By-Election Preview: Corstorphine and Murrayfield (Edinburgh) 9th of March 2023

I’m afraid I’ll be starting this piece with something deeply personal and somewhat upsetting.

Per this thread on Twitter, please be aware I am currently running a minimum service on Ballot Box Scotland. What that means is that barring some scheduled and auto-tweets, I won’t really be present on Twitter – for example, I will not be tweeting close of nomination infographics for by-elections (example). BBS Twitter isn’t available on my phone, and my personal account is logged off entirely so as to limit my exposure to our horrendously queerphobic political sphere. Twitter gets many times the engagement of the website, hence, minimal.

As a brief elaboration of that thread though, (fortunately) it’s not that I have personally been getting a pile of abuse, but instead that (unfortunately) it has suffused every corner of our politics to the extent it’s impossible not to see my friends and people like me getting it, all day, every day, on Twitter. It turns out to be abysmal for your mental health to see gay men just like you being accused of being “paedophiles”, “groomers” and so on. I thought we were past that in this country, but that genie has well and truly been unbottled by sections of our media and indeed with the gleeful support of members of both of our parliaments.

Or, at least, I wasn’t getting abuse personally before I went public with how the political atmosphere was affecting me. Entirely unsurprisingly, some examples of the kind of abuse that is widely thrown at others have since come my way. If you can stomach it, and I steeled myself for one more look even knowing it’d make me miserable, have a look at the quote tweets on the final tweet in the thread. That tweet said queer people are human beings – one person says “no you aren’t.” Another person declares I’m a “QueerTheorist”, which they believe to be the work of “child rapists”, an immediate proof of my statement that gay people just get called paedophiles at the drop of a hat now.

Indeed, my use of the word “queer” (which I simply consider to be a neat, quicker and easier to say, generally encompassing word for LGBTI+, and to indicate recognition I’m in a shared community with others beyond just fellow gay men) attracts particular ire from people so utterly lacking in the capacity for critical thought that they are seemingly unaware “gay” was the homophobic slur du jour of the 90’s and 00’s when I grew up, yet that being the case doesn’t change the fact it’s the word that I can accurately and comfortably use to describe myself. Literally every word ever used to describe queer people has been spat at us in hate by bigots like these, and if we never used any of them, we’d be scuppered. In any case, my point is rather proven, no? If you’re visibly and openly queer in Scotland right now, people feel emboldened to spout hatred in a way I simply didn’t see so brazenly even a few years ago.

As a polling aggregator, I’ve typically had to follow politics closely. It’s one thing for the political back and forth to be on rates of taxation, of the kinds of public services that should be provided, or on the ideal focus for trade and foreign policies. That’s easy just to roll with, largely shrugging it off as not personally relevant when I disagree. It’s another entirely when it feels like your entire wider community has become the focal point for societal hatred. You can’t shrug that off. It eats away at you and diminishes you. I’m a human being, not an automated data cruncher, and I’ve hit the limits for what I’m able to endure.

So, I can’t be on Twitter very much for the time being. It isn’t merely unpleasant, as it has been for years, but overflowing with hate speech. Fortunately, I like to be prepared when it comes to by-election previews, and thus the only thing this piece (and the upcoming piece for Dunblane and Bridge of Allan) didn’t have pre-written before I reached this point was candidate data, which is easy to add very quickly after nominations close. Auto-tweets as these previews go live should ensure folk still know the detail of what’s coming up, and I’ll schedule reminder links at the two week, one week, and day of marks. I may or may not be feeling a bit better by the time the Dyce, Bucksburn and Danestone by-election goes ahead; if I am, I will return to tweeting the result as soon as it comes in. If I’m not, the results analysis piece will auto-tweet.

Ward Profile

Cause of By-Election

For the first time in this term, we’ve got a by-election arising from internal party ructions rather than resignation or the passing of an incumbent. Whilst many such circumstances lead to the dissatisfied councillor resigning from their party to sit as an Independent for the rest of the term, not so in Corstorphine and Murrayfield.

Just before Christmas, Edinburgh City Council heard motions on paying compensation to shopkeepers in the Roseburn area, who claim significant trading losses during the construction of a major cycle route (Edinburgh Evening News coverage). In a bit of classic council chicanery, two different motions were submitted – one by the SNP group, and one jointly by the Lib Dems and Conservatives. These differed in some detail or another, and when the SNP motion fell, they abstained on the Lib Dem/Conservative one.

That too therefore fell, after which local councillor Frank Ross apparently just got up and left – not just the room, but the council entirely. I’m not sure if any further public statements have been made clarifying the situation exactly, but it seems he didn’t leave the party – an odd reversal of the norm! Ross had served as a councillor for the ward since 2012, and had been the capital’s Lord Provost in the 2017-22 session of the council.

Ward Details

Corstorphine and Murrayfield is one of 17 wards in Edinburgh, and elects 3 councillors at a full election. The two areas included in the name will have very wide recognition, given the presence of Edinburgh Zoo upon Corstorphine Hill and the national rugby stadium at Murrayfield. Less weel kent bits of the city included within the ward are Carrick Knowe, Saughtonhall, Roseburn and Ravelston. The ward experienced relatively minor boundary changes in 2017, losing the Forrester Park area but gaining more of Corstorphine in the west, and trading Wester Coates for eastern Ravelston.

