OF all the dramatic moments in the 2015 General Election, nothing better symbolised the changes sweeping Scotland than former Shadow Cabinet member Douglas Alexander losing Paisley and Renfrewshire South to Mhairi Black.

The youngest MP to be elected in the democratic era, Ms Black was just 20 at the time.

In fact, she was only three years old when Mr Alexander first won a Paisley seat in a 1997 by-election.

Being the youngest MP, knocking out one of Labour’s leading lights and a viral maiden speech all combined to propel her to stardom – or, at least, as close to stardom as an MP can get.

The Gazette: Mhairi Black is looking to make it three wins on the bounce Mhairi Black is looking to make it three wins on the bounce

Despite that profile and popularity, she was not immune to the SNP’s reversal in fortunes at the next General Election in 2017, which saw her majority cut by half.

Bear in mind, however, that 2015 majority of 12% was relatively slender in an election full of 20 to 30% margins of victory. When colleagues elsewhere were losing their seats from a safer starting point, Ms Black held on, which would indicate holding onto a reasonable personal vote.

That’s likely to play in the SNP’s favour again on December 12.

Last time around, Labour conspired to lose votes in this constituency in an election where they otherwise saw a modest increase in support across Scotland. If they couldn’t topple Ms Black then, it’s unlikely they will be able to do so this time. They won’t just need to pull themselves out of their current polling doldrums but actively improve on their 2017 result, which won’t be easy.


Don’t expect too much from the other parties contesting this seat. Whilst the Liberal Democrats appear to be going through something of a revival, they haven’t been particularly strong in Renfrewshire for quite a while, though this constituency does overlap with the one ward they have a councillor in.

They’ll almost certainly show a respectable increase off the back of their pro-EU credentials in a Brexit election but nowhere near enough to win.

Finishing up with the Conservatives, this is easily the weaker side of Renfrewshire for the party. They did see a big increase in their vote here in 2017 but still came in below 20%.
It’s likely they’ll hold onto third place but they aren’t in it to win it.

In contrast to its neighbouring constituency, Paisley and Renfrewshire North is a three-way marginal, if only just.

The Gazette: Douglas Alexander, who lost his seat to Mhairi Black Douglas Alexander, who lost his seat to Mhairi Black

Not so very long ago, it would have been strange to describe a seat in the West of Scotland in those terms. These days, there are 30 such seats across the country, which helps add to the general political unpredictability witnessed here in recent elections.

The Conservatives may have come third but, at 9.9% behind the SNP and 4.3% behind Labour, that does put it in the realms of theoretically winnable.

READ MORE: SNP landslide predicted as Renfrewshire voters to to the polls

A lot of that vote likely came from the Bishopton, Bridge of Weir and Langbank ward, where not only were the Conservatives the clear leaders the month before, but they polled so well they probably accidentally did themselves out of a second councillor by only standing one candidate.


In reality, there’s probably a limit to how much they’ll be able to leverage that localised vote, especially in an election where all the indications so far are that the Conservatives are going backwards.

That, however, doesn’t mean it’ll be plain sailing for Labour to pinch it from the SNP.

As is the case in so many Central Belt seats, Labour’s prospects at the moment rely on them either managing an even more miraculous recovery than in 2017 or running such a strong local campaign that they completely buck their national trend.

The Gazette: Gavin Newlands is hoping to retain his Paisley and Renfrewshire North seat Gavin Newlands is hoping to retain his Paisley and Renfrewshire North seat

There’s always a possibility of upset at any election but I wouldn’t advise betting on that here.

Keep an eye on the Liberal Democrats vote share as well, even if just to see if their pro-EU rebound is truly nationwide.

Overall then, the SNP are likely to be feeling rather confident about their chances.

If the troubles of their opponents and a recent history of strong performances in Renfrewshire weren’t enough for them, polling which shows their national vote creeping upwards puts Gavin Newlands in a strong position heading into this election.

By guest columnist Allan Faulds 

The Gazette: Allan Faulds Allan Faulds

The battle to win the hearts and minds of Renfrewshire voters is now in full swing as the General Election approaches.

And, today, The Gazette turns the spotlight on the two local constituencies that will help to decide the UK’s future direction.

Allan Faulds, who runs the Ballot Box Scotland website, casts his expert eye over the electoral landscape of both Paisley and Renfrewshire North and neighbouring Paisley and Renfrewshire South.

Ballot Box Scotland tracks data from elections across the country and is able to provide an overview of what to expect in each constituency as the results from the December 12 vote take shape.

You can find out more by visiting here

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