Election 2015: Why the Tories could surprise us all in Scotland
Adrian Sykes's forecast that the Tories will win five seats in Scotland has been met with some surprise, Here, he explains what's behind his thinking.
My slightly tongue-in-cheek forecast that the Conservatives couldwin five seats in Scotlandhas attracted challenge from some readers (occasionally sealed with a 'Glasgow kiss').
Disagreement with a controversial forecast is understandable but scepticism should be tempered by cool and non-partisan evaluation. I am no Walter Mitty dreamer; no Sir Walter Scott romantic; nor (yet) drunk.
Scottish voting intentions in 2015 are impervious to analysis. Traditional loyalties have been junked: but is this really true in all constituencies and to a uniform extent?
The Scots, famously more reserved, are less likely than the English to wear their hearts on their sleeves when pestered by pollsters. Even in the darkest of days a decade ago for Conservatives north of the border, the party's share of the vote was little less that the Liberal Democrats, but more thinly spread and less effective.
In the last two years, that share has crept towards 20% and has now overtaken the Liberal Democrats especially in areas where only 25 years ago, the Scottish Tories won 11 seats. For all the Scots' supposed left-of-centre ideals trumpeted by the SNP (which may be true in deprived areas of the Central Belt), there is a quiet determination towards conservative values (with a small 'c') in many other, more rural areas.
Were this innate and unspoken canniness to extend, in the privacy of the voting booth, to a refusal to join in a tide of hysterical populism that the polls indicate will win the SNP up to 50 seats, and were it to be linked effectively to tactical voting, mostly with Liberal Democrats, the results in a few constituencies could be surprising.
The values and virtues of the majority of Scots should not be underrated nor ignored I am half-Scottish myself. It cannot be emphasised enough that the SNP's ranting parade of Scottish 'ethics' and ambitions does not represent all Scots. It has become a cult (much like Ukip), allowing no voice for moderate Unionists especially those who celebrate their British kinship, history, military connections and who wish to retain Trident.
Yet it was clear, in last September's referendum, that the pollsters were misled by the reticence of many voters. Scotland suffers no deprivation (as a whole certain areas are famously bad, but there are pockets of deprivation everywhere in the UK), enjoys more than its fair share of national expenditure, controls its own NHS and education, and is much more than the theme park for rich landowners that the SNP condemn.
And as part of the UK, Scotland has been able to shrug off the fall in the price of oil nature's blessing, that the SNP only recently held out as the gold-dust of independence. The SNP, having lied about it, no longer mentions it.
I have taken these simple truths into account, by suggesting that the Tories might win seats in any of these specific areas: rural Aberdeenshire and Perthshire, Aberdeen itself, a part of Edinburgh, East Lothian, the Borders and the Ayrshire coast.
The reasons (heavily influenced by large majorities in favour of the Union last September) range from a nostalgic Tory history; Westminster support for the distressed oil industry; a rich agricultural and food manufacturing interest, which sells the bulk of its produce into England; the financial sector's reliance on sterling, UK governance and markets; and a border shared with England.
Above all, by adding the Liberal Democrat, Labour and Tory 'embedded' votes together, tactical voting could be key. It might be the only way to counter the cult of the SNP.