Wednesday, 4 December 2013

By-election Preview: 5 December 2013

There are eight by-elections this week.  Five are covered over on the English Elections blog, while two seats up for grabs in Cardiff are covered on the Welsh Elections blog.  Meanwhile in Scotland, Labour have a seat to defend in Glasgow.

Glasgow City Council; caused by the death of Labour councillor George Ryan, a Glasgow city councillor since reorganisation in 1995, at the age of 51.

Housing on Sandyhills Road
  © Copyright Stephen Sweeney and licensed for
reuse under this 
Creative Commons Licence.
This eastern Glasgow suburb, about two-and-a-half miles east of the city centre on the Shettleston Road and London Road, was reported by the Observer in 2004 to be the only place in the UK where life expectancy is falling: the life expectancy here is 63, mainly due to poor diets, high levels of alcohol and tobacco use, and general deprivation.  The ward also includes the slightly detached village of Carmyle, in a bend of the River Clyde south of the M74 motorway.

Shettleston has been relatively unaffected by the SNP rise in Glasgow, and in the 2012 election the Labour share of the vote rose from 52% to 61%, mostly at the expense of minor parties.  Since the introduction of PR in 2007 the SNP have held one of the four seats here with Labour in possession of the other three.

The minor parties could be back with a vengeance with twelve candidates on the ballot paper, several of whom also stood in the Govan by-election two months ago.  Labour's Martin Neill has to be the favourite to win the by-election and should do so in the first round.  His main opposition will come from the SNP's Laura Doherty, a 22-year-old art gallery assistant, and, if the evidence of the Govan by-election is anything to go by, the anti-bedroom tax campaigner John Flanagan.  Also standing are Raymond McCrae (Conservative), Alasdair Duke (Scottish Green Party), Tommy Ball (Scottish Socialist Party), James Spiers (Lib Dem), Charles Baillie (Britannica), Jamie Cocozza (Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition), Victor Murphy (Christian Party), Arthur Thackeray (UKIP) and James Trolland (Scottish Democratic Alliance), who must surely do better this time than the one vote he polled in Govan.

Parliamentary constituency: Glasgow East
Holyrood constituency: Glasgow Shettleston (Glasgow region)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Glasgow
Postcode districts: G31, G32

Charles Baillie (Britannica)
Tommy Ball (SSP)
Jamie Cocozza (TUSC)
Laura Doherty (SNP)
Alasdair Duke (Grn)
John Flanagan (No Bedroom Tax)
Raymond McCrae (C)
Victor Murphy (Chr)
Martin Neill (Lab)
James Spiers (LD)
Arthur Thackeray (UKIP)
James Trolland (Scottish Democratic Alliance)

May 2012 first preferences Lab 4256 (3 seats) SNP 2172 (1 seat) C 284 Grn 105 Glasgow First 98 SSP 63 LD 52
May 2007 first preferences Lab 4616 (3 seats) SNP 1896 (1 seat) C 565 Solidarity 458 LD 420 BNP 268 Grn 227 Scottish Unionist 190 SSP 163

Thursday, 28 November 2013

By-Election Preview: 28 November 2013

One by-election in Scotland this week, with another five contests (plus one unopposed return) covered over on the English Elections blog.

Highland Council; caused by the resignation of SNP councillor Alex MacLeod after he was charged with exceeding his election expenses limit at the 2012 ordinary election.  When elected he was 19 years old and the youngest-ever Highland councillor.

Dunnet Head Sign
  © Copyright Terry Robinson and licensed for
reuse under this 
Creative Commons Licence.
Welcome to the far north.  Caithness has a population of around 24,000 (for the purposes of comparison, roughly the same as Radcliffe) spread over 712 square miles.  Sixty per cent of that population is accounted for by the county town of Wick and the port of Thurso, so the rest of the county - which forms this ward - is essentially empty by English standards.  However, by Highland standards this rural area is relatively well-populated; the topography is generally flat and fertile, and many small farming and crofting hamlets have survived outside the main towns.  Not that the whole area is fertile; a large chunk of Caithness extending into Sutherland is covered by the Flow Country, Europe's largest expanse of blanket bog and a candidate for World Heritage Site status.

The main centres of population in the ward are Castletown on the north coast, the inland village of Halkirk, and the settlements of Lybster and Dunbeath on the south-east coast and the road to Inverness; the main reasons to visit are the tourist trap of John o' Groats, the most northerly point on the British mainland at Dunnet Head and, in between the two, the late Queen Mother's former holiday home at the Castle of Mey.  However, the main contributor to the ward's economy is the nuclear research establishment at Dounreay to the west of Thurso, whose decomissioning - ongoing since 1994 - still supports a large number of jobs.

