Crunch time on horizon as council election draws closer

Can Edinburgh councillors follow the example of East Renfrewshire? Picture: Phil Wilkinson
Can Edinburgh councillors follow the example of East Renfrewshire? Picture: Phil Wilkinson
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Ian Swanson guides you through the Lothian wards in the second of our council vote countdowns

Click here to see the first of our countdowns

FOUNTAINBRIDGE/CRAIGLOCKHART

(3 councillors)

2007 Gordon Buchan (Con), Andrew Burns (Lab), Jim Lowrie (Lib Dem) Turnout 59.9 per cent.

Candidates

Andrew Burns (Lab)

Gavin Corbett (Green)

David Key (SNP)

Jim Lowrie (Lib Dem)

Will Searle (Con)

Tom Strode (Liberal Party in Scotland)

CONTROVERSIAL plans to build houses at a much-loved beauty spot are proving a hot topic in this ward, which stretches from the city centre to leafy suburbia.

Thousands of people have signed a petition against the proposed development of the former Napier University campus at Craighouse and candidates are being asked their position on the issue when they go asking for people’s votes.

Tory Gordon Buchan, who is standing down, won enough first preference votes – 27.1 per cent – to be elected on the first round in 2007. New candidate Will Searle, who has been Tory organiser in the area for four-and-a-half years, is almost certain to get in but the Greens, who are targeting the seat, have accused him of being “mealy-mouthed” on the Craighouse issue. His comment on the Friends of Craighouse website talks about encouraging residents to “engage with the process”. Mr Searle insists he is concerned about the precedent of allowing development of such a key green space and is keen to protect public access, but adds that prejudging a development could affect his right to vote on it at the council, if he is elected.

The Greens say the new owners of the site have their work cut out trying to persuade people that 116 expensive new homes is the price that has to be paid for getting the current A-listed buildings refurbished. Labour and the SNP also seem clear about their support for preserving green space. Lib Dem candidate and planning convener Jim Lowrie has not given the group a statement.

Labour group leader Andrew Burns polled 22.6 per cent of first preference votes last time and should be safe enough. With Lib Dem popularity in decline, though, Cllr Lowrie is expected to lose.

The Greens, who got 11.2 per cent of the vote in 2007, are fielding Gavin Corbett, who is chair of Craiglockhart Primary School parent council and founder of the Shandon food group. He hopes a number of Lib Dem voters will switch to him.

This is one of just five wards in the city without an SNP councillor. The party secured 18.6 per cent of first preferences in 2007 and candidate David Key will also be expecting to pick up votes from the Lib Dems.

SIGHTHILL/GORGIE

(4 councillors)

2007 Nick Elliott-Cannon (SNP), Eric Milligan (Lab), Joanna Coleman (Lib Dem), Donald Wilson (Lab) Turnout 49.5 per cent.

Candidates

Lindsay Ashford (Green)

Susan Dewhurst (Con)

Denis Dixon (SNP)

Catherine Fullerton (SNP)

Neil Maclean (Lib Dem)

Eric Milligan (Lab)

Donald Wilson (Lab)

THE SNP and Labour both won enough first preferences here in 2007 to get a councillor elected on the first count.

Having got former Lord Provost Eric Milligan safely back, Labour went on to secure a second seat later in the process, but the SNP had only put up one candidate so it could not get another.

Lib Dem Joanna Coleman is standing down and the party looks unlikely to hold on to her seat. Labour should be able to rely on getting both Cllr Milligan and colleague Donald Wilson returned.

The Nationalists now say they should have fielded two candidates last time – and are putting that right now. Nick Elliott-Cannon is standing down, but the SNP is confident of getting both its candidates elected. The Tories claim if the SNP strategy goes wrong, their candidate could pick up the seat.

COLINTON/FAIRMILEHEAD

(3 councillors)

2007 Elaine Aitken (Con), Eric Barry (Lab), Jason Rust (Con) Turnout 67.6 per cent.

Candidates

Elaine Aitken (Con)

Eric Barry (Lab)

Alan Beal (Lib Dem)

Richard Lewis (SNP)

Malcolm Mackay (UKIP)

Jason Rust (Con)

Andy Saunders (Green)

IT could be labelled the truest bluest ward in the city. The two Tory candidates between them took more than 45 per cent of the vote last time.

Both were elected, both are standing again and it is difficult to see them not being voted back in. Colinton/Fairmilehead had the highest turnout in 2007 and the Tory voters were remarkably disciplined in the art of ensuring their “second preference” votes transferred from one Conservative candidate to the other,

The battle is probably for the third seat. Labour won it reasonably comfortably in 2007 and the party is hopeful it can hold it.

The SNP surge in last year’s Holyrood elections must hold out the prospect of the Nationalists taking it this time, but party insiders admit it would need “a good day” for that to happen.

