By-Election Result: Corstorphine and Murrayfield


In a welcome interlude from the much sadder circumstances of by-elections arising from the deaths of sitting councillors, Corstorphine and Murrayfield was instead a good old fashioned resignation. SNP councillor Frank Ross, who’d served since 2012, resigned over what seems to have been a bit of a falling out with his group.

That set the stage for the most obvious result of any by-election thus far this term. I was very firm in both my preview and in all promo tweets that the Lib Dems were going to win this and there simply wasn’t another outcome I was going to entertain. That’s because they’d won just shy of 50% last year, and whilst the Lib Dems have withered across large swathes of Scotland, in their scattered remaining strongholds they are unassailable.

Headline Results

Councillors and Key Stats

1 Councillor Elected:
🟠Lib Dem: Fiona Bennett
Change vs 2022 (notional): Lib Dem Hold
Change vs vacating: Lib Dem Gain from SNP
Turnout: 42.3% (-16.5)
Electorate: 19435
Valid: 8168 (99.3%)
Spoiled: 57 (0.7%)
Quota: 4085
2 Continuing Councillors:
🟠Lib Dem: Alan Beal
🟠Lib Dem: Euan Davidson


🟠Lib Dem: Fiona Bennett
🟣Family: Richard Fettes
🔵Conservative: Hugh Findlay
⚪Independent: Pete Gregson
⚪Independent: Elaine Miller
🔴Labour: Richard Parker
🟡SNP: Donald Rutherford
🟤Libertarian: Gary Smith
🟢Green: Chris Young

First Preferences

See? A stonking first preference win for the Lib Dems, and one that’s hilarious lop-sided. For no one else to even hit 15%, never mind 20-25% is such a comprehensive win that regardless of your own views on the party, you’ve really got to doff your cap to them. They know how to dig the hell in.

All of the other Holyrood parties suffered from the combined impact of the Lib Dems growing their share and the Independents on the ballot. The biggest losses were for the Conservatives, slipping below 10% in a ward they’d never been without a councillor in until last May, and the SNP close behind in terms of their slump. It was a less severe but still notable drop for both the Greens and Labour.

Of the parties returning from last year’s vote, for some bizarre reason the Family Party were the only lot apart from the Lib Dems to gain support, albeit a tiny bit. They nonetheless placed far behind both of the new Independents, who did about as well as random Independents tend to, but miles ahead of the Libertarians. I have to say, they seem to be carving out a bit of a niche as one of the least supportable parties in the country’s history.

Two-Candidate Preferred

Obviously, no transfer rounds took place given the Lib Dems had absolutely smashed it on first preferences alone. However we can still run the data to see what it would have looked like as a top-two race. Unsurprisingly, the Lib Dems similarly increased their lead here. In fact, if you assumed perfect transfer discipline, at a full election this would hand them all three seats, as their third candidate would have 20.5% versus SNP’s 18.4%. That’s a remarkable result, though one it’s important to note would be unlikely at a genuinely full election, both due to the SNP being less impacted by lower turnout and the fact transfer discipline is far from perfect.

The Almond ward, where the Lib Dems stood and did win three (out of four) seats last year, is a useful illustrator of this. Going back to the transfer data there, if we eliminate all candidates bar the three Lib Dems and the SNP, it totals 70% Lib Dem and 25.3% SNP, with only 4.7% exhausted. Removing the top two Lib Dem candidates however, and it’s 57.4% Lib Dem against 29.7% SNP, with 12.9% not transferring. As proportionality breaking as it is to have gotten every seat in a ward thanks to by-elections, they’re not quite at the point of completely breaking it via winning them all at a full election!

I wrote a bit about in the preview, but whilst this result is perfectly reasonable in terms of by-elections, that fact the Lib Dems now have every seat in the ward does go against the basic principles of proportional representation. I don’t think that’s a good thing. I said as much when it was the SNP in Dundee’s North East ward in May 2019, Labour in two North Lanarkshire wards and the Conservatives in Perth and Kinross’ Almond and Earn ward, all in March 2021.

The whole point of PR is you are meant to represent the diversity of views, including allowing representation for political minorities in a given area. These kinds of results undermine that, and that’s bad for the voters overall. The simplest solution in these scenarios would simply be to allow the vacating party to nominate a replacement, on the basis that as much as people hate to admit it, voting is overwhelmingly on party rather than personal lines in most cases. Anyway, I can’t not get on my high(ly democratic) horse about this issue, so that’s your obligatory systems grump.

Detailed Results

First Preference History
Results by Polling District
Second Preferences

Looking at the results by polling district and, just as they did at the full election, the Lib Dems come out on top in every district – hardly a surprise, given the scale of their victory! Their best result came in northeastern Corstorphine, whilst the SNP were strongest in Carrick Know, Conservatives in Murrayfield, Labour in Saughtonhall and Greens in Roseburn, which is also where both of the Independents did best.

The second preferences, as they so often do, tell a very familiar story. Mutual preferencing between SNP and Greens? Whomst could have seen it coming, truly. Conservatives and Labour going Lib Dem in a Lib Dem stronghold? Groundbreaking. Lib Dem voters in an affluent area favouring the Conservatives? Shocker. The deeply socially conservative Family Party’s voters plumping Conservative too? Obviously. I don’t mean to be too flippant, but all of these are what I’d expect, so not too exciting! The only ones we couldn’t predict beforehand would be the Independents, which were Miller’s voters going by plurality to the Lib Dems, whilst Gregson’s opted for Miller.

We’ve got one more by-election lined up, due next week, and then it seems like we’re in a rare period of Scotland being at a full complement of councillors. Although I’m on holiday most of this week, I will be back in time to report that as normal – I won’t, however, be able to update the SNP Leadership page or cover any polls that crop up. 

If you find this or other Ballot Box Scotland output useful and/or interesting, and you can afford to do so, please consider donating to support my work. I love doing this, but it’s a one-man project and takes a lot of time and effort. All donations, no matter how small, are greatly appreciated and extremely helpful.
(About Donations)