For many Central constituencies, a Labour win can be perceived as something of an open and shut case. Let’s see what, if any, surprises may be sprung in 2011.

Airdrie & Shotts – There’s something about this constituency that, to me, has always seemed to be an SNP Gain in the making. Sophia Coyle reduced the 2003 8,977 majority to 1,446 in 2007 and boundary changes reduced it further to 633. Perhaps that is where the SNP will top out given the giant leap forward last time but, with just another push, this could be the SNP’s Cunninghame North or Striling of 2011. I had planned on giving this to Labour and my model does suggest they will shade it but I’ve just learned that it is the enigmatic Alex Neil who is standing for the SNP. Against Karen Whitefield, I have to think that the Nats will have enough to push them over the edge and finally this constituency will be SNP Gain – Alex Neil

Coatbridge & Chryston – Easy Labour hold – Elaine Smith

Cumbernauld & Kilsyth – Another Labour marginal that the SNP will do its best to throw West-coast resources at. A lot depends on what the locals think of their MSP Cathie Craigie who has served them for 12 years and what the addition of “MSP” will have done to their perception of challenger Jamie Hepburn (who I happen to think is amongst the very brightest and best of the Nat Rat Pack at Holyrood). That said, strictly on what the polls today are telling me, I am calling this for Labour. Labour hold – Cathy Craigie

East Kilbride – Probably the SNP’s best chance of a big scalp comes here with Andy Kerr holding a 1,972 majority over Linda Fabiani from 2007, increased to 2,108 after boundary changes. The same two do battle again but there is more scope for tactical voting and/or Lib Dems voting elsewhere given the 7,000+ votes for Lib Dems/Tories in 2007 (which is considerably higher than LD/Tory votes in other constituencies). I reckon Labour will get enough top up votes from ex Liberal Democrats to keep a nice majority here. Labour hold – Andy Kerr

Falkirk East – An interesting seat this one as Keith Brown stood for the SNP in 2003 and Annabelle Ewing stood in 2007, both unable to strip back the Labour majority. On a national voteshare of Lab – 35% and SNP 34%, this seat has a majority for Labour of 2,632. Reversing that voteshare to put the SNP in the lead reduces the majority to a still substantial 1,901 so I don’t see the SNP challenger Angus MacDonald winning through unless something rather special happens. Labour hold – Cathy Peattie

Falkirk West – A rare SNP seat in a sea of red in the West, Michael Matheson holding a notional 743 majority going into this contest. Denis Goldie returns to fight for his seat back for Labour but, with the national voteshare prescribed above, the SNP cling on by 66 votes and, in truth, I suspect they’ll hold on by even more than that. SNP hold – Michael Matheson.

Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse – An easy hold for Tom McCabe as Christina McKelvie fights in vain for the win. Labour hold – Tom McCabe

Motherwell & Wishaw – Jack McConnell’s old constituency should change hands from the former First Minister to the 2011 candidate with a reduced majority but no real surprises. John Swinburne of SCCUP to finish 3rd ahead of Conservatives and Lib Dems. Labour hold – John Pentland (Interesting aside, the Lib Dem candidate in 2003 was called K.Legg)

Uddingston & Bellshill – Michael McMahon to stroll back into office with a 5,000+ majority. Labour hold – Michael McMahon

So, that’s 2 for the SNP and 7 for Labour. Let’s see how that impacts upon the d’hondt allocation for Central with a national voteshare of Lab – 36%, SNP – 33%, Con – 13%, Lib Dem – 8%, Greens – 6%

1 – SNP (Jamie Hepburn)
2 – SNP (Linda Fabiani)
3 – Conservative (Margaret Mitchell)
4 – SNP (Richard Lyle)
5 – Labour (Siobhan McMahon)
6 – SNP (Christina McKelvie)
7 – Labour (Mark Griffin)

8 – SNP (Angus McDonald)

Total (2007 in brackets)
Labour – 9 (8)
SNP – 6 (7)
Conservative – 1 (1)
Lib Dems 0 – (1)
Greens – 0 (0)

So, the net loser of the reduction in FPTP seats here is the SNP, despite my predicting them to win Airdrie & Shotts. This makes sense since it is SNP-held Kilmarnock & Loudon that has been chopped up and spread out. As can be seen from the d’hondt allocation, it’s a bit of a see-saw effect over who between the SNP will pick up that valuable seventh seat as it alternates SNP/Labour from position 4 onwards but, nonetheless, Labour go into this contest with something of an upper hand.

This is of course the region that Hugh O’Donnell has decided not to stand for the Lib Dems in. I had not reflected that factor in my workings and the Lib Dems still didn’t get a seat, limping out of the region altogether, so I do not expect that Hugh will win one as an independent. John Swinburne will stand here for the SCCUP, the Socialists have Kevin McVey and the Greens have Kirsten Robb. Even with a 6% national voteshare, I can’t see the Greens winning a seat here unfortunately; I make them to be a good 4,700 votes off taking that 7th spot.

So all in all a pretty straightforward region where the SNP and Labour really are in a two-horse race on the face of things.

Tactical Voting considerations

From an SNP perspective, it’s straightforward, vote SNP in every constituency and with every regional vote because the party is either number 1 or number 2 in each seat.

For the Greens, their main problem is that they simply don’t have enough votes to be in the mix. They really need to outscore the Lib Dems (which I have them to do by 300 votes) and take more than half of the Conservative voteshare (which I have them 600 votes short of) to have any real chance of scooping a seat here. Labour and SNP look too strong as things stand at the moment though.