This is not a very party political area.  At the last elections to Highland council under first-past-the-post in 2003 all four of the predecessor wards were uncontested, with two Liberal Democrats and two Independents being elected.  The introduction of PR in 2007 led to a shake-up; two new independent councillors were elected, the Lib Dems lost a seat to the SNP, and the one independent councillor who stood for re-election (as a Labour candidate) was defeated.  In 2012 the two independent councillors (Willie MacKay and Robert Coghill) were easily re-elected, the SNP passed their seat on to MacLeod, and the Lib Dem councillor retired; with no Lib Dem candidate to replace him, his seat was taken by a third Independent.  Independent councillor Robert Coghill resigned earlier this year on health grounds, and the ensuing by-election - held in May - was won by his wife Gillian in the first round.

This second by-election in the ward this year will be defended by the SNP's Ed Boyter, from Reay west of Thurso, who will need to attract a lot of transfers to win considering that the SNP have never polled above 21% in the ward.  There are three rival Independent candidates standing: in alphabetical order they are Tina Irving, a freelance writer from Thurso; Matthew Reiss, who has recently retired as chief of police in Thurso; and Winifred Sutherland, a businesswoman from Dunbeath.  Completing the ballot paper is the Conservative candidate, B&B owner Kerensa Carr from Dornoch on the east coast of Sutherland, which is an hour's drive from anywhere in Caithness.  Presumably she is only a paper candidate.

Parliamentary constituency: Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross
Holyrood constituency: Caithness, Sutherland and Ross (Highlands and Islands region)
ONS Travel to Work Areas: Wick (whole) and Thurso
Postcode districts: KW1, KW3, KW5, KW6, KW7, KW12, KW14

Ed Boyter (SNP)
Kerensa Carr (C)
Tina Irving (Ind)
Matthew Reiss (Ind)
Winifred Sutherland (Ind)

May 2013 by-election Ind 1317 SNP 525 Lab 417 C 203
May 2012 result Inds 2590 (3 seats) SNP 550 (1 seat) Lab 302 C 109

May 2007 result Inds 1543 (2 seats) LD 1154 (1 seat) SNP 871 (1 seat) Lab 532 C 531

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

By-Election Previews: 24 October 2013

Ten by-elections are to be held on 24th October 2013.  Eight are covered on the English Elections blog, while a Labour seat in Dunfermline and an SNP seat in Hamilton are up for election.

Fife Council; caused by the death of Labour councillor Mike Rumney.  Rumney, who had served as a councillor since 1995, was chairman of the council's Dunfermline area committee.

  © Copyright Paul McIlroy and licensed for
reuse under this 
Creative Commons Licence.
This by-election will be combined with the Scottish Parliamentary by-election for the Dunfermline constituency, which is caused by SNP MSP Bill Walker resigning after being found guilty of 23 charges of domestic assault against three ex-wives.

This ward covers the sort of area you'd expect from the name, a generally residential and light industrial area hard up against the M90 and A823(M) motorways to the east and south of the town.  Effectively capital of Scotland for much of the mediaeval period, Dunfermline's fortunes revived in the early eighteenth century when a linen industry was established in the town.  Today Dunfermline's economy is based on the service sector: BSkyB is the town's largest employer, with Amazon also having a major distribution centre here.  Many of the town's residents commute over the Forth Bridges to Edinburgh; Dunfermline South ward includes Rosyth railway station which has a frequent rail service to Waverley.  With its attractive location, lots of housebuilding has taken place in this ward over the last decade or two.

For many years Dunfermline and by-elections will evoke memories of the 2006 Dunfermline and West Fife parliamentary by-election, which saw a shock Lib Dem gain from Labour despite being held during the interregnum after the resignation of Charles Kennedy.  One of the major issues during that campaign was the tolls on the Forth Road Bridge, which have since been abolished by the SNP administration at Holyrood.  In truth the result shouldn't have been such a shock as the Lib Dems had proven strength in Dunfermline at Fife council level, having won three of the five wards wholly or partly in this area at the 2003 council election (the last one to be held under first-past-the-post).  Under proportional representation, the 2007 election saw the Lib Dems come out on top in the ward's first preferences, with Labour less than four points behind, and win two seats with Labour and the SNP sharing the other two.  The Lib Dem vote collapsed at the 2012 election
 from 35% to 21%; seeing this result coming after the 2011 Holyrood elections, the Lib Dems gave up their second seat by standing only one candidate.  Labour picked up the gain.  The Lib Dems still led on first preferences in the two Pitcorthie ballot boxes, Labour leading everywhere else.

This by-election will be held under the Alternative Vote as with all Scottish local by-elections, and with Labour polling 43% of the first preferences last year they will be heavily favoured to hold their seat.  Their candidate is Billy Pollock, a civil servant working for the MoD in Rosyth.  The SNP candidate Helen Cannon-Todd, from Dalgety Bay, is campaigning against the proposed closure of Pitcorthie primary school.  Robin Munro, a fraud officer in the finance industry, is standing for the Liberal Democrats.  The Tory candidate David Ross (not to be confused with the Depute Leader of Fife council, a Labour councillor with the same name) is blind and works for a local blind people's charity.  Angela Dixon, the Green candidate here last year, tries again, and Cowdenbeath-based Judith Rideout stands for UKIP.

