By Alistair Grant

JUST 60 votes separate the SNP and Labour in Glasgow South West, making it one of Scotland’s tightest election battles.

In the early decades of the twentieth century, this was “Red Clydeside” – a hotbed a political radicalism and anti-war activism. Labour hope to paint it red once again.

The constituency, which takes in areas such as Pollok and Govan, has struggled with the impact of austerity and welfare reform and contains some of the country’s poorest neighbourhoods.

The SNP’s Chris Stephens won the seat off Labour in 2015 with a healthy 9,950 majority. However, this almost evaporated two years later. Labour came within touching distance of regaining the seat.

The Tories also made substantial gains in 2017, although still trail behind in third place.

Mr Stephens said Brexit comes up frequently on the doorstep, alongside social security and the roll-out of Universal Credit.

But he added: “Local issues haven’t really dominated this campaign as they usually do. I think most people are focused on the bigger picture.”

The former trade union official said his office has been dealing with the impact of Universal Credit ever since it was introduced to Glasgow in September last year.

He said the SNP wants to end the five-week wait for payments and the two-child benefit cap.

“I think it’s looking good so far – certainly we’re seeing our support increase,” he said.

“We’ve also got three times as many activists out as we did the last time.

“I’m always optimistic. I would never declare a result before the voters actually vote.”

He added: “The last time with two weeks to go, I thought I was going to lose. We managed to turn it back in the last ten days.

“On this occasion I’m optimistic that our vote and our support is motivated to come out.”

Matt Kerr, Labour’s candidate for Glasgow South West, also said he is feeling “quietly confident”.

Behind the scenes, Labour activists are playing up their chances of gaining key seats in central Scotland, despite unfavourable polling.

“Obviously it was a very close run seat last time,” Mr Kerr said. “But I think we can do it.

“We have been getting loads of activists out in this constituency this time round, and that’s been hugely encouraging as well – just the number of people who are coming out to help and are so determined to get a Labour government.”

Mr Kerr said the constituency is home to one of the busiest food banks in the country. He also cited Universal Credit and its impact.

“There’s a lot of people in this constituency who are struggling to eat and to be perfectly honest with you, that comes before everything,” he said.

“If we can’t, as a country, ensure that everybody is fed, watered and has a decent roof over their heads then I don’t see the point in government. That is my absolute priority – to eliminate the use of food banks.”

While the Tories and others will also hope to pick up votes, this is very much an SNP-Labour fight.