Highlands and Islands: (7 seats)
Scotland underwent changes to its Westminster constituencies between 2001 and 2005 when the number of seats was reduced from 72 to 59. Holyrood still operates on the pre 2005 boundaries but has 73 constituencies due to Orkney and Shetland being separated into 2 constituencies. Scotland has 32 single tier local authorities. I would expect the 4 main parties to go into the election with the following shares of vote in Scotland: SNP 30-35%, LAB 30-35%, CON 20-25%, LD 10-15% i.e the SNP and Labour roughly neck and neck.
In the Highlands and Islands reference to the local authority results in 2007 is meaningless because 4 of the 6 councils are dominated by Independents and as such although most people assume Independent councillors tend to be closet Cons, it is far from the case that this applies to the majority of them.
Orkney and Shetland: (LD) a seat safely held in both 2005 and 2007 and Alistair Carmichael was the LibDem Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland at Westminster so I expect it to remain LibDem but with a majority nearer 20% than the 37% he achieved in 2005.
Na h-Eileanan An Iar (Western Isles): (SNP) has swung strongly back to SNP from Labour and Angus MacNeil (he of Labour â€œCash for Peeragesâ€ fame) is very popular so expect the SNP majority to increase.
Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross: (LD) my home seat and the first to return a hereditary peer in the modern age but if John Thurso faces a serious challenge from the SNP, itâ€™s a LibDem meltdown so I expect a hold but with a much smaller majority.
Ross, Skye and Lochaber: (LD) since Charles Kennedy took the old seat of Ross and Cromarty from the Tory energy minister Hamish Gray in the shock of the 1983 election, he has made this a rock solid LibDem seat and the addition of his home turf of Lochaber pushed it out of sight for anyone else until he decides to retire.
Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey: (LD) won back from Labour in 2005, Danny Alexander is not a great performer in contrast to the SNPâ€™s Fergus Ewing at Holyrood. Once Scotlandâ€™s only 4-way marginal this is really now likely to be an SNP-LibDem dogfight and I expect the SNP to take this in 2010 unless Alex Salmond has become public enemy No 1.
Argyll: (LD) a seat which has been Cons, SNP and LibDem in past 30 years and now a 3-way marginal. LibDems should lose but to whom, probably SNP but to Cons if David Cameron makes an impression in Scotland. I still expect all 3 parties to be within 10% and Labour a long way behind in 4th. The council election results in 2005 for Argyll and Bute showed LibDems down 1 seat, Cons up 1 seat, SNP tripling their seats from 3 to 10. In the Holyrood seat, a swing of over 9% from LibDems to SNP saw them take the seat from the LibDems by a majority of 815 or 2.8% In 3rd place, the Cons vote hardly moved.
Moray: (SNP) a real see-saw seat between Cons and SNP but now moving to safe SNP and should be an easy SNP hold. In 2007 at Holyrood, Richard Lochhead (Margaret Ewingâ€™s successor) drove his vote up by over 7% to almost 50%. He had a technical swing of 3.5% from Cons even though the Cons vote actually increased by almost 2% and the extra votes came from a 4% fall in Labourâ€™s vote. Labour managed 2nd place in 2005 but 2010 should see normal business resumed with a rise in the SNP majority and the Cons candidate easily second again.
A guest slot by Mark Sutherland-Fisker (aka Easterross)
Note from Mike Smithson This is the first part of what will be a regular Friday afternoon feature on PB – a look forward to the general election. Mostly it will consist of guest slots examining different areas or regions but there will also be articles on more general issues.
Saturdays and Sundays As from this weekend I am hoping to change my seven day a week commitment to the site to a five day one so I won’t be posting or regularly monitoring the site at weekends. This will all be in the capable hands of Paul Maggs (Double Carpet) and MORUS.