Scotland politics

Mining for votes amid West Lothian's industrial past

West Lothian shale bing Image copyright Kim Traynor
Image caption West Lothian's landscape carries the reminders of its mining past

The Five Sisters in Livingston are an imposing reminder of West Lothian's industrial past - huge mounds of discards from the old shale mines that once dominated the economy - and community life - here.

And many of those communities will have voted Labour. For years this was a party heartland which was home to big beasts like Tam Dalyell and Robin Cook. Before his death, Mr Cook had a majority of more than 13,000 - he commanded the support of more than half of the electorate.

But much has changed here. The mines are closed, the economy is now focussed on some remnants of small industry, retail and elsewhere. Livingston and its surrounding towns often acts as feeders for Edinburgh.

Robin Chesters is director at the Scottish Shale Industry Museum.

"There are still communities here who remember those days," he says, "it's the parents, it's the grandparents - but in places like Livingston there have been tremendous changes in population."

The Labour candidate here is a vocal supporter of Jeremy Corbyn. And she thinks the Labour leader's message is appealing to voters.

"I think for a long time communities like this were taken for granted the SNP had something really positive to offer - that was independence. But we've now seen the reality," she says, referring to a perceived lack of progress under the SNP Scottish government.

The choice, she says, is clear: A Labour government or a Conservative government.

"I think that's cutting through."

A strong voice

Some here though don't seem to mind the idea of a Conservative government all that much.

The Tories here are buoyed by local election results and national opinion polls. Their candidate thinks he is in with a good chance of beating Ms Wolfson - putting the party once seen as the enemy of miners above Labour for the first time in modern history here.

Damian Timson says: "There are two types of Conservatives - there's this bogeyman conservative that people talk about and then there's the real conservative; the likes of myself and Ruth Davidson and everyone else and I think at last the message has got out that we're a party for everyone."

But this seat was won comfortably by the SNP in 2015 - Hannah Bardell took even more of the vote that Robin Cook had back in 2005 (she won 57% of the vote - a majority of almost 17,000).

"People have found that the SNP have been a strong voice for them in Livingston - I've done everything in my power to raise constituency issues on the floor of the house," she says.

"There has certainly been big changes in Livingston. But what West Lothian and Livingston have been very good at doing is bouncing back - and what the SNP have offered is support for the new industries."

The Lib Dem candidate Charlie Dundas will be hoping he improves on his showing from 2015 - when the party won just 2.1% of the vote - losing its deposit and finishing behind UKIP.

His pitch?

"There's only one party that is standing up for the two unions that they believe in - Livingston voted to remain in the UK back in 2014; Livingston voted to remain the EU."

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