Although it could have come about in better circumstances, Aberdeen’s Bridge of Don by-election was something of a rare treat – two seats up for grabs in one ward. SNP councillor Sandy Stuart sadly passed away prompting one half of this, and Conservative Brett Hunt’s resignation provided the other half. Since STV was introduced in 2007, this is only the third such by-election, with the previous two being in 2015.
As this shifts the winning line from “over half of votes” to “over a third of votes”, there’s greater scope for upset if party fortunes shift. Based on the 2017 result the SNP were a shoo-in for one of the seats whilst the Conservatives had the advantage for the second, but I thought given their recent signs of revival the Lib Dems could provide such an upset given the ward’s history.
Before we even discuss anything else, Twitter got particularly excited by this one, so I feel the need to draw your attention to that big grey column. In 2017, Independent candidates won neatly a fifth of votes in this ward. The overwhelming majority of those, 14.4%, went to John Reynolds, who continues to serve as an independent councillor in the administration.
By-elections are not nationally indicative at the best of times, and when they take place in wards where incumbent Independent councillors are not in the ballot, we naturally see weighty swings. That does not mean people and parties can’t be pleased about their side’s performance. It does mean you need to bear independents in mind and haul about an entire vat of salt for any dramatic pronouncements made about the national import of the results.
Anyway, that big health warning out of the way, we can actually discuss the rest of the results. Whilst I was correct to predict that we’d see further evidence of the Lib Dem revival here, as their vote share doubled, they still came far short of winning a seat. Lib Dem chances hinged on the Conservatives having a corresponding downward turn, when quite the opposite happened – they substantially increased their share of the vote, to squeak into first place.
The SNP also saw a very slight increase in their share, meaning out of the parties who stood in 2017 only Labour lost ground, shedding nearly half their share. Returning Independent Simon McLean also dipped slightly. Of the new faces standing in the ward, it was pretty modest showings all round, most notably just 9 votes for the Red Party of Scotland on their first electoral outing. First preferences in full;
- Conservative – 1857 (36.2%, +10.3)
- SNP – 1797 (35.0%, +0.8)
- Liberal Democrat – 929 (18.1%, +8.8)
- Labour – 305 (5.9%, -5.2)
- Green – 140 (2.7%, +2.7)
- UKIP – 55 (1.1%, +1.1)
- Independent – 43 (0.8%, -0.1 personally, –18.4 vs sum of Independents)
- Red – 9 (0.2%, +0.2)
What could have been a very exciting by-election therefore actually turned out to be, in some senses, the most boring I’ve covered. Since both the Conservatives and the SNP achieved quota on first preferences, there was no need to hold any transfer rounds. The results above are it, job done, by-election over! It saved me a few minutes of chart making, but what was very satisfying for Sarah Cross and Jessica Mennie is very disappointing for me. Honestly, tremendously rude of these politicians, to have such solid success.
Machine count, so will add the 2nd preference breakdown here when/if the Preference Profile becomes available.