Who is going to win the general election in Livingston?
Constituency profile of Lothian seat where SNP majority was cut significantly last time
“I DON'T think any of us have ever faced an election quite like this,” says the SNP’s Hannah Bardell. It feels very unusual. I think more than ever people are just feeling very unsettled and very disheartened in general by politics.”
She says Brexit - the reason Boris Johnson gave for calling the election - has been the dominant issue or the doorstep.
But Ms Bardell - who is hoping to be re-elected as MP for Livingston - thinks the prolonged saga over the UK leaving the European Union has helped to make the case for independence. “Brexit has exposed the dysfunctionality of Westminster. I’ve been sitting there week in week out and I feel this last year in particular has been so demoralising.”
In 2015 Ms Bardell stormed to victory in Livingston - a constituency which takes in Polbeth, Addiewell, Stoneyburn and Fauldhouse as well as the new town - with a majority of 16,843. That was reduced to 3,878 last time. But she is optimistic about retaining the seat on December 12.
“In areas where people were No voters in the independence referendum but very strong Remain in the EU referendum, we’re seeing a surge in support.
“And in areas where there is a big SNP and Yes vote, but quite a mix of Leave and Remain - the data tells us those folk didn’t turn out so much last time, but they seem more motivated this time.”
And she says there are people who would not naturally support the SNP or independence who are voting for her because they feel so passionately about staying in the EU.
Labour candidate Caitlin Kane grew up in Addiewell and still lives there. A first-time candidate, she has worked in the social housing sector and in the NHS and is now a parliamentary researcher.
“My politics has been inspired by where I come from,” she says. “Addiewell is an ex-mining village, very much scarred by the Thatcher years. People here are very hard-working but they are struggling a lot. I see the poverty and inequality right in front of me when I open my front door.”
She says Brexit is not a hot topic when she talks to people. “What does come up are local issues, issues with the NHS, especially excessive waiting times, and council house waiting lists. And people are very frightened about Boris Johnson continuing to be Prime Minister.”
A massive poll published last week with a seat-by-seat analysis predicted the SNP would win Livingston with 43 per cent of the vote, but with the Tories second on 25 and Labour in third place with 22.
But Ms Kane insists Labour is still the main challenger. “At the last election the SNP majority was significantly reduced. There’s 3878 votes between us and SNP, the Tories lag behind - the Tories cannot win here. The SNP cannot form a government in this election, it’s a UK general election. We are offering working people a better future and more money in their pocket with the £10 minimum wage and ending exploitation in the workplace. People are struggling and the Tories don’t offer them any hope for the future.”
But Tory candidate Damian Timson, leader of the Conservative group on West Lothian Council, which gives informal support to the minority Labour administration, claims a lot of former Labour supporters are switching to his party.
He says: “It’s a two-horse race between the SNP, whose one agenda is independence, and the Conservatives, who will not just be standing up against any second referendum but will also be making sure Brexit gets done and we can move forward.”
He claims Labour has stepped back from opposition to indyref2. “I don’t think they represent the Union any more. And lot of people are looking at the Labour manifesto and saying it’s just not realistic.
“Locally, in West Lothian people are seeing what the Conservative councillors are doing since we got seven elected and some of the positive results we are having.”
Lib Dem Charles Dundas believes his party will do better this time than in other recent elections.
“We’re always keen to say this is more than just a Brexit election, but that’s the thing people want to talk about. People are concerned about its effect on the economy and their jobs.
“There’s no doubt about where the Lib Dems stand on Brexit and having that flagship, clear-minded ‘Stop Brexit’ message is cutting through. People want to have a say, be it this general election or another referendum, but people want to see the back of it and they don’t see politicians as being the solution.”
Green candidate Cameron Glasgow - the youngest person standing in Scotland at this election - believes his party is well placed on the key issues of Brexit and independence. “As a party which has been 100 per cent Remain from day one our position is crystal clear. A Green vote is a vote for Scotland to stay within the family of European nations.”
“However, I know there are thousands of voters in West Lothian who share my despair about the way that Brexit is crowding out the urgency of tackling the climate emergency. In particular, younger voters want to see far more commitment from politicians on the need to make the right choices for decades to come.”