By-Election Preview: Dunblane and Bridge of Allan (Stirling) 25th of January 2024

Ward Profile

Cause of By-Election

The first Scottish by-election of 2024 can be summed up in the immortal words of Brenda from Bristol: You’re joking? Not another one! It’s not even been a year since we were last in Stirling’s Dunblane and Bridge of Allan ward for a by-election, which itself wasn’t even a year following the full election. Last year’s vote arose from the very sad circumstances of the death of SNP councillor Graham Houston. Fortunately the cause this time is less tragic, as Conservative councillor Douglas Dodds has resigned for health reasons.

Dodds had first been elected in 2017, and has been serving as Provost since the 2022 election, under the rather peculiar governing arrangements in Stirling that see Labour running a minority administration from third place. It’s certainly not uncommon, or illegitimate, for parties to make arrangements like this in councils across Scotland, but doing so from third place is odd enough, then vehemently denying that there could be any sort of deal whatsoever to enable that was one of 2022’s more democratically unwelcome innovations and makes it all the weirder.

As this is a effectively repeat, the following Ward Details and Electoral History sections are largely lifted and laid from the preview and results analysis from the previous by-election. Nae need to re-do it all from scratch, eh? Note that as that by-election is more recent, comparisons will primarily be made with reference to that vote rather than the full election.

Ward Details

Dunblane and Bridge of Allan is one of 7 wards in Stirling, and elects 4 councillors at a full election. The name really is pretty self-explanatory, as the ward covers the towns of, well, Dunblane and Bridge of Allan. Although Dunblane is a clearly separate settlement, Bridge of Allan is almost a suburb of Stirling these days, aided by the fact it’s right next to the Stirling University campus. The ward also includes the villages of Ashfield and Kinbuck, but they are a pretty tiny component.

For elections to the Scottish Parliament, the ward is within the Clackmannanshire and Dunblane constituency, which the SNP have held since it was created in 2011. On the original Holyrood boundaries, it had been split between the Stirling (Dunblane) and Ochil (Bridge of Allan) seats which the SNP gained from Labour in 2007 and 2003 respectively. In the UK Parliament the ward is within the Stirling constituency, which has flip-flopped from Labour to SNP in 2015, then Conservative in 2017, then back to the SNP in 2019. Under the new boundaries this will become Stirling and Strathallan, extending to the source of the Allan Water by Auchterarder.

Electoral History

For the first STV election in 2007, Dunblane and Bridge of Allan had just the right demographic makeup to be a mega-diverse ward, with seats splitting one apiece for each of the Conservatives, SNP, Labour and Lib Dems. When the latter collapsed in 2012 the Greens easily picked up their seat. They relatively narrowly held that gain in 2017, meaning it was Labour who lost out when surging Conservatives won a double. Finally, with the Conservatives on the back foot last year, Labour were able to scrape their way into re-establishing the 2012 pattern.

However, this may have been somewhat unexpected for the party. Their councillor, Ewan Dillon, wordlessly became an Independent a few months later. Nothing more has come of this despite my sources ahead of the last by-election suggesting he might not be long for the council. At this point, I am begging councillor Dillon to stay on, both for my sake and for his constituents. I cannot, and they cannot, face yet another by-election in this ward this term. If he was going to go, it would have been ideal if he had done so to allow a two-seat by-election, but he didn’t and a third vote would be such a pain.

If we turn to vote shares, we can see the general trend for the Conservatives to be the most successful party here. Only 2012 was an exception, as the Conservatives were at their nadir that year, allowing the SNP to open up a lead and Labour to get within touching distance. The Conservatives then nearly doubled their vote in 2017, against a collapse in both the Labour and Green vote, with the latter placing behind Labour but overtaking on transfers. In May 2022, the Conservatives maintained their lead despite a big dip in vote share, with the Greens showing the biggest growth. Note too the general upward trend of the Lib Dems since their defeat.

The fact the Greens bounced back significantly in 2022 but Labour didn’t suggests to me a degree of personal vote. Mark Ruskell, elected as the Green councillor in 2012, became an MSP (again) in 2016 and so it was a new candidate, Alasdair Tollemache, who contested the ward in 2017, when that massive Green vote loss was very much against national trend. Having bedded in over the five years since, and with another rising national tide, Tollemache was much more comfortably re-elected in 2022.

Last year’s by-election, coming as it did at the beginning of the SNP’s slide into chaos and benefitting from the usual by-election dynamics, saw the Conservative vote share surge back over 40%. Although the SNP vote share was up, it was only very marginally, and by much less than the Greens lost, which saw them fall behind not just Labour but also the Lib Dems for the first time since 2007.

Councillors and Key Stats

1 Councillor Elected:
🔵Conservative: Robin Kleinman
Change vs 2022 (notional): Conservative Gain from SNP
Change vs vacating: Conservative Gain from SNP
Turnout: 38.1% (-22.3)
Electorate: 11792
Valid: 4472 (99.4%)
Spoiled: 26 (0.6%)
Quota: 2237
3 Continuing Councillors:
🔵Conservative: Douglas Dodds
🟢Green: Alasdair Tollemache
⚪Independent: Ewan Dillon (elected as Labour)


🟢Green: Clare Andrews
🟡SNP: Ahsan Khan
🔵Conservative: Robin Kleinman
🟠Lib Dem: Dick Moerman
🟣Family: Nickie Willis
🔴Labour: David Wilson

First Preferences
Two-Candidate Preferred



As befits the second ballot in less than a year, this is almost identical to what voters were presented with in March, with a full Holyrood 5 and the Family Party. The only differences are a new Conservative candidate, seeing as they got their previous one elected, and there’s a different Willis for the Family Party. He’d stood in Stirling West in 2022, just like the Lib Dem did, and the SNP candidate has stood at all three elections here. Something I hadn’t picked up at the first by-election was that the Green candidate had stood next door in Clackmannanshire North in 2022.

🟢Green: Clare Andrews
🔵Conservative: Thomas Heald
🟡SNP: Ahsan Khan
🟠Lib Dem: Dick Moerman
🟣Family: Michael Willis
🔴Labour: David Wilson


Look, we’ve already had one by-election in this ward. I’ve said over and over again how Scotland currently largely works on the basis of the SNP vs Whoever Is The Strongest Non-SNP Option. Here, that’s the Conservatives. They leveraged that to a pretty easy victory in last year’s by-election. I’d be astonished if they failed to repeat that this year. 


Conservative Win.

2023 By-Election Results (Detailed Data)

Results by Polling District
Second Preferences

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