Here we are then, region 3 in our 8-part series of looking at the regions partaking in the Scottish Parliament elections and speculating over who may win where based largely on recent polling, but also a little bit on transparent hunches here and there. Let’s kick off shall we:

Almond Valley – The tightest constituency after the boundary changes were applied to the 2007 result, with the SNP notional victors by a slender 4 votes. Yes, 4 votes. Angela Constance should be a popular candidate locally but any SNP victory would have to go down as a surprise as there’s no reason why this constituency shouldn’t follow the national swing. Labour gain – Laurence Fitzpatrick

Edinburgh Central – On paper this is something of a four-way contest but in reality (in my view) a straight dogfight between Labour and the Lib Dems. This is student territory if my local geography is correct and I see the Lib Dem voteshare sinking even deeper than the national swing we are seeing in the polls. Labour hold – Sarah Boyack

Edinburgh Eastern – Another tight contest from the 2007 notional results with the SNP ahead by only 545 votes. There are probably too many local factors at play here to put too much stock in the national swing from the polls so it is something of a judgement call. On one hand the incumbent is Kenny MacAskill, a highly visible Minister which will come with an electoral benefit. On the other hand (1) the challenger is Ewan Aitken who is the former leader of the Council so no stranger to the electorate (2) Kenny is guaranteed re-election via the lists which Ewan is surely reminding the voters (3) the Labour machine in this part of Edinburgh is fierce, winning a UK-level award at party conference last year and confounding many expectations with a super comfortable victory in the Westminster elections (4) There is a sizeable Lib Dem vote from 2007 that, if polls are anything to go by, will largely, tactically go to Labour. I say all this to set up what I think will happen – Labour gain – Ewan Aitken

Edinburgh Northern & Leith – Despite regular speculation that the incumbent would be retiring, this should be a straightforward win for Labour despite the Lib Dems and the recently parachuted-in Shirley-Anne Somerville vying for main challenger position. Labour hold – Malcolm Chisholm

Edinburgh Pentlands – A three-horse race if you look at it one way and a safe Tory seat if you look at it another. David McLetchie appears to be a popular MSP in these parts (and nationally). Labour and the SNP are effectively neck-and-neck, 2,600 votes shy of the Conservatives’ 11,178 from 2007. Applying the national swing gives the Conservatives a 1,000 lead which seems a reasonable cushion before even considering an incumbency factor. Tory hold – David McLetchie

Edinburgh Southern – Labour are in clear second place here but the Lib Dems have a 3,955 lead from 2007. A lot will depend on the strength of Mike Pringle’s personal vote (which I have no view on) but I think the Lib Dems will fight just enough on the doorsteps to hold on to this one Lib Dem hold – Mike Pringle

Edinburgh Western – A reasonably safe Lib Dem hold – Margaret Smith

Linlithgow – Fiona Hyslop and Mary Mulligan renew old rivalries from 2007 as the SNP seek to close a 294 majority from 2007 (old boundaries, maj = 1,150). The boundaries have been kind but unless we start to see the SNP pulling ahead in the national polls, I can see no reason why there should be a surprise gain here. Labour hold – Mary Mulligan

Midlothian North & Musselburgh – A similar situation to Linlithgow but with a wider majority for Labour to defend over the SNP from 2007. Rhona Brankin may be stepping down but an SNP gain would still be a shock. Labour gain – Bernard Harkins

So that is the contentious constituencies out of the way, now for the regional breakdown on the basis of a national voteshare of Lab-37%, SNP-34%,Con-15%,LD-10%,Grn-5% (adjusting, as always, for the specific regional split by party in 2007)

1 – SNP (Kenny MacAskill)
2 – SNP (Fiona Hyslop)
3 – SNP (Shirley-Anne Somerville)
4 – Green (Alison Johnstone)
5 – Ind (Margo MacDonald)
6 – SNP (Angela Constance)
7 – Cons (Gavin Brown)

8 – SNP (George Kerevan)

NB: The Greens could win 2 MSPs here and I’m sure it could be done in a number of ways but by my calculations, the Conservative national voteshare would have to fall to around 12.7% and the Green vote share be at around 6.7% to enable this to happen, unless of course the SNP were to start dropping to below 30% (which I find unlikely).

Tactical voting considerations – The Lib Dems do not win an extra MSP if they miss out on one of Edinburgh Western or Edinburgh Southern. Consequently, a tactical vote (from a Green or SNP perspective) would be to consider voting Lib Dem in their winnable seats in this region. As the Conservatives are close to not getting a second MSP from the regional vote if they win Edinburgh Pentlands (but would definitely win one if McLetchie lost out), then a tactical vote, again from a Green or SNP perspective, is to vote David McLetchie in Edinburgh Pentlands.

“Vote Tory”, what a strange way to sign off on a region post but that is how the Lothians works sometimes; you often have to go backwards in order to move forwards. Just ask the Edinburgh Trams team…