Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Scottish Local Elections 2012: Argyll and Bute

Argyll and bute COUNCIL

2007 Results 
16 Independents
10 SNP
7 Lib Dems
3 Conservative
(Independent/Lib Dem administration)
Full Results

33 Independents
18 SNP
11 Conservative
9 Lib Dems
5 Labour
1 Christian
1 Green

ScottishElections.org.uk Prediction
Independents 14-17
SNP 13-15
Lib Dems 4-5
Conservative 3-5

Argyll and Bute covers much of the west coast of Scotland, from the Mull of Kintyre to Oban, the areas inland north of the Clyde, and the islands of the Inner Hebrides as well as the Isle of Bute.  The Council headquarters are located in the small but roughly central town of Lochgilphead, with the major population centres of Helensburgh, Rothesay, Oban and Campbeltown being located in opposite corners of the council area.  Argyll and Bute resembles other northern rural councils, being a stronghold of independents and Liberal Democrats, although the SNP won a significant presence in the 2007 elections.

The SNP had gained the Argyll and Bute constituency at Holyrood from the Lib Dems in 2007 with a small majority, which was substantially increased by Education Secretary Mike Russell to over 8,000 in 2011.  The area around Helensburgh, which while geographically small accounts for a large part of the council's population, is included in the Dumbarton constituency, which has been held by Labour's Jackie Baillie in every election since 1999.

19 seats are needed to win an outright majority on Argyll and Bute Council, so only the independents are capable of doing so; although if every SNP candidate were elected then they would hold exactly half of the seats.  The Conservatives are fielding one candidate per ward, while the Lib Dems are notably not contesting every ward as they did in 2007.  The Christians and Greens are contesting seats here for the first time.

Independents will continue to perform well here as they have done historically, and the Lib Dems may hold up here relatively well compared to other areas.  The new administration is likely to involve the independents forming an administration with whichever party is able to make up the numbers for a majority.

South Kintyre (3 seats)
2007 Result Con / SNP / LibDem
Candidates Con / Ind(x3) / LibDem / SNP(x2)

The only seat not to be contested by any independents last time now has three of them, although one of these is former Solidarity candidate Deirdre Henderson.  The Conservatives won nearly half of the first preferences here last time, but failed to get a second candidate elected when they failed to vote-balance their candidates with the winning Conservative winning eight times the first preferences of his running mate.  Strangely, rather than try to address their balancing issue, they have opted to only stand the one candidate here this time.  Also strangely, Labour are not contesting this seat after winning their best 2007 result for Argyll and Bute here, actually ahead of the winning Lib Dem on first preferences.

The defending Conservative candidate seems assured of re-election whilst one SNP seat seems a safe bet too.  For the final seat, a lot will depend on where the Labour vote goes to.  This could be to one of the independent candidates, but without being able to find out much more about them, I have to say that an SNP gain from the Lib Dems seems likely.

Kintyre and the Islands (3 seats)
2007 Result LibDem / Ind / SNP
Candidates Con / Grn / Ind(x2) / Lab / LibDem / SNP

A strong Lib Dem seat last time, the independent John McAlpine also polled well while the SNP came a distant third to win the remaining seat.

With the three 2007 winners defending their seats and no additional Lib Dem or SNP candidates, three holds seem most likely.

Mid Argyll (3 seats)
2007 Result LibDem / Ind / Ind
Candidates Con / Ind(x2) / Lab / LibDem / SNP

The two independent councillors from 2007 are both defending their seats with no new independent challengers.  The Lib Dems narrowly topped the poll last time while the SNP narrowly missed out on a seat, making this ward pretty marginal.

The two independents are probably safe due to the large block of voters in rural councils like these that won't opt for party candidates, with more of these votes available from the reduction in independent candidates.  The final seat will be fought between the Lib Dems and the SNP, with the SNP probably favourites to pick it up on the trend seen here in 2011.

Oban South and the Isles (4 seats)
2007 Result SNP / LibDem / SNP / Ind
Candidates Con / Ind(x4) / LibDem / SNP(x3)

A relatively strong SNP ward in 2007, they may still have overstretched themselves going to three candidates this time when they won less than two quotas of first preferences before.  The Lib Dems on the other hand have consolidated their vote into one candidate, whilst the defending independent councillor is joined by two unsuccessful independents from 2007 and one new independent.

The Lib Dem vote should be secure enough to return their one candidate.  The incumbent independent polled only slightly ahead of some of the other independents previously, but his incumbency should give him some extra advantage now.  The SNP would probably have easily held two seats with two candidates, but the chase for the last seat here last time was relatively close, and they may end up losing one seat to the Conservatives or an independent from transfer leakage.

