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. To clarify, I don’t think that the Lib Dems shouldn’t try to work in these seats, but I do object to English Lib Dem posters repeatedly saying that they’ll hold on in so many seats. Whatever their campaign tactics, they aren’t in a position to defend many of their Scottish seats, and even considerable Tory lent votes won’t save them. In short, I am worried that this will help more SNP members win elections by slim margins.

    In defense of H.Hemmelig, SNP voters won’t all stick with the party. I’d be interested in there was any polling into this, but I have a strong feeling that the party has switched one set of supporters for another. Reading over old fields regarding SNP tactics in South Perthshire, North Perthshire and their Aberdeenshire seats, it is clear the party marketed themselves as a centre-right, or at least pro-enterprise party. Unlike Iain, I don’t think they won by being anti-Tory, otherwise in these Unionist seats Labour or the Lib Dems might have done better, the won by being Tories you could vote for with a clean conscience.

    To a degree they can straddle the moderate “Tartan Tory” and Radical Nationalist camps, but they are bound to lose some of the former in years ahead. I know a number of young SNP activists who have joined us recently as they are fed up with party policy, but it goes wider than that with much improved numbers for the Conservatives in areas were in effect, only those two parties are in the running. I doubt it’ll be enough at this election to shift any seats, but long term a more left wing stance on certain issues, particularly rural issues, taxation, independent schools and welfare will hurt them in the areas H.Hemmelig described. In all probability a worthwhile sacrifice if it kills off the Labour party in Scotland, but not something that will help them everywhere.

  2. Robbie:

    Despite what I replied to H. Hemmelig, I think your Conservative vote for this seat is low.

    I can only think of one MP standing down in the last 20 years who had as much popularity as Ming Campbell. That was Alex Salmond in 2010, and it led to an 11.4% rise in the Tory vote at the next election.

    I don’t think I’m pushing the boat out to suggest Banff and Buchan as a precedent, and that in NE Fife a big chunk of that LD vote will return to voting Conservative.

    I would back the Conservatives to increase their vote by at least 5% here, and could maybe even hit 30%.

    I never take insider canvassing information as anything but wishful thinking, but what Marcus Buist has been experiencing would make sense to me.

  3. The SNP is struggling now with actual power, as are the Lib Dems. The problem with big tent parties gaining power is that they have to implement a real agenda, which invariably irritates much of their base. Ah well. Thus is politics.

  4. The difference between the way that the SNP and the Lib Dems are struggling with power is about 40 percentage points in the polls.

  5. Well played, Simon.

  6. The SNP don’t have any proper power, ie no responsibility for taxation etc. They are just divvying up the Barnett grant from London and blame the coalition for whatever they have to cut. I’d argue that’s quite different to the power the Lib Dems have had to take responsibility for. The SNP may well have gone the way of the Lib Dems popularity whilst running an independent Scotland.

  7. Another straw in the wind – did anyone see Charles Kennedy on This Week last night? He was amazingly pessimistic about Lib Dem (and Labour) prospects in Scotland.

  8. It’s a bit of a moot point now, but I think the SNP would have essentially collapsed in an independent Scotland. Eventually, unionism would become much less of a factor, and there likely would have been the reverse situation: one unionist party and a most supporting continued independence. I tend to think you’d end up with a centrist/liberal party, a conservative one, and a socialist/social democratic one, with a more minor unionist party as well (likely only seriously competitive in the Borders and maybe Orkney and Shetland after awhile).

    And no, I didn’t happen to catch Kennedy’s appearance.

  9. Whilst I appreciate Ming is likely to have a string incumbency that will be lost, I do think this area seems to be more naturally Liberal (and thus more worth fighting for in the medium to long term) than some other Scots LD defences. The relatively touristy economy seems to be a slight liberal predictor elsewhere, and while the university may lose them the seat in 2015 I’d say academic voters and students are still in the medium term broadly a naturally liberal bloc.

    I don’t think Kennedy’s been at all happy since 2010; the gains he made as leader for his party are about to be (perhaps more than) wiped out, his ludicrously safe seat might even be challenged for, and the party has swung heavily to the right. I can imagine him making an “I told you so” front bench return when Farron tries to pull a shell shocked party back together…

  10. Have we ever considered the possibility Kennedy might make another run at the leadership after the election?

  11. I suppose it’s not impossible, though I think he’d get mauled by Farron in such an election if he did (and I suspect he knows that) – he’ll be well placed to get back onto the front benches though.

