Our very last by-election of a jam-packed 2021, though not quite the last of the 2017-2022 term, brought us to Lomond North. This was the third by-election both of the term and the year for Argyll & Bute Council, after a double back in March. Triggering this one was Conservative councillor Barbara Morgan, who resigned just a shade before the cut-off point where a by-election wouldn’t have been required.
I reckoned the Conservatives were the favourites here, given the combination of relative rurality and their strength in 2017. Rarely for a mainland ward, I didn’t expect the SNP to have much of a chance here, as 2017 was the first time they’d ever elected a councillor in this ward. Instead, if there was to be a challenger, it’d be from an Independent.
Note that 29.5% of the 2017 vote had went to Independent candidates not standing this time, alongside 6.3% for Labour and 4.0% for the Lib Dems, who also opted not to stand candidates. Once again bear in mind that as this is a transferable voting system, no parties have “stood aside” for another, as that’d be a pointless exercise.
Sure enough, the Conservatives emerged with a very healthy lead, boosted by a double-digit growth in their vote share. The SNP increased their share too, although not to the same degree, which allowed them to remain a bit ahead of Independent newcomer Mark Irvine – at this point. Despite having previously served as a councillor the other Independent, Robert MacIntyre, barely increased his vote and placed fourth.
As no candidate had an outright majority of the vote, transfer rounds were necessary. The quota to reach here was 912 votes.
Although the SNP were the runners up in terms of first preferences, MacIntyre’s transfers saw Irvine squeak into second by just 5 votes in stage 2. That set up a Conservative-Independent head to head, where the Conservatives were the victors. I’d noted in the preview that I reckoned an Independent would run the Conservatives much closer than the SNP would. That belief appears to have been vindicated, albeit we can’t do the direct Con vs SNP comparator as the data for that is missing at the moment.
Machine counts typically mean some really juicy data, though this time we only have the breakdown of results per polling district.
We also have, ahem, rather more detail on the district breakdown than was given in 2017 – I shall say no more on that. Anyway, this shows a relatively neat division of the ward. Befitting their status of lead party overall the Conservatives led in most districts, particularly in the middle of the ward. Of these, they did best in and around Rhu.
The SNP meanwhile continued to hold sway in the north of the ward. Their strongest district was AD10, which is a very small district otherwise empty of labels, but includes Succoth. That leaves Irvine with the lead in most of the Rosneath peninsula, most strongly in Kilcreggan. Although Rosneath village remained MacIntyre’s base of support, he didn’t repeat the lead in that district he had in 2017.
As noted above, we’re unfortunately lacking the document necessary to check the full second preference data – and to compare other head-to-head scenarios. That’s a shame, but it was the last Friday before Christmas, so can’t quite blame the elections office for having a wee blip! It’s also, if we’re being honest, a little bit less exciting when there are only two party candidates.
Barring a last minute surprise poll before Christmas, this should be the last article analysing an individual by-election or poll this year. However! It’s not the end of BBS content for the year, as next week it’ll be time for the usual annual review pieces. Make sure to check back then as we go through the sum and total of the year’s by-elections, and a final quarter look at parliamentary and constitutional polling.
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