As I suspected might happen, Labour have won both of today's local by-elections - although as is often the case with STV by-elections, the results require a fair bit of interpretation, and classifications like "Labour hold" or "Labour gain" are not really adequate.
Cardonald by-election result :
Labour 48.6% (+10.1)
SNP 36.7% (-7.5)
Conservatives 10.3% (-1.7)
Greens 2.7% (+0.2)
Liberal Democrats 1.5% (n/a)
Scottish Libertarians 0.2% (n/a)
This is technically a "Labour hold", but it's arguably the worse of the two results for the SNP because they won the popular vote in the ward in May, and have since suffered a swing of 8.8% - enough to put Labour ahead if repeated nationwide.
Fortissat by-election result :
Labour 38.5% (+2.0)
A Better Britain - Unionist 23.3% (+12.2)
SNP 20.6% (-8.4)
Conservatives 11.5% (-1.8)
Independent - Cefferty 5.0% (-5.1)
Greens 0.7% (n/a)
UKIP 0.5% (n/a)
This is officially a "Labour gain from the Conservatives", even though Labour comfortably won the popular vote in May with the SNP in second place. The drop in the SNP's vote is slightly steeper than in Cardonald, but probably more important is the fact that the swing to Labour is more modest at only 5.2%, which would actually leave the SNP narrowly ahead if repeated across the country.
The average swing in the two by-elections is roughly 7%, implying an extremely tight race between SNP and Labour nationally - which has been very much the message of recent polling subsamples. Juteman told us the other day that a full-scale Scottish poll from Panelbase appeared to be in the field, which if true would be the first poll of its type from any firm since the general election. If I was a betting man, I would guess that it will show a very small SNP lead, but on tonight's figures it's obviously impossible to rule out a small Labour lead. I'd be very, very surprised if Labour have powered miles ahead, though - there's no evidence at all to support that notion.
Even though the Labour gain from Tory in Fortissat is a bit of a technicality, it's reasonable to say that both results are mildly disappointing for the Tories - their vote is down in both wards in spite of Tory voters being traditionally more likely to make it to the polling stations in low turnout local by-elections. It could be a sign that Peak Tory was reached in May and June, and that there's been some modest slippage since then.
I haven't been able to find details of lower preference transfers in Fortissat yet, but what happened in Cardonald was pretty incredible (if not surprising) - 253 Tory voters transferred to Labour, and only 35 to the SNP. It really does appear that Tory voters hate the idea of their own country governing itself to such an extent that they'd rather vote for a party led by the far-left. Who in the 1970s or 80s would ever have thought we'd reach this point?
Oddly, although the Scottish Libertarians are a pro-independence party, not a single one of their twelve voters transferred to the SNP. Four went to the Greens, two to the Tories, two to the Lib Dems, one to Labour, and three votes were non-transferable.