By-Election Result: Jedburgh and District


The second by-election of the year was, in some respects, always set to be a somewhat boring affair. The Scottish Borders overall have been a real stronghold of the Scottish Conservatives’ recent revival, and that is especially true of Jedburgh and District where they have won a majority of the vote at each of the past two elections. I therefore said in my preview I didn’t have any doubt they’d win this by-election, not least because they’d picked up a strongly performing 2022 Independent as their candidate this time around. Foregone conclusions are nice for the winning party, but not terrible exciting for election observers!

Headline Results

Councillors and Key Stats

1 Councillor Elected:
🔵Conservative: John Bathgate
Change vs 2022 (notional): Conservative Hold
Change vs vacating: Conservative Gain from SNP
Turnout: 32.8% (-16.5)
Electorate: 7232
Valid: 2354 (99.2%)
Spoiled: 20 (0.8%)
Quota: 1178
2 Continuing Councillors:
🔵Conservative: Scott Hamilton
🔵Conservative: Sandy Scott


🔵Conservative: John Bathgate
🟤Scottish Eco-Federalist: James Clark
🟡SNP: Phil Dixon
🟠Lib Dem: Ray Georgeson
🔴Labour: Kaymarie Hughes
🟢Green: Charles Strang

First Preferences

Note: Other candidates won 19.5% of the vote in 2022, including John Bathgate as an Independent on 15.1%. Another Independent Jesse Rae won 2.9%, and Alba 1.5%.

First Preference History

As expected the Conservatives did indeed have a very easy victory here, as they shot up to their best result yet in the ward’s history. That said, they didn’t quite match the combined total of 65.4% for their 2022 result plus Bathgate’s turn as an Independent, likely a combination of the fact not all of Bathgate’s voters will have been happy to follow him to his new party plus ordinary by-election based voter churn. That now gives the Conservatives every seat in the ward, which as I always point out in such cases (regardless of party) rather defeats the point of Proportional Representation. By-elections are fun to cover but they are not, necessarily, an ideal mechanism under STV.

The SNP were never in with a chance of winning here but that doesn’t mean coming in with by far their worst vote share yet won’t be painful for them. Although it was by a lesser degree the only other directly returning party, the Greens, also saw a slight slump in their vote share. I fully expect that part of both of those, plus some of the Conservatives not quite getting as many votes as they could, will be because Labour and the Lib Dems were on the ballot this time.

Labour managed to surprise me here by placing third, with a vote share twice their previous best. The Borders simply are not a good area for Labour typically, failing to break into double digits anywhere they stood in 2022, and in fact their best result came in a ward the SNP hadn’t contested. That makes this a contextually impressive result, and speaks to the general increase in support for the party at the moment. The Lib Dems, who I’d have pegged for third place, ended up not that far ahead of the Greens, significantly below their prior low here. Lastly, the Eco-Federalists squeaked their way to a whole percentage point.

Two-Candidate Preferred

As the Conservatives were elected on first preferences, there weren’t any transfer rounds. We can however still use the published data to work out the two-candidate preferred between them and the SNP, which unsurprisingly shows a significant widening of the already huge gap between the two parties, with a well over 2:1 ratio in favour of the Conservatives.

Detailed Results

Results by Polling District

Completely unsurprisingly, given they led in every district in 2022 and performed better this time around than then, the Conservatives take the clear lead across the ward, with their strongest share in Jedburgh itself. The only place they failed to win an absolute majority of the vote was in St Boswells, which was correspondingly the best bit for both the SNP and Labour. The Lib Dems and Greens meanwhile polled best in the big amalgam of the small rural districts that it’s simply not possible to get more local detail on due to how few voters each district had.

Second Preferences

A lot of the bits here are exactly what regular readers will have come to expect – the SNP and Greens are mutually favourable, it’s rural Scotland so the Conservatives go Lib Dem, but the Lib Dems and Labour prefer one another. This is however a relatively low Green to SNP rate of transfers, though that’s likely explained by the sizeable chunk that went to the Eco-Federalists. Perhaps a little bit of a Pavlovian responses there, Green voters saw “Eco” and went “great, we’ll have that!” What few Eco-Federalists there were though were (by one whole voter) slightly more likely to go for the Conservatives than Greens.

We’ve got a fair run of by-elections coming up over the next few weeks, which will vary from quite unpredictable and thus exciting contests (Hillhead, Inverness South) versus some more foregone conclusions (Kilwinning). That should tide Scottish politics over until the general election, whilst large parts of England (most notably London) get to enjoy other elections in May.

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