Ross, Skye & Lochaber

2015 Result:
Conservative: 2598 (6.2%)
Labour: 2043 (4.9%)
Lib Dem: 14995 (35.9%)
SNP: 20119 (48.1%)
Green: 1051 (2.5%)
UKIP: 814 (1.9%)
Independent: 191 (0.5%)
MAJORITY: 5124 (12.3%)

Category: Semi-marginal SNP seat

Geography: Scotland, Highlands and Islands. Part of the Highlands council area.

Main population centres: Dingwall, Fort William, Portree, Muir of Ord, Beauly, Gairloch, Ullapool.

Profile: An immense rural seat stretching across much of the Scottish Highlands and including the Isle of Skye and the northern part of the inner hebrides, this is geographically the largest seat in the UK, but one of the smallest in terms of electorate. Most of the seat is extremely remote and sparsely populated, crofting, farming, fishing, quarrying and forestry are important industries alongside tourism. The seat includes Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the UK.

Politics: This was previously a safe seat for the Liberal Democrats, or at least for Charlie Kennedy, the former Liberal Democrat leader. Kennedy won the seat in 1983, the only gain for the SDP in that election, and held it securely under 2015 when he was ousted in the SNP landslide.

Current MP
IAN BLACKFORD (SNP) Former investment banker. Contested Paisley 1997 by-election, Ayr 1997. First elected as MP for Ross, Skye & Lochaber in 2015.
Past Results
Con: 4260 (12%)
Lab: 5265 (15%)
LDem: 18335 (53%)
SNP: 5263 (15%)
Oth: 1715 (5%)
MAJ: 13070 (38%)
Con: 3275 (10%)
Lab: 4851 (15%)
LDem: 19100 (59%)
SNP: 3119 (10%)
Oth: 2193 (7%)
MAJ: 14249 (44%)
Con: 3096 (9%)
Lab: 5880 (17%)
LDem: 18832 (54%)
SNP: 4901 (14%)
Oth: 2103 (6%)
MAJ: 12952 (37%)
Con: 4368 (11%)
Lab: 11453 (29%)
LDem: 15472 (39%)
SNP: 7821 (20%)
Oth: 841 (2%)
MAJ: 4019 (10%)

2015 Candidates
LINDSAY MCCALLUM (Conservative) Educated at Fortrose Academy and Glasgow University. Chief of Staff to Ruth Davidson.
CHRIS CONNIFF (Labour) Contested Ross, Skye and Lochaber 2005.
CHARLES KENNEDY (Liberal Democrat) Born 1959, Inverness. Educated at Lochaber High School and Glasgow University. BBC journalist. MP for Ross, Cromarty and Skye 1983 to 2015. President of the Liberal Democrats 1990-1994, Leader of the Liberal Democrats 1999-2006. Kennedy was the youngest MP in the Commons when first elected for the SDP in 1983. He was elected Leader of the party in 1999 and was a highly popular and recognisable leader, although occassionally criticised as "chatshow Charlie" for appearing on programmes like Have I Got News For You. He lead the Liberal Democrat opposition to the Iraq War and saw them win a record number of seats - however, it was felt he had done fulfilled the party's potention and he increasingly came under attack for weak leadership, which was connected to rumours of a drink problem. In 2006 Kennedy announced he was seeking professional help for alcoholism and would hold and contest a leadership election. He stepped down from the leadership following a threat of mass-resignations by the Liberal Democrat frontbench.
PHILIP ANDERSON (UKIP) Farmer. Contested Ross, Skye and Inverness West 2001, Ross, Skye and Lochaber 2005, 2010.
ANNE THOMAS (Green) Born Bath. Speech and language therapist.
IAN BLACKFORD (SNP) Former investment banker. Contested Paisley 1997 by-election, Ayr 1997.
Comments - 529 Responses on “Ross, Skye & Lochaber”
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  1. “Given the weakness of other parties here I can’t see the Lib Dems being usurped for second, or even coming close to leaving that position.

    Traditionally the strongest Lib Dem area has been the Isle of Skye, where the vote was weighed rather than counted in recent years, but it now seems that the SNP are polling ahead there.Given the weakness of other parties here I can’t see the Lib Dems being usurped for second, or even coming close to leaving that position.
    Traditionally the strongest Lib Dem area has been the Isle of Skye, where the vote was weighed rather than counted in recent years, but it now seems that the SNP are polling ahead there.”