  12. True. I think Farron – or whoever the leader is – will want to have a woman on the frontbench. If Swinson or Featherstone survive (both unlikely), they’d be sure things to be on it, but I wouldn’t put it past him to put Lisa Smart there first thing. (There aren’t too many other LD women who COULD win. Evidently the LD party leadership is hoping to gain Watford and Winchester, but that’s not a ton, and beyond that, they’ve only really got Gilmour, Porksen, Slade, Munt, and perhaps Dodds in any kind of a position to win, and each and every one of those is an underdog at present).

  13. and Moran perhaps. Though I don’t think for a moment she’ll make it.

  14. Yes, that’s true.

    Of that list (Moran, Gilmour, Porksen, Slade, Munt, Dodds, Porter, Thornhill), it would be shocking if two made it. Maybe one might (my bet would be Thornhill, Porksen, and Gilmour are the most likely), but… if two did, I’d be shocked.

    It wouldn’t be at all surprising if Lisa Smart is the only LD woman in parliament come May 8.

  15. This is a seat that really needs a constituency poll done. Even then, it will be so tight that it could go either the Conservatives, Lib Dems or Scot Nats.

    My current prediction would be:
    Con: 30%
    LD: 27%
    SNP: 25%
    Lab: 9%
    OTH: 9%

    The loss of Ming Campbell will help the Conservatives most, and I have noticed a small but general LD movement to the Conservatives across Scotland. Not sure if they are pleased with Cameron or like the Conservative policies on the economy….

    Either way, I think the Nats will just fail to come second, but the other parties UKIP and the Greens may do quite well. Of the two, I reckon the Greens will hold their deposit, but then I am biased.

  16. The Lib Dem candidate here is also truly awful! Perhaps if Campbell works heavily with him this can be covered up, but I think local news stories will do Cllr Brett more harm than Menzies can do him good.

  17. Michael… to what do you refer? The Elmwood Collage matter or something more enduring?

  18. So much horseshit on here I could shovel it into the roses in my garden.

    So the Tories are going to increase their vote from 22% to 30% when it’s going to fall by 5% or more nationally, and they are going to get booted out of Downing Street? Yeah right.

  19. At this point, maybe we should all just give up on commenting on this until we get a constituency poll. Literally no one agrees.

  20. Well, I think everyone would agree there will be a significant decline in the Lib Dem vote and a significant rise in the SNP vote. What happens with the Conservative and Labour shares is uncertain — if there’s tactical voting in this seat that won’t shape up until the final weeks of the campaign.

    Since a 15% straight swing from Lib Dem to SNP would leave the SNP short, I still have this as a probable Lib Dem hold. But at this point I think predictions for seats in Scotland need to be even more tentative than elsewhere.

  21. That’s a very sensible post and I personally agree with your prediction/conclusion.

    But I’m absolutely amazed that anyone seriously thinks this could be a Con gain. They are way too far behind to have a cat in hell’s chance, in an election where they will be going backwards nationally and, at best, might inch forward slightly in Scotland.

  22. I think HH that some Scottish Conservatives are living in the past rather than the present, and have gained too much encouragement from the Scotland-wide No vote.

  23. I think some English commentators are living in the past and don’t realise what a good chance the Tories have here! As I have said, I am a Green and a tentative Yes voter so lets not suggest I am totally deranged blue rinse Tory.

    The SNP just aren’t ready to take this, and LD defectors are as likely to pick the Conservatives as the SNP or Greens. Possibly more so in an affluent seat like this. I hope they fall short, but I can seriously see them winning.

    I understand two private constituency polls are ongoing atm, so perhaps one of those may leak?

  24. I’ve been having a look at some of the constituency odds this morning, and with very little real value left since the SNP have come down in price almost everywhere (only Livingston and East Kilbride seem to constitute real value for money, in my view) I was surprised to find the Tories at 20/1 in North East Fife (particularly because I’d backed them at 10/1 last month!).

    I know a lot of people here have been dismissive over their chances of winning the seat, but with the Lib Dems in freefall and Ming-less, and the demographics of the seat not being favourable to the SNP, 20/1 for the Tories seems bizarrely overpriced.

  25. Not at all. They’ve been basket cases there for a number of years despite its demographics.

  26. Much of the Menzies Campbell vote will be the traditional Scottish anti-Tory party vote. It seems odd to suggest that much of it will then flow to the Tories, especially given that those Lib Dems who stay loyal will be the centre/centre right voters who are relatively happy with the coalition. It’s the lefty folks who either voted tactically or who are Lib Dems because they don’t feel Labour is a good fit for them who will be defecting.