MEADOWS/MORNINGSIDE

(4 councillors)

2007 Mark McInnes (Con), Marilyne MacLaren (Lib Dem), Alison Johnstone (Green), Paul Godzik (Lab) Turnout 62.6 per cent.

Candidates

Jenny Dawe (Lib Dem)

Paul Godzik (Lab)

Sandy Howat (SNP)

Phil Hunt (Pirate Party)

William Macadam (UKIP)

Melanie Main (Green)

Mark McInnes (Con)

THE Liberal Democrats won more than 30 per cent of the votes last time in what used to be one of their south Edinburgh strongholds. Long-serving councillor Marilyne MacLaren was elected, but colleague Sue Tritton lost out.

Now Cllr MacLaren is retiring and council leader Jenny Dawe is moving from her current ward, Drum Brae/Gyle, to take over what should be a safe seat despite the slump in Lib Dem popularity. In line with its strategy throughout the city, the party has not put up a second candidate.

Tory Mark McInnes should be safe – he won enough first-preference votes to be elected in the first count in 2007.

The Greens are confident they can hang on to the seat won last time by Alison Johnstone who is now giving up so she can concentrate on her role as an MSP.

The SNP took only 10.5 per cent of first preferences here in 2007 but the party won Edinburgh Southern in last year’s Holyrood elections so must have a chance of taking the fourth seat from Labour.

CITY CENTRE

(3 councillors)

2007: Charles Dundas (Lib Dem), David Beckett (SNP), Joanna Mowat (Con) Turnout 50.8 per cent.

2011 by-election: Alasdair Rankin (SNP)

Candidates

Iain Coleman (Lib Dem)

Karen Doran (Lab)

Karen Hetherington (Liberal Party in Scotland)

Julita Mazurek (Green)

Joanna Mowat (Con)

Alasdair Rankin (SNP)

BACK in 2007, all five main parties polled within four per cent of each other in first preferences in this ward, which covers the heart of the Capital.

But in last year’s by-election, caused when the SNP’s David Beckett quit to take up a place at Harvard, the contest was more of a two-horse race between the Tories and the Nationalists. The Tories were ahead at every stage of the count until the Labour candidate was eliminated and Alasdair Rankin secured enough transfers to win it for the SNP.

Councillor Rankin is almost certain to be re-elected, as is Tory Joanna Mowat, boosted by her party’s strong by-election performance. However, neither party feels it has a strong enough base to risk fielding two candidates.

Lib Dem Charles Dundas is standing down and the party is widely expected to lose. Labour’s Karen Doran, who polled 19.7 per cent at the by-election, is in pole position to pick up the seat, but the Greens are also targeting it.

EAST LOTHIAN

THE SNP has led a coalition administration with the Lib Dems in East Lothian for the past five years – but now the Nationalists are bidding to go it alone. The SNP is fielding 12 candidates, just enough for an overall majority on the 23-seat council. SNP group leader Paul McLennan says it’s “achievable” but Labour is also putting up 12 candidates and it claims the race is “neck and neck”.

The 2007 election gave Labour and the SNP seven seats each and the Lib Dems six, while there were also two Tories and one independent. The coalition deal between the SNP and the Lib Dems was quickly agreed and made the SNP’s Dave Berry council leader.

The Nationalists’ position was strengthened two years later when husband-and-wife Lib Dem councillors Stuart and Ruth Currie defected to the SNP, putting some strain on the coalition.

Paul McLennan, who took over from Cllr Berry as council leader in 2010, is proud the council came second out of 500 UK local authorities for the “most improved council” award. He says the coalition has a strong record, including building 500 new houses with more on the way and he quotes an independent survey which gave the council a 93 per cent satisfaction rate.

The SNP is looking to win extra seats Dunbar & East Linton, North Berwick and Musselburgh West, which in each case would almost certainly mean unseating erstwhile Lib Dem coalition colleagues.

Labour says it is fighting the election on promises to reduce the number of composite classes in schools, do more to encourage businesses to the area and use the council’s £140 million procurement budget to boost local firms.

Labour is aiming to win Lib Dem seats in Haddington & Lammermuir ward and North Berwick, where it is currently not represented. It also hopes to take a second seat in Musselburgh East & Carberry. That could squeeze out independent John Caldwell or mean defeat for Stuart Currie who is switching wards to replace the retiring Roger Knox as the SNP’s candidate.

Labour is standing three candidates in four-member Fa’side where it already has two councillors and Ruth Currie is seeking re-election for the SNP.

The Tories could pick up a seat in Dunbar & East Linton where Lib Dem Jacquie Bell is standing down after being suspended from the group for inappropriate conduct.

Labour believes it can become the biggest party on the council and group leader Willie Innes says if it falls short of a majority but still has enough councillors it might run a minority administration rather than go into coalition.

The Nationalists say their five-year partnership with the Lib Dems has worked well and they could work with them again.