Westminster constituency: Dunfermline and West Fife
Holyrood constituency: Dunfermline (Mid Scotland and Fife region)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Dunfermline

Helen Cannon-Todd (SNP)
Angela Dixon (Grn)
Robin Munro (LD)
Billy Pollock (Lab)
Judith Rideout (UKIP)
David Ross (C)

May 2012 first prefs Lab 2465 (2 seats) SNP 1540 (1 seat) LD 1190 (1 seat) C 370 Grn 206
May 2007 first prefs LD 2443 (2 seats) Lab 2184 (1 seat) SNP 1583 (1 seat) C 515 Grn 231


South Lanarkshire Council; caused by the death of SNP councillor Bobby Lawson at the age of 73.  A retired salesman who had also had a career in the Navy, Lawson had served on the council since 2007 following an earlier short-lived term after winning a council by-election in the late 1990s.

Entering Hamilton from the South
  © Copyright G Laird and licensed for reuse
under this 
Creative Commons Licence.
Again, this ward is pretty much what it says on the tin, covering southern Hamilton from the edge of the town centre along the road to Strathaven to the edge of the built-up area.  This is a strong Labour area and before the introduction of PR Labour held all four of the predecessor wards, although in the 2003 election they only just beat Lawson in Silvertonhill ward (covering the Silvertonhill, Low Waters and Eddlewood areas above Eddlewood Glen, connected by Silvertonhill Avenue).  In the two elections since proportional representation was introduced Labour have had the votes to elect three out of the four councillors but never stood more than two candidates; this has resulted in the Tories winning a surprise seat at the 2007 election with just 11% of the vote, and the SNP winning a second seat at the 2012 election to split the ward's representation 2/2.  The SNP led in the ward's largest ballot box at Chatelherault Primary School, which would cover
 much of the old Silvertonhill ward.

In 2012 Labour polled 52% of the first preferences to 33% for the SNP, who will have their work cut out to hold the seat.  They have selected 20-year-old activist Josh Wilson, who got in trouble in the run-up to last year's council elections for tweeting offensive things to a Celebrity Big Brother contestant.  Labour have selected Stuart Gallacher.  Also standing are Lynne Nailon for the Conservatives, Craig Smith for the Scottish Christian Party (who finished last here last year) and East Kilbride resident Josh Richardson for UKIP.

Parliamentary constituency: Rutherglen and Hamilton West (western part), Lanark and Hamilton East (eastern part)
Holyrood constituency: Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse

May 2012 first prefs Lab 2775 (2 seats) SNP 1757 (2 seats) C 496 Pensioners 199 Chr 165
May 2007 first prefs Lab 3631 (2 seats) SNP 1791 (1 seat) C 808 (1 seat) Ind 679 LD 427 Grn 188

Stuart Gallacher (Lab)
Lynne Nailon (C)
Josh Richardson (UKIP)
Craig Smith (Chr)
Josh Wilson (SNP)

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Highest and Lowest Turnout Wards In Scotland

After a request from a friend, I've compiled a list of the electoral wards in Scotland that saw the highest and lowest turnouts in the 2012 local elections.  The list had to exclude the wards of Clackmannanshire Council as they have not published turnouts on a ward-by-ward basis, although they indicate that the council-wide turnout there was 41%, pretty close to the national average and thus it seems unlikely any of the highest or lowest turnouts are to be found there.

Highest 20 Turnouts in 2012

Shetland IslandsShetland West64.0%
Shetland IslandsNorth Isles61.2%
Na h-Eileanan SiarSgire an Rubha60.9%
Na h-Eileanan SiarSgir' Uige agus Ceann a Tuath Nan Loch60.1%
Shetland IslandsShetland North58.0%
Orkney IslandsNorth Isles57.5%
Shetland IslandsShetland South56.6%
Na h-Eileanan SiarAn Taobh Siar agus Nis56.3%
Na h-Eileanan SiarBarraigh, Bhatarsaigh, Eirisgeigh agus Uibhist a Deas55.5%
Orkney IslandsEast Mainland, South Ronaldsay and Burray55.0%
Dumfries and GallowayDee54.7%
Na h-Eileanan SiarLoch a Tuath54.6%
Orkney IslandsWest Mainland54.5%
West LothianLinlithgow53.3%
HighlandBlack Isle51.9%
InverclydeInverclyde West51.6%
Shetland IslandsLerwick South51.1%
City of EdinburghColinton/Fairmilehead51.0%
East DunbartonshireBearsden North50.9%
Na h-Eileanan SiarSteornabhagh a Deas50.7%

The highest twenty list is dominated by the island councils, which have overall turnouts considerably higher than on the mainland.   Indeed, all of the highest ten highest turnouts were in island council wards, which was why I decided to turn this into a highest twenty list rather than just a highest ten.  The highest turnout on the mainland was in Dee ward of Dumfries and Galloway - a large rural ward centred on the small town of Kirkcudbright.  Of the mainland wards that made this list, all fall into either of two categories - large rural affluent wards (Dee and Black Isle), or affluent commuter areas (Linlithgow, Inverclyde West, Colinton/Fairmilehead, and Bearsden North).

