Paisley & Renfrewshire South

2015 Result:
Conservative: 3526 (7.6%)
Labour: 17864 (38.6%)
Lib Dem: 1010 (2.2%)
SNP: 23548 (50.9%)
Others: 278 (0.6%)
MAJORITY: 5684 (12.3%)

Category: Semi-marginal SNP seat


Main population centres:



Current MP
MHAIRI BLACK (SNP) Born Paisley. Educated at Glasgow University. First elected as MP for Paisley & Renfrewshire South in 2015.
Past Results
Con: 3979 (10%)
Lab: 23842 (60%)
LDem: 3812 (10%)
SNP: 7228 (18%)
Oth: 1137 (3%)
MAJ: 16614 (42%)
Con: 3188 (8%)
Lab: 19904 (53%)
LDem: 6672 (18%)
SNP: 6653 (18%)
Oth: 1443 (4%)
MAJ: 13232 (35%)
Con: 2301 (8%)
Lab: 17830 (58%)
LDem: 3178 (10%)
SNP: 5920 (19%)
Oth: 1307 (4%)
MAJ: 11910 (39%)
Con: 3237 (9%)
Lab: 21482 (58%)
LDem: 3500 (9%)
SNP: 8732 (23%)
Oth: 400 (1%)
MAJ: 12750 (34%)

2015 Candidates
FRASER GALLOWAY (Conservative) Educated at Stewarts Melville College and Glasgow University. Trainee solicitor.
DOUGLAS ALEXANDER (Labour) Born 1967, Glasgow, son of a Church of Scotland minister. Educated at Park Mains High School and Edinburgh University. Solicitor. Contested Perth and Kinross 1995 by-election, Perth 1997. MP for Paisley South 1997 by-election to 2015. Minister of State at the DTI 2001-2002 and the Cabinet office 2002-2003. Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster 2003-4, Minister of State for Trade 2004-2005, Minister of State for Europe 2005-2006, Secretary of State for Scotland and Transport 2006-2007. Secretary of State for International Development 2007-2010. Shadow secretary of state for work and pensions 2010-2011, Shadow Foreign Secretary 2011-2015.
EILEEN MCCARTIN (Liberal Democrat)
MHAIRI BLACK (SNP) Born Paisley. Educated at Glasgow University. Student.
SANDRA WEBSTER (Scottish Socialist Party (SSP))
Comments - 245 Responses on “Paisley & Renfrewshire South”
  1. That may have had something to do with Douglas Alexander being a significantly better MP than most of the rest of the Scottish PLP and facing someone who, at the time, was an unknown 21 year old. There’s nothing particularly about the constituency that would lead you to expect it to behave differently from most of the rest of west central Scotland.

  2. @ Simon – Mhairi Black was one of the big SNP contestants at the election.

    It could also have something to do with the Labour Party’s campaign which was focused heavily around Paisley & Renfrewshire South and East Renfrewshire.

  3. Yeah, but most people at the time didn’t know that. It was fairly easy for Labour to present it as a choice between serious big hitter and ex-Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander or a 21 year old. I’d expect an above average result for the SNP next time, given Mhairi Black’s performance so far and the loss of whatever personal vote Alexander had.

    That said, it’s possible there’s something else there, as the Renfrewshire South seat at Holyrood is unusually good for Labour, even if the SNP did win Paisley in 2011.

  4. @ Simon – She was the poster girl on the SNP’s political broadcast if I remember correctly. She hit the headlines relatively frequently for a Westminster candidate in Scotland. I believe the electorate were relatively indifferent to the New Labour career politician that was Douglas Alexander, replacing him with a younger career politician instead.

    I would expect the SNP to do better here in 2016 relative to their 2015 performance here, but that mostly being on the basis of the area’s Labour vote unwinding as the party pulls its resources towards parts of Lothian and Eastwood.

    Are you telling me that personal politics doesn’t really exist, only it does when it’s good for the SNP?

