The smallest of swings might turn the tables

May 25, 2001

Most marginal Scottish seats are a battle between Labour and the Scottish National Party

Aberdeen South is one of only a handful where Labour will be fighting against the Liberal Democrats, its partner in Scotland's coalition government.

It is the quintessential swing seat, traditionally Conservative until it was won by Labour's Donald Dewar in 1966. It has since lurched between the two parties, and was won in 1997 by Labour's Anne Begg.

But second place in 1997 went not to the Tories but to Nicol Stephen of the Scottish Liberal Democrats. He subsequently won the seat in the 1999 Scottish parliamentary elections, and became deputy minister for enterprise and lifelong learning.

Aberdeen South is now the number one target in Scotland for the Liberal Democrats, who need a swing of 3.82 per cent to beat Ms Begg's 3,365 majority. Their candidate is Ian Yuill, deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats on Aberdeen city council.

The seat is also high on the Tories' target list: they would win on a 4.45 per cent swing from Labour to Conservative. They are fielding Moray Macdonald, a parliamentary researcher based in Edinburgh.

The constituency incorporates expensive leafy suburbs and some of the city's poorest tenements. It also includes a major campus of the Robert Gordon University and a large number of further and higher education students.

The Liberal Democrats might find student support thanks to their anti-tuition-fee stance across the United Kingdom. But Kirstin McLarty, a fourth-year politics and international relations student at Aberdeen University, said: "I would not say students think about it that seriously. Now people don't pay tuition fees here, it's almost as if they've forgotten about them."

According to Niall Stuart, studying for an MSc in information analysis at RGU: "It's a straight choice between Labour and Conservative because the Lib Dems aren't going to form a coalition (in Westminster). But there are a large number of students who are not interested in politics. RGU has no political clubs."

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