Lowest 20 Turnouts in 2012

Aberdeen CityGeorge Street/Harbour20.5%
Aberdeen CityTillydrone/Seaton/Old Aberdeen22.0%
Glasgow CityAnderston/City23.6%
Glasgow CityCalton26.0%
Glasgow CitySpringburn27.1%
Glasgow CityNorth East27.5%
Glasgow CityCanal27.7%
Glasgow CityHillhead28.1%
Aberdeen CityTorry/Ferryhill29.3%
Dundee CityMaryfield29.7%
Glasgow CityGreater Pollok30.5%
MorayElgin City North30.6%
Glasgow CityGovan30.6%
FifeSt. Andrews30.8%
South LanarkshireHamilton West and Earnock31.0%
Glasgow CityEast Centre31.3%
Dundee CityNorth East31.6%
Glasgow CitySouthside Central31.6%
South LanarkshireCambuslang East32.6%

In contrast, the lowest twenty list is made up entirely of urban wards, predominantly in Glasgow.  Some of these (George Street/Harbour, Tillydrone/Seaton/Old Aberdeen, Canal, Hillhead, and St. Andrews) are relatively affluent areas, but with very high student populations.  Elgin and Wick are both isolated and relatively deprived towns.  The rest of the list is made up of deprived inner city wards and wards containing peripheral council estates (Hamilton West and Earnock, and Cambuslang East).

As a general rule then, low turnouts in local elections across Scotland appear to be found most often in urban areas with either high deprivation or high student populations.  Conversely, high turnouts are more likely to be found in rural areas (especially on the islands), and wealthy commuter populations.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

How Scottish MPs Voted on the Workfare Bill

Yesterday the House of Commons passed the Jobseekers (Back to Work Schemes) Bill, which included a clause that retroactively changed the law to prevent back payment of approximately £130 million worth of benefits that had been found by a court decision to have been wrongly withheld.

The following list is how Scottish MPs voted on this bill.

1 of 1 (100%) of Conservative MPs
David Mundell (Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale)

8 of 11 (73%) of Liberal Democrats MPs
Danny Alexander (Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey)
Malcolm Bruce (Gordon)
Menzies Campbell (Fife North East)
Alistair Carmichael (Orkney and Shetland)
Michael Moore (Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk)
Alan Reid (Argyll and Bute)
Jo Swinson (East Dunbartonshire)
John Thurso (Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross)

33 of 40 (83%) Labour MPs
Douglas Alexander (Paisley and Renfrewshire South)
Willie Bain (Glasgow North East)
Gordon Banks (Ochil and South Perthshire)
Anne Begg (Aberdeen South)
Gordon Brown (Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath)
Russell Brown (Dumfries and Galloway)
Iain McKenzie (Inverclyde)
Tom Clarke (Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill)
Margaret Curran (Glasgow East)
Alistair Darling (Edinburgh South West)
Thomas Docherty (Dunfermline and West Fife)
Brian Donohoe (Central Ayrshire)
Frank Doran (Aberdeen North)
Gemma Doyle (West Dunbartonshire)
Shiela Gilmore (Edinburgh East)
Tom Greatrex (Rutherglen and Hamilton West)
David Hamilton (Midlothian)
Tom Harris (Glasgow South)
Jim Hood (Lanark and Hamilton East)
Cathy Jamieson (Kilmarnock and Loudoun)
Michael McCann (East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow)
Gregg McClymont (Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East)
Anne McGuire (Stirling)
Ann McKechin (Glasgow North)
Graeme Morrice (Livingston)
Jim Murphy (East Renfrewshire)
Ian Murray (Edinburgh South)
Pamela Nash (Airdrie and Shotts)
Fiona O'Donnell (East Lothian)
John Robertson (Glasgow North West)
Frank Roy (Motherwell and Wishaw)
Lindsay Roy (Glenrothes)
Anas Sarwar (Glasgow Central)

1 of 1 (100%) of Independent MPs
Eric Joyce (Falkirk)

3 of 11 (27%) of Liberal Democrats MPs
Mike Crockart (Edinburgh West)
Charles Kennedy (Ross, Skye and Lochaber)
Robert Smith (West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine)

7 of 40 (18%) Labour MPs
Katy Clark (North Ayrshire and Arran)
Michael Connarty (Linlithgow and East Falkirk)
Ian Davidson (Glasgow South West)
Mark Lazarowicz (Edinburgh North and Leith)
Jim McGovern (Dundee West)
Sandra Osborne (Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock)
Jim Sheridan (Paisley and Renfrewshire North)

6 of 6 (100%) of SNP MPs
Stewart Hosie (Dundee East)
Angus MacNeil (Na h-Eileanan an Iar)
Angus Robertson (Moray)
Mike Weir (Angus)
Eilidh Whiteford (Banff and Buchan)
Pete Wishart (Perth and North Perthshire)

This list has been sourced from the Hansard coverage of proceedings, available here.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

By-Election Preview: 7 March 2013

A bit of calm this week, with just one local by-election arranged for Thursday 7th March.


