Kirkcaldy & Cowdenbeath

2015 Result:
Conservative: 5223 (9.9%)
Labour: 17654 (33.4%)
Lib Dem: 1150 (2.2%)
SNP: 27628 (52.2%)
UKIP: 1237 (2.3%)
MAJORITY: 9974 (18.9%)

Category: Semi-marginal SNP seat

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

Main population centres: Kirkcaldy, Cowdenbeath, Kelty, Lochgelly, Burntisland, Kinghorn, Dalgety Bay.

Profile: Kirkcaldy is the biggest town in Fife, once the world leader in the manufacture of Linoleum but more recently an administrative, service and retail centre for the wider Fife area. Other settlements includes the coastal towns of Burntisland, Kinghorn and Dalgety Bay, and the former coal mining areas of Cowdenbeath and Kelty.

Politics: Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath was one of the safest Labour seats in Scotland, best known for being represented by former Chancellor and Prime Minister Gordon Brown, but like many seats thought inpregnable it fell to the SNP in their 2015 landslide.


Current MP
ROGER MULLIN (SNP) Former education consultant and professor. Contested Paisley North 1990 by-election, 1992. First elected as MP for Kirkcaldy & Cowdenbeath in 2015.
Past Results
2010
Con: 4258 (9%)
Lab: 29559 (65%)
LDem: 4269 (9%)
SNP: 6550 (14%)
Oth: 1166 (3%)
MAJ: 23009 (50%)
2005
Con: 4308 (10%)
Lab: 24278 (58%)
LDem: 5450 (13%)
SNP: 6062 (15%)
Oth: 1698 (4%)
MAJ: 18216 (44%)
2001*
Con: 3013 (11%)
Lab: 15227 (54%)
LDem: 2849 (10%)
SNP: 6264 (22%)
Oth: 804 (3%)
MAJ: 8963 (32%)
1997
Con: 4779 (14%)
Lab: 18730 (54%)
LDem: 3031 (9%)
SNP: 8020 (23%)
Oth: 413 (1%)
MAJ: 10710 (31%)

2015 Candidates
DAVE DEMPSEY (Conservative) Born Kirkcaldy. Fife councillor. Contested Cowdenbeath 2013 Scottish Parliament by-election.
KENNY SELBIE (Labour) Local government officer. Fife councillor.
CALLUM LESLIE (Liberal Democrat) Born Kirkcaldy. Educated at Balwearie High School and Edinburgh University. Writer and broadcaster.
JACK NEILL (UKIP) Educated at Inverkeithing High School and West of Scotland University. Student.
ROGER MULLIN (SNP) Professor and education consultant. Contested Paisley North 1990 by-election, 1992.
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Comments - 361 Responses on “Kirkcaldy & Cowdenbeath”
  1. If it goes Labour it could signal that some of the more staunch Labour areas from 2012 might be good for Labour next year…

  2. I’d be surprised if the SNP didn’t win it. I’d guess areas like this would have been carried by Yes in 2014.

  3. I don’t know too much about the area although there were plenty of fluctuations in the 2014 Scottish independence referendum results. The Lochs is an exceptional area so I wouldn’t be so certain either way.

    Some notoriously staunch Labour areas which might be expected to go strongly for Yes on the basis of demographics actually went (very narrowly) No, one such example being the Cumnock & New Cumnock ward in East Ayrshire.

  4. Either way turnout will depress the SNP vote, so it’s difficult to gauge how the vote will go in some of the more politically exceptional parts of the country.

  5. Will turnout be a big factor in a Labour/SNP fight? Socio-economically, there’s probably very little difference between Labour and SNP voters.

  6. I think so yes.

    Demographically Labour voters in Scotland are more elderly, more affluent and more mobile than their SNP counterparts – even in the most deprived areas it’s natural to assume that as turnout declines the result will favour Scottish Labour over the SNP. We can see this clearly from 2016 in constituencies such as Dumbarton, Eastwood and Rutherglen Labour were over-represented due to a lower turnout, and against the odds the SNP vote declined quite substantially from 2015.

