Just under 250 votes split Labour and the SNP in Glasgow North East when the UK last went to the polls in a General Election.

Labour’s Paul Sweeney took back the seat his party had lost in 2015 to SNP representative Anne McLaughlin.

It was the only constituency won by Jeremy Corbyn’s party in the city, an improvement on that 2015 election when the SNP took all seven Glasgow seats.

Extending north from Dennistoun, it takes in Riddrie and Ruchazie, Balornock and Barmulloch, Springburn, Robroyston, Hamiltonhill, Possilpark and Milton.

Behind the political battle for control, Glasgow North East is a constituency facing significant challenges.

The number of children living in poverty is alarming. Statistics released earlier this year show the child poverty rate is 34% in both Dennistoun and Springburn and Robroyston, two council wards fully contained within the constituency.

READ MORE: General Election 2019 battlegrounds: Everything to know for Glasgow North West

The Canal ward, which is partly within Glasgow North East, has a 41% poverty rate, while East Centre and North East, which also overlap, were recorded as 35% and 37% respectively.

Recently, a group of Springburn mums set up a baby foodbank to help struggling families, providing items such as stage one formula, nappies, baby wipes, baby food, breast pads and toiletries.

One mum said: “Two years ago I went without benefits for 10 weeks. If it wasn’t for my friends, I don’t know where I would have been.”

Benefits issues for parents, caused by the roll-out of Universal Credit, are behind the need for the foodbank.

Glasgow Times:

Glasgow North West Citizens Advice Bureau, formerly Maryhill and Possilpark CAB, covers parts of both Glasgow North East and the neighbouring Glasgow North constituency. Outreach sessions are held regularly in Possilpark Library.

Last year, the service issued advice on 8700 occasions – almost 6000 were related to benefits and 1500 were on debt. Three-quarters of the clients came from the 20% most deprived communities.

The CAB’s chief executive Rob Gallagher said there is a lot of people in crisis, who “are going into debt just to keep paying bills”.

In partnership with the Scottish Legal Aid Board and Greater Glasgow and Clyde NHS, the CAB provides advice to low-income families, families with young or disabled children, mental health patients or clients with other health-related issues about benefits, debt, money worries, housing or immigration.

READ MORE: General Election 2019 battlegrounds: Everything to know for Glasgow North

Residents in the constituency also have concerns over the ­future of local leisure facilities, with campaign groups fighting to protect places such as Whitehill Pool, Alexandra Park golf course and Haghill fitness studio from potential council cuts.

These issues are the backdrop to the election on December 12. Sweeney and McLaughlin are both on the ballot again this year, with the LibDems and the Tories putting forward new candidates.

McLaughlin will hope to secure the seat for her party for only the second time since the constituency was created in 2005.

Formed from parts of the old Glasgow Springburn and Glasgow Maryhill constituencies, the area’s first MP was Michael Martin.

Martin represented the Labour Party from 1979 to 2000 but, by the time Glasgow North East was established, had become Speaker of the House of Commons, a role where holders no longer represent their political parties.

He resigned from that position in 2009 following an expenses row, triggering a by-election for his seat. Willie Bain, the Labour representative, won that contest and was comfortably re-elected in 2010 with a majority of almost 16,000.

However, he lost his seat in 2015 when a major swing saw McLaughlin take 58% of the votes. In 2017 her votes fell from almost 22,000 to 13,395 and Labour’s rose from 12,754 to 13,637, handing the seat to Sweeney.

The Tories received their highest number of votes since the constituency’s formation with more than 4000.

Sweeney has described this election as the “most critical” of our lifetimes, saying he’s fearful of another Tory Government.

Austerity and a hostile environment have caused a “horrendous” amount of suffering, he says. The Labour representative added he has fought against benefit sanctions and cuts, evictions, cuts to services and facilities and the closure of the Caley railway works.

Tory candidate Lauren Bennie, a community councillor for Dennistoun and Haghill, is promising to continue the fight to save local leisure facilities, protect the Union and “stand firm” against another independence referendum.

She wants Glasgow North East to be recognised as a powerhouse, addressing vacant spaces and crumbling infrastructure to boost jobs and the local economy.

The LibDems have put forward Nicholas Moohan, who is calling for immediate action to address the climate emergency. He said he is disheartened with “divisive” referendums and wants the focus to be on homelessness, poverty and drug deaths.

And McLaughlin said she is a natural fighter of injustices, with the SNP standing up for Scotland. The former MP added voting for her party is the only way to escape Brexit and Tory austerity, and to “put Scotland’s future in Scotland’s hands”.

The candidates: 

Lauren Bennie, Conservatives
“The community of Glasgow North East should rightfully be recognised as the powerhouse that it was and still is.

"A Scottish Conservative MP in a Conservative majority government will return dividends here, with our 13 Scottish Conservative MPs delivering City Deals, a £1billion Growth Deal, a freeze on whiskey duty, VAT exemption for our police officers and compensation for our armed forces.”

Paul Sweeney, Labour
“I am genuinely fearful of what another Tory Government will mean for the lives of thousands of my constituents.

"The Labour Party exists to defend their interests and those of all working-class people and that is why it is so crucial Glaswegians vote for Labour MPs and to bring a Labour Government into power.”

Nicholas Moohan, LibDems
“Brexit has already cost our economy a staggering £66billion and has shown itself to be an act of economic vandalism.

"Now is the time for the Liberal Democrats. Now is the time for humanity in Government.

"The Vagrancy Act should not exist: rough sleeping should not be a criminal offence! Drugs are a health issue and should be legislated as such.”

Anne McLaughlin, SNP
“We need to send a strong group of SNP MPs to Westminster to stand up for Scotland.

"Since the last general election I have fought for victims of the UK government’s Green Deal mis-selling scandal as Chair of a Local Action Group in Glasgow North East.

"I will keep standing up for the people in Glasgow North East whatever the outcome of this election – but I can do so much more as their MP.”