So the STV by-election gods giveth, and the STV by-election gods taketh away. A couple of weeks ago we were enjoying a technical SNP 'gain' from Labour in Penicuik, even though the SNP's vote had gone down slightly and they had remained in first place in the ward. Today we're getting the flip-side of the equation: the SNP have technically 'lost' a seat in Caol and Mallaig, even though they have remained in second place in the ward and their vote has gone up appreciably. On the plus side, because the Liberal Democrats have gained the seat, it's always quite a fun pastime trying to work out which triumphalist Lib Dem supporters are just pretending not to understand how the voting system works, and which ones are genuinely clueless enough to think that this is some sort of terrible setback for the SNP. For a party that is supposed to regard STV as the holy grail of voting systems, the Lib Dems don't always give the impression of being terribly well versed in it.
Caol and Maillaig by-election result (first preferences):
Liberal Democrats 31.1% (+21.7)
SNP 27.2% (+3.2)
Independent - Wood 21.5% (n/a)
Conservatives 8.7% (+0.5)
Independent - MacKinnon 6.9% (n/a)
Independent - Campbell 4.6% (n/a)
There's probably not a lot of point in trying to make sense of the big increase in the Lib Dem vote - this is a part of the world where the candidate often counts for more than the party label, which is why a lot of people were betting on victory for one of the three independent candidates. A Lib Dem win is a surprise, but isn't a sign that Rennie-mania is sweeping the nation. For the same reason we shouldn't get too excited about the fact that there has been a small net swing from Tory to SNP.