  5. For me I don’t think Mhairi’s PV will make too much of a difference come 2020 as she’s already quite a controversial candidate, which could play into either sides favour.

  6. I think it matters round the edges, and usually to do with the incumbent. There are very few challengers who will be well-known enough for it to matter. I think, except in very odd cases, the only thing a challenger can do is harm their chances, a la Neil Hay, or perhaps by being an unusual candidate, like Mhairi Black. As far as incumbents go, I think genuinely good ones can get above average results. You suggested that Charles Kennedy was one such example. I wouldn’t disagree.

    With this seat, if there’s nothing demographically different about Paisley & Renfrewshire South (and I think it’s very much like most of the neighbouring seats), then the next most logical place to look for an explanation of an anomalous result is either local issues (none that I’m aware of here) or candidates. Both candidates are unusual – Alexander in that he’s a much better politician than most ex-Scottish Labour MPs, and Black in that she’s the youngest MP in however many centuries.

    I know I’d prefer to have Alexander as my MP compared to most of the time-servers that Labour offered up, and I don’t even like his politics much. Similarly, I’d be concerned about having a 21 year old student as my MP even if I agreed with them on every issue that mattered. I think that, if you are choosing between Labour and the SNP (and that’s the choice an awful lot of people were making in a seat like this) then that’s bound to be a factor.

    The reason I think that the SNP will do better here relatively next time is that Mhairi Black appears to have dealt with any questions about whether she’d be a competent MP. I think she will have lost votes this time because people will have questioned that.

  7. I don’t think things like whether she appeared in a party political broadcast matter much, because I don’t think anyone watches them. Also, I do think that, at the time, her competence was questioned. I recall a big piece in the Daily Record that went through her social media posts and basically suggested she was far too immature to be an MP.

  8. @ Simon – I’m not sure I agree with you here.

    Compared with the Paisley and Renfrewshire North seat I would not consider the result here to be that exceptional for the SNP. Renfrewshire had a No vote of 52.8% at the independence referendum in 2014: a very strong result for a working-class area in Strathclyde – rivaled only (perhaps) by the result in Hamilton and its surrounding areas.

    My notionals point to the SNP vote here rising by just below 4% on the referendum, nothing too extraordinary. In the neighbouring Paisley and Renfrewshire North seat – which includes the Yes-voting areas of Renfrew and northern Paisley plus the more Conservative villages around Strathgryffe – I have the SNP up by just 2% on the independence referendum (when factoring in the Green vote this would take it up to around 3-4% on the referendum).

    The most exceptional part of the result is how saturation the Labour vote is here. Mhairi Black’s candidacy might have had a very slim impact on the local Labour vote, but I would not say it was anything too substantive – certainly not so much as Edinburgh South, and definitely nowhere near the level enjoyed by Charles Kennedy. Her incumbency will probably reserve this, but I don’t imagine it will have a substantial impact on the vote here.

  9. Also it must be stressed that the Labour campaign was concentrated here: this constituency was at the very heart of Scottish Labour’s 2015 election campaign.

  10. I’d suggest Labour’s vote was stronger here last year for than in most of the old heartlands for several reasons: Douglas Alexander was one of the better known Scottish Labour MPs and Labour also poured campaign resources into this seat. He was also the clear challenger to the SNP and probably particularly benefited from tactical voting.

    Also in the Scottish Election last month, Labour’s vote share fell to around a third in both the Paisley and Renfrewshire South constituencies, typical of other old heartlands. I don’t think there’s anything particularly remarkable about this seat.


    Having been the youngest MP ever, Mhairi may also become the youngest retiring MP ever.

  12. Of course there is a faint chance that she won’t even have the opportunity to stand for a second term – dependent on Nicola Sturgeon holding and winning ‘Indyref 2’ next year.

    Quite surprising that Mhairi Black doesn’t even mention the possibility of that happening.

  13. She said she “doesn’t know” whether or not she’ll stand in this area again. Given the Boundary Review (which would see the number of MP’s representing Ayrshire and Renfrewshire be reduced by one) I don’t think it would be a huge loss for the party in terms of incumbency as Renfrewshire is safe SNP territory right now and her constituency is to be divided between a constituency based in Paisley and one based in West Renfrewshire.