Moray Council; caused by the resignation of Carolle Ralph, an SNP councillor, who had been the victim of an online hate-mail campaign.

Lossiemouth Aerial Shot
  © Copyright Craig Williams and licensed for
reuse under this 
Creative Commons Licence.
This is a rather misleadingly named ward covering the countryside to the west of the tiny city of Elgin, named after two geographic features: Heldon Hill can be found at the southern end of the ward, south-west of Elgin, while the Laich o' Moray is the coastal plain between the rivers Spey and Findhorn on which Elgin is built, a rich agricultural area (certainly when compared with the rest of Morayshire).  At the north-west corner of the ward is the tiny burgh of Burghead, a small port on a peninsula in the Moray Firth, while the feature of the Laich which is probably best known to the outside world is the Gordonstoun public school, where three generations of the Royal Family have been educated. 

But the reason I describe the ward as misleadingly named is that about half its electorate lives in the town of Lossiemouth, and the ward's economy is almost completely dependent on the RAF Lossiemouth airfield.  A major base for fast jets, including as current home of the 617 'Dambusters' squadron, RAF Lossiemouth has come well out of the recent strategic defence review and by the middle of the decade will become Scotland's only operational RAF base, the Eurofighter Typhoons currently stationed at Leuchars in Fife being transferred here later this year.

Before the introduction of PR for Scottish local elections in 2007 there were four single-member wards covering the area, three of which returned Independent councillors in 2003 with Lossiemouth West returning an SNP member.  In the rural areas, the Independent councillors for the old Burghsea, and Heldon and Laich wards (John Hogg and Eric McGillivray respectively) were re-elected in 2007, with the Tories' Allan Wright holding off independent candidate Chris Tuke to win the final seat.  Top of the poll that year by a large margin was the single SNP candidate David Stewart who polled 31% of the first preferences votes, 1.55 times the quota required for election.  Despite his party's pro-independence stace, Stewart spent most of the next five years campaigning to save RAF Lossiemouth from defence cuts.

Fast forward to the 2012 election, at which Hogg retired and the other three councillors stood for re-election.  This time the SNP stood two Lossiemouth-based candidates, Stewart being joined by Carolle Ralph.  Surprisingly Ralph was top of the poll on the first preferences, but was just one vote short of the quota for election, meaning Stewart, who started fourth in the count, could not rely on her surplus transfers; and so it came to pass that during the count he was overtaken by independent candidate Chris Tuke, from Burghead, who got significant transfers from an eliminated independent candidate who also lived in Burghead and from the Scottish Green candidate.  The partisan balance after the election remained 2 Independent, 1 SNP and 1 Conservative, but Stewart had effectively lost the SNP seat to his running-mate Ralph.

It was after that that the hate-mail campaign began against Ralph, who decided in December that enough was enough and resigned from the council.

Analysis of the ballot boxes in the ward shows that the SNP polled more than half of the vote in Lossiemouth, and also carried the postal votes, but struggle in the rural areas.  The strongest independent area was the coastal village of Hopeman, which is Eric McGillivray's home village (he got 64% there), and the indies also did very well in Burghead (Tuke polling 49% there; almost half of his votes were from this box).  The Conservatives led across the three rural polling districts on the plain but on a quite low share of the vote; the Greens may have carried the Alves polling district where their candidate was from, but the number of votes in that box was too low to publish and had to be aggregated with the Miltonduff polling district.  Running the votes from 2012 through an AV count gives quite a close result, with 1659 voters preferring McGillivray (Ind) to Ralph (SNP) and 1539 preferring Ralph to McGillivray.  Transfers could be crucial.

Control of the council is on something of a knife-edge.  The administration is formed of an Independent and Conservative coalition which before Ralph's resignation only held 13 of the council's 26 seats.  This by-election presents an opportunity for the ruling coalition to win back the overall majority it lost last year.

To hold their seat the SNP have selected Stuart Crowther, a journalist from Lossiemouth with the Scottish ITV franchise STV.  There are three competing independent candidates: in alphabetical order, John Cowe is a fish merchant from Lossiemouth who founded Lossie Seafoods; Jeff Hamilton, from Kinloss, who works at the RAF bases and lost his seat in the neighbouring Forres ward last year (he formerly represented a small part of this area as councillor for the old single-member Findhorn ward, being unopposed in the 2003 election); and Nick Traynor, a former police sergeant from Lossiemouth.  Pete Bloomfield, a retired RAF air traffic controller from Lossiemouth, is the Conservative candidate, and the Scottish Green Party's James MacKessack-Leitch, from Alves, who works for the Highlands and Islands Transport Partnership, is the only candidate from the 2012 election here to try again.

