ONCE at the heart of Scotland’s iron and coal mining industries, this part of North Lanarkshire was scorched by the Thatcher era, changing its economic fortunes and its politics

What was a Labour-Tory battleground became a Labour-SNP one, at least on paper. In practice, Labour’s dominance rolled on. Tom Clarke was the MP for the seat and its previous incarnations from 1982 until 2015.

He got an almighty shock when his 20,714 majority became an SNP one of 11,501 for Phil Boswell. 

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Mr Boswell’s time as the area’s MP was short and sour, blighted by party infighting even SNP HQ called “toxic”.

In 2017 Hugh Gaffney benefitted from the ugly backdrop to retake the seat for Labour by 1,586 votes.

“If they can’t work together, how can they work for the people?” he asked pointedly.

This time he faces SNP councillor Steven Bonnar. 

From Glasgow’s eastern edge, the seat runs south from Moodiesburn and Stepps through the former steel town of Gartcosh to Coatbridge and Bellshill. 

In 2014 it voted Yes and in 2016 Remain. With the SNP and Labour hostile to Boris Johnson, and both offering or open to new ballots on Brexit and independence, local issues and mobilising core support are to the fore. 

Tory supporters may also prove critical. The party doubled its vote to 7,318 in 2017 but this time around it seems to have given up. Judging by his Twitter posts, candidate Nathan Wilson spends more time in Tory-held East Renfrewshire. 

If Tory supporters vote tactically to spite the SNP, Mr Gaffney should hang on. 

It’s an increasingly tense race. Nicola Sturgeon was there yesterday; Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard arrives today.

For Labour, the key local issue is Monklands Hospital in next-door Airdrie & Shotts. For years the SNP mined votes by vowing to save Monklands. Now they’ve accepted its closure and likely relocation to Gartcosh.

It may be a devolved issue but, given Coatbridge is a big part of the catchment, Labour is campaigning on it hard.  

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“People are up in arms,” Mr Gaffney said.

“Everybody in this community knows Monklands Hospital. They’re proud of Monklands Hospital,  And that’s the site they want to keep it on.”

He also says the SNP has sickened folk by “overplaying” independence. “We’ve had 10 years of SNP and that’s all they talk about. People see they’re a one-trick pony. It’s time to start looking after the people in Scotland.”

Mr Bonnar insists the Monklands plan is not as sinister as Labour claims.

“There’s a commitment to build a new hospital. Monklands isn’t losing a hospital. What’s up for debate is the site the hospital is on.”

He insists the main issue on the doorstep is Brexit. He says Thursday’s vote is “50-50” and isn’t afraid to get personal to try to edge it.

“Electing Scottish Labour MPs does nothing to protect Scottish interests because they don’t put Scotland first. What impact is Hugh Gaffney going to have in the British Labour Party? Nothing.

“Labour voters can vote for me and get Labour traditional values. If there’s anybody who could out-socialist Hugh Gaffney, it’s me.”

Patrick McAleer is standing for the Scottish Greens, David Stevens for the LibDems.