The second by-election of the decade took us on our fourth visit to Highland Council since BBS launched, and their fifth by-election since the full council in 2017. This time it was Eilean a’ Cheò (Skye) ward, prompted by Independent councillor Ronald MacDonald’s resignation. To my mind this was a complete free-for-all, as the 2017 result had a whopping 71% of the vote spread across 7 Independent candidates, 3 of whom were elected, and none of the other 4 re-stood in the by-election. Throw in the 2% for Labour in 2017 but not standing this time, and almost three-quarters of the votes cast in 2017 would have to find totally new homes. Swings in this by-election are therefore largely meaningless, and you all need to behave.
Looking at the first preferences in full;
- Independent (Munro) – 911 (28.5%, +28.5)
- SNP – 874 (27.3%, +8.6)
- Liberal Democrat – 698 (21.8%, + 19.9)
- Green – 357 (11.2%, +11.2)
- Conservative – 314 (9.8%, +3.4)
- Misneachd – 45 (1.4%, +1.4)
- Note: Seven Independents won 71% here in 2017, including three successfully elected. None of those candidates contested this election, nor did Labour who won 2%
A very close run thing between the Independent candidate and the SNP, both miles away from the quota. The Lib Dems look notably much better off than in 2017, finishing a comfortable third, when they were dead last in 2017. A very respectable result too for the Greens in a ward they’ve never contested before, whilst the Conservatives saw the least benefit from the glut of Independent votes lying around though still increasing their share. Do bear in mind the massive 73% of the vote being up for grabs caveat, mind you, as well as the roughly 20% decrease in turnout.
Placing last was the candidate from Misneachd, who was effectively an independent candidate that had used the name of the Gaelic campaign group to which they belonged as their surname. Although local (you have to be, in some form, to stand for council), I can’t help but feel a combination of a Glasgow address on the ballot paper plus lack of clarity about actually representing a group rather than an individual counted against him.
When we then turn to look at transfers, every candidate’s position held throughout the entire process. At the final stage 5;
- Independent (Munro) – 1464 (45.8%)
- SNP – 1135 (35.5%)
- Didn’t Transfer – 600 (18.8%)
A pretty comfortable victory for Munro once everyone’s transfers were taken into consideration, receiving weighty transfers from all four of the other candidates that were eliminated. As this was a hand count, it didn’t do the (mathematically unnecessary) final stage that would have seen the SNP eliminated, nor will there be any further detail available about votes per ballot box or preferences.
We do have another by-election next week for Clackmannanshire East which I expect to go ahead, if for no other reason than it’s so soon. The other by-elections we are expecting this year, which start up on the 7th of May, may yet be postponed by the ongoing coronavirus epidemic.