By-Election Preview: Bellshill (North Lanarkshire) 15th of June 2023

Ward Profile

Cause of By-Election

After a break of a few months since the last by-election, some deeply unpleasant circumstances take us to North Lanarkshire’s Bellshill ward. Generally speaking when a by-election is happening for reasons we’d all rather it wasn’t, it’s down to the sad passing of a sitting councillor. That’s not the case here.

In last May’s elections, after having failed to do so at the previous two votes since they became nationally dominant, the SNP were able to take control of North Lanarkshire Council. The new administration was headed up by Jordan Linden, who’d first been elected in 2017. Barely two months in however it emerged that Linden had a long list of sexual harassment and assault claims against him. He resigned as council leader and the SNP administration then collapsed.

Although Linden would go on to leave the party and finally to resign his seat in March, serious questions remain about selection procedures that allowed such an evidently unsuitable person to be selected in the first place, never mind elected and then installed as council leader. It would be a further grievous error for the matter to be considered settled just because Linden has left the party and public life.

Ward Details

Bellshill is one of 21 wards in North Lanarkshire, and elects 4 councillors at a full election. The name would seem to be self-explanatory, as the ward includes almost the entirety of the town of Bellshill. That said, boundaries between distinct areas in urban Lanarkshire can be hazy. As I understand it Mossend would be included within Bellshil yet is part of a separate ward, whilst Fallside which is in the ward would generally be considered part of Viewpark. Hattonrigg and Orbiston meanwhile seem to be more firmly considered parts of Bellshill.

Boundary changes in 2017 added a couple of little chunks around Bellshill station and north of Mossend, as well as the Fallside area. Previously the ward had been 3 councillors, but that was enough of an expansion to add a fourth.

For elections to the Scottish Parliament, the ward lies within the Uddingston and Bellshill seat which the SNP have held since 2016. Prior to that, and in the original boundaries as Hamilton North and Bellshill, it was in Labour hands. For the UK Parliament the ward is split, with the bulk in the Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill constituency. That was one of the seats Labour regained briefly in 2017, the SNP having originally won it in 2015 then again in 2019. The district covering much of Orbiston is instead in Motherwell and Wishaw, which the SNP won from Labour and have held since 2015.

Electoral History

The first two STV elections, under the previous boundaries with 3 councillors, easily split two to Labour and one to the SNP. With an extra seat up for grabs in 2017 it fell into the Conservatives’ hands, but they lost it in 2022 when the ward went two apiece to the SNP and Labour.

In vote terms, Labour held a pretty clear lead in 2007 and 2012 – indeed, in 2012 they won a clear majority of the overall vote. Even in 2017 they remained strong enough to keep just the tiniest bit ahead of the SNP. Although Labour gained a little bit of vote share last year, the SNP overtook them for the first time in the ward, though still only by a couple of percent, reflecting North Lanarkshire’s generally close fought nature.

You’ll also note the complete absence of Green or Lib Dem votes on this chart. North Lanarkshire has generally been one of the weakest areas for both parties, although the Greens do currently have one councillor here and the Lib Dems had one (albeit arising from an SNP undernomination) in 2007. The role of minor and vanishingly unlikely to win option locally has instead been played by Solidarity (2007), UKIP (2017) and Alba (2022).

Councillors and Key Stats

4 Councillors, in order elected:
🟡SNP: Jordan Linden
🔴Labour: Angela Campbell
🟡SNP: Lisa Stubbs
🔴Labour: Pat Patton
Change vs 2017: +1 SNP, -1 Conservative
Turnout: 39.0%
Electorate: 12279
Valid: 4631 (96.8%)
Spoiled: 153 (3.2%)
Quota: 927


Alba: David Baird
🔵Conservative: Colin Cameron
🔴Labour: Angela Campbell
Independent: John Devlin
🟡SNP: Jordan Linden
🔴Labour: Pat Patton
🟡SNP: Lisa Stubbs

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



As if to make up for the relatively sparse contesting history at full elections, this could almost pass for a Westminster by-election in terms of the circus fully coming to town. In addition to the Holyrood 5, which includes first outings here for the Greens and Lib Dems, we have the British Unionist Party (like the Greens, they have one seat on the council), Alba, UKIP, the Family Party and the Freedom Alliance. 

Given the breadth of the field, no surprise that there are quite a few returning candidates. What is a bit more surprising is that the SNP have gotten Joseph Budd back on board to stand. He’d previously left the party and stood in the neighbouring Thorniewood ward as an Independent both in a 2021 by-election and last May, achieving a respectable but not winning share both times. Meanwhile, former Conservative councillor Colin Cameron is back for a (doomed) run at his old seat.

The Lib Dem (Cumbernauld North), Family (Coatbridge North), Alba (Mossend and Holytown), Freedom Alliance (Cumbernauld South) and UKIP (Motherwell South East and Ravenscraig) all featured at the full election last year, whilst frequent Green candidate Rosemary McGowan was absent but had stood in three of the by-elections in the previous term. BUP candidate Billy Ross meanwhile had stood in the 2021 Murdostoun by-election for Reform UK, which I think is the only time that party have ever contested a local election in Scotland. That leaves only Labour’s Anne McCrory as an entirely fresh face.

🟡SNP: Joseph Budd
🔵Conservative: Colin Cameron
🟠Lib Dem: John Cole
🟣Family: Leo Lanahan
Alba: John Marshall
🔴Labour: Anne McCrory
🟢Green: Rosemary McGowan
🟤Freedom Alliance: Simona Panaitescu
🟤British Unionist Party: Billy Ross
🟤UKIP: Neil Wilson


Generally speaking, I’d put a ward with this kind of result just a year ago either in “Leans” towards the notional winning party, or perhaps “Likely” for Labour given their tendency to do a little better amongst the type of folk who turn out for by-elections. In this case however, I’m making a firm pronouncement that Labour are going to win and I will be absolutely astonished if they don’t.

First of all, the national situation. The SNP’s polling has plummeted since the start of the year, whilst Labour have made significant gains. That immediately tips this further towards Labour. It’s of course not uncommon for local results to buck national trends – see Slough in England the other week, which saw big Conservative gains and Labour losses, completely against the national picture. That’s always driven by local circumstances though, and in Slough those were the Labour council having basically gone bankrupt.

Here, those local factors are very much against the SNP winning. Not only are the circumstances that prompted Linden’s resignation extremely unpalatable by themselves, but the SNP group has been in complete chaos since then. Having elected 36 councillors last year, they currently have 26. In addition to Linden’s resignation, a father and daughter pair left the group last year after allegations of bullying. That was followed more recently by the departure of a whopping seven councillors following disciplinary procedures, themselves arising from ongoing concerns around Linden’s behaviour.

Everything here – at the national, the council, and the ward level – is absolutely against the SNP. Unless the Labour candidate is caught in the act of kicking a puppy down the street, there surely has to be no way they lose this by-election. 


Labour Win.

2022 Results (Detailed Data)

Transfers (full election)
Results by Polling District
Second Preferences

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