and although the Tories weren’t at the first assessment they were at the reassessment. There was only 1 spoilt vote in question which the LD and Tory agents wanted appealed. If it had been accepted for Riches, It wouldn’t have been enough.

    I understand that once the same count has been recorded twice at each of the 14 counting tables and that there was no movement between recounts 2 and 3, the RO had effectively no choice but to declare the result, otherwise if there had been a 4th recount and a difference was found, other parties could keep asking for recounts until the same result was found 3 times.
    I also understand that a member of his senior staff did consult with external advisors at his request – Electoral Management Board for Scotland.

    There were no effective grounds for a legal challenge.

    On earlier points in relation to the LD candidate, Elizabeth Riches had announced her intention to retire, she ‘ran’ as a paper candidate in the Cowdenbeath Ward in the Local Elections (the next door ward of Lochgelly was the only one without a LD candidate in all of Fife).

    When the snap election came along, she was chosen as the candidate, which many felt was an admission of failure at the outset.

    The LD and SNP teams at the count were respectful of each other and engaged in friendly banter, can’t say the same of the Tories/Lab. The SNP MP for Glenrothes (whose count took place at the next aisle in the hall) – Peter Grant – and Elizabeth Riches were Leader and Depute Leaders of Fife Council together for 5 years and have a lot of respect for each other.

  39. Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie ran 117 miles for charity over the weekend.

    Impressive stuff. I ate lots of chocolate.

  40. Wendy Chamberlain has been selected by the Scottish Liberal Democrats for this seat.

  41. This seat saw the biggest decrease in the Tory vote at the last election. I suppose we can surmise that it was down to anti-SNP tactical voting. Overall, 245 seats had a decline in the Tory vote share in 2019, something which their large majority has obscured. I thought I’d post the Top 30 largest falls for the Tories here:

    1 North East Fife -11.1%
    2 Guildford -9.7%
    3 Esher and Walton -9.3%
    4 Beaconsfield -9.1%
    5 Edinburgh South West -8.7%
    6 Edinburgh North and Leith -8.7%
    7 Putney -8.4%
    8 South West Hertfordshire -8.4%
    9 Hampstead and Kilburn -8.2%
    10 Wimbledon -8.1%
    11 Ealing Central and Acton -7.7%
    12 Ross, Skye and Lochaber -7.6%
    13 Leeds North East -7.4%
    14 Wokingham -7.1%
    15 Maidenhead -7.0%
    16 Cities Of London and Westminster -6.7%
    17 Mole Valley -6.4%
    18 Aberdeen South -6.2%
    19 Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross -6.2%
    20 Epsom and Ewell -6.1%
    21 Runnymede and Weybridge -6.0%
    22 North East Hampshire -6.0%
    23 Hitchin and Harpenden -6.0%
    24 Glasgow South -5.9%
    25 Cardiff North -5.9%
    26 Inverclyde -5.8%
    27 Windsor -5.8%
    28 Perth and North Perthshire -5.6%
    29 South Shields -5.6%
    30 Surrey Heath -5.6%

    The main trend appears to have been that the Tory vote declined where the Lib Dem vote increased.

  42. Willie Rennie wins NE Fife by nearly 8,000 votes.

    He got around 3k more votes than Nicola Sturgeon did in Glasgow Southside, looks like it could be the largest total for any individual candidate. Impressive stuff.

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