There were two by-elections in Fife yesterday - and they both featured the familiar STV paradox (so lovingly misunderstood by Lib Dem commentators when it suits them) of a party 'defending' the seat in spite of having lost the popular vote in the ward last time around. Labour would have technically 'gained' both seats from the SNP simply by standing still - but to put it mildly, they failed to do so.
Rosyth by-election result :
SNP 45.2% (+9.4)
Labour 34.5% (-13.2)
Conservatives 9.1% (+3.3)
Liberal Democrats 3.6% (-3.5)
UKIP 3.3% (+0.7)
Independent - Macintyre 2.5% (n/a)
Dunfermline North by-election result :
SNP 43.5% (+11.9)
Labour 29.6% (-19.7)
Conservatives 12.5% (+5.9)
Liberal Democrats 9.5% (-4.1)
Greens 2.6% (n/a)
UKIP 2.4% (n/a)
(Note : I've already had to make a slight adjustment to the above figures based on my own calculations, because there was a small error in the Twitter reports of the Dunfermline North percentage changes.)
The swing from Labour to SNP in Rosyth was 11.3%, and in Dunfermline North it was 15.8%. To make sense of those numbers, you have to bear in mind that the SNP start from a much higher baseline in local elections than they did at the general election. So the average swing of 13.5% in the two wards is the rough equivalent of a 25% swing in May - which is very much within the range of swings we actually saw across former Labour heartlands, albeit not at the top of that range.
It looks as if the SNP are performing almost exactly as well in this part of Fife as they did at the general election (the swing in Dunfermline and West Fife in May was 27.1%). That will give them enormous heart after one or two recent Scottish by-elections in which they did OK rather than spectacularly well. And there's certainly no sign in these results of any electoral fallout from the Natalie McGarry controversy.
Once again the Conservatives have achieved tolerably good results, although the jury is out on whether that reflects a true increase in their popularity, or is simply caused by the greater motivation of their supporters in low-turnout contests. And as for that all-conquering Scottish Lib Dem recovery we heard so much about a few weeks ago...well, at a minimum it doesn't appear to have breached the borders of Fife yet.