    Yes that is very true. Skye and Lochaber both voted in favour of independence, which – as to be expected – means they are better areas for the SNP than the Ross-shire part of the constituency. With the upcoming boundary review the proposed Caithness & Ross constituency will no doubt become the main Lib Dem target in the Highland council area.

  2. I realise the Conservatives polled ahead on the regional list, but the Westminster results, combined with Lib Dem organisational strength, should mean that the Tories go nowhere here.

  3. Blackford is the better MP than Monaghan, so without boundary changes I’d say the Lib Dems would be smarter to target Caithness than Lochaber, but it’s a close thing.

    We can all agree that Charles Kennedy will be sorely missed. I had many political differences with him, but what an amazing man. Very morally upright and willing to fight for his beliefs.

  4. In terms of the new boundaries Caithness will be better than Inverness, Skye & Lochaber.

  5. Is this the only seat where the SNP increased their majority?

  6. Yes…the best SNP performance but could it not have been down to the unwinding of Charles Kennedys personal vote transferring to the Conservatives who had been very far behind?

  7. Split unionist vote almost 25-21-12, giving the SNP a strong majority with 40% of the vote.

    I think I take my earlier comments back and accept that this constituency may well have voted for independence back in 2014.

  8. Ian Blackford is running for SNP Westminster Leader. So is his constituency neighbour Drew Hendry.

  9. Ian Blackford is the new SNP Westminster Leader. He is, shall we say, less statesmanlike than Angus Robertson.

  10. I’m surprised folk like like Hosie or Angus MacNeill with their experience, didn’t go for the job.

  11. MacNeil would have been awful; Hosie pretty good but seems to have been tainted by the sex scandal he was involved in a year or so back. There are better 2015 intake SNP MPs than Ian Blackford IMO, but clearly he is popular with his colleagues.

  12. Might he be counter-productive for the SNP then?

  13. I might be wrong but I think Blackford’s election probably kills Scottish Independence stone dead and is a further worrying development for the SNP (why the hell they picked him I’ll never know)

    Putting aside the fact that Blackford is no Robertson or Salmond his big problem is he is very much on the right of the SNP. I read a piece saying that Tommy Sheppard (MP for Edinburgh East and Blackford’s opponent in this contest) who is very much on the left of the party would be best suited to capitalise on the populist wave that almost delivered Scottish Independnance and hold off any further advancement form Corbyn’s Labour. Instead the selection of Blackford shows they are retreating to a safety blanket of their traditional support in the rural areas which look lost to the Tories as it is.

    Likelihood is this means the SNP are now “just another typical establishment party” and the anti establishment wave and optimism that propelled them to their lofty heights is now well and truly dead. I may be wrong on this and I defer to those with greater knowledge of Scottish politics.

  14. To be fair to the SNP, the unionist parties have trapped it in a highly effective pincer movement. If it’s a party of radical civic nationalism it loses to the Tories (and Lib Dems) in the borders, highlands & Aberdeenshire; if it returns to the days of “it’s Scotland’s oil” then Labour will mop up the Paisleys and Motherwells.

    They can’t be all things to all people. But they risk ending up being nothing to anyone.

  15. I think he’ll be a negative in the sense in that he won’t do what Robertson did and win the respect of generally unsympathetic observers in the London media and other parties for a serious and statesmanlike approach to opposition. What he might be better at is generating viral videos of combative PMQs performances, which can be important these days.

    Bit of trivia is that he is of course the second holder of this seat to be third party leader in the Commons recent years, after his predecessor Charles Kennedy.

  16. The surprisingly strong Yes vote in the Highland Council area at the 2014 independence referendum (where it went 47% Yes despite being demographically quite affluent and English) can be explained by a surprising mix of factors representative of Scotland as a whole.

    The more deprived pockets of the Council around Wick, Inverness and parts of the Cromarty Firth north of the city of Inverness returned Yes votes. The more Roman Catholic area of Lochaber to the south-west of the Council and the adjacent Isle of Skye also voted Yes.

    Elsewhere (predominantly around the more vast rural areas in the Council and south-east of Inverness towards Moray) the No vote was similar in strength to the neighbouring Council areas of Argyll & Bute and Moray, ranging from 60% in Thurso and rural Caithness to 57% in Nairn.

