Wednesday, 29 October 2014

By-election Preview: 30 October 2014

As well as the by-election below, there are five other by-elections taking place this week.  The Police and Crime Commissioner by-election in South Yorkshire along with three other local by-elections are covered over on the English Elections Blog, while one more local by-election is featured on the Welsh Elections blog.

North Ayrshire council
Caused by the death of SNP councillor Alex McLean, who had served on North Ayrshire council since 2012.

Great Cumbrae Ferry at Largs, taken by Kristofer Keane
The northernmost ward in Ayrshire, this ward is dominated by the town of Largs, a port and seaside resort on the Firth of Clyde which this year was named by Royal Mail as one of the most attractive postcode areas to live in Scotland.  It is notable in history for the thirteenth-century Battle of Largs, an inconclusive action between the Scottish and Norwegian armies, and as the place where the decision was taken to invade Europe through Normandy.  Famous residents include the soldier Sir Thomas Brisbane, after whom the Australian city was named, and the £161 million lottery winners Colin and Chris Weir.

Regular ferries run from Largs to the island of Great Cumbrae in the Firth, which contributes around 1,200 of the ward's electors.  Other settlements on the mainland include Skelmorlie to the north, which is effectively the part of Wemyss Bay that lies in Ayrshire, and to the south the village of Fairlie and the port of Hunterston, at which imported coal reaches Scotland.

The two elections held here since PR was introduced have both elected two SNP councillors, one Labour and one Conservative.  The four seats were fairly comfortably filled in 2007 with the runner-up, independent candidate Ian Murdoch, some way behind, although 2012 was a closer affair: at the decisive stage in 2012 Murdoch was 50 votes behind the Conservative candidate with an undistributed Labour surplus of 36 votes, which would have narrowed the gap.  The SNP improved to 45% of the first preferences in 2012, and seem to have received a boost in polling from the recent referendum; it may be difficult for the opposition transfers to line up behind a single candidate.  There are no implications for control of the council, which is run by an SNP/Independent coalition, although a Labour gain in the by-election would make them the largest party.

The defending SNP candidate is Grace McLean, Alex' widow.  Labour have selected mother-of-three Valerie Reid and the Conservatives' candidate is businesswoman Toni Dawson.  Drew Cochrane, recently-retired editor of the local newspaper Largs and Millport News, is standing as an independent, and Arran resident Meilan Henderson is the UKIP nominee.

May 2012 first preferences SNP 2795 Lab 1144 C 1143 Ind 1017 Soc Lab 124 (elected: SNP 2 Lab 1 C 1)
May 2007 first preferences SNP 3072 C 1726 Lab 1549 Ind 964 LD 493 (elected: SNP 2 C 1 Lab 1)

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

By-election Preview: 23 October 2014

There are eight local by-elections covered this week.  You can find previews for the rest over on the English Elections blog.

Argyll and Bute council
Caused by the death of independent councillor John MacGregor at the age of 62.  A businessman and property developer from the village of North Connel, MacGregor had sat on Argyll and Bute council for less than two weeks, having been elected in a by-election on 29th July.

Connel Bridge
The first Scottish electoral contest since last month's independence referendum will take place in the Highlands, in a geographically vast ward which essentially contains the whole of the hinterland of Oban but only the northern third of the town itself (the other two-thirds of Oban is in a ward with Mull and various other islands).  The ward goes a long way inland along the line of the A85, past Dalmally and as far as Bridge of Orchy; also here are the Benderloch and Appin areas on the north side of Loch Etive, together with the island of Lismore in Loch Linnhe.  As well as tourism, one of the main drivers of the local economy is the hydroelectric power station at Ben Cruachan, knowledge of which once won your columnist a bottle of rare Belgian beer.

The ward was created for the 2007 elections in Scotland which were the first to be held under proportional representation.  In 2003 at the last first-past-the-post election, all four of the predecessor wards (Awe, Oban North, Ardconnel-Kilmore and North Lorn) returned independent councillors.  Two of the independents were re-elected in 2007, while one was defeated; the other two seats went to the Lib Dems and the SNP.  The SNP councillor died in 2011 and the SNP held the by-election, Louise Glen-Lee polling 44% of the vote; at the decisive stage of the count she had 51% of the vote to 25% for the Tories and 24% for an independent candidate.  In the 2012 election the Lib Dem vote collapsed and their seat went to a third independent, who defeated the second SNP candidate by a margin of less than one vote.

This is Oban's third local by-election in five months.  The first was held in May (simultaneously with the European elections) in the other Oban ward, and was unexpectedly won by Labour.  For the second, held here in July following Louise Glen-Lee's resignation, I wrote in this column that "even with Scottish by-elections using the Alternative Vote anything can still happen" and we certainly got an unusual and interesting result.  The SNP topped the poll on first preferences but with less than 25% of the vote, and the nationalist party (whose Oban branch had suffered a damaging split) attracted so few transfers that they failed to make the final round of voting, in which John MacGregor narrowly defeated Labour by 920 votes to 874.  MacGregor's election meant that all four of the ward's seats were now in the hands of independents.

The defending independent candidate is Stephanie Irvine, who runs a small business in Oban town centre.  Labour have reselected their runner-up from the July by-election, Oban-based Kieron Green.  The SNP want back the seat they lost in July, and have selected Iain MacLean, from North Connel, who lost the May by-election in Oban South and was selected for the July by-election here but then withdrew at a late stage.  The last candidate on the ballot paper is the Tories' Andrew Venner, who tries again after his fourth place in the July by-election.

Westminster constituency: Argyll and Bute
Holyrood constituency: Argyll and Bute
Holyrood electoral region: Highlands and Islands
ONS Travel to Work Area: Oban

July 2014 by-election SNP 595 Ind 548 Lab 526 C 445 Ind 301 (after transfers: Ind 920 Lab 874)
May 2012 first preferences Inds 1994 SNP 1117 C 322 LD 188
Nov 2011 by-election SNP 1081 C 505 Ind 438 LD 260 Ind 165 (after transfers: SNP 1179 C 591 Ind 561)
May 2007 first preferences Inds 2488 SNP 1019 LD 665 C 387

Thursday, 2 October 2014

New Panelbase Voting Intention Polls

Panelbase have published the first full set of Scottish voting intention polls since the end of the independence referendum campaign.

They show a big lead for the SNP in the Holyrood campaign, and a more narrow lead for the party in Westminster voting intention.  Full figures below, including seat projections made using the Scotland Votes website here.


Vote Share
Vote Share
61 (-8)
35 (-2)
19 (+4)
9 (+7)
Lib Dems
4 (-1)
1 (-)

The projected other seat would be an Independent gain from Liberal Democrats in the Orkney Islands constituency.

(Due to requirements of the software, 0.25% was added to the totals of each of the four parties winning seats when projecting seats.)

Vote Share
18 (+12)
34 (-7)
3 (+2)
Lib Dems
4 (-7)

The Westminster seats changing hands on these figures would be:

SNP gains from Labour
Aberdeen North
Ayrshire North and Arran
Dundee West
Edinburgh East
Ochil and South Perthshire

SNP gains from Liberal Democrats
Argyll and Bute
Caithness and Sutherland
Edinburgh West
Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey

Conservative gains from Liberal Democrats
Aberdeenshire West and Kincardine
Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk