Caithness, Sutherland & Easter Ross

2015 Result:
Conservative: 2326 (6.8%)
Labour: 3061 (9%)
Lib Dem: 11987 (35.1%)
SNP: 15831 (46.3%)
UKIP: 981 (2.9%)
MAJORITY: 3844 (11.2%)

Category: Semi-marginal SNP seat


Main population centres:



Current MP
PAUL MONAGHAN (SNP) First elected as MP for Caithness, Sutherland & Easter Ross in 2015.
Past Results
Con: 3744 (13%)
Lab: 7081 (25%)
LDem: 11907 (41%)
SNP: 5516 (19%)
Oth: 520 (2%)
MAJ: 4826 (17%)
Con: 2835 (10%)
Lab: 5789 (21%)
LDem: 13957 (50%)
SNP: 3686 (13%)
Oth: 1396 (5%)
MAJ: 8168 (30%)
Con: 3513 (14%)
Lab: 6297 (25%)
LDem: 9041 (36%)
SNP: 5273 (21%)
Oth: 743 (3%)
MAJ: 2744 (11%)
Con: 3148 (11%)
Lab: 8122 (28%)
LDem: 10381 (36%)
SNP: 6710 (23%)
Oth: 811 (3%)
MAJ: 2259 (8%)

2015 Candidates
ALASTAIR GRAHAM (Conservative) Headmaster. Surrey Heath councillor since 2007. Contested Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross 2010.
JOHN ERSKINE (Labour) Educated at Dingwall Academy and Stirling University. Parliamentary assistant.
JOHN THURSO (Liberal Democrat) Born 1953, Thurso, the grandson of former Liberal leader Archibald Sinclair.. Educated at Eton. Chief executive of a hotel group. MP for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross 2001 to 2015. The third Viscount Thurso, he sat in the House of Lords from 1995 until hereditary peers were removed in 1999. He is one of three hereditary peers to have sat in the Commons, but the only one who previously served in the Lords (the others are Viscount Hailsham (Douglas Hogg) and the Marquess of Lothian (Michael Ancram) - both of whom inherited their peerages when already MPs).
Comments - 175 Responses on “Caithness, Sutherland & Easter Ross”
  1. Precisely zero chance of the Tories contending here in the foreseeable future. I’m not convinced that the Lib Dems will recover in the Highland seats either – although Iit’s more of a feeling than having any specific reason to justify that. I do think they have a good chance of winning East Dunbartonshire and Edinburgh West back next time round.

  2. I don’t. History shows that the Lib Dem vote usually collapses in the election after the one in which they lost a seat, sometimes even if the former MP remains the candidate. The total invisibility of the Lib Dems since May 2015 will make it very difficult for them to maintain the mountain of tactical votes they need in seats like Dunbartonshire.

  3. I think the lib dems are effectively dead and buried for at least the next decade and don’t buy their ‘we’re living in an age of huge political volatility’ argument.
    Strange as with a left-wing labour party, a right-wing tory party, a totally opportunistic SNP and UKIP, the uk needs a genuinely centrist partying

  4. East Dunbartonshire and Edinburgh West have better chances if only because the former MPs there are young enough to consider running again, and they may retain some personal vote (especially Jo Swinson who is highly likeable and not overly tainted by the coalition). Eventually some sort of opposition to the SNP will have to emerge, one-party states don’t last (at least in the developed world) but whether that is a currently existing party, and whether that happens before Scotland secedes from the UK, is far less certain.

    I’m not sure I agree too much about the loss of tactical votes. In places like this the Lib Dems can produce credible bar charts showing how they are only only party that can beat the incumbents. (Mind you, they tried that trick in my seat of Faversham and Mid-Kent, boasting of their 2010 second place and how they were the only party that could beat the Conservatives. That they required a 20% swing to do so, in an election where they were forecast to lose two thirds of their vote share, didn’t seem to bother them.)

  5. How about a Green MP here? Since the Second World War everybody else has bad a go!

    Except that I forgot, the Greens would hardly go down well at Dounreay.

  6. “History shows that the Lib Dem vote usually collapses in the election after the one in which they lost a seat” – there’s always the odd exception though (Southport springs to mind)

    Would be surprised if the Lib Dems retook this seat in 2020 though. Unless there’s a huge upturn in their fortunes they’ll presumably be concentrating on about 15 seats and I doubt this would be one of them

  7. It really depends on the fortunes of the SNP – if and when their bubble pops I would expect the majority of Scottish seats to simply return to the nearest challenger – so 9 LD seats (ignoring boundary changes).

