April’s two by-elections ended the recent spate of Scottish council by-elections, with no more expected for the foreseeable future. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t still changes taking place in councils across Scotland though, as there are always party affiliation related resignations, suspensions and expulsions to watch out for. Remember you can keep tabs on the makeup of each council via the chart on this page.
Both of this month’s by-elections took us Highland-wards, starting with Caol and Mallaig in Highland Council itself. A rather large ward covering the north of Lochaber, SNP councillor Billy Maclachlan’s passing prompted this vote. Given the typical dominance of Independents in the ward, I had this pegged as probably going to one of the three, but didn’t discount the SNP and raised the prospect of a (somewhat) surprise Lib Dem win.
Surprise me they did, as the Lib Dem’s Denis Rixon came top in first preferences and stayed comfortably in front of the SNP throughout. Equally surprising was that it was a straight Lib Dem-SNP fight all the way, though Colin “Woody” Wood came close to overtaking Alex MacInnes at the last moment. The first preferences broke;
Independent (Total) – 698 (33.0%, -19.9)
Lib Dem – 658 (31.1%, +21.7)
SNP – 574 (27.2%, +3.2)
Wood (Ind) – 454 (21.5%)
Conservative – 183 (8.7%, +0.5)
MacKinnon (Ind) – 146 (6.9%)
Campbell (Ind) – 98 (4.6%)
So it looks a lot like these independents not holding too much appeal for voters, who then opted for a return to traditional party form with the Lib Dems.
This was another hand count by-election, so transfer data ends at the stage 5 sufficient to elect the Lib Dems without the automatic elimination and transfer from the SNP we’d have seen in a machine count;
Lib Dem – 968 (45.8%)
SNP – 737 (34.9%)
Didn’t Transfer – 408 (19.3%)
At this final stage the gap between the two had widened from 4% to 10%, lending further weight to the notion of an increasing return to a Liberal norm in this ward at least.
For the next by-election, on the 19th, we left Highland council area for Perth and Kinross council’s Highland ward. This was another by-election that came about in unfortunate circumstances, following the death of Conservative councillor and council leader Ian Campbell. Having romped home with 45.4% of the vote last May and with Perthshire generally tinged rather blue at the moment, I was confident of a Tory hold.
Conservative – 1907 (46.7%, +1.3)
SNP – 1466 (35.9%, -0.6)
Independent (Total) – 292 (7.1%, -3.5)
Taylor (Ind) – 280 (6.9%)
Labour – 239 (5.8%, +5.8)
Green – 104 (2.5%, -1.5)
Lib Dem – 78 (1.9%, -1.6)
Baykal (Ind) – 12 (0.3%)
Notably, this is the first election of the six I’ve covered so far where the successful candidate actually made quota! At that final stage 6, votes stood at;
Conservative – 2084 (51.0%, -0.2)
SNP – 1712 (41.9%, -1.1)
Didn’t Transfer – 290 (7.1%, +1.3)
There’s a small swing away from the SNP here, but even in rural Perthshire they did still prove marginally more transfer friendly than the Conservatives – picking up another 6% by the final stage vs 4.3%. If nothing else though, this result will be a reminder to the Conservatives to stand two candidates in the ward next time.