Friday, March 27, 2015

SNP vote skyrockets in all four of yesterday's by-elections - and they win three outright

We now have the remaining three results in from yesterday.  First up is Buckie, a Moray council ward in which the SNP did pretty well in 2012.  However, this is nominally an SNP gain from an independent.

Buckie by-election result :

SNP 59.5% (+14.4)
Independent-Calder 27.9% (+27.9)
Conservatives 12.6% (+5.5)

Swing from Conservatives to SNP = 4.5%

The absence of a Labour candidate means that this tells us very little about the national SNP/Labour battle, and even the rise in both the SNP and Tory votes can perhaps be partly explained by the fact that the field was slightly more crowded last time around, with two independents standing rather than one.  However, the SNP vote has increased by almost three times as much as the Tory vote, which is what you would expect to happen in the light of the national SNP surge.

*  *  *

The by-election in the Western Isles tells us even less about the national picture, because the SNP were the only one of the political parties to put up a candidate.  Labour's absence is particularly odd, given that it had previously been their seat.  Technically, then, this is an independent gain from Labour.  Even more peculiar is the fact that the winning independent candidate seems to have stood for the SNP in 2012 (unless it's an astonishing coincidence and it's two different people with the same name), so the SNP's percentage gain is actually measured from Mr Walker's own performance last time!

Beinn na Foghla agus Uibhist a Tuath by-election result :

Independent-Walker 59.1% (+59.1%)
SNP 40.9% (+24.5%)

Although the SNP hold a respectable number of seats on Western Isles Council, it's still heavily dominated by the independents.  So this result can be looked at in one of two ways - it's either an impressive SNP surge in a heartland of the independents, or it's a disappointing failure to gain a seat at a moment of maximum opportunity.  Either way, I don't think the SNP's Angus MacNeil need have any fears in the parliamentary constituency in May, especially given that the Yes vote in the Western Isles was higher than the national average.

*  *  *

The most useful of the three results we've had today is in West Lothian, because both Labour and the SNP put up candidates.  Technically this is an SNP hold, although the popular vote in the ward was actually won by an independent last time around.

Armadale and Blackridge by-election result :

SNP 43.4% (+20.4)
Labour 27.0% (+9.4)
Independent-Mackay 20.3% (+20.3)
Conservatives 6.8% (+4.0)
Greens 2.4% (+2.4)

Swing from Labour to SNP = 5.5%

So a smaller underlying swing than in Glenrothes, but if you extrapolate to the national picture it would still be enough to put the SNP 12% ahead of Labour.  In truth, the 5.5% figure isn't particularly meaningful, because the 2012 result in Armadale was heavily dominated by the victorious independent candidate, and we don't know whether he was attracting his votes disproportionately from Labour or from SNP supporters.

However, what we can do is average out the swings from yesterday in the two wards in which the SNP and Labour were up against each other, and that produces a figure of 7.3%.  Nationally, that would put the SNP roughly 15% or 16% ahead of Labour, very much in line with the recent ICM poll.  In reality it's probably better than that, because the SNP's national vote in local elections tends to be a touch lower relative to Labour's due to the success of independents in rural areas.

Incidentally, the average increase in the SNP's own vote in all four by-elections is an astonishing 18% - and remember that's measured from the 2012 baseline, when they were on 32.3% nationwide.

The Glenrothes West and Kinglassie result, which was declared overnight, can be found HERE.


  1. I can't wait to hear all about this on the Jackie Bird show tonight!

  2. There'll be a terrible grinding and gnashing of teeth.

    1. She used to do that when she was still a MacPherson, and a student in the Scout Bar in Dundee.

  3. James, we do have some idea of the preferences of the people who voted for the Armadale independent in 2012, because of the reallocation of his second preference votes. More of his votes were reallocated to Labour than to the two SNP candidates, but not overwhelmingly so. Therefore I think the swing there is a bit greater than the headline figures, based on the first preference votes only, suggest.

    1. Ah, thanks - I didn't think of that.

    2. I see that the independent in question is a No-voting former chief of staff to John Swinney. Curiouser and curiouser.

    3. 495 to Labour
      418 to SNP
      122 to Con
      385 not transferred

    4. Well, it's always been said that Swinney had an appeal to voters who were not necessarily in favour of independence.


  4. Two points I'd like to make about the Armadale result (being a resident in the ward):

    The Independent who won the vote in 2012 is an ex-Labour Party member and is also an ex-SNP councillor for part of the ward. If it weren't for him standing, the ward would likely split 2 SNP, 1 Lab.

    More importantly though, two of the villages in the ward, Torphichen and Westfield, have now had continuous SNP council representation since 1962. Even more impressive when it is considered that they have been split up and reunited and dumped into seats with parts of Linlithgow, Bathgate or Armadale over the years.

  5. Big thanks go out to all the SNP activists and members in the four areas who worked so hard to achieve those great results. :-)

  6. In Glasgow for conference with access to TV. Could not find a reference to the by-elections, never mind the results.

  7. Opinium cross-break

    SNP 37, Lab 26, Con 19, Others <7

    Down-weight of SNP maybe not quite as severe as in previous weeks, when at times they have not been in first place.