Kilwinning (North Ayrshire) By-Election 9th of May 2024

Ward Profile

Cause of By-Election

After a few resignation by-elections in between, I’m afraid we’re back to another much sadder contest. Conservative councillor for Kilwinning, John Glover, unfortunately passed away in February. He’d served as councillor for this ward since 2017, though he had been granted leave since the first half of 2023 due to his poor health.

Ward Details

Kilwinning is one of 9 wards in North Ayrshire, and elects 4 councillors at a full election. I think in all the time I’ve been doing by-election previews, this is by far the easiest ward to geographically describe. It covers Kilwinning. There we go. Okay, it also includes the absolutely tiny hamlets of Auchentiber and Benslie and a stretch of rural inland Ayrshire, but really, it’s just Kilwinning. There were boundary changes here in 2017, but only to a a small rural corner, so that’ll have had zero impact in political terms.

For elections to the Scottish Parliament, the ward is entirely within the Cunninghame South constituency which the SNP gained from Labour in 2011. At the UK Parliament it’s a great example of why First Past the Post does not, in fact, give you great, wonderful, accurate local representation, because despite the fact Kilwinning has only a modest population (about 16,000), the River Garnock splits the town between constituencies, with the western bulk of the seat in North Ayrshire and Arran, and the remainder in Central Ayrshire. Both seats were SNP gains from Labour in their 2015 landslide, and Ayrshire is totally unchanged in the recent boundary review.

Electoral History

Representation in this ward has been relatively consistent, with Labour winning two seats and the SNP one at every election, though none of the councillors elected in 2007 remain in post. At that first election, the final seat went to the Lib Dems. In 2012, they lost that seat to Independent Robert Steel, who was elected alongside Joe Cullinane (who would go on to be Council Leader for a time) and Donald Reid, who serve as the ward’s Labour councillors to this day. In 2017, the SNP’s Scott Davidson replaced his retiring colleague John Ferguson, and alongside Glover’s win for the Conservatives to take the final seat that set the same group of councillors as would be elected in 2022.

If we look at the change in vote shares over the period, what’s remarkable is that Labour have increased their support at every election, despite this including their 2017 nadir, and despite North Ayrshire overall seeing significant Conservative gains at Labour’s expense. This is in fact one of their best results anywhere in Scotland. The SNP have likewise gained at every opportunity and came only 1.5% from their second candidate unseating the Conservatives in 2022. Some of that capacity for growth obviously comes from the Lib Dem collapse in 2012 and the absence of Independents from 2017 onwards. As you’d expect, 2017 also shows a huge spike for the Conservatives followed by a bit of a slump into 2022.

Councillors and Key Stats

4 Councillors, in order elected:
🔴Labour: Joe Cullinane
🟡SNP: Scott Davidson
🔴Labour: Donald Reid
🔵Conservative: John Glover
Change vs 2017: No change
Turnout: 42.2%
Electorate: 13553
Valid: 5553 (97.0%)
Spoiled: 171 (3.0%)
Quota: 1111


🔴Labour: Joe Cullinane
🟡SNP: Scott Davidson
🟡SNP: Sheila Gibson
🔵Conservative: John Glover
🟠Lib Dem: Ruby Kirkwood
🔴Labour: Donald Reid

First Preferences
Transfers (single winner recalculation)
Two-Candidate Preferred



It’s just the four Westminster parties plus the Family Party this time around, the Greens’ appearance in 2017 continuing to represent a momentary blip. Of the candidates, the SNP and Lib Dems have simply re-stood their 2022 candidates (their second, unsuccessful, one in the SNP’s case), whilst everyone else is a new face.

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


Labour are going to win. That’s it, that’s the analysis. Did you see how in 2022 they had 46% of first preferences? Did you see how their vote share has increased at every election? Expect that trend to continue – and indeed, for the SNP’s similar pattern to come to an end.

One notable effect of this by-election will be that it “corrects” the overall result in North Ayrshire in 2022, where despite Labour winning more votes than the Conservatives, the Conservatives came out one seat ahead. That’s just down to the distribution of the vote, and also Labour rather astonishingly failing to win a councillor in the North Coast ward, one of just three 5-member wards in the country (all in North Ayrshire). Not the circumstances anyone in Labour would like that to arise in, of course, but that’ll give them extra cause to celebrate their inevitable win.


Labour win.

2022 Results (Detailed Data)

Transfers (full election)
Results by Polling District
Second Preferences

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