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