  14. Reading the article, her frustration is with the institution and not being able to get anything done.
    So presumably she’s looking to become an MSP instead, though I could imagine her doing something 3rd sector during the gap… and possibly staying there longer than she planned.

  15. “Reading the article, her frustration is with the institution and not being able to get anything done.”

    She sounds and reads like a bit of an idiot.

    It’s hardly a surprise that she can’t enact SNP policies given that they comprise less than 10% of all MPs. The governing party rarely has problems getting things done, even with a tiny majority as today.

  16. James E – even if both happened that wouldn’t affect the 2020 GE including all Scottish seats.

    From memory a 2019 vote would give at least a 2 year transition, so there’d be the first GE affected by a Yes vote in 2022.

    Not that I expect either to take place.

    The article also notes that Rotherham’s Sarah Champion only wants to do 1 more term and has already told her Party this.

    I know see as many ex-MPs as current MPs at stations etc. In the past couple I’ve spotted (both) ex MPs for Wirral W, South Ribble, the Tory Farron defeated and the short large female MP who did one term under the Coalition. You see I even forget their names after a couple of years.

  17. “I know see as many ex-MPs as current MPs at stations etc. In the past couple I’ve spotted (blah blah)”

    My personal highlight was standing next to David Mellor while crossing the road outside Victoria station a couple of years ago….he really is as loathsome in the flesh as has been alleged many times in print.

    For a few seconds I fantasised about pushing him under a bus

  18. I stood next to Ed Balls in a bus queue once, he was also worse in the flesh than on TV.

  19. Labour aren’t a million miles behind here and must surely be able to capitalise on Mhairi Black’s “Kevin The Teenager” approach to being an MP. I wonder what their chances are of winning this back.

  20. @ H.Hemmelig – in terms of a by-election this constituency is certainly one of the more winnable constituencies for Labour in Scotland.

    However they didn’t do nearly so well here in the more favourable Renfrewshire South constituency at the 2016 Holyrood election, which suggests that Mhairi Black’s personal candidacy alongside a well-resourced local Labour campaign focused on getting Douglas Alexander re-elected played a large role in Labour’s strong performance here back in 2014.

  21. HH – the portrayal of this MP on the Tracey Ullman Show is even better than that of Sturgeon & Merkel (who are both decent copies in mannerisms & looks).

  22. I suspect Mhairi Black is a significantly better fit for this seat than you all seem to think. There really aren’t all that many Tories in the Paisley electorate.

  23. @ Simon – this constituency covers the better-off end of Paisley including a couple of suburbs where the Liberal Democrats traditionally poll reasonably well in. In saying that it looks like the most Labour parts of Renfrewshire are mostly around the west of the council area outside of Renfrewshire, in places like Erskine and Johnstone.

  24. In terms of Renfrewshire as a whole though it’s more deprived, as Paisley & Renfrewshire North covers more Tory-inclined suburbs like Bishopton and Bridge of Weir towards Inverclyde.

  25. * Black (SNP) 16,411
    Alexander (Lab) 16,355
    Bitchton (LD) 10,841
    Rifkind (Con) 5,595

    SNP Hold
    Majority 56

  26. I suspect the comma in the Lib Dem vote should be a decimal point.

    Seriously, Black is pretty popular amongst leftie types. Assuming she does stand again, and with Alexander out of the picture, I think she’ll get a significantly above average swing.

  27. Don’t you think that Scotland will be independent by then?

  28. Who knows? We don’t know if there will be a referendum yet, and if there is, when it will be. The SNP haven’t offered a timetable for independence either, so while I’m relatively positive about Yes’s prospects in a second referendum, there are clearly a whole load of scenarios where Scotland does take part in a 2020 UK election, as well as a decent number where it does not.