  17. “To be fair to the SNP, the unionist parties have trapped it in a highly effective pincer movement”.

    True, but it has to be said that they still retain a decent level of support, as evidenced by the recent polls highlighted on the Europe Scotland thread. What they don’t have any longer is a level of support sufficient that they can push for the one thing they really want (independence).

    Secessionist parties tend to want to compete mostly on the centre-periphery axis of competition (in the Scottish context that’s Westminster v Holyrood). The SNP’s problem is that Brexit has forced them to take a position on another centre-periphery axis (EU v UK). Unfortunately for them how the Scottish electorate sits on the one axis doesn’t mirror the other. A small but significant number of pro-independence voters are no more enthusiastic about Scotland being in the EU than they are about it being in the UK. That’s one reason why Brexit, and the SNP selling independence primarily as a means by which Scotland can remain in the EU/single market, has yet to shift the polls decisively in favour of independence.

    At the same time as all this is happening the fact that the SNP remains (and at the moment looks set to remain) in government at Holyrood forces it to take positions on a left-right axis as well as on the two centre-periphery ones. This makes it harder for them to take positions that satisfy all of their support base.

  18. This problem is exacerbated by the clause written into the SNP constitution (quite recently I think) that the party’s elected representatives are not allowed to disagree with each other in public. Personally I think that is a mad way to run a political party – all parties, and certainly ones seeking to govern, have to maintain a relaively broad chuch of opinion. At times in the last parliament I actually found the SNP’s unanimity on absolutely everything to be quite unsettling, like a hive mind more than a group of inidividuals – and moreover this unanimity limits their appeal to voters who, for example, believe in multilateral disarmament. It also means that internal squabbles are bottled up in a way that could be damaging for them in the long term.

  19. “This problem is exacerbated by the clause written into the SNP constitution (quite recently I think) that the party’s elected representatives are not allowed to disagree with each other in public”.

    Interesting, Polltroll. That’s not something I was aware of. That would certainly hinder them in adopting what much if the literature on party competition calls a “blurring strategy”. Most secessionist parties tend to take a strong stance on the centre-periphery axis while “blurring” their stance on the left-right one.

    As I say though, incumbency makes that difficult in any case.

  20. It presents the party as united but is one step away from the thought police

  21. Local council by-election in Tain & Easter Ross tomorrow.

    The area is fairly typical of this constituency, albeit significantly more urban!

  22. To clarify the ward is situated in the Caithness, Sutherland & Easter Ross UK Parliamentary constituency.

  23. There has been a lot of coverage in the press recently about how Ian Blackford treated Charles Kennedy and his campaign staff during the 2015 election campaign. An interview last week where Blackford talked about the “good nature” of the campaign has faced a strong rebuttal from across the political spectrum. Kennedy’s former campaign manager has also released a complaint he made to the police over Blackford’s behaviour.

  24. Interesting.

    This is now the safest SNP seat in Scotland, it would be surprising if they ever lost it.

  25. I think the last 2 elections have shown that all seats can be lost! It’s just a matter of when (and who…as the Tories slipped into 2nd place in 2017).

  26. Seems like this argument mostly focuses on Charles Kennedy’s alcoholism.

    Is that fair game? Well, I can quite see that going hard on your opponent’s health problems could be seen as insensitive, but conversely for local people, surely it’s important that their elected representative is healthy enough to represent them? (See also my views on Jared O’Mara – his health problems give him a certain amount of leeway in terms of character judgement, but that’s no comfort for the people of Sheffield Hallam, who are left with an MP whose health problems are stopping him standing up for them.)

  27. I suppose it is surprising that the LDs dropped to third here but still gained relatively eurosceptic caithness.

    Charles Kennedy had a very large personal vote in the highlands but the SNP also seem pretty well established having first won Inverness East and Locahber at Holyrood in 1999. The LDs have a knack for local by elections in the highlands but may still struggle beyond that.

    I suppose if this seat is ever lost it will be to the LDs rather than SNP but only in an SNP meltdown scenario where they drop to 20% or less if you see what I mean.

  28. Somehow Labour have posted a bunch if Welsh-language campaign leaflets to homes in the Scottish Highlands:

  29. Blackford immediately asks for a second referendum in the Queens speech debate. This will be the real battle in next two years or so.

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