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Election Spotlight: Is Nicola Sturgeon’s home constituency about to turn its back on the SNP?

© Duncan Bryceland/ShutterstockNicola Sturgeon and husband Peter Murrell. Image: Duncan Bryceland/Shutterstock.
Nicola Sturgeon and husband Peter Murrell. Image: Duncan Bryceland/Shutterstock.

Some believe it could be one of the tightest general election contests anywhere in Scotland but Glasgow East – Nicola Sturgeon’s home constituency – is also extremely difficult to predict.

If the former first minister wakes up on the morning of July 5 in a newly Labour-controlled seat, it would represent a huge symbolic victory for Sir Keir Starmer.

According to pollsters, Labour candidate John Grady looks most likely to win.

But SNP insiders hope recent constituency changes will see David Linden, who first won the seat in 2017 with a majority of just 75, returned to Westminster.

The new boundaries bring the Gorbals and Merchant City, along with the more deprived Govanhill, into the constituency and significantly shift its profile.

Challenging backdrop

A delayed Scottish census means many polling companies still do not take into account the large number of new build homes and young professionals that have appeared in the area over the past 11 years.

The nationalists, who tend to poll well with this group, hope those dual factors will be enough to make up for their shortfall in recent polling.

But they also acknowledge that the election has come against a “challenging backdrop”.

John Swinney. Image: Shutterstock

Nicola Sturgeon remains under police investigation following a probe into the party’s finances and her husband, Peter Murrell, the SNP’s former chief executive, has been charged.

New leader John Swinney replaced Humza Yousaf just weeks before Rishi Sunak announced the vote.

Honing their message to voters

According to Linden, Swinney’s appointment has allowed the SNP to get a hearing on the doorstep and hone their message on austerity, Brexit and the cost of living.

But it remains to be seen whether his influence will be strong enough to keep previous SNP voters onside.

“Any of my colleagues who try to lead you up the garden path and paint a very rosy picture should not be taken seriously,” Linden said.

“I’ve been involved with the SNP since the 2001 Westminster election. I’ve seen a lot of challenging times.

David Linden. Image: Shutterstock

“What we’ve been through in the last year to 18 months is on a scale like nothing I’ve ever seen before.

“There is no doubt John Swinney coming in, and having that steady hand, has helped things enormously.”

‘Nicola Sturgeon effect’

Nicola Sturgeon’s legacy looms large over this general election, particularly in Glasgow, where opponents believe every seat is now in play.

The former SNP leader first contested Glasgow East herself when Linden was just two years old and he cites her as a mentor and friend for the best part of 20 years.

But others in the party have described the “Nicola Sturgeon effect”, where voters cite a loss of trust in the party following its recent woes.

Candidate Stefan Hoggan-Radu with Nicola Sturgeon in Leven. Image: DC Thomson

We revealed last week how Sturgeon had made a surprise return to the campaign trail with Linden in Glasgow East and then North East Fife candidate Stefan Hoggan-Radu.

Linden believes the former leader remains a “huge electoral asset” but political rivals say the public are “totally scunnered” following her time in power.

Shettleston Tory

Tory candidate Thomas Kerr says the people he has spoken to are looking for the best option to get rid of the SNP – and he freely admits that might not be him.

Kerr has grown a reputation as the self-described “Shettleston Tory”.

He grew up in a high rise in one of the most deprived parts of Glasgow and both of his parents struggled with addiction issues.

Kerr hopes his record as a local councillor will be enough to convince voters to back him rather than vote tactically for Labour.

Conservative councillor Thomas Kerr. Image: Supplied

But he also acknowledges that a calamitous Tory election campaign, described by some as one of the worst in history, has left him with an uphill struggle.

First Sunak was forced to admit he made a mistake by abandoning an international commemoration of D-Day to record a television interview.

Then Douglas Ross was forced to quit as Scottish Conservative leader after being parachuted in to replace David Duguid, the hospitalised former Tory MP who insists he was ousted against his will.

Kerr said: “It’s not been a good campaign. I’d be the first person to put my hands up and admit that.

“When it comes to the national stuff, I think sometimes we can be caught in a bubble and believe that’s what the general public are seeing.

“The only thing that’s really cut through on the doors, for me, is that people are struggling at the moment.

“No matter what scandal is going on or what Rishi Sunak or Keir Starmer do tomorrow, the biggest issue I’m hearing is that people are really fed up.”

What impact will Reform have?

It is that frustration with the leading parties that could yet represent the biggest risk for Kerr.

SNP figures believe Nigel Farage’s Reform Party could do well enough in Glasgow to hold on to their deposit – meaning they will have won at least 5% of the vote.

In a city where there is often an interplay between football, religion and politics, some in the party believe the so-called “Orange vote” will shift from Conservatives to Reform and risk splitting the right-wing vote.

But John Grady, who failed to respond to multiple requests for comment, will hope voters are ready to switch from both the SNP and the Tories to back his party once again.

Sir Keir Starmer looks certain to be handed the keys to Number 10 Downing Street next week and winning back traditional Labour seats such as Glasgow East could pave the way.