  8. Caithness is NUmber 17 on the LibDem target list. So I don’t see why if they are concentrating on about fifteen target seats this should not be one of them, particularly as some apparently likely LbDem targets, for instance in London, do not on closer insepction look that good.

    This said, Caithness and Sutherland is probably so remote, and large, thatthe outcome iis decided, for other parties as well as the LibDems, by local resources and connections.

    A major point in the LIbDems’ favour is that if the SNP slip up (and their majority is not that large) there is no other alternative, sort of a new party and candidate starting from scratch.

  9. In fact I’d say this would be one of the LDs best prospects for gaining back anything they lost… only unionist party that remotely stands a chance in seat that demographically probably isn’t one of the SNP’s strongest (so vulnerable when the bubble bursts, which it could by 2020).

    Seats against Tory first time incumbents will be extremely tough, especially as most are in areas that are naturally quite favourable for the Tories. And in seats they lost to LAB they often did so by such large majorities that they’re effectively out of the running (in any case many of these seats had the type of demographic that Corbyn might do well with if he’s still around).

  10. The councillor standing for the SNP here, Gail Ross, seems to be highly regarded within the SNP, and I would expect Nicola Sturgeon to name her to her cabinet at some point within the parliament, if the SNP form the government.

    The same is probably true of Shirley-Anne Somerville in Dunfermline and Jeanne Freeman in Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley, as Sturgeon tries to make her gender-balanced cabinet stronger.

  11. Mark D’Arcy reports ( that John Thurso is standing in the hereditary peer by-election to replace Lord Avebury. He previously sat in the Lords until 1999, when he wasn’t among the 90 (+ Earl Marshal and Lord Great Chamberlain) to be elected to stay on.

  12. I gather the election is on April 17th. I am curious to know how long the polling station will be open for.

    It makes Old Sarum look like a model of democracy!

  13. Viscount Thurso won the by-election with 100% of the votes. Unusual, but not unique in going from the Lords to the Commons and back to the Lords again (Douglas-Home, Hailsham before him).

  14. Congratulations to Lord Thurso.

  15. Was this the election with 9 candidates and 3 voters?

  16. Indeed. Though I’m a strong supporter of an appointed Lords I’ve never really understood why the provision for these by-elections hasn’t been abolished. Keeping 92 hereditaries when the House of Lords Act 1999 was passed was a sensible transitional move, but surely there is no compelling reason for them to be replaced when they die or retire. Suitable hereditaries can be appointed as life peers anyway (indeed, some have been).

  17. If they weren’t replaced when they die or retire, they wouldn’t be hereditaries, would they?

  18. They would still be hereditary *peers*, as the ones that haven’t been elected are. There just wouldn’t be a process by which a set number of hereditary peers are elected to the House of Lords.

  19. I’m assuming that with John Thurso’s “election” to the Lords any slim prospect of a Lib Dem recovery here in 2020 are probably over

  20. Can’t he renounce his peerage again if the Lib Dems fortunes take a turn for the better?

  21. Its going to be many years until the SNP’s ascendency is weakened.

    Just look how long Labour’s lasted. The pendulum swings slowly in Scotland.

  22. As a hereditary he can resign/renounce his peerage to stand for election, but someone say Ming Campbell a life Peer can’t. (not that Ming Campbell would want to return to the HoC after retiring but hopefully you get my point)

  23. ‘I’m assuming that with John Thurso’s “election” to the Lords any slim prospect of a Lib Dem recovery here in 2020 are probably over’

    Doubt it will make much of a difference

    One of the lessons of the 2015 election was that electorates tend not to like candidates they have already kicked out – as plenty of Lib Dem candidates in 2015 can testify

    As with the rest of Scotland I think it’s a case of waiting for the SNP to implode and then seeing what happens next – although there seems faint chance of that happening any time soon

  24. Not sure whether this is the definitive list of 2015 retreads:

    If so it suggests they didn’t perform well. All but three of the 19 quoted were defeated.

    However only one (the victorious Boris Johnson) was standing for a party that didn’t lose seats overall. The other two victors were standing for Labour in London. Possibly then the poor outcome for retreads is just a reflection of the national outcome (with the added caveat of the strong Labour performance in London) rather than the fact the electorate don’t like voting for retreads.

  25. Yes. Retreats didn’t do especially badly, just they didn’t do better than might have been expected in the context of the national result. I don’t think that’s surprising – whilst some may be well known local figures that fades in the five years they’re out of office, and their successor is able to establish a personal vote of their own.

