Wednesday, 26 March 2014

By-Election Preview: 27 March 2014

East Ayrshire Council; caused by the death of SNP councillor Andrew Hershaw at the age of 56.  Hershaw was first elected in 2012 and was in his first term as a councillor.

Knockinlaw Area of Kilmarnock
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As might be expected, this ward is northern Kilmarnock, a series of residential areas along the roads to Glasgow.  The town of Kilmarnock was called into existence by the Industrial Revolution, with surviving industries in the town including manufacture of valves and railway locomotives; former industries include carpet-making and distilling.  Until 2012, when production was moved elsewhere in Scotland, Kilmarnock's most famous export was the world's best-selling Scotch whisky, Johnnie Walker.

The SNP were sufficiently strong here to win all three of the predecessor wards (Altonhill, Hillhead and Longpark; North New Farm Loch and Dean; and Onthank) at the last first-past-the-post election to East Ayrshire in 2003, providing three of their eight councillors.  The introduction of PR in 2007 allowed the SNP to draw level with Labour across the council area, but also enabled Labour to gain representation in this area; the three seats in the new Kilmarnock North ward split two to the SNP and one to Labour in both the 2007 and 2012 elections.  Topping the poll for the SNP in 2007 was Willie Coffey, who on the same day was elected MSP for Kilmarnock and Loudoun; he stood down from the council in 2012 to concentrate on Holyrood and Hershaw inherited his seat; although Hershaw was in last place on first preferences, behind the Tory candidate, the surplus from his running-mate was enough to ensure his election.

It's been quite a long time now since the SNP won a council by-election in Scotland, but with the party polling over 50% of the vote here in both 2007 and 2012 it will take a fair amount for the nationalists to lose this one.  Their candidate is Elaine Cowan, while Scott Thomson stands for Labour.  Also on the ballot paper are the Tories' Ian Grant, standing again from 2012, and Jen Broadhurst for the Scottish Greens.

Westminster constituency: Kilmarnock and Loudoun
Holyrood constituency: Kilmarnock and Irvine Valley (South Scotland region)
ONS Travel to Work Area: Ayr and Kilmarnock
Postcode district: KA3

Jen Broadhurst (Grn)
Elaine Cowan (SNP)
Ian Grant (C)
Scott Thomson (Lab)

May 2012 result SNP 1738 (2 seats) Lab 1176 (1 seat) C 383
May 2007 result SNP 2504 (2 seats) Lab 1202 (1 seat) C 709 SSP 85

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