By-Election Preview: Kintyre and the Islands (Argyll and Bute) 29th of September 2022

Ward Profile

Cause of By-Election

I had hoped that when Shetland filled their remaining undernomination vacancy for the North Isles that we’d be able to say Scotland now had a full complement of 1226 councillors in place. Very sadly, that turned out not to be the case. John McAlpine, Independent councillor for Argyll and Bute’s Kintyre and the Islands ward, died suddenly in mid-July. 

McAlpine was first elected as a councillor for the old North and West Kintyre ward in 2003, and was successfully re-elected under STV in the new Kintyre and the Islands in both 2007 and 2012. He lost his seat to the Conservatives in 2017, but comfortably regained it this year before his untimely passing shortly afterwards. There was always a substantial chance that the death of a councillor would be the trigger for the first “normal” by-election of the term, but it’s no less sad for that expectation.

Ward Details

Kintyre and the Islands is one of 11 wards in Argyll and Bute, and elects 3 councillors at a full election. The mainland component of the ward covers the northern half of the Kintyre peninsula from Carradale up to Tarbert, where it extends beyond to include a sparsely populated snippet of Knapdale. Of the Islands included Islay is by far the most populous, home to over 3,000 folk. Neighbouring Jura is geographically extensive but only has a couple of hundred residents, whilst Colonsay to the north and Gigha to the south are only around a hundred each.

For elections to both parliaments, the ward is entirely within the respective Argyll and Bute constituencies. The SNP hold both seats, having gained from the Lib Dems at Westminster in 2015, and at Holyrood earlier in 2007.

Electoral History

The first two STV elections returned the same three councillors – McAlpine along with one apiece from the SNP and Lib Dems. Robin Currie, the Lib Dem councillor, had likewise represented a part of the ward under the old FPTP system, covering Colonsay, Jura and the northern part of Islay since at least 1995, though he’d been elected unopposed in both 1999 and 2003. In 2017, McAlpine lost his seat to a Conservative, but regained it this year. That would have returned the ward to its original set of three councillors if the SNP’s hadn’t retired and handed over to a newcomer.

Looking at vote shares the Lib Dems started out as easily the most popular option, winning roughly twice as many votes as either McAlpine or the SNP. You can then clearly see the impact of the Lib Dem collapse and SNP surge in 2012, when it was a very close four way scrap for the three seats, with Labour and Green transfers necessary to tip the scales against the Conservatives. The loss of McAlpine’s seat in 2017 is explained by a sharp decline in his vote, leaving him miles adrift of the Conservatives and Lib Dems who both remained at nearly a full quota.

His bounceback this year saw his best ever vote share alongside continued growth for the SNP. The big losses for the Conservatives can be explained by the fact their councillor, Alastair Redman, stood as an Independent and tied with the Lib Dems on first preferences, meaning it was down to transfers to settle it in the latter’s favour.

2022 Results

Councillors and Key Stats

3 Councillors, in order elected:
🟡SNP: Dougie McFadzean
Independent: John McAlpine
🟠Lib Dem: Robin Currie
Change vs 2017: +1 Independent, -1 Conservative
Turnout: 55.0%
Electorate: 5337
Valid: 2889 (98.3%)
Spoiled: 49 (1.7%)
Quota: 723


🟠Lib Dem: Robin Currie
🔴Labour: Jane Kelly
Independent: John McAlpine
🟡SNP: Dougie McFadzean
🔵Conservative: Alec McNeilly
Independent: Alastair Redman

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



The by-election has a full set from the Holyrood 5, the Greens having re-appeared on the ballot after their absence in May. Independent Alastair Redman is returning from May’s ballot, whilst the Labour (Oban South and the Isles) and SNP (Cowal) candidates stood elsewhere in Argyll and Bute – though interestingly, Gopi Ageer gives a North Lanarkshire residence. Both the Lib Dem and Conservative candidates are completely fresh faces.

🔴Labour: Gopi Ageer
🟠Lib Dem: Kenny MacKenzie
🟡SNP: Lachie MacQuarie
Independent: Alastair Redman
🟢Green: Tom Skinner
🔵Conservative: Hamish Stewart


As is so often the case with strong Independent councillors, McAlpine would have emerged as the victor for a single seat in May, though only by a hair. He’d have beaten the SNP 40.6% to 40.3%, with 19.0% going un-transferred. The calculations above instead work out the result if we eliminate McAlpine from the start of the count, and shows the SNP with a not much less narrow lead of 1.2% over the Lib Dems. Also note that at the point Redman drops out, he was just 6 votes (0.2%) behind the Lib Dems, though he’d then lose more substantially to the SNP at 41.0% to 34.2%.

In theory, this looks like a close SNP-Lib Dem race, with Redman having a longer but still perfectly achievable shot at it. However, bear in mind that Robin Currie has been a councillor here for around three decades. He’s likely got a substantial personal vote, something the Lib Dems are renowned for being able to cultivate, especially when you consider that in the wards either side his party only managed 8.7% and 3.3% of the vote. In addition, he’s been serving as leader of the council since before May’s election, which likely boosted his profile relative to party colleagues.

If that is the case, it could be that it’s more likely to be between the SNP and Redman for the seat. What would happen with the roughly quarter of votes that went unused in either the SNP-Redman or SNP-LD head-to-heads could also be key, especially given around 8% of the entire vote in the ward was a lone vote for McAlpine. His lead in Tarbert was so substantial, winning almost two-thirds of votes in a district that made up over a fifth of the turnout, that how residents there decide to shift their support could be the deciding factor overall.


SNP-Independent-Lib Dem Tossup.

2022 Results (Detailed Data)

Transfers (full election)
Results by Polling District
Second Preferences
Two-Candidate Preferred

If you find this or other Ballot Box Scotland output useful and/or interesting, and you can afford to do so, please consider donating to support my work. I love doing this, but it’s a one-man project and takes a lot of time and effort. All donations, no matter how small, are greatly appreciated and extremely helpful.
(About Donations)