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
Con: 4258 (9%)
Lab: 29559 (65%)
LDem: 4269 (9%)
SNP: 6550 (14%)
Oth: 1166 (3%)
MAJ: 23009 (50%)
Con: 4308 (10%)
Lab: 24278 (58%)
LDem: 5450 (13%)
SNP: 6062 (15%)
Oth: 1698 (4%)
MAJ: 18216 (44%)
Con: 3013 (11%)
Lab: 15227 (54%)
LDem: 2849 (10%)
SNP: 6264 (22%)
Oth: 804 (3%)
MAJ: 8963 (32%)
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.
Comments - 360 Responses on “Kirkcaldy & Cowdenbeath”
  1. “And Brown’s reforms to welfare were very modest”

    What are you smoking? I want some!

  2. James, I think it was Michael Howard who said in a TV interview years later that the Tory parties continued existence is Majors biggest achievement.

  3. I said expanded not reformed.

    The concept of working family tax credits was arguably the most radical expansion of welfare since Attlee, and impossible to reverse.

  4. James, the changes Brown made to incapacity benefit and pensions auto-enrollment were very modest compared to the UC roll out which is widely regarded is the biggest change to the social security system since the 1940’s.

  5. Major’s consolidation of Thatcher’s legacy is much of what made it so poisonous. They became arrogant and took dogma too far – privatising the railways perhaps the best example.

  6. I get what you mean now HH.

  7. And I’d say the introduction of tax credits isn’t impossible to reverse, it’s just very difficult and will require a lot of political will over a long period of time.

    You just need to freeze the cash value of tax credits and wait for wage growth to take the majority of people out of tax credits. Then we can go back to only paying benefits to the genuenly needy.

  8. Labour hold…the SNP cannot possibly win here…Gordon Brown will be campaigning for the new candidate

  9. “the SNP cannot possibly win here”

    Famous last words…

  10. I think Neil is a bit overenthusiastic, but i’m really sceptical of the “snp will win every seat in scotland” line that everyone is assuming now.

  11. overly pessimistic

  12. @ Neil Turner – What is the basis for your statement? Polls, local knowledge, anything? Or is it just a Labour supporter unwilling to face reality?

    My personal preference would be to see Labour retain a decent number of seats in Scotland but all the data points to a virtual wipeout.

    Yes polls can be wrong, but you should be at least trying to make justification for your claims instead of just posting random forecasts of Labour victories….

  13. It’s simple, Labour polled 65% at the last election, and the SNP 14%….there is no way in which the SNP will win – no chance

  14. @ Neil Turner – have you been hibernating since 2010???? Have you not seen the polls? This one is more challenging for SNP but remember, part of that 65% was because generally party leaders and prime ministers get large shares of their constituency. Gordon Brown is standing down so there is no incumbency strength, plus SNP huge shift in the polls since I dryer in case you missed it

  15. I dryer = IndyRef oops

  16. Neil’s a Tory who clearly hates the SNP even more than he hates Labour………this is still in the balance & could go either way

  17. Labour hold…..I think that SNP will only be guaranteed to win seats against Labour where they need a 7% swing or less. Anything between a 7% and 12% swing required, then they will win a few and anything above this then I’ll suspect that Labour will hold on to quite a few……When a Scot in the M8 belt, or in the North East Towns of Edinburgh gets into a polling booth then he usually votes Labour

  18. well it would be trouble for your party if that were true – it’s possible that some lifelong Scottish Labour voters in the polling booth may not quite be able to bring themselves to vote against their usual party. But the idea that it could restrict the swing to the SNP to the sort of levels you suggest is, sadly from my point of view, completely fanciful.

  19. I don’t think he’s a Tory Barnaby, I think he’s one of yours!

    Many lifelong Labour supporters have already voted SNP in the Scottish elections so they have the track record and now I think it will translate to Westminster.

    I do think Labour will get a bounce from the poor polls in Scotland so not as bad as the forecasts, but still pretty grim for them north of the border.

    And sometimes you have to put political preferences aside so even if it costs a CON victory in the election, it could be a price worth paying.

  20. On election night BBC Parliament will be showing the BBC Scotland election programme:

  21. Labour Hold

  22. Do we reckon Gordon Brown could have held on here if he’d stood again and had a better attendance record?

  23. No, swing might have been a bit less extreme though.

    This behaved like a new town or west central Scotland seat.

    I thought the Labour vote would have been a tad more resilient in Cowdenbeath but it was not and Alex Rowley is almost certainly toast.

  24. I wouldn’t say the SNP vote wasn’t as strong as most new towns such as East Kilbride (where it was around 57%), Irvine (around 60%) or Coatbridge (probably about 58-60%).

    I’d say if Gordon Brown stood the results might’ve been a bit more in Labour’s favour, a bit like what happened in RSL with Charles Kennedy.

