Election 2017: Conservatives focus on key seats

By Nick Eardley
BBC Scotland

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David MundellImage source, PA
Image caption,
Scottish Secretary David Mundell has been the sole Conservative MP north of the border since 2001

The Conservatives overtaking Labour was one of the big stories of the last Holyrood election. The party is in confident mood north of the border ahead of 8 June too.

You can expect the message to be similar to last year's Scottish Parliament campaign over the next six weeks. The party thinks it's on to a winner with its opposition to a second independence referendum (Its opponents of course think there are other areas where it is vulnerable - such as the record of the UK government - and will want to focus more on them).

Senior Tories are playing down the idea they could take as many as 12 constituencies, as one poll suggested shortly after the election was called. But there are a number of areas where they think they stand a good chance.

First up, the seat it currently holds. Scottish Secretary David Mundell has been the sole Conservative MP north of the border since 2001, holding Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale.

At the last general election, this one was close. Mr Mundell beat his SNP challenger by just 798 votes. The Conservatives are hoping the result will be more comfortable this time. Party insiders don't think the seat is safe by any means, but hope if there is an increase in support for the party north of the border, similar to what happened last year at Holyrood, it should stay in their hands (the SNP says it will challenge for every seat - including this one. More on that in the link below).

Image caption,
John Lamont has resigned his Holyrood seat to stand in Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk

The Tories also have high hopes for the two other Borders seats - Dumfries and Galloway (6,514 SNP majority last time) and Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk (local MSP John Lamont has resigned his Holyrood seat to fight this one, a tiny 328 majority for the SNP's Calum Kerr last time. Labour's Ian Davidson and Lib Dem Catriona Bhatia are also standing).

I blogged earlier this week about the race in Moray - where the party thinks it's in with a chance of giving SNP deputy leader Angus Robertson a run for his money.

Senior Tories are mentioning a few other seats as being "in play", based on swings from Holyrood last year and support for their anti-independence message. You can expect them to focus on West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine (Theresa May visited over the weekend), as well as Perth and North Perthshire (Tory MEP Ian Duncan is taking on the SNP's Pete Wishart).

Image caption,
Ian Duncan is standing in Perth and North Perthshire

The party also hopes its ground operation can pay dividends in East Renfrewshire. This is a seat Labour have an eye on too - and they'll be fighting the Conservatives for the unionist vote. 63.2 per cent of voters hear voted No in 2014 (although that didn't stop the SNP winning by nearly 4,000 votes in the following years general election and Nicola Sturgeon made a high-profile visit last week.) The Conservatives took the equivalent Holyrood seat last year.

What about Edinburgh? Sources have mentioned both Edinburgh South (Labour's last seat) and Edinburgh South West (where list MSP Miles Briggs is standing against incumbent Joanna Cherry).

This list isn't exhaustive, but indicates how Tory confidence in Scotland is rising ahead of the election.

You can read more about what the other parties are thinking ahead of the election below.

*There will be a full list of candidates online after the close of nominations.

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