By-Election Preview: Eilean Siar Double 30th of June 2022

Ward Profile

Cause of By-Election

Not even two months on from the 2022 elections, and we’re already due the first by-elections. We knew these ones were coming even before voters went to the polls in May, or didn’t in this case, as they are to fill vacancies in under-contested wards. Despite boundary changes that created smaller wards, a whopping three of the total in Comhairle nan Eilean Siar went uncontested. 

One of those three, Sgìre an Rubha, at least filled both of its seats. The other two both only had one interested candidate. In Barraigh agus Bhatarsaigh that was Independent newcomer Kenneth John MacLean, whilst Sgìr’ Ùige agus Carlabhagh saw incumbent Conservative Ranald Fraser returned unopposed.

Ward Details

Since the most recent boundary changes that took effect this year, Eilean Siar has consisted of 11 wards. Barraigh agus Bhatarsaigh covers the named islands, Barra and Vatersay in English, and was previously within a larger Barraigh, Bhatarsaigh, Eirisgeigh agus Uibhist a Deas ward. An initial pass at boundaries had suggested it should only have one councillor – we’d have avoided this by-election if so!

Sgìr’ Ùige agus Carlabhagh meanwhile covers the Uig and Carloway areas. This is entirely on the western coast of Lewis, whereas the preceding Sgir’ Ùige agus Ceann a Tuath Nan Loch ward had stretched to the east coast as well.

Both wards are part of the Na h-Eileanan an Iar constituency, which is the same in both parliaments, and is likewise held by the SNP in both. It has historically had lengthy periods of Labour representation too, the SNP’s most recent spell of control starting at Westminster in 2005 and the Holyrood equivalent in 2007.

Electoral History (Barraigh, Bhatarsaigh, Eirisgeigh agus Uibhist a Deas)

As these are newly drawn wards that had no election in May, there isn’t actually any directly useful electoral history to speak of. We can however quickly look over the old wards these effectively split off from for a little bit of context.

The SNP were previously pretty strong in this ward, and in fact my estimate of 2017 results under the reduced boundaries had them with an outright majority of the vote. However, that was very much bound up in the person of Donald Manford, who won massive vote shares in each election, with transfers lifting party colleagues across the line in 2007 and 2017. Two seats were always held by Independents, but in 2012 the second SNP seat was lost to Labour. 

Electoral History (Sgir’ Ùige agus Ceann a Tuath Nan Loch)

At the first STV election, the ward split one apiece between the SNP, Labour and an Independent. In 2012 Labour lost their seat, though actually that represented their 2007 councillor having opted to stand successfully for re-election as an Independent. In 2017, the SNP were also entirely absent from the ballot, but the Conservatives won their first seat in the Western Isles in this ward instead. 


Candidates (Barraigh agus Bhatarsaigh)

Emphasising how much the SNP’s previous strength in this area was down to Manford’s personal vote, they’ve also failed to field a candidate in this by-election. That means it’s down to a trio of Independents.

Independent: Gerard MacDonald
Independent: Calum MacMillan
Independent: Iain MacNeil

Candidates (Sgìr’ Ùige agus Carlabhagh)

Things are a bit more diverse in this ward, both in terms of party affiliation and actually having some women on the ballot. The SNP, Lib Dems and Greens have all found candidates, meaning that combined with the incumbent Conservative councillor, Labour are the only Holyrood 5 party not to have put in an appearance in the ward this year. 

Independent: Sophie Brown
🟡SNP: Laura Cameron-Lewis
🟠Lib Dem: Jamie Dobson
🟢Green: Anne Edwards
Independent: Norman MacDonald
Independent: Iain MacKinnon
Independent: Donald MacLeod


Given that it’s all Independents, Barraigh agus Bhatarsaigh is obviously going to be an Independent WIN. Which one, I cannot say!

Similarly, given the tendency of Islands councils towards Independents anyway, I’m inclined to say Sgìr’ Ùige agus Carlabhagh is Independent LEAN. Again, I couldn’t say which of them it would be. If any of the party candidates were to win, it’d obviously most likely be the SNP. 

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