    In the most deprived parts of Scotland turnout can be extremely low at local elections which can make the results more unpredictable. This is also a very mid-term election. If 2012 is anything to go by the SNP’s vote will be depressed more so the other mainstream political parties in Scotland.

    Labour will not recover, but they might hang onto a couple of former strongholds such as Blantyre (as mentioned previously they won a by-election against the SNP in December 2015).

  7. Adding: I think voter fatigue will really play a hand in keeping turnout around a similar level to 2012.

  8. Why Glasgow specifically?

    I think the Tories will probably get 3 Cllrs in Glasgow on a good night.

  9. Yes, but remember the boundaries have changed:

    Pollokshields
    Partick East / Kelvindale
    Newlands / Auldburn

    Newlands / Auldburn is the trickiest for them.

    If we judge 2017 by 2015/16 most of Labour’s former heartlands would be outright SNP.

  10. “Of course if it was FPTP I’d be certain of the SNP winning outright in Glasgow as well as Renfrewshire, West Dumbartonshire, East Ayrshire, Dundee.”

    Even with STV there’s a chance of SNP Outrights in all of those council areas… And a pretty good one at that.

    “And the Tories would have good shots at winning outright in East Renfrewshire, Scottish Borders, Dumfries & Galloway, South Ayrshire.”

    Not convinced with South Ayrshire. The rural wards would pile up for the SNP and cancel out a slim FPTP majority for the Conservatives in Ayr, Prestwick and Troon (the Conservative vote here is very very concentrated in the suburbs of Ayr, Prestwick and Troon so STV serves them very well here).

  11. Because Busby, Clarkson and Eaglesham covers the towns of Busby, Clarkson and Eaglesham?

    The Boundary Commission are inconsistent at the best of times.

  12. “What is it with the BC in Scotland and their Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspeyisation of constituencies/wards?”

    They are basically just inconsistent.

    For example “Ayr” is actually Ayr, Prestwick and Troon. Yet they have “Motherwell and Wishaw” and “Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock”.

  13. “Renfrew South & Gallowhill will give us a good indication on how the SNP vote has went since the EU referendum (under 50% of the first preference vote would be very distressing for the SNP, over 60% would be good for them).”

    Very poor local by-election results for the SNP.

    Renfrew South & Gallowhill SNP GAIN from Labour
    1st Preference Vote:
    Scottish National – 47.8%
    Labour – 36.9%
    Conservative – 13.4%
    Liberal Democrat – 1.9%

    SNP elected at stage 4, underlying strong unionist tactical voting against the SNP.

    More startling is the result in Irvine West LAB GAIN from SNP (see the Central Ayrshire page).

  14. There do seem to be a lot more local by-election results like this these days. I think immediately after the 2015 election, this would have been a first round win for the SNP. The Irvine West result is much more surprising to me.

    How much these results mean in the longer term remains to be seen. It may well suggest that the SNP will struggle to get the turnout they would hope for next year, although the national voting intention numbers don’t appear to be moving much.

  15. NTY UK,

    “Ayr East was an absolute roller coaster…”

    You, sir, are fantastic.

    (I don’t mean that sarcastically or anything. I just genuinely like to find out that I’m not the only person who finds this stuff interesting.)

  16. @ Bill Patrick – Thank you 🙂

  17. @Max Whether you think that the SNP’s actions on Brexit are anti-democratic kind of depends on whether you think the democratic unit should be Scotland or the UK. They won’t be irritating anyone who thinks that it should be Scotland.

  18. The EU narrative could help win over very pro-EU voters who voted No in 2014 (and perhaps stayed with Labour in 2015/2016).

    But it is also very dangerous. Around 40% of SNP voters voted Leave, so her position isn’t overwhelmingly supported among even the roughly half of the electorate that have voted SNP in recent elections, let alone the other 50%.

    And it seems to me she is cornering herself into having to call an independence referendum when the Brexit terms don’t satisfy her unachievable demands. At this stage there is no evidence that such a referendum would necessarily produce a majority for independence (in fact, I have a suspicion that a snap referendum about ‘keeping an independent Scotland in Europe’ would be lost by at least the 2014 margin – which would obviously severely damage the SNP and her leadership).