Don't wait up on Thursday night for the result; the count will take place on Friday morning at Lossiemouth Town Hall.

Parliamentary constituency: Moray
Holyrood constituency: Moray (Highlands and Islands region)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Moray

Pete Bloomfield (C)
John Cowe (Ind)
Stuart Crowther (SNP)
Jeff Hamilton (Ind)
James MacKessack-Leitch (Scot Grn)
Nick Traynor (Ind)

May 2012 first preferences Ind 1560 SNP 1475 C 688 Grn 262 (quotas: Ind 1.95 SNP 1.84 C 0.86 Grn 0.33 seats: 2Ind/SNP/C)
May 2007 first preferences Ind 3057 SNP 1646 C 606 (quotas: Ind 2.87 SNP 1.55 C 0.57 seats: 2Ind/SNP/C)

Thursday, 28 February 2013

SNP Lose Majority Control of Angus

In Angus, Cllr Ewan Smith (Arbroath West and Letham) has defected from SNP to Independent, citing threats to close local primary schools that he had campaigned to protect in his election campaign.  The defection means the SNP have lost majority control of the council.

The SNP now have 14 out of the 29 councillors on Angus Council.  The combined opposition hold the other 15, comprised of 9 Independents (including Smith), 4 Conservatives, 1 Labour and 1 Lib Dem.  If the SNP can't find a deal to stabilise their administration they may end up in the same situation as the 2007-12 Council where the SNP held the most seats but an administration was formed from an alliance of all the other political groups.

With the Rutherglen South by-election earlier this month giving majority control of South Lanarkshire to Labour, it means that the overall picture of Scotland's councils is now:

  • 5 under Labour control (Glasgow, North Lanarkshire, Renfrewshire, South Lanarkshire, West Dunbartonshire)
  • 3 under Independents control (Na h-Eilean Siar, Orkney Islands, Shetland Islands)
  • 1 under SNP control (Dundee)
  • The remaining 23 are under no overall control.

By-Election Preview: 28 February 2013

As well as the major excitement this week in Eastleigh, there are three local by-elections taking place in England that have been covered by Andrew Teale on the English Elections blog, as well as this contest coming from Coatbridge.

North Lanarkshire Council; caused by the death of Labour councillor Tom Maginnis at the age of 68, while on holiday in Tenerife.  Maginnis had been a councillor for twenty years, starting his career on the now-abolished Monklands District Council.

Glen Court and Millbrae Court, Coatbridge
  © Copyright Chris Upson and licensed for
reuse under this 
Creative Commons Licence.
Similar to Rutherglen, where we had a by-election earlier this month, Coatbridge lies just outside the border of Glasgow City Council although out to the east instead of the south.  Also like Rutherglen, Coatbridge has an ancient and independent history from that of Glasgow dating back to the 12th century when a Royal Charter was bestowed upon the Monks of Newbattle Abbey - hence the name of the Monklands to describe the local area as well as the former local government district.  At the time of the reorganisation of Scottish local government into unitaries, Monklands was combined with the Motherwell and Cumbernauld & Kilsyth districts, along with parts of Strathkelvin around Chryston, to form the new North Lanarkshire Council, which largely comprises the eastern outer suburbs of Glasgow.

Also like Rutherglen, Coatbridge has an industrial heritage.  The Monklands Canal was built to ship coal and iron, which were abundant in the area, to Glasgow and then overseas.  Indeed, Coatbridge was a major industrial centre of the British Empire, with rapidly expanding industry and population throughout the 19th century, leading Robert Baird to describe the town as thus in 1845:

"There is no worse place out of hell than that neighbourhood. At night the groups of blast furnaces on all sides might be imagined to be blazing volcanoes at most of which smelting is continued on Sundays and weekdays, day and night, without intermission."
Much of the industry has now gone, although one remnant of its former draw is the large concentration of local residents of Irish descent.  It is also one of the most economically deprived towns in Scotland, with high unemployment and a high proportion of social housing stock.  The town won the 'Plook on the Plinth award' for most dismal town in Scotland in 2007, an 'award' since shared with numerous other Lanarkshire towns and other post-industrial communities such as Linwood.

Coatbridge West is one of three wards covering the town, and largely covers the vast post-war council estate of Kirkwood that extends west from the town centre towards Glasgow, as well as the separate small village of Bargeddie that sits right on the Glasgow border.  The ward is, by some margin, the safest Labour seat in all of Scotland with the party taking an overwhelming 74.8% of the first preference votes last May.  In comparison, the other two Coatbridge wards, while safe Labour, have smaller Labour shares of just 62.0% in Coatbridge South and 53.0% in Coatbridge North and Glenboig.  Labour could easily have won all three Coatbridge West seats on that level of vote share, though as they only nominated two candidates, the third seat went to the SNP.

