Ferret Fact Service | Scotland's impartial fact check project

By Bill Heaney and Ferret reporters

The 2021 Scottish Parliament election will see candidates and parties in Dumbarton which includes Helensburgh, Cardross, Lomond and Vale of Leven fighting over both constituencies and list seats.

The Ferret investigative journalism bureau said today that while the SNP has a significant lead in the number of MSPs, there are aspects of the election that remain on a knife edge.

A number of constituency seats were won by fewer than 1,000 votes in 2016, and some smaller parties are pinning their hopes on gaining representation through the regional list.

The Ferret Fact Service examined where parties will be looking to pick up seats in the vote on 6 May.

How close will it be?

Labour’s Anas Sarwar and Jackie Baillie and the SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon and Toni Giugliano.

Nicola Sturgeon’s party are four seats short of a majority and polling shows the party may be close to achieving that goal, which would see them no longer reliant on support from the Scottish Greens and others to pass legislation at Holyrood.

For the opposition parties, depriving the SNP of that majority may be the aim, as well as the battle for second place.

The Ferret says Dumbarton is the closest constituency in Scotland, with Labour’s Jackie Baillie holding the seat by just 109 votes in the 2016 election.

Jackie Baillie has been the incumbent since 1999, but has seen her majority whittled down over the years.

Her main challenge comes from the SNP, and their candidate, Toni Giugliano. She held onto her seat in 2016 despite a national swing towards the SNP.

Pundits said her campaigning in support of the constituency’s HMNB Clyde at at Faslane, Coulport and Glen Mallan, where the UK’s Trident nuclear missiles are stored cost her votes.

However, this time around Baillie’s support from the families of serving Naval personnel and employees at the Base, whose jobs depend on it, may well be encouraged to vote Labour.

Ms Baillie can also take heart from the additional support she is receiving from the increasingly popular Anas Sarwar, the new Scottish Labour leader.

To do otherwise might see them compared to turkeys voting for Christmas if they give their support support to Labour over the SNP who want to see the Base scaled down, which would result in the number of jobs there being reduced dramatically.

Baillie also has strong support in Helensburgh and the Rosneath Peninsula which have stuck by her over the years and are unlikely to desert her this time around.

Last time the result was as follows: 

Winner: Jackie Baillie – Scottish Labour – 13,522 votes

Second place: SNP – 13,413 votes

Majority: 109 votes

What about the regional list?

List winners last time – Tory Maurice Corry and Labour’s Monica Lennon.

One of the biggest questions this election is how the parties will perform on the regional list. Two of the best known candidates from the list in the last parliament were Monica Lennon, the Labour health spokesperson and, from this area, Maurice Corry, of the Conservatives.

The 6 May vote will see parties picking up seats in both constituencies and regions, via the additional members system.

While the constituency vote is based on the first past the post system used in UK Parliament elections, the regional vote is via a form of proportional representation. Scotland is divided into eight regions, electing seven MSPs each.

They are then elected based on a system known as the D’Hondt formula. This balances votes in the regional list against success in the constituency vote, meaning it should be harder for a party which takes seats in the region’s constituencies to gain seats on the list.

This aims to give better representation to smaller parties which would otherwise not return MSPs reflective of their vote share.

 In the 2016 election the SNP won 59 of 73 constituencies, but returned only four regional MSPs, despite receiving nearly twice as many votes (41.7 per cent) on the list as its nearest challenger.

In 2016, the second and third largest parties – Scottish Conservatives and Scottish Labour – gained most of their seats through the regional vote instead of constituencies.

One of these seats went to Maurice Corry of the Conservatives but he has lost the party nomination to repeat that success. Many Tories believe that it was cruel of the party to ditch him from the regional list.

Mr Corry’s profile and politically activity has mainly been in the Helensburgh and Lochside area but it would take a political earthquake for him to beat Baillie in Dumbarton.

The Scottish Greens had six MSPs elected through the regional list, accounting for all its representation.

How about the new list parties?

Alex Salmond of the Alba Party, and All4Unity’s George Galloway.

This election there are a number of smaller parties vying for seats on the list, who previously have not been represented. The two highest-profile are Alex Salmond’s Alba Party, and All4Unity, fronted by George Galloway. Both parties could be within striking distance of gaining seats on the list.

The threshold for gaining representation on the regional vote is around five to six per cent, although this depends on the region and how the rest of the votes are distributed among the other parties.

The usual margin of error for election opinion polls is about three per cent, and both Alba and All4Unity have polled within the margin of error of the usual threshold for seats, so their impact remains to be seen.

Seven candidates will contest the Dumbarton constituency in next month’s Scottish Parliament election.

Listed in alphabetical order by surname, they are:

  • Jackie Baillie – Scottish Labour Party
  • Maurice Corry – Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party
  • Andy Foxall – Scottish Liberal Democrats
  • Toni Giugliano – Scottish National Party (SNP)
  • James Morrison – Independent
  • Andrew Joseph Muir – Independent
  • Jonathan Rainey – Scottish Libertarian Party

Polling stations for the elections on Thursday May 6 are listed here.

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