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. A closer look at the result in Ross, Cromarty and Skye in 1987-
    Kennedy (SDP)- 18, 809 (49.40%, +10.88%)
    Spencer Nairn (Conservative)- 7, 490 (19.67%, -14.0%)
    MacMillan (Labour)- 7, 287 (19.14%, +5.18%)
    Gibson (SNP)- 4, 492 (11.80%, -2.05%)

    Majority- 11, 319 (29.73%)
    Swing- +12.44% From Con to SNP.

  2. I can understand why the word “ultra-safe” is used because, on the face of it, the Lib Dem percentage share is very big. However, it is probably not ultra-safe in reality as without Charles Kennedy, this seat could just as easily be a Labour seat or SNP seat. People are of the centre-left here and quite considerable swings have hapened in the past, not least in Scottish Parliamentary elections.
    So, a Lib Dem hold, certainly with Charles Kennedy as candidate, but with Labour a closer second.

  3. Kennedy is so popular in these parts that at the next elections I would say he is certain to get a majority much higher than the one he had when he first won Ross, Cromarty and Skye way back in 1983.

  4. You don’t think the SNP pose a big threat to him?

  5. @AndyJS
    Well I’d imagine that they’d be on for some sort of increase, but obviously nowhere near enough to cause him any nightmares.

    On the other side of the coin, as CatholicLeft pointed out, things could get very interesting here in the future should Kennedy stand down.

  6. A closer look at the result in Ross and Cromarty in 1964-
    Mackenzie (Liberal)- 6, 923 (40.24%, +16.56%)
    MacLeod (National Liberal)- 5, 516 (32.06%, -15.16%)
    Ross (Labour)- 4, 767 (27.71%, -1.39%)

    Majority- 1, 407 (8.18%)
    Swing- +15.86% From National Lib to Lib.

  7. A closer look at the result in Ross, Cromarty and Skye in 1983- (With notional vote share changes in brackets)-
    Kennedy (SDP)- 13, 528 (38.5%, +17.3%)
    Watt (Conservative)- 11, 824 (33.7%, -5.4%)
    Elder (Labour)- 4, 901 (14.0%, -3.1%)
    Matheson (SNP)- 4, 863 (13.9%, -8.5%)

    Majority- 1, 704 (4.9%)
    Swing- +11.35% From Con to SDP.

  8. Kennedy’s biggest majority to date was 14,249 over Labour in 2005 (his second, and last, election as Liberal Democrat leader) and his smallest was 1,704 in 1983 (when he beat the then junior energy minister Hamish Gray, who had represented the area since 1970 when he in turn had defeated the two-term Liberal incumbent Alasdair Mackenzie)

  9. LD HOLD MAJ: 12.4%
    LD 34
    LAB 21
    SNP 19
    CON 10
    UKIP 8
    GRN 6
    OTH 2

  10. I think Kennedy will win more easily than that. I’m not sure whether Labour or the SNP will be second, for what it’s worth.

  11. The SNP will come 2nd here and Kennedy will hold on by 3000+.

    I hiked from Shiel Bridge to Achnashellach in May.

  12. LD: 40%
    SNP: 23%
    LAB: 18%
    CON: 9%
    UKIP: 6%
    GRN: 5%

  13. LD: 14000
    SNP: 7750
    LAB: 6250
    CON: 3000
    UKIP: 2000
    GRN: 1600

  14. 2015 prediction
    (But quite a range on either side).

    *LD 37% -16%
    Lab 23% +8%
    SNP 22% +7%
    Con 13% +1%
    Green 3% +1%
    UKIP 2% +0%
    LD Hold Maj 14%

  15. Would be extremely surprised if Kennedy’s vote fell that much. Highland seats are well known for voting on personality grounds. Surely the SNP will be a clear second.

  16. Plenty of SNP supporters fancy their chances here.

  17. Majorities do move around quite a lot though in some of those personal voting seats.

    I’m not quite sure who will come second but I’m not expecting a particularly good SNP result in 2015 overall.

    It does seem that the referendum is narrowing – for the moment – although I am a Unionist, the Yes campaigners sound a bit patronising and scaremongering – but when it’s all over I think it’ll be beaten by about 10-12% and the SNP will be a bit stunted in 2015 GE

  18. sorry the NO campaigners

  19. I think No will win, but that the SNP will do pretty well in 2015. Scots will know that the SNP doing badly will most likely kill any prospect of devo max. They will not want an incoming Labour(-led) government taking them for granted nor welshing on their promises for further devolution.

  20. Despite the narrowing poll lead of No to independence, I have found it really hard to gauge what the feeling in Scotland really is. The polls have been saying one thing for absolutely ages, but look on social media and the readers of papers like the Guardian. Their profile pictures and avatars are filled with “Yes” campaign logos and are quite optimistic about the prospects of winning.