  27. I think the unwinding of Menzies Campbell’s vote will be very interesting indeed. I say that because, of the seats the Tories performed strongly in in 1992, this seems to be the only place where that vote has diminished to such an extent.

    In the other strong seats in 1992, their vote seems either to be:
    a) dormant (e.g. Eastwood, Dumfries & Galloway).
    b) migrated to the Lib Dems entirely (e.g. Edinburgh W., Aberdeen S.), or
    c) dissolved through demographic changes (e.g. Stirling).

    North East Fife may figure partly in either a) or b), but there is also the possibility that a large part of Campbell’s vote is “lent” from the Tories.

    So I would conclude that Campbell’s vote seems to be augmented by: a) SNP & Labour tactical votes; b) lent Tory personal votes; c) non-aligned personal votes, and d) committed Lib Dems.

    The question is, how large are a), b) d)? And what way will c) and Labour a)s split?

    I’m not actually tipping the Cons to win the seat. But surely they can’t be counted out completely?

  28. The lack of Tory progress in the Holyrood seat suggests that there may just not be as many Tories in the seat as some posters seem to think. At some point you have to be able to get the vote out to show that it actually exists. In any case, I wouldn’t have thought Campbell would be that appealing to Tory voters generally, but I may be wrong.

  29. I’m also going to say that I can’t see Labour voters deciding to tactically vote Tory in a UK election in any circumstance short of it being a de facto independence referendum. At least an SNP MP is unlikely to prop up a Tory Government.

  30. What I was actually getting at in mentioning Labour voters, was whether the majority of them would return to Labour, whether they have emigrated to the SNP, or whether they will continue voting Lib Dem as an anti-SNP, anti-Tory tactical vote. I hadn’t even considered them voting Tory!

    I don’t buy much of the anti-SNP tactical voting talk either, and I can only see it working if the Lib Dems are the challenger (e.g. Gordon, Caithness, perhaps Inverness).

    I’m beginning to become dissuaded that the Tories will have much of a chance here, since based on council elections and Holyrood elections (as you say), they really don’t seem to have much beyond 20ish% of the vote. However, the unwinding of Campbell’s vote intrigues me.

  31. It will be interesting to see where Ming’s personal vote will swing to (if anyone!).

  32. Why so, given that the Lib Dems lack incumbency here, and the SNP took the Holyrood seat in 2011? Especially given that the national picture now is pretty similar to the 2011 results.

    I’d agree that Berwickshire is a step too far for the SNP, but I wouldn’t say that any other Lib Dem seats, except for Orkney and Shetland are out of reach.

  33. I would have disagreed with that too a few months ago, but now think an SNP gain from the LDs is almost inevitable in NE Fife.

  34. Does anyone have an idea of the referendum result for this constituency? Presumably a big ‘no’ majority?

  35. There are no official breakdowns. I’d have thought something like 37-38% Yes would be about right, given the results for broadly similar parts of the country, such as Aberdeenshire etc.

  36. “I would have disagreed with that too a few months ago, but now think an SNP gain from the LDs is almost inevitable in NE Fife.”

    I think that is true….Ming is the only Liberal MP here since the great Liberal traditions before WW2.

    If Ming was standing again I am certain that he would hold on by 3000 – 5000 but his successor is unlikely to win.

    Tayport and Newport are Dundee suburbs located on the other side of the Tay… think there will be a strong Dundee influence there on voting.

  37. how many lib dem seats in scotland after May 7th…2 or 3? or 1?

  38. 2 I reckon now

  39. The might just hold East Dunbartonshire if the Lab and SNP votes are evenly divided: 28 / 27 / 27, Tories on about 12%.

  40. I think three, but I’m not going to try to predict which. Four is their max right now. The thing is, they have a decent chance to hang on in quite a few, but are surefire victors in only O&S. So it could be as low as one, but could never get higher than five. In theory, they can win East Dunbartonshire (for the reason Andy outlines), BRS, RSL, CSER, Fife NE, and Edinburgh W. I would favor them in only RSL and maybe BRS out of that list, and even there they’re not far ahead. There’s no chance they’ll win all.

    If I had to guess, I’d say three: O&S, RSL, and BRS.

  41. I can’t see them getting 28-30%, which they’d need to have a chance of holding those seats that end up being 3-4 way contests. In any case, as long as the SNP vote is closely correlated to the Yes vote, as appears to be the case right now, the SNP should get more than 30% more or less everywhere.

    I think the only seats they have a significant chance to hold are Orkney and Shetland, Berwickshire and Ross, Cromarty and Skye. I don’t think there’s another seat I would give them more than about a 1 in 5 chance to hold. I think Charles Kennedy is possibly marginally second favourite, and Michael Moore is just about odds on, but I think 1-3 is the likely range.