    To be pedantic Alex Salmond was also a successful retreat, as was Rob Marris in Wolverhampton South West. So five in total – Johnson, Salmond, Ryan, Butler, Marris.

  26. Marris (who I missed out) was the only victor standing for a party that lost seats overall, and who wasn’t the beneficiary of a favourable regional swing.

  27. Not sure why my previous post has come out as retreats, not retreads – possibly autocorrect.

    Marris did buck the Midlands swing but I think the general view is that that particular constituency is trending to Labour.

  28. Given that the vast majority of them were Labour candidates in an election where Labour made very little progress, you wouldn’t expect many of them to win.

  29. Well, practically all Lib Dems standing in non-incumbent seats had big swings against them so I wouldn’t necessarily put those cases down to the candidates. Obviously I haven’t done a regression analysis to see if retreads did worse than other non-incumbents but I’d be surprised if there was anything significant.

  30. I think that retreads who try to stand in a different seat probably fare badly because they look like carpetbaggers who have already been rejected elsewhere.

    The other thing about many Labour retreads is that they are often going to be fighting seats that are trending away from the party given they were largely lost in 2010, and they have to overcome first time incumbency, so in many cases, you’d expect not great results.

  31. ‘Well, practically all Lib Dems standing in non-incumbent seats had big swings against them so I wouldn’t necessarily put those cases down to the candidates.’

    But you’d expect candidates who had been MPs for the area – like Goldsworthy and Younger-Ross to name two examples – to have some kind of personal vote, which would save them from the complete drubbing suffered by most of their colleagues, but there doesn’t seem to be any evidence of this whatsoever. In fact the opposite seems to have happened

  32. Would you really expect ex-MPs to retain a significant personal vote 5 years after losing office?

  33. “Would you really expect ex-MPs to retain a significant personal vote 5 years after losing office?”

    Maybe not but worth remembering that Richard Younger-Ross has been a county councillor in Teignmouth since 2013 so you’d have thought that might count for something? Of course maybe the electorate still hadn’t forgotten his expenses claims.

  34. How much of the seat does he represent as a county councillor? Presumably a relatively small fraction, so unless he has a massive personal vote there, it’s likely to make very little difference.

  35. ‘Would you really expect ex-MPs to retain a significant personal vote 5 years after losing office?’

    I didn’t say ‘significant personal vote’ but ‘some kind of personal vote’ ie: enough to prevent the type of swings Younger-Ross and Goldsworthy got against them

    Both MPs were quite personable as well although as Mike says they both had – albeit relatively minor – ‘issues’ with their expenses in 2010

  36. Apparently the Leave vote was quite high around Caithness, Sutherland & Easter Ross at around 49% of the vote.

  37. I wonder if Viscount Thurso has any plans on stepping down from the Lords again and try to regain his old seat?

  38. The Lib Dems are now favourites for this seat 8/11 with SNP at evens. The sitting MP I believe is the most vehement nationalist of the current crop.

  39. I would be surprised if the Lib Dems took this seat back, but it’s one of their best chances.

  40. Or better chances, rather.

  41. The Lib Dem candidate should be selected on Saturday

  42. Lib Dems have chances in Edinburgh West, Fife NE and East Dunbartonshire but I really can’t see them even getting close here, tactical unwind will result in a larger SNAP majority imo.

  43. The Lib Dems have selected former MSP Jamie Stone as their candidate here

  44. It could be a shock gain, but… I sincerely doubt it. It would take a direct SNP to LD vote flow, because there’s not really anything left to take from Con or Lab.

  45. I agree with mr Pitt the LDs will find a really nice candidate who will hoover up SNP votes and take the seat

  46. Stone did make significant gains from the SNP in the equivalent Scottish Parliament seat last year, but not enough to win

  47. So do we think it is a plausible target? Noted that Farron only mentioned NEF, EW and ED in his interview on the so-called “battle bus” this morning

  48. I agree. I just meant that it’s notable that he didn’t even feel like ramping this.

  49. An LD gain could be possible here. Swing needed is about 6%.

    This does not need 1/8 SNP voters to switch direct to LD. Could be achieved by a combination of:
    – SNP abstentions
    – old LD abstentions voting again
    – switchers from Con or Lab to LD
    – switchers from SNP to Con or Lab

    Note that turnout in 2015 was much higher than 2010 or any previous year.
    Abstentionsy those who voted SNP for first time are likeliest to be biggest factor in any change of MP.

  50. Possible but unlikely, I think. If Monaghan really is too virulent for some, that could flip it just, but I don’t think so. It’s the best LD prospect outside of NEF, ED and EW, but that’s really not saying much.

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