Friday, 18 September 2015

By-election Preview: 17 September 2015

Five by-elections on 17th September, one in Scotland and four in England:

South Ayrshire council
Caused by the resignation of SNP councillor Corri Wilson, who is now the Member of Parliament for Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock.  Wilson was first elected to South Ayrshire council in 2012.

The largest town in the county which bears its name, Ayr is a port and industrial town based on the mouth of the River Ayr.  While most of the town's traditional industries are now gone, Ayr still thrives as a major shopping centre for the local area.  The railway service from Ayr to Glasgow is one of the busiest in Scotland, and Ayr is also the railhead for "rail and sail" ferry passengers to Belfast via Cairnryan.  The Ayr East ward runs south-east from the railway station along the Castlehill Road, and its main constituent is the socially-mixed Belmont area.

Ayr has a long-standing tradition of Conservative voting - the Tories have held the town's Scottish Parliament constituency since gaining it from Labour in a 2000 by-election - and the Tories have topped the poll in the two previous elections to Ayr East ward.  In 2007 the Tories polled 39% to 31% for Labour and 28% for the SNP, and won two seats to one each for the other two parties.  The 2012 election was closer at the top with 33% for the Tories, 31% for the SNP and 23% for Labour, and the Tories lost their second seat to the SNP who got transfers from two independent candidates.  Ayr is thought to have voted strongly No in the independence referendum, so the SNP's ceiling here might not be as high as in other parts of Scotland.

Defending for the SNP is John Wallace, the convenor of the party's Prestwick branch.  The Tories have selected Dan McCroskrie, a local lad who has recently graduated in politics and international relations from the University of Aberdeen.  The Labour candidate is Susan Wilson, a former nurse who served on the first South Ayrshire council from 1995 to 1999.  Also standing are independent candidate Andrew Bryden, who fought the ward in 2012 and polled 6%, and Boyd Murdoch for the Scottish Green Party.

Parliamentary constituency: Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock
Holyrood constituency: Ayr
ONS Travel to Work Area: Ayr and Kilmarnock

May 2012 first preferences C 1689 SNP 1610 Lab 1199 Ind 331 Ind 291
May 2007 first preferences C 2736 Lab 2147 SNP 1933 Solidarity 183

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