By-Election Result: Kilwinning


Last week took us to Kilwinning in North Ayrshire for one of those unfortunately all too common by-elections called following the death of a sitting councillor. In this case that was Conservative councillor John Glover, who had first been elected in 2017, but had sadly been unwell and signed off council duties for about a year before he passed. I had absolutely no doubt about the ultimate winner of this one, as Labour have grown in strength here at every election since STV was brought in. The only possible surprise would have been if they failed to win it on first preferences alone.

Headline Results

Councillors and Key Stats

1 Councillor Elected:
🔴Labour: Mary Hume
Change vs 2022 (notional): Labour Hold
Change vs vacating: Labour Gain from Conservative
Turnout: 30.2% (-12.1)
Electorate: 13392
Valid: 3996 (99.0%)
Spoiled: 42 (1.0%)
Quota: 1999
3 Continuing Councillors:
🔴Labour: Joe Cullinane
🟡SNP: Scott Davidson
🔴Labour: Donald Reid


🟣Family: Ian Gibson
🟡SNP: Sheila Gibson
🔴Labour: Mary Hume
🟠Lib Dem: Ruby Kirkwood
🔵Conservative: Chris Lawler

First Preferences
First Preference History

Sure enough, this was an extremely easy Labour victory, winning more than half of first preferences and therefore the seat without any need to move to transfers. That continued their streak of increasing their support at every election, whereas equally unsurprisingly this ended the SNP’s run of doing the same, plummeting to easily their worst vote yet in the ward. 

The Conservatives meanwhile got off relatively lightly, effectively static compared to 2022. In reality that’ll represent a bit of a loss of votes (those by-election conditions I’m always banging on about, i.e. Conservative voters are most likely to turn out), but it could have been much worse. Only modest gains for the Lib Dems too, which kept them barely ahead of local newcomers in the Family Party. That’s actually the best share they’ve achieved in any election so far.

Two-Candidate Preferred

Obviously there were no transfer rounds given Labour won on first preferences alone, but we can still eliminate candidates to get a direct head-to-head between the top two. Swings here look very similar to first preferences, except that Labour’s positive swing is a bit higher; they’ll be benefitting from both direct transfers from the Family Party as well as from there being fewer candidates overall to preference. That does leave the SNP on a truly dire share however, with very few voters willing to preference them ahead of Labour.

Detailed Results

Results by Polling District

Kilwinning is a bit of an oddity in that although it’s a decent sized town by Scottish standards, there don’t appear to be any widely recognised subdivisions – certainly none that appear on ordinary maps. That means that identifying hotspots for each party is a pretty bland affair.

Naturally Labour led in every district, but were strongest in the southwest. The SNP had their top showing in the northeast, the Conservatives in the east, Lib Dems the northwest, and Family Party the south. Rather neatly, when accounting for box mergers there are five possible areas, and each of the five parties excelled somewhere differently.

Second Preferences

The absence of the Greens makes the second preference chart a little bit less interesting than usual, as it’s basically that Labour voters most preferred the Lib Dems, and then literally everyone else most preferred Labour. In fact the SNP, Conservatives and Lib Dems all showed an equal degree of preference for Labour, with a difference of only 0.12% in proportion between them. The Family Party’s were a bit less likely to back Labour next, and in a rather odd turn of events the Conservatives were (narrowly) the least popular option.

We’ve got a month until any more by-elections in Scotland, though we’re going to get a double whammy of urban and rural Scotland with votes coming up in Clydebank Central and in Tain and Easter Ross. Preview pieces for those will follow this week, in what is a busy stretch for BBS content.

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