The Labour candidate, who barring some unimaginable catastrophe for the party should become the new councillor, is Kevin Docherty.  Docherty is also the only candidate who actually lives within the ward.  Patrick Rolink from Airdrie is standing for the SNP - he was the third SNP candidate in Airdrie North ward last year, where the other two candidates were elected.  The Lib Dems are standing John Love, who was a councillor for Airdrie South ward between 2007 and 2012 - to date the only seat the Liberal Democrats have ever held on North Lanarkshire Council.  The Conservatives are also seeking a return from their 2012 wipeout standing local Conservative Future organiser Ashley Baird from Motherwell.  The candidate list is completed by Billy Mitchell from UKIP, who have no history of contesting local elections in North Lanarkshire before now.

Westminster constituency: Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill
Holyrood constituency: Coatbridge and Chryston (Central Scotland region)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Lanarkshire

Ashley Baird (C)
Kevin Docherty (Lab)
John Love (LD)
Billy Mitchell (UKIP)
Patrick Rolink (SNP)

May 2012 first preferences Lab 2865 SNP 858 C 107 (seats: 2Lab/1SNP)
May 2007 first preferences Lab 3348 SNP 1218 C 251 SSP 192 (seats: 2Lab/1SNP)

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

By-Election Preview: 14 February 2013

14th February sees four by-elections, all caused by deaths of councillors.  There are three contests in England which Andrew Teale will cover on the English Elections blog.  The Scottish contest is an SNP defence in South Lanarkshire that could see Labour gain an overall majority control of that council.

South Lanarkshire Council; caused by the death of SNP councillor Anne Higgins.  Higgins had been a member of the SNP for over 30 years, and her husband had also been an SNP councillor for Cambuslang East ward until his own death in 2007.

King of the Castle
  © Copyright Lairich Rig and licensed for
reuse under this 
Creative Commons Licence.
Rutherglen, from the Scottish Gaelic "An Ruadh-Ghleann" (Red Valley), is located just outside the southern boundaries of Glasgow City Council.  The town has its own distinctive history that goes back to 1126 when King David I of Scotland bestowed the status of Royal Burgh upon the town, and the local population has since long been opposed to being included in its now much larger neighbour, Glasgow. Thus when the new unitary councils were set up across Scotland, Rutherglen was placed not in Glasgow but in South Lanarkshire, in the very furthest northwestern point of the largely suburban and rural council area.

The town has a strongly industrial character, associated originally with coal mining, then later with a specialisation in the production of chromate products - the local J&J White's Chemical Works were responsible for the majority of the UK's entire production of these chemicals.  Most local industry has since closed, and Rutherglen is now effectively a commuter suburb of Glasgow.

Rutherglen is covered by two three-member council wards - Rutherglen Central and North, and Rutherglen South.  Central and North is a fairly typical Lanarkshire seat with a strong Labour lead that gave them two seats, with the SNP picking up the third.  South is somewhat more unusual in that in 2012 it elected the sole Lib Dem to hold a seat anywhere in Lanarkshire - the ex-MSP Robert Brown winning just short of a full quota on first preferences alone.

Rutherglen South covers the areas of Cathkin, Fernhill and Burnside.  Cathkin and Fernhill are both relatively modern housing estates that span Rutherglen's edge of the Glasgow Green Belt.  Cathkin borders onto the Whitlawburn area of Cambuslang, while Fernhill lies beside Castlemilk in Glasgow. Fernhill is an area of particular social deprivation, and has been undergoing a programme of demolitions and new building to regenerate the area.  Fernhill is also home to the locally well known "King of the Castle" statue that depicts a boy looking downhill towards Glasgow City Centre.  Closer to the town centre lies Burnside which, on the other hand, is one of Glasgow's most affluent suburbs and a preferred residence for many of the city's middle class professionals and financial sector workers.

This mixed nature is reflected in the mixed representation this ward has seen since the introduction of the Single Transferable Vote system in Scotland - both the 2007 and 2011 elections returned one Labour, one Liberal Democrat, and one SNP councillors.  Labour still have a considerable lead in first preferences, though it is not as unassailable as in other parts of Lanarkshire.  They will however be fighting this contest with a particular ferocity, as winning would give them their first majority control of South Lanarkshire since 2007 when the introduction of proportional representation threw most Scottish councils into no overall control.

The Labour candidate, Gerard Killen, was the second and unsuccessful Labour candidate in this ward last time - his running mate not leaving enough votes left over to let him overtake the Lib Dem and SNP candidates.  The Lib Dems' David Baillie is a former councillor for Cambuslang West who lost his seat in 2012, and will be hoping he can at least match the higher profile ex-MSP Robert Brown's result here.  Margaret Ferrier will be the SNP's candidate in their uphill struggle to hold a seat from third place in the first preference share.

