For the very first proper entry on this site, I’m looking at the Bonnybridge and Larbert ward by-election in Falkirk, due on the 15th of February. This by-election has come about in unfortunate circumstances, following the death of SNP councillor and Falkirk Provost Tom Coleman at the start of December. Coleman was a long serving Falkirk councillor, first elected in 1999.
Bonnybridge and Larbert is one of 9 wards in Falkirk, and normally elects 3 councillors. Covering a full north-south stretch of Falkirk’s western lobe, the ward contains a couple of the industrial towns turned commuter villages typical of much of the Central Belt. The ward is fully within the Falkirk West constituency of the Scottish Parliament and the Falkirk constituency of the UK Parliament, both of which are held by the SNP.
The boundaries of the ward remain unchanged since STV was introduced for local elections in 2007. The political makeup of the ward was likewise static until 2017, with Tom Coleman representing the SNP, Linda Gow for Labour, and an independent, Billy Buchanan. As part of the Conservative surge across Scotland, David Grant displaced Gow last May. She’s seeking a quick return to council and is standing again in the by-election, and the Greens’ David Robertson is similarly having another go. The SNP have selected Niall Coleman as they seek to hold his father’s seat. The full list of candidates is;
- Niall Coleman (SNP)
- Linda Gow (Labour)
- Stuart Martin (UKIP)
- David Robertson (Greens)
- George Stevenson (Conservatives)
For an indication of who might win the seat, we can re-calculate the results of the 2017 election for only one seat. The top half of the chart shows the first preferences last year, as well as the party of the successfully elected councillors. Transfer flows are on the bottom half. Remember that in a single seat election under STV, a candidate needs 50%+1 of the valid votes cast (a quota) to win.
The SNP had a clear lead in first preferences, which enabled them to win a seat on first count last time. For a single seat however, they’d only have been two thirds of the way there. They wouldn’t even make quota when it was reduced to them and the Tory, though that’s pretty common in Scottish by-elections. Labour were quite substantially behind the Tories – even if you took the independents out first, their second preferences wouldn’t have tipped Labour into second. That said, national polling has tended to show Labour creeping back up, compared to relative stagnation for the Conservatives and an SNP decline. That could make this by-election a more three cornered contest.
Overall though, I’d be inclined to suggest an SNP hold. Their lead last year was rather comfortable, and combined with the fact they’ve topped the poll in the ward every time and hold the parliamentary seats, there’ll likely be a strong incumbency factor.