  21. Its exactly the type of question that produces a sharp last minute turn to the status quo.

  22. prediction for 2015-

    Lib- 35%
    SNP- 26%
    Lab- 19%
    con- 9%
    UKIP- 6%
    Green- 4%

  23. Charles Kennedy is safe in this seat but some parts will have voted Yes. (Overall Highland Council region was 53/47 to No). Skye and Lochalsh has been claimed by Yes supporters – and the local Lib Dem councilor voted Yes there. And I suspect that Yes will have had a good vote in Fort William too which has some quite deprived areas. Easter Ross, on the other hand, will have been strongly No. Danny Alexander and John Thurso are at greater risk from the SNP.

  24. Well, I was amusing myself by browsing ElectionForecast, and I came across this little item: they give the SNP a 99% chance of taking this seat.

    I had thought Kennedy would be quite safe, but that is some degree of certainty. I never put much stock in these prediction sites, but that’s a very committed guess on their part. What are they seeing that I’m not?

  25. I believe Election Forecast takes the referendum result into account, so it may be the case that Ross, Skye and Lochaber had a higher Yes vote than Caithness (95% chance of SNP gain), for example, although I’m unsure if that information is actually available to the public. So they seem to directly associate the Yes vote with the SNP.

    A similar bonkers one is Motherwell and Wishaw, which have as a 97% chance of an SNP gain. The seat is in North Lanarkshire, which voted Yes, which would probably explain such a high percentage, even though the SNP have next to no chance of taking the seat.

    I believe the same site had the SNP with a 47% of taking Orkney and Shetland a couple of weeks ago.

  26. Another one that sees most Scottish Seats going to the SNP is electoral calculus – although there will be some seat changes in Scotland, this isn’t one that I’d expect.

  27. The problem with Electoral Calculus is the opposite of Election Forecast, since it only seems to look at swing. I think too much has happened in Scottish politics over the last four years for swing to be uniformly applied.

    On Electoral Calculus, for Glasgow East to be projected as a Labour hold, whereas Glasgow North West is given as an SNP gain. If the SNP were to reach the levels its projecting, the greatest likelihood is that Glasgow East would be the more achievable seat by a long way.

    Electoral Forecast seems to have the right idea in taking in a number of factors other than uniform swing, but it looks like it’s weighing some factors too heavily.

  28. Exactly. If Charles Kennedy has an only 1% chance of winning… well, i don’t even know. What I do know is that the Lib Dems will lose Berwickshire (51% chance of hold on EF) before they lose Ross, Skye, etc. (1% chance of hold).

  29. Ian Blackford selected for the SNP.

    According to an article from 2000, he was “tipped as a future leadership contender “, before trying to sue Alex Salmond, which doesn’t get you far in the party.

    However, he seems to have a decent profile in the seat, particularly on Skye.

  30. Has anyone heard the rumour that this is one of the seats that Lord Ashcroft is polling in his latest set of constituency polls.

    I thought he would do Inverness but not this one, but he might have decided to check all eleven Scottish LibDem seats.

    Has anyone had a seat specific on-line or telephone poll?



    I am not sure what happened more than a decade ago with Ian is anything more than handbags, but reading Anthony’s profile at the top I doubt it comes close to;

    “He stepped down from the leadership following a threat of mass-resignations by the Liberal Democrat frontbench.”


  32. A lot of people are on tenterhooks to see whether Ashcroft is going to carry out constituency polling in Scotland. The national Scottish polls are difficult to get to grips with, showing such a massive swing from Lab to SNP.

  33. I’d heard he definitely was?

    I can’t imagine him polling O&S, but every other Scottish LD seat would make sense to poll.

  34. Pretty sure he tweeted something about constituency polling in Scotland reporting fairly soon. The main question is whether he gets the right seats to tell us a lot about what’s going on. If he only does the more marginal seats, it may not tell us a great deal about how far the SNP surge is actually carrying them.

  35. Simon -,agree fully.

    If the Scotland wide polls are correct, the “new marginals” will be the Central belt seats where Labour have a 20-30% majority – like East Kilbride, Kilmarnock, Lanark, Midlothian. It would be fascinating to see polls for these type of constituencies, especially to see if there is any difference between the “how will you vote” and how will you vote in THIS constituency”. Labour must be hoping (praying?) for an incumbency bonus.

  36. The Mori Poll for Scotland still shows a huge SNP lead…SNP 52 Lab 24 Con 12 and LD 4.

    The Panelbase poll that showed the SNP lead reduced to 10% may have give some comfort to Labour (and the Lib Dems) but is inconsistent with Survation and Mori that show much larger SNP leads.

    Apparently, the Panelbase voting intention question was asked after a question about the impact of the oil price on the Scottish Oil Industry.

  37. Throwaway comments like yours are a good indication of how Scotland is slipping inexorably towards the SNP and eventual independence, regardless of the referendum. People and organisations are comfortable using terminology which completely concede to the SNP’s arguments.

    There is technically no such thing as the “Scottish oil industry” and it would never have been described as such 10 years ago. Currently the sea around the UK is not apportioned into bits “owned” by England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland. To do so requires negotiation and probably international arbitration. To date it has not been decided how much, if any, offshore oil belongs to Scotland.