  29. There is little prospect of Scotland being independent by 2020.

    May will clearly refuse a referendum before the Article 50 process is finished, which means a referendum in 2019/20 at the absolute earliest, most likely it would be pushed till after the 2020 election.

    And as with Brexit it will take years from a vote to leave to the final separation.

  30. Or Scotland could always vote against independence again 🙂

  31. Maybe that’s the point, Conservatives on the rise in Scotland if Teresa May does refuse the referendum before the Article 50 process the SNP can cast the Tories as governing from Westminster.

  32. I think it’s conceivable that the process is far enough along by 2020 that there’s no real point in electing another set of Scottish MPs.

    I think May has to be careful with her response to the section 30 request. If she delays the referendum say till summer 2019 when the article 50 process ought to be complete, then the campaign will run right throughout the negotiation process. If she tries to put it off past 2020 there are other risks – she starts to make it look like she’s trying to stop a vote happening at all, there’s the risk that whoever is elected in 2020 has a different view on things, and you have the Scottish Parliament elections due in 2021 as well. All of these open her up to the charge that she’s scared of a vote.

    For me, she’s better either to allow the referendum on Sturgeon’s timetable, or to refuse the request altogether.

  33. “Seriously, Black is pretty popular amongst leftie types”.

    I thought that too, so was surprised by the number of negative comments under the Guardian article on her the other day, and by the fact that those comments had received the lion’s share of upvotes. Clearly a number of lefties are as unimpressed with her gobby, simplistic, student union style approach to politics as many of the rest of us are.

    I’ve always thought people as young as her shouldn’t be allowed to stand for the Commons. The minimum age for holding a seat in the US House is 25. I think that’s a fair enough cut off point. Teenagers and early 20 somethings don’t know anything about life. That wasn’t the case for my parent’s generation and before, but people largely assume the responsibilities of adulthood at a later stage now than was the case then.

  34. Simon

    All the risks you identify are trifling from May’s perspective compared with the prospect of Scottish independence diverting attention from and potentially screwing up the Brexit negotiations. The only realistic prospect of Scotland being independent by 2020 IMO would be if May holds an early GE, which now looks unlikely.

  35. 2018/19 will be the ideal time for the SNP to hold a second referendum on independence as this will be at the most uncertain point in the union’s future. I agree with most journalists who suggest that Theresa May will attempt to delay a second vote on independence until after the United Kingdom has left the European Union.

    If the SNP fail this time then they are unlikely to get a third referendum for the foreseeable future.

  36. I’m not in support of increasing the age to legitimately stand to 25 tbh I stood when I was 18 I may have not won but I’d have acted far more appropriately than some do in the chamber who are superior in age but are increasingly immature.

  37. The amusing thing is that May can fulfil Sturgeon’s request (Spring 2019 Ref) and it’ll still be after Brexit.

    Surely if Sturgeon was serious she’d have asked for one within 12 months.

    Quite apart from the halving of the price of oil, the Euro, 35% of SNP voters who voted Leave and most not wanting a 2nd Ref soon.

  38. Surely the referendum call is a ploy in the run up to the Scottish local elections in May, as Sturgeon seeks to reinvigorate her base.

    For the SNP the future prospect of a referendum is an electoral asset. Whereas a defeat would be a major problem, except last time when the opposition imploded.

    The experience of Quebec is that the PQ rose in support and then fell back each time the electorate rejected separation.

  39. @GT This isn’t a ploy to get a few extra votes in the local elections. They think they can win a referendum, and Sturgeon isn’t really prone to big risky moves unless she thinks they’ll pay off.

    @Lancs But despite all of this, they’re still polling in the high 40s, which suggests that a referendum is eminently winnable. Also, I think it’s clear that Sturgeon would always have settled for a referendum immediately after Brexit negotiations are completed. It’s a high risk strategy for May if she can’t get a decent deal from the EU though.

    @NTYUK I’d suggest that immediately following the failure to reach a deal between the UK and the EU would be a decent opportunity for the SNP. Waiting till the end of negotiations is only better for the unionist side if they think they’ll get a decent deal from Brussels.

