The old Eastwood constituency used to be a Lab-Con marginal: Back in 2007, Ken Macintosh MSP from Labour won the seat with 35.8% of the vote, ahead of the Tories’ Jackson Carlaw MSP who got 33.6% and the SNP’s Stewart Maxwell MSP who got 18.9% (with LibDem Gordon MacDonald far behind on 8.6%). The three top candidates all got elected anyway because of the list system used for Scottish parliamentary elections.
However, this time Eastwood has had a chunk chopped off, and the result is a much more conservative constituency (details from this boundary report [PDF]):
Conservative 12,825 41.1% Labour 9,337 29.9% SNP 4,912 15.7% Liberal Democrat 3,141 10.1%
The bits that were cut off are Neilston, Uplawmoor and Barrhead, and they’re now in the Renfrewshire South constituency, which is notionally a safe Labour seat with the SNP as the main contender.
According to Labour, Ken Macintosh MSP will contest Eastwood again, and he’ll be joined by his old foes Jackson Carlaw MSP and Stewart Maxwell MSP. (I haven’t been able to find out who the LibDems are putting up, but I’d be surprised if any sitting MSP would be willing to run in a seat with so few LibDem voters.)
So it’s in effect an interesting contest between three MSPs: the one who won it last time, the one who won it notionally, and the one whose party has been in power for the past four year.
The boundary report is expecting Labour to get 0 top-up seats, the SNP 4, the Conservatives 2 and the LibDems 1 in the West of Scotland region, bringing the number of MSPs up to Labour 8, SNP 5, Cons 3 and LibDems 1.
In other words, Labour is getting too many constituency MSPs, which means they’ll get no top-ups, whereas the SNP, the Tories and the LibDems will get topped up.
What this means is that if the Conservatives, the SNP or the LibDems win Eastwood, they will lose a top-up seat, and the total number of West of Scotland MSPs will remain Labour 8, SNP 5, Cons 3 and LibDems 1.
If, on the other hand, Labour win it, they have no top-up seats to lose, so the Conservatives are punished instead: Labour 9, SNP 5, Cons 2 and LibDems 1.
So to some extent the only thing that matters for the constituency vote is whether to vote Labour or not. A vote for Labour is a vote for Labour, whereas a vote for anybody else is a vote against Labour (and for the Conservatives in their prediction, but it could just as easily be for anybody else – this depends fully on the number of list votes).
The choice is therefore quite easy: If you want to see Labour in power in Scotland, vote for Ken Macintosh; if you want to see the SNP remain in power, vote Conservative, SNP or LibDem – it really doesn’t matter.
On the other hand, using your list vote is of high importance, but I’ll discuss that in a another blog posting.