Oban North and Lorn (4 seats)
2007 Result Ind / Ind / LibDem / SNP
Candidates Con / Ind(x6) / LibDem / SNP(x2)
(2011 By-election SNP hold)

This ward has seen a plethora of independent candidates - six in both 2007 and 2012 - but swung strongly to the SNP in a by-election in 2011.  The two incumbent independents are both re-standing, along with one other from 2007 (and 2011, polling poorly both times) and three new independents.  The by-election was also notable for a substantial increase in the Conservative vote whilst the Lib Dems declined modestly.

The two independents here both polled strongly in 2007 and again benefit from an independent-voting tendency amongst voters, so should hold their seats.  The SNP performed well enough in the by-election to win two seats, although this was held in the absence of the sitting independent councillors, and the strong Conservative performance in the by-election suggests they could challenge the SNP's second candidate for the final seat.

Cowal (3 seats)
2007 Result SNP / Ind / Ind
Candidates Con / Ind(x6) / SNP(x2)

The SNP topped the poll here, but nearly half the first preferences were shared out amongst independents.  The two independent winners in 2007 are re-standing, but with four new independent candidates joining them, their vote could be diluted to the benefit of the party candidates.  The Lib Dems are also not standing here this time, which could prove a boost to the remaining party candidates.

Due to the size of the independent vote in 2007 and the number of independent candidates, this ward is very hard to call.  A relatively safe bet is for the SNP and one independent incumbent to hold their seats, with the final seat being a tossup between the Conservatives, SNP and independents.

Dunoon (3 seats)
Note The election in this ward has been postponed to 10 May after the death of SNP candidate Alister MacAlister.
2007 Result Ind / SNP / Ind
Candidates Con / Ind(x2) / Lab / LibDem / SNP(x2)

The incumbent SNP candidate here, Alister MacAlister, sadly passed away just after the close of nominations.  Under Scottish electoral law, this led to the postponement of the election to allow the council to publish a new Notice of Election and call for nominations, although only the SNP are allowed to nominate a new candidate with the other candidates remaining in-situ.  The election for this ward will now be held a week later on 10 May.

The two independent candidates are both defending their seats here, which were won with substantial shares of the vote in 2007.  Because this election has been delayed, voters will be able to see the makeup of the rest of the council before voting, and if the SNP manage to get all their other candidates elected, there may be more momentum for their vote to improve here in order to take half of the seats on the council for likely minority control on a casting vote.  On the other hand, if the independents remain likeliest to form the administration, then the two independents should be returned quite safely with just one SNP.

Isle of Bute (3 seats)
2007 Result Ind / SNP / SNP
Candidates Christian / Con / Ind / Lab / SNP(x2)

The strongest SNP ward in 2007, only the independent Len Scoullar picked up a significant vote share amongst the other candidates.

With Scoullar defending his seat and the SNP standing two candidates again, all the seats seem likely to be held.

Lomond North (3 seats)
2007 Result Ind / Ind / Ind
Candidates Con / Ind(x4) / Lab / SNP

All three seats here were won by independents in 2007, although the candidate who topped the first preference vote last time is standing down leaving the other two defend their seats, joined by two new independents.  The Lib Dem candidate last time went on to be elected in Helensburgh and Lomond South in a 2007 by-election, and the Lib Dems aren't fielding a new candidate here this time.

The two incumbent independents will probably be re-elected, with the SNP favourites to take the third seat unless one of the new independents performs particularly well.

Helensburgh Central (4 seats)
2007 Result Con / SNP / LibDem / Ind
Candidates Con / Ind(x3) / LibDem / SNP

The only fully urban ward within the council, the independent vote is relatively poor here, although neither the Conservatives or Lib Dems have gone for additional candidates despite strong votes last time.

With one candidate each, the three party seats should be straightforward holds, as should be the seat of the incumbent independent against either of the others.

Helensburgh and Lomond South (3 seats)
2007 Result Con / Ind / LibDem
Candidates Con / LibDem(x2) / SNP
(2007 By-election LibDem GAIN from Ind)

The independent elected in 2007 sadly died just shortly after taking his seat, with his seat being gained by the Lib Dems in the resulting by-election.  This ward is undercontested this time, with the Lib Dems guaranteed at least one seat as a result.

The Lib Dems as noted are guaranteed one seat, whilst the Conservative defence should be easy.  The Lib Dems polled well ahead in the by-election, but a lot has changed over five years, and the SNP should probably gain the third seat quite easily.

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