General election 2017: The Scottish sub-plot

by Tom Gillingham

Theresa May’s shock announcement that she will call a General Election for 8 June has profound implications across the country, but an important element of the six-week campaign will be developments in a corner of Southern Scotland.

The constituency of Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale returned Scotland’s only Conservative MP in 2015, with a slim majority of 798. This majority, in a seat that the Tories have held since 2005, comes into sharp focus after the Prime Minister’s announcement today.

It’s widely expected that this snap General Election will be fought along independence referendum lines in Scotland, with the result in each constituency seen as a direct indicator of a likely future yes/no result. As such, we can expect tactical voting on both sides, mudslinging and ferocious campaigning as this fundamental constitutional question looms large over the vote.

If the Conservatives’ solitary Scottish seat were to fall to the SNP, or indeed any other party, it would fatally damage Westminster resistance to a second independence referendum. Theresa May isn’t a gambler, and she has spoken at length about the importance of the Union. It would therefore stand to reason that she believes she can make significant gains in Scotland, or at very least hold on to this shoogly constituency peg.

In the ongoing battle of mandates, an end to Westminster Tory representation north of the border would be Nicola Sturgeon’s trump card, and it’s hard to believe Theresa May would have taken this particular leap without having a long, hard look first.

The snap general election will also have significant implications in Northern Ireland. The 8th of June falls in the middle of Stormont powersharing negotiations and a potentially divisive general election campaign risks undermining future chances of an agreement.

This election takes place against the background of ‘cash for ash’ scandal which broke at the start of the year and calls from Sinn Fein for a referendum on Irish unity, and growing fears about the impact of Brexit on the province.

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