  42. I still think this is one of the four or five Scottish seats the Lib Dems have some chance to hold, and that they will be competitive, but now, with the latest Ashcroft polling in other Scottish seats, I lean towards the SNP getting the 15%+ swing they need.

  43. not relevant but interesting that of their 8(?) MPs stepping down the candidate here is the only male selected. Clearly the Lib Dems are trying to adress their lack of female probably. Shame that most of them won’t gain and most of their current women will lose their seat. Furthermore in their only two possible gains, Watford and Montgomeryshire we have two LD female candidates as well. Maybe if they recover by 2020 the party will be somewhat less male dominated

  44. SNP friends in Students for Independence have dragged up this article:

    Think there are similar allegations on old BBC pages, but I don’t have a link to them. Either way, seems the SNP want to knock the LDs out of the race and make it a straight fight between them and the Tories.

    Brett has been putting out lots of stuff in The Courier newspaper on his NHS record, but not sure it is going down too well…

  45. I was going to knock Robbies and Michael Browns predictions for this seat then I realised that they were form the end of last year.

    People should not underestimate the scale the Lib Dem vote can fall both here and in Gordon where Lib Dem heavyweights are being replaced by lightweights.

    When Sir Russell Russell-Johnston retired in Inverness in 1997 his successor Stephen Gallagher was almost beaten into fourth place by the Conservatives with Labour and the SNP well ahead.

    The retention of North East Fife is even more unlikely that the retention of Inverness in 1997 because there is not only the retirement of popular MP and the precarious position of the Lib Dems nationally in Scotland.

    Unlike Inverness, this constituency has no post WW2 Lib Dem tradition, Ming has been the only Lib Dem member and there is no established sequence of Lib Dem succession.

  46. I think what Michael and Dalek has said seems broadly right. Lots of Ming voters are shifting now that he is standing down, and this in combination with the continued importance of the constitution is radically reshaping Scottish politics.

    Fair to say that the Conservative vote is way up, and for the first time in many years the Conservatives will comfortably top the poll in St Andrews ward.

    Equally, while it will probably be quite close the SNP seem to be in the lead, a fact that would surprise few people given Ashcroft’s polls in other seats.

    Unlike the polling, however, the voters themselves seem unready to be put into neat boxes, and a very great many are undecided but cautiously leaning to voting for a Unionist party. Momentum and local activism might well be decisive.

  47. The Ashcroft polls have consistently shown a drop in the Conservative vote. The Conservatives will be third here.

  48. The Scottish national polls have shown a slight uptick in the Tory vote since Ashcroft conducted most of his polls. I think they’ll finish second; if the SNP drop a bit then they have an outside chance.

  49. National polling, by contrast, tends to show the Conservative vote at the same level or higher. Most YouGov polls over the last year have put the Conservatives between 18% and 21%, while recent phone polls have put the party on 23%.

    Touching 20% is obviously too high a figure to climb to, but a modest improvement to 18% or 19% seems not unreasonable. If we assume that the Conservative vote is tactically supporting the LDs in Gordon, and Labour elsewhere, then that suggests a better than average revival in key East of Scotland marginals. This is exactly what we are finding.

    Consider the Euro result in Fife, an area that includes Glenrothes and Lochgelly, hardly Conservative strongholds. In these areas, especially towns like Dunfermline, the LDs had always polled strongly and much better than the Conservatives. Despite this, the Conservatives were around 5000 votes ahead of the LDs across the whole region, suggesting that in NEF, most of the LD vote has swung to the Conservatives.

    Given the average swing away from the LDs is around 20%, and that is much at least is needed to place in the SNP in first, the LDs can only come third. This in combination with the collapse of much of the Ming vote, and near all of the tactical Unionist vote to the Conservatives pushes them into second, if perhaps a fair 8% behind the SNP as things stand.

    Finally, would remind that the biggest feeling in this seat is “up in the air”, and that the outcome here is undecided. Whatever the result, it won’t be a LD hold.

  50. “National polling, by contrast, tends to show the Conservative vote at the same level or higher. Most YouGov polls over the last year have put the Conservatives between 18% and 21%, while recent phone polls have put the party on 23%. ”

    You’re exaggerating.

    YouGov’s last effort had 18%, which was a 3 point improvement on their previous poll.

    The only national phone polling in Scotland is Ipsos Mori, who have had the Tories in the low teens. Their poll is not politically weighted and seems to over-rate the SNP by a fair bit (perhaps nationalists like to answer the phone???).

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