Of the other parties, the Conservatives are fielding previous Conservative Future Scotland chairman Aric Gilinsky, the Greens are standing local activist Susan Martin, UKIP have put forward Donald Mackay who contested Larkhall ward in 2012, and completing the ballot paper is independent Craig Smith who contested Hamilton South ward for the Christian Party in 2012.

UK parliamentary constituency: Rutherglen and Hamilton West
Holyrood constituency: Rutherglen (Glasgow electoral region)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Glasgow

David Baillie (LD)
Margaret Ferrier (SNP)
Aric Gilinsky (C)
Gerard Killen (Lab)
Donald MacKay (UKIP)
Susan Martin (Grn)
Craig Smith (Ind)

May 2012 first preferences Lab 2095 LD 1181 SNP 1141 C 232 Scottish Unionist 130 (seats: Lab/LD/SNP)
May 2007 first preferences Lab 2380 LD 1583 SNP 1045 C 529 Ind 285 Grn 150 Scottish Unionist 135 SSP 106 (seats: Lab/LD/SNP)

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

How Scottish MPs Voted on Same Sex Marriage

The House of Commons yesterday voted by 400 to 175 in favour of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill at its second reading.

In Scotland:

  • 41 MPs voted Yes (69.5%)
  • 7 MPs voted No (11.9%)
  • 11 MPs didn't vote (18.6%)

The following list is how Scottish MPs voted in that division.

Danny AlexanderLib DemsInverness, Nairn, Badenoch and StrathspeyYes
Douglas AlexanderLabourPaisley and Renfrewshire SouthYes
Willie BainLabourGlasgow North EastYes
Gordon BanksLabourOchil and South PerthshireYes
Anne BeggLabourAberdeen SouthDidn't Vote
Gordon BrownLabourKirkcaldy and CowdenbeathDidn't Vote
Russell BrownLabourDumfries and GallowayYes
Malcolm BruceLib DemsGordonYes
Menzies CampbellLib DemsNorth East FifeYes
Alistair CarmichaelLib DemsOrkney and ShetlandYes
Katy ClarkLabourNorth Ayrshire and ArranYes
Tom ClarkeLabourCoatbridge, Chryston and BellshillNo
Michael ConnartyLabourLinlithgow and East FalkirkYes
Michael CrockartLib DemsEdinburgh WestYes
Margaret CurranLabourGlasgow EastYes
Alistair DarlingLabourEdinburgh South WestYes
Ian DavidsonLabourGlasgow South WestYes
Thomas DochertyLabourDunfermline and West FifeYes
Brian DonohoeLabourCentral AyrshireNo
Frank DoranLabourAberdeen NorthYes
Gemma DoyleLabourWest DunbartonshireYes
Sheila GilmoreLabourEdinburgh EastYes
Tom GreatrexLabourRutherglen and Hamilton WestYes
David HamiltonLabourMidlothianYes
Tom HarrisLabourGlasgow SouthYes
Jimmy HoodLabourLanark and Hamilton EastDidn't Vote
Stewart HosieSNPDundee EastDidn't Vote
Cathy JamiesonLabourKilmarnock and LoudounYes
Eric JoyceIndependentFalkirkYes
Charles KennedyLib DemsRoss, Skye and LochaberDidn't Vote
Mark LazarowiczLabourEdinburgh North and LeithYes
Angus MacNeilSNPNa h-Eileanan an IarDidn't Vote
Michael McCannLabourEast Kilbride, Strathaven and LesmahagowNo
Gregg McClymontLabourCumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch EastYes
Jim McGovernLabourDundee WestNo
Anne McGuireLabourStirlingYes
Ann McKechinLabourGlasgow NorthYes
Ian McKenzieLabourInverclydeNo
Michael MooreLib DemsBerwickshire, Roxburgh and SelkirkYes
Graeme MorriceLabourLivingstonYes
David MundellConservativeDumfriesshire, Clydesdale & TweeddaleYes
Jim MurphyLabourEast RenfrewshireYes
Ian MurrayLabourEdinburgh SouthYes
Pamela NashLabourAirdrie and ShottsYes
Fiona O'DonnellLabourEast LothianYes
Sandra OsborneLabourAyr, Carrick and CumnockYes
Alan ReidLib DemsArgyll and ButeYes
Angus RobertsonSNPMorayDidn't Vote
John RobertsonLabourGlasgow North WestYes
Frank RoyLabourMotherwell and WishawNo
Lindsay RoyLabourGlenrothesYes
Anas SarwarLabourGlasgow CentralYes
Jim SheridanLabourPaisley and Renfrewshire NorthNo
Robert SmithLib DemsWest Aberdeenshire and KincardineYes
Jo SwinsonLib DemsEast DunbartonshireYes
John ThursoLib DemsCaithness, Sutherland and Easter RossDidn't Vote
Mike WeirSNPAngusDidn't Vote
Eilidh WhitefordSNPBanff and BuchanDidn't Vote
Pete WishartSNPPerth and North PerthshireDidn't Vote