Election fight is on as decision time nears

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Voters go to the polls on Thursday to choose their councillors for the next five years. Ian Swanson looks at the battlegrounds

ALMOND (3 councillors)

2007 Kate Mackenzie (C), George Grubb (Lib Dem), Norman Work (SNP). Turnout 62.9 per cent.

Candidates

Moira Dunworth (Green)

Billy Fitzpatrick (Lab)

Otto Inglis (UKIP)

John Longstaff (Ind)

Lindsay Paterson (Con)

Alastair Shields (LD)

Norman Work (SNP)

BOTH Tory Kate Mackenzie and Lord Provost George Grubb are standing down at this election.

The ward stretches from Davidson’s Mains, Cramond and Silverknowes to South Queensferry, Kirkliston and Newbridge.

Last time, Cllr Mackenzie secured enough first preferences to be elected straight away so rising star Lindsay Paterson should get in. There were two Lib Dem candidates last time, together polling 39 per cent, so the question is whether that holds up enough to hang on to a seat. The SNP’s Norman Work should be safe. Two former councillors are hoping to return – Labour’s Billy Fitzpatrick, and John Longstaff, who defected from the Lib Dems to Labour before losing his seat in 2007, and is now standing as an independent.

Pentland Hills (3 councillors)

2007 Alastair Paisley (C), Ricky Henderson (Lab), Ron Cairns (SNP). Turnout 62.8 per cent.

Candidates

Stuart Bridges (LD)

Mike Ferrigan aka Professor Pongoo (Ind)

Ricky Henderson (Lab)

Bill Henderson (SNP)

Dominic Heslop (Con)

Sheila Low (Con)

Phyl Meyer (Green)

LONG-SERVING Conservative Alastair Paisley is retiring – and the party is bidding to get two candidates elected to replace him.

The ward includes a slice of Wester Hailes as well as Juniper Green, Currie and Balerno.

The Tories are guaranteed one seat, but may need a low turnout for the other parties to secure a second. Tory voters are traditionally more likely to vote. The Tories’ two candidates in 2007 secured 41.7 per cent of the vote but they can no longer rely on Cllr Paisley’s personal vote.

Labour’s Ricky Henderson has a high profile in the area and across the city and should be safe. So if the Tories win a second seat it would probably be at the expense of the SNP, who decided to ditch sitting councillor Ron Cairns in favour of new candidate Bill Henderson, amid claims Cllr Cairns had not done enough.

The SNP says Mr Henderson is well-known in the area but admits it won’t be “a walk in the park”.

Drum Brae/Gyle (3 councillors)

2007 Robert Aldridge (LD), Jenny Dawe (Lib Dem), Colin Keir (SNP) Turnout 60.1 per cent.

Candidates

Robert Aldridge (LD)

Steven Binney (Ind)

Mark Brown (Con)

Ron Cairns (SNP)

Linda Hendry (Green)

Karen Keil (Lab)

Alison Lindsay (SNP)

John Scott (Ind)

ONE of the most closely-fought contests of the election is taking place in the ward where Liberal Democrat council leader Jenny Dawe decided to walk away.

At the last council elections in 2007, Cllr Dawe and Lib Dem colleague Robert Aldridge secured nearly 45 per cent of the votes in the first count.

But with Lib Dem popularity nose-diving across the country, the party is putting up only one candidate in each ward, even where they currently have two councillors. Cllr Dawe is now seeking re-election in the Meadows/Morningside ward.

The strategy should mean the long-serving Cllr Aldridge is safely returned.

The SNP, which won the third seat last time, is fielding two candidates in a bid to take Cllr Dawe’s place. But putting up two candidates is always risky. In this case, the man elected last time, Colin Keir, is standing down because he was also elected as an MSP.

Elaine Morris, a councillor in Forth ward who defected from the Lib Dems to the SNP, was initially chosen to replace him but then stood down on health grounds. And one of the new candidates, Ron Cairns, is currently councillor for Pentland Hills but was deselected there. The other, Alison Lindsay, has been a councillor in Clackmannanshire.

The SNP and Lib Dems will both make much of the new £5.7 million Drumbrae library and community hub, which the council opened earlier this year. They say previous administrations had promised it but it took the SNP-Lib Dem coalition to deliver it.

Labour has high hopes for its candidate