  25. Possibly, although Darling is more of a divisive political character so I think the effect would be less as prominent.

    The same is true for Brown: I doubt he could match Kennedy, who was the only Scottish MP who actually reversed his local ‘Yes’ vote.

  26. Gordon Brown has been saying some sensible things now, but it is too late. Nobody is going to change his or her mind because of what Gordon Brown says now, albeit they may listen politiely before ignoring him.

  27. Wonder how Scottish Labour would have performed under Brown’s leadership…? Better, or worse?

  28. No difference I suspect as the election seemed to be very much drawn along the lines of “Yes votes = SNP, No votes = split between everyone else” hence the SNP landslide.

  29. It would probably have made a difference round the edges, especially if Brown had been in charge throughout the referendum campaign. Things like Labour sharing platforms with the Tories and agreeing with Tory representatives on a regular basis were unhelpful, and I think Brown would have realised that I suspect that basing a Labour case for the union more around solidarity and shared history, rather than almost exclusively on the risks of independence, might also have helped a bit. There are also some people who are still unconvinced on independence but backed the SNP in May. I think Brown would have appealed more to people like that than Murphy ever would.

  30. @ Simon –
    That’s a good point, although I disagree with it’s content. I think that Labour ‘shaping a platform’ with the Conservatives did not really effect their electoral performance in any quantifiable way (maybe hitting them 1% at the most)…

    I think the main issue with ‘working with the Conservatives’ is that the Labour party failed to present their own coherent/distinct pro-UK message, allowing the Yes camp to carry the ‘Labour heartlands’ of Glasgow, West Dunbartonshire and North Lanarkshire. During the referendum I encountered some voters (on both sides) who were agitated with Labour for working with the Tories however this never really influenced voting intentions… Party co-operation alone cannot be attributed for Labour’s fall, and I’m certainly not convinced by the SNP’s argument that Labour working with the Tories/Lib Dems drove people away from voting No/Labour – rather that this lead to a very static, predictable and negative campaign on the unionist side which gave the SNP a platform to win over much of the romantic Labour vote, SNP vote and disengaged voters.

    Following the referendum the Labour party subsequently failed to present (loudly enough) policies which defined them from the SNP and the “Westminister establishment”…

    I don’t think Brown was well-equipped enough to make any substantial difference in Labour’s performance, but as Simon points out he has a more widespread appeal than Murphy, who pretty much symbolised Labour complaceny right through the election campaign… (Example: he constantly told the media in Scotland “I’m the underdog, always been the underdog, I’ve won then and I’ll win again”… and he lost his seat).

    Maybe Brown could’ve won Scottish Labour a handful of constituencies (East Lothian, East Renfrewshire and Edinburgh North & Leith?) at the most, which isn’t so bad in the context of the election.

  31. The Yes campaign always had something of a free pass IMO in terms of being able to galvanise non and undecided voters in working class areas so even if Better together camapign had been stellar throughout I doubt it would have produced a no vote of more than 59-61% which I was expecting at the beginning of 2014.

    If we’re apportioning blame for Scottish Labour’s collapse I think Douglas Alexander must take an awful lot of it TBH especially towards the end of the no campaign and even Gordon Brown going further back for also meddling in Scottish labour Holyrood affairs post 2007 .

    Darling and Murphy may have been aloof but they at least didn’t actively meddle.

  32. I don’t radically disagree with that. Not working with the Tories only makes a significant difference if you actually have a different message. It doesn’t really help if the end result is Ruth Davidson stands up in Glasgow and says the world will end if there’s a Yes vote, and an hour later Gordon Brown says exactly the same thing in Edinburgh. I think Brown would have made a rather different case for the union, which might have resonated better with Labour voters.

    The other thing that might have made a difference is that the Yes campaign outworked the No campaign, especially in traditional Labour heartlands. It turns out that going and talking and listening to voters is actually quite a good way of getting them to support you. I don’t know if Brown would have noticed this happening and done something about it, or if Labour’s capability to knock on doors and do the hard work was too eroded by then.

  33. Throughout the referendum I had the No’s at between 55-57%, sitting them at 55% when polls closed.

    Darling didn’t really help the No camp in my opinion – although I do believe helped keep the vote pretty static, which is very impressive given the huge shadow cast by Salmond. I doubt the No campaign could have realistically done much better without breaking down into separate campaigns…

    Brown probably swung the vote back 1% at the most, which is better than anything Murphy ever did.

    At the most I think the No’s could’ve reached the 60% mark if they campaigned along party lines. The referendum map would probably look a lot more flat, with the No’s making big improvements around central Scotland/Dumfries/Highland and doing slightly better in the north/north-east.

    The Labour strategy in Scotland generally has failed, and that’s because it doesn’t really consider the SNP.