The relationship between Edinburgh’s wards and its parliamentary constituencies can be… sloppy, and this ward is an example of that. At the Scottish Parliament, the Corstorphine and Carrick Knowe areas are within Edinburgh Western, which has been won by the Lib Dems at every election with the exception of the SNP’s 2011 majority. The remainder is in Edinburgh Central, which is currently an SNP seat, having went Conservative in 2016, following the SNP’s initial gain from Labour in 2011.

For the UK Parliament, it’s mostly within the Edinburgh West (note the slightly different name) seat, which likewise has a primarily Lib Dem history barring the SNP’s sweep in 2015. The eastern portion of Ravelston however is within Edinburgh North and Leith, which has been SNP since they gained it from Labour in that same year.

Electoral History

At the first STV election, the Lib Dems were able to take a double by quite comfortably seeing off Labour, whilst the remaining seat went to the Conservatives. Although hard to imagine post-2011, the SNP’s absence wasn’t exactly a surprise, as this was one of five Edinburgh wards they failed to win a councillor in. They were able to remedy that when the Lib Dems were collapsing in 2012, and indeed Labour were only 1.3% off relieving them of both seats. A Lib Dem recovery allowed the same patter to much more easily hold in 2017, but in 2022 the Conservatives had an absolute shocker in the capital and were ejected from the ward for the first time.

The vote share chart shows those two dramatic elections in 2012 and 2022 quite clearly. From a clear lead in 2007, the Lib Dems drop into third place in a hotly contested four-way split in 2012. When the Labour vote absolutely evaporates in 2017, that’s to the advantage of both the Conservatives and Lib Dems, who opened a wider gap with a weakening SNP. Finally last year the Lib Dems surged to by far their best ever result in the ward, as the Conservatives completely cratered down to third place, even as the SNP continued to slide. The Greens had their best share yet too, though this remains easily one of their weakest wards in the capital.

Councillors and Key Stats

3 Councillors, in order elected:
🟠Lib Dem: Alan Beal
🟠Lib Dem: Euan Davidson
🟡SNP: Frank Ross
Change vs 2017: +1 Lib Dem, -1 Conservative
Turnout: 58.8%
Electorate: 19533
Valid: 11384 (99.1%)
Spoiled: 108 (0.9%)
Quota: 2847


🟠Lib Dem: Alan Beal
🟣Family: Norman Colville
🟠Lib Dem: Euan Davidson
🔵Conservative: Hugh Findlay
🟢Green: Connal Hughes
🔴Labour: Richard Parker
🟡SNP: Frank Ross

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



City by-elections love a busy ballot, and this one is no different. The Holyrood 5 are all present, as you’d expect, and so too are the Family Party, Libertarians and two Independents. No Alba candidate, which almost fits with last year’s pattern in the capital where they generally didn’t contest the most affluent wards… except they did appear in Morningside then.

Directly returning candidates from last year are the Conservative and Labour candidates. The Family chap stood in Pentland Hills and the Libertarian in Drum Brae and Gyle. Everyone else is a fresh face.

🟠Lib Dem: Fiona Bennett
🟣Family: Richard Fettes
🔵Conservative: Hugh Findlay
Independent: Pete Gregson
Independent: Elaine Miller
🔴Labour: Richard Parker
🟡SNP: Donald Rutherford
🟤Libertarian: Gary Smith
🟢Green: Chris Young


The Lib Dems will win. That’s it, that’s the analysis. Look at those vote shares! Most of the ward lies within their primary Edinburgh stronghold! Nobody else has any chance whatsoever, it’s not happening. The SNP aren’t winning in a ward with that big a collective vote for Pro-Union parties, the Conservatives aren’t winning because everyone else prefers the Lib Dems over them, Labour aren’t winning because they didn’t even get 8% last year, and the Greens aren’t winning because they’ve even less support here than Labour.

When that happens, the Lib Dems will have every seat in the ward. I’ve written before when the SNP, Labour and Conservatives have ended up in such situations, but democratically speaking, this is not good. The entire point of using STV is that you are meant to have at least some concession to political diversity within a ward, and not just hand every seat to the most popular party. Unfortunately, by-elections completely go against the spirit of STV, and nowhere is that clearer than when one party ends up with a clean sweep they didn’t win at the full election.

One thing worth noting is that this will then put the Lib Dems on par with Labour’s seat tally, with 13 apiece. Labour have temporarily been below that at points since they formed the most minority administration in the history of minority administrations in Scotland, after suspending the group membership of two of their councillors, but I believe they’re currently at full strength. In theory, that could position the Lib Dems to challenge for leadership, but I’m not sure that they’d bother with the risks of doing so given their already influential role.

Either way, the departure of an SNP councillor gives the combined Pro-Union bloc of councillors additional breathing room ahead of the Pro-Independence bloc. It also removes the single-seat majority the SNP and Labour won last year with which they could have continued their previous coalition, but for the deeply democratically unhealthy approach of national posturing effectively enforcing sorting into those constitutional blocs previously mentioned.


Lib Dem Win.

2022 Results (Detailed Data)

Transfers (full election)
Results by Polling District
Second Preferences

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