Friday, 23 January 2015

By-election Preview: 22 January 2015

We start Scottish Elections' coverage of 2015 with a by-election taking place in Kirkcaldy.  Meanwhile, English Elections has the low-down on one other local by-election taking place this week, way down south in East Sussex.

Fife council
Caused by the resignation of SNP councillor Arthur Morrison, who now lives and works in Austria.

Low Tide at Dysart Harbour
This ward is based on the old town of Dysart, a royal burgh which was an important port from the late mediaeval period, exporting salt and coal to the Low Countries; as a result of this trade Dysart became known as "Salt Burgh" or "Little Holland".  The port declined in the inter-war period following the closure of the local colliery, and in 1930 Dysart was annexed by Kirkcaldy.

The Kirkcaldy East ward has several other points of interest, notably the ruined Ravenscraig Castle on the coast at Pathhead.  Pathhead also includes the Manse in which the polymath John Buchan and his novelist sister O. Douglas were brought up; while traditional industries in the village include nailmaking, as commemorated in Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations and on the Bank of England £20 note.  There is still manufacturing in the ward, with a flour mill and one of the world's biggest linoleum factories.

This was one of the weakest areas of Kirkcaldy for Labour at the 2003 elections to Fife council, the party winning just one of the predecessor first-past-the-post wards (Dysart and Gallatown) while the SNP won the other two (Glebe Park, Pathhead and Sinclairtown by 23 votes over Labour, and Smeaton and Overton more comfortably).  The first PR election to Fife in 2007 saw Labour top the poll in the ward with 42% to 35% for the SNP, 12% for the Lib Dems and 8% for the Tories; Labour took two seats to the SNP's one, but the second Labour seat had a majority of just nine votes over the Lib Dems who got strong transfers from the Conservatives.  In 2012 the votes for smaller parties crashed and Labour polled 50% to 36% for the SNP, the two Labour councillors being comfortably re-elected and the SNP winning the final seat.

Much has been made recently of an SNP surge in Scottish opinion polling, but their local by-election performances since the referendum have been mixed, so an SNP hold in this by-election could be an important indicator for the next general election.  Their candidate is Marie Penman, who ran the Yes campaign in Kirkcaldy.  Labour have selected Liz Easton, who is a manager at the Kirkcaldy YMCA.  Also standing are Edgar Cook for the Conservatives; Callum Leslie for the Lib Dems; Peter Adams for UKIP; independent candidates Ronald Hunter and Alastair Macintyre, who will probably dispute the UKIP vote (Macintyre is a former UKIP figure); and Claire Reid from the Scottish Green Party.

Westminster constituency: Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath (except for a small part in Glenrothes)
Holyrood constituency: Kirkcaldy
ONS Travel to Work Area: Kirkcaldy and Glenrothes
Postcode districts: KY1, KY2

Peter Adams (UKIP)
Edgar Cook (C)
Liz Easton (Lab)
Ronald Hunter (Ind)
Callum Leslie (LD)
Alastair Macintyre (Ind)
Marie Penman (SNP)
Claire Reid (Grn)

May 2012 first preferences Lab 1856 SNP 1352 C 224 All Scotland Pensioners Party 180 LD 104
May 2007 first preferences Lab 1994 SNP 1680 LD 572 C 361 SSP 138