  34. That implies Labour has a strategy in Scotland. There’s not a lot of evidence to suggest that they do.

  35. Indeed

  36. Scottish Labour are at a crossroads. At their peak they appealed to all social classes winning seats like Glasgow Shettleston, Eastwood and Edinburgh South.

    Are they going to re-establish themselves to the left of the SNP challenging the SNP in their traditional Scottish heartlands or are they going to try to outflank the SNP from the right by polling strongly in Eastwood, Stirling and Dumfries ect (like they did at the 2003 Holyrood elections).

  37. @ Dalek –
    I wouldn’t say Labour appealed to all social stratas in Scotland. For one they haven’t held seats in Galloway, Perthshire (other than with deformed boundary changes which gave them a lead in Clackmannanshire to take a seat which covers part of Perthshire), Angus, Aberdeenshire, Highlands, Argyll & Bute and the Borders in recent memory…

    It’s evident that polling from the right is not a viable strategy for SLab – a lesson which they should have learned in 2011, 2014 and 2015. The best result they can expect campaigning from the right would be taking five Scottish constituencies for 2015 (Eastwood, East Lothian, Edinburgh Southern, Edinburgh Central and Dumfriesshire) – and I strongly doubt that they will.

    Labour relied on traditional Labour heartland areas within ‘right’ leaning seats to take them. For example Dumfries within Dumfriesshire, north Ayr within Ayr, Barrhead within Eastwood. It’s not a viable strategy.

    Labour realistically need to take every Scottish constituency seat between Carrick and Kirkcaldy (excluding Ayr) if they want to return to government again. Do you really think they will be doing that successfully by pouring their resources into the suburbs of Eastwood and Edinburgh Southern?

  38. What’s clear is that SLabour need to campaign an effective national message. At westminister for example they cherry-picked three seats to bombard at the election (Paisley & Renfrewshire South, East Renfrewshire and Edinburgh South) and lost 2 of 3 to the SNP.

  39. The problem they have is that as long as Sturgeon keeps doing her best John Smith impression, Labour would have to go a long way to the left or right to have a distinctive offering to pro-independence voters. At the moment, if you’re left of centre and a Yes voter, why would you consider Labour over the SNP? It’s a question Labour doesn’t really seem to have much of an answer to.

  40. Scotland’s last Communist Councillor (turned Independent) has resigned his council seat in The Lochs, Fife. By-election due on the 25th of August.

    I would guess an easy SNP pick-up.

  41. @Max Well, certainly it is if you rank the interestingness of by-elections by the likely Tory vote.

  42. The by-election in Blantyre was Dec. 2015, sorry***

  43. I think it’s a good mix of local council by-elections tbh.

    The Lochs is a politically exceptional part of Scotland, so it will be interesting to see whether or not it follows the national political norm or pulls in some surprises.

    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).

    Irvine West will be our second chance to make some direct comparisons between the Scottish referendum and local council politics (as NA Council provided breakdowns by ward at the independence referendum in 2014), although the personal presence of Nicola Sturgeon’s father could blur this.

    Coatbridge North & Glenboig will probably be the most “boring” result (probably a straight SNP hold).

  44. Blantyre was the most exceptional by a mile. Ayr East was an absolute roller coaster, very surprising result for the Conservatives. Almond and Earn was also a fantastic and surprising result for the Tories (probably an early/over-looked sign of what was to come in 2016). Leith Walk was a roller coaster only it was more predictable.

    I don’t think Huntly was particularly interesting. The result in Aird and Loch Ness was more surprising in my opinion.

  45. Dumbarton would almost certainly be an SNP gain.

    East Lothian could possibly be an SNP gain.

    Edinburgh Central would probably be an SNP gain if the Greens didn’t stand.

    Edinburgh Southern would be an interesting three-way fight between the Conservatives, Labour and the SNP.

    Perthshire South would be a Conservative gain.

    I think some of the Grampian constituencies would be interesting Conservative/SNP fights, I’m not sure if any would change hands however.

    I can’t see any other constituencies changing hands.

  46. Labour tended to do better than the SNP in by-elections in the last parliament, so I wouldn’t see the SNP making gains. I assume that was just the normal pattern of oppositions doing better than governing parties. It would be interesting to see how that would play out in a Con/SNP fight.

  47. I think the Lochs by-election could be interesting for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it has been an ultra-Labour area in the past, so it would be interesting to see how their support holds up in these areas. Secondly, the Labour candidate is, I think, very pro-Corbyn and will have made that abundantly clear to the electorate. Thirdly, I want to see if the Communists can get a respectable vote. I’d imagine the SNP would hope to win it on the first count, but it isn’t necessarily as straightforward as some others.

  48. If it goes Labour it could signal that some of the more staunch Labour areas from 2012 might be good for Labour next year…

  49. 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.

  50. 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.

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