    @Hemmelig I think losing the Union is still a resigning matter for any UK PM.

  40. But the SNP poll rating no longer translates into a Yes vote (if it ever did).

    Indeed Sky interviewed 2 current No voters – 1 voted Yes last time, but voted Leave so doesn’t want the SNP forcing her to re-join an EU.

    In the same way a high SF poll does not equal the % who would vote to join the Republic of Ireland.

  41. I was talking about the Yes poll ratings, not the SNP ones.

  42. “@Hemmelig I think losing the Union is still a resigning matter for any UK PM.”

    I don’t disagree with that, though due to age/health May might not last long past 2020 in any case.

    And of course it’s by no means a forgone conclusion that Scotland would vote to leave.

    “I’d suggest that immediately following the failure to reach a deal between the UK and the EU would be a decent opportunity for the SNP.”

    On the other hand, economic turbulence emanating from Brexit (and we’re due a recession soon in any case) may be bad for the Yes vote, as people may be less inclined to take the risk when they are struggling financially. This far out we just don’t know.

  43. True. Risk and no spare £ hardly ever aids independence movements,

  44. it seems entirely reasonable that a Scottish referendum be held after the terms of Brexit are known but before Brexit actually occurs.

    if May sabotages this outcome it may well result in a crucial boost to the Yes vote in any delayed referendum.

    it really will not play well in Scotland if the major opposition to Scotland being a member of the EU appears to come from an rUK which is leaving the club but is trying to black ball a new member 9punturing the Scotland lifeboat as it tries to escape the sinking Titanic is already having political traction) 🙂

    I know that all sorts of claims are being made that Spain will veto Scotland’s membership but Spain, whilst huffing and puffing about Scotland being at the back of a (non-existent) queue is determined to make a major distinction between Catalonia and Scotland.
    Catalonia is very very very (3 verys) different from Scotland.

  45. Not quite sure what went wrong with my comment there.

    The reference to Catalonia being very, very, very, different to Scotland is from an MEP of the Spanish Government party (PP).

    This stance is vital to Spain to justify them refusing a referendum to Catalonia when Scotland was allowed one -and now 2 🙂

  46. “the major opposition to Scotland being a member of the EU appears to come from an rUK”

    The major opposition to Scotland being an EU member will come from the rest of the EU.

    Scotland will be a relatively poor country and, unlike the UK, is likely to be a substantial net drain on EU funds – doubly so if independence causes a significant economic crash. Why would the EU be rushing to generate additional liabilities for itself at a time when it will already have to fill the black hole from the UK’s huge net financial contribution? [other than to annoy the English]

    Secondly there’s no getting away from the fact that Scotland would have to commit to joining the Euro and Schengen, if not immediately then at least at some specific date in the future.

  47. For Mr Hemmelig who still appears to be making stuff up (or certainly without any referencing to sources):

    Per Elmer Brok MEP, Chair of the European Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs,

    “It will be easy negotiations” for Scotland to join the EU.

    “Commit to joining the Euro…… by a specific date”. More utter nonsense-when is Sweden’s “specific date” for joining the Euro as just one example?

  48. As I understand it there are different rules for new members, one of which is a commitment to joining the Euro – existing members (UK, Sweden, Denmark[?]) were allowed to opt out of that.

    It comes down to whether Scotland would be treated as a new member (which the likes of Spain would push for to try and dissuade Catalonia from seceding) or as an existing member (which Scotland wants)

  49. Paul D.

    The commitment to joining the Euro is in principle only.

    No-one, not even new members, are obliged to join the Euro by a “specific date” as Mr Hemmelig appears to have invented.

    Nor has anyone ever been obliged to join the Euro at any point in time unless they chose to do so.

  50. Plopwellian Tory.

    Spain have never said they will veto an independent Scotland from Joining the EU.

    That is for the simple reason (which I have already pointed out) that Catalonia is “very, very, very different (in the eyes of Spain) from Scotland.

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