  19. “There do seem to be a lot more local by-election results like this these days. I think immediately after the 2015 election, this would have been a first round win for the SNP. The Irvine West result is much more surprising to me.

    How much these results mean in the longer term remains to be seen. It may well suggest that the SNP will struggle to get the turnout they would hope for next year, although the national voting intention numbers don’t appear to be moving much.”

    I agree – this is a fair assessment on how things appear to be going at the moment.

    “No they don’t. Comparing these figures to 2012 don’t show that much, though the Tories appear to have picked up a bit in Irvine West.”

    Actually they show quite a lot!

    Irvine West and Renfrew South & Gallowhill are both working class communities which we would have expected to be easy SNP pick-ups. They weren’t – Irvine West actually went Labour despite voting in favour of independence in 2014. This confirms that the unionists should benefit from a low turnout next year.

    The Conservatives managed some impressive swings away from Labour in both wards, confirming that they are still in a good position in Scotland following the 2016 Scottish Parliament election and the EU referendum.

  20. Maxim Parr-Reid,

    You’re a model of passionate interest in even the minutest details of Scottish politics.

    Jack Sheldon,

    The 38% who voted “Leave” are definitely being underanalysed right now. Hopefully there’s a new PolSci PhD student somewhere taking this up as his/her thesis topic.

  21. I doubt that she’ll do too much damage amongst the Yes/Leave people, because a good chunk of them are the very nationalist brigade, who don’t want any infringements on the sovereignty of an independent Scotland. In most cases, that group feel getting out of the UK is a much bigger deal than the EU.

    Whether there will be another referendum or not depends much more on the opinion polls than anything else. At the moment, Sturgeon (who is personally not that keen on another referendum now) probably has to say the stuff she’s saying to keep her own party together. Things like the economic impact of Brexit, the sort of deal that ends up being negotiated, and what concessions, if any, are made to Scotland are all as yet unclear, so, in my opinion, it’s far too early to say how public opinion will move. So far, all we’ve seen is a temporary expression of anger amongst people who voted No/Remain, which led to a short-lives Yes lead. Since then we’ve only had the one poll, which showed things settling back to the post-referendum norms with a slight pro-union lead.

  22. “In most cases, that group feel getting out of the UK is a much bigger deal than the EU.”

    From the last opinion poll on independence [YouGov]:
    “Should Scotland be an independent country?”
    * Yes – 40%
    * No – 45%

    “Which of these statements do you tend to agree with more?”
    * I would rather live in a Scotland that was a member of the
    European Union but not a part of the United Kingdom – 37%
    * I would rather live in a Scotland that was a part of the United
    Kingdom but not a member of the European Union – 46%

  23. Also quite a substantial point: the Tories did considerably better in both by-elections compared to 2016.

  24. Even the immediate post-Brexit polls (barring one that was probably voodoo as I think the paper claiming 58% Yes didn’t name the pollster) were not as dramatic as independence supporters might have hoped. They suggested a pro-indy lead of a few points, but not the decisive pro-indy shift that SNP supporters were hoping for.

  25. “barring one that was probably voodoo as I think the paper claiming 58% Yes didn’t name the pollster”

    That poll was rubbish – it was an online survey conducted on ScotPulse who did not release the data publicly. ScotPulse is not a member of the BPC, so it’s safe to say that this “poll” is completely meaningless.

  26. I think anyone who thought that there would be a massive, sustained shift in views on independence following the EU referendum was delusional.

  27. @NTYUK It’s one poll, asking people to choose between hypothetical scenarios that shows most people’s views on independence are not really affected by their views on Europe. If we are asked to choose again, it will be much more apparent what Brexit means, and, hopefully, what independence would mean under such circumstances.

  28. @ Maxim – Why is it damaging in Edinburgh? Edinburgh had the 10th highest Remain vote in the United Kingdom?

  29. Max – Edinburgh was the most pro-EU area in Scotland. Orkney was also more pro-EU than the Scottish average, and Perth & Kinross was very close to being average.

  30. I would have thought that Edinburgh, which has probably the highest proportion of EU nationals, and voted most clearly to remain, is the one area that the SNP would hope to increase support for independence as a result for Brexit.

  31. If the objective is to target people who voted No/Remain, the largest group of these people in Scotland is going to be in Edinburgh.

  32. The question is whether most people who voted Remain think the economic arguments are still largely the same.

  33. Or, to be more accurate, whether they will think the economic arguments are largely the same by the time decisions on Brexit are made, and any further independence referendum will take place.

  34. “I would have thought that Edinburgh, which has probably the highest proportion of EU nationals, and voted most clearly to remain, is the one area that the SNP would hope to increase support for independence as a result for Brexit.”

    “If the objective is to target people who voted No/Remain, the largest group of these people in Scotland is going to be in Edinburgh.”

    Simon is right.

    “But being a wealthy area would it really be more Yes-inclined given the economic arguments against independence remain largely the same?”

    Yes, alongside East Renfrewshire is probably an area where a Yes campaign in a second referendum could expect gains.

  35. Just pointing it out a No vote is a No vote, there’s no hiding the fact that people can change their opinion on the matter, whether they live in Dundee or Edinburgh…

  36. One poll showed No is ahead. I think they will recover in the polls but let’s wait and see first.

  37. I think we’re still in a phony war situation, given that nobody really knows what sort of a deal we’ll get under Brexit, whether there will be a significant economic impact (and if there is, who will benefit) and so on. These are the things that will move the polls one way or the other.

  38. The SNP made a pledge in their manifesto to hold a second referendum in the event of a “material change”, they list brexit as an example of this.

    Ignoring their central manifesto pledge might be a dangerous game for the SNP in the long run.

  39. Technically, the manifesto actually says that the Scottish Parliament should have the right to hold a referendum in the event of such a material change. It doesn’t say that they will definitely do so, but I would agree that it’s going to be very difficult for Sturgeon to get out of it, short of a large movement of opinion in favour of the union.

  40. I think it will be difficult to get out of indyref2. For now she can wait for the negotiations but it is very unlikely that the Brexit deal May strikes will satisfy her demands – which are essentially that as far as Scotland is concerned little should change. Whatever the polls say in that position it will be hard to delay an indy referendum for long given that Brexit will probably take effect within a year or two of the deal being struck, so waiting longer could see Scotland already having left before any referendum.

  41. There are no satisfying options.

    1 – Snap referendum
    2 – Referendum after the United Kingdom leaves the European Union
    3 – No referendum

    Choice 1 is probably the most preferable for the SNP, perhaps under the presumption that without significant time to debate the issue it could pass similar to the EU referendum.

  42. And it also means they live up to their promise.

    The thorn is that Nicola Sturgeon would be put under immense pressure to resign as First Minister.

  43. By-election in The Lochs today. I’ll be bold and call it at an SNP gain.

  44. Kinross-shire & Cowdenbeath? That must be the worst seat in the whole review. I can’t imagine the good people of Crieff will be happy being in with Cowdenbeath and so forth.

  45. Yes it’s pretty ridiculous.

  46. Yes….I think that urban Fife will have three core constituencies and North East Fife will be split between South Perthshire/ Kinross and Glenrothes.

  47. The best solution for me would be keeping the Dunfermline constituency, creating a new constituency in Glenrothes covering the south-east coast of Fife and retaining the Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath seat, allowing for an affluent rural constituency to be created covering the north east of Fife and south of Perth and Kinross

  48. I wouldn’t count on North East Fife making the final bill to be honest.

  49. Yes….north east of Fife and south of Perth and Kinross….are well connected by the A91.

  50. It looks like Labour may have topped first preference votes across this constituency – rough calculation based on the six wards either wholly or mostly in this constituency – get something like Lab 36%, SNP 33%, Con 17%, Ind 5%, LD 4%, Grn 4% – this is based on taking only partial share of the Lochgelly & Cardenden ward as its heavily split with Glenrothes

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