  38. Either geographically or politically, it is hard to argue that no such thing as a Scottish oil industry exists.

    Firstly, all the main oil and gas land installations are within Scottish territory, in particularly Aberdeen, Grangemouth and recently Shetland.

    Secondly, Scottish maritime territory is clearly defined under the Scottish Adjacent Waters Boundaries Order. The clear differences between Scots and English Law have made this necessary. It is recognized as a border in law for fisheries, and it would be wholly inconsistent to argue that this would not also apply to oil and gas.

    As such, the sea is “apportioned” into bits – if not “owned” – then certainly administrated by Scotland, and by the rest of the UK.

    The “It’s Scotland’s Oil’ argument has also been used by the SNP since the 1970s, and has been in the mainstream since the 1990s.

  39. The argument has, yes, but there has been no widely-accepted agreement recognised by the UK government.

    There are plenty of land-based oil and gas installations in England and Wales too.

  40. I do honestly wonder, to take this argument back to the seat at hand, if Kennedy could fall. It’s obviously unlikely, but if there’s a huge shock on the night, I wouldn’t think it’s that implausible that this could be it.

    If the SNP eats up a lot of Labour and Lib Dem voters, they could get around 35-40 percent, which would probably be enough here.

  41. Rural Highland seats can kick out incumbents if there’s a massive local issue, like the closure of Invergordon steel works which got Kennedy into parliament in the first place. Otherwise incumbents are usually safe come rain or shine.

    Inverness is perhaps different as it is not so rural. I certainly expect Kennedy and Thurso’s seats to behave this way however.

  42. Yes, I do think Thurso and Kennedy will both hold, but I just wouldn’t be utterly shocked if they didn’t. We have no real comparison for this course of events, after all.

    Alexander is all but certain to lose, however.

  43. I know this is a slightly delicate issue to raise but I wonder the extent to which Kennedy’s continuing struggles with alcohol might impact here, especially if he’s relying on a personal vote to see him home. I have to say I’m getting more pessimistic about his chances as time goes on. Thurso, I think, is clearly odds-on to lose.

  44. The thing is, we talk about Thurso being a “popular” MP. However, there will be a significant part of the constituents that will be unable to even name their MP, which is obviously not the case for Charles Kennedy.

    Furthermore, Thurso’s 41.4% to the SNP’s 19.2% is not a particularly big cushion in the circumstances. With the inevitable reduction in Thurso’s vote, one would imagine that the SNP would only need 35% to take the seat.

  45. Furthermore, given that the “Liberal” element is very probably stronger than the “Democratic” element in these seats (even though CK himself was in the SDP), there is a likelihood that a Ukip candidate might affect the Lib Dem incumbents in these seats, even it’s just be 2/3%.

  46. Charles Kennedy was the only SDP MP ever to achieve a 5 figure majority (over 11000 in 1987….up from around 1000 in 1983).

    Kennedy was also helped in 1983 by the boundary changes that not only added Skye but much of Inverness – shire. Russell Grey would have held the old Ross & Cromarty.

  47. I personally think the SNP and Labour will be about tied in the polls come election day.

    I’d expect the Scotland breakdown to look a bit like this:

    LAB 31
    SNP 22
    LD 5
    CON 1

  48. I struggle to see how Labour can catch the SNP, and vice-versa, how the SNP can fall back so far to allow Labour to catch them.

    The SNP are holding a lot of trump cards at the moment, and these are likely to be strengthened over the next few months for the following reasons:

    1. The SNP’s inclusion in the TV debates doesn’t give Labour the added advantage they had five years ago. Alternatively, the SNP would also benefit from no TV debates.
    2. On the ground, the SNP will have ten times the number of canvassers Labour have, given the increase in members.
    3. The incredibly low popularity ratings for Ed Milliband, which also diminishes any bounce following a direct Milliband vs Cameron 1v1 debate.
    4. A change od Scottish Labour leader is likely to be of little effect in the Westminster election. Who can remember McLeish’s, McConnell’s and Iain Gray’s interventions in past elections?
    5. Labour are not in government, meaning no swingback on a national level.
    6. The SNP are nearing the end of their 5-year term in Holyrood. It might be too early for swingback, but they seem to have passed their zenith some time ago.

    Labour have a real uphill struggle, and the best I can see them making it is 35 v 38 against, which would still see them holding onto a large number of their seats.

  49. In fact, with the following figures:
    SNP 38%
    LAB 35%
    CON 15%
    LIB 7%

    Scotland Votes comes up with almost the same seat prediction as yours, PT Richards, at:
    LAB 31
    SNP 23
    CON 1
    LIB 4

    Although that’s not what I’m predicting!

  50. LAB 31
    SNP 23
    CON 1
    LIB 4

    Those numbers seem about right. At the moment I think the LDs will win 2 in Scotland, although it’s not unreasonable to assume their floor is 4 and could get a few lucky breaks as well.
    SNP outpolling Labour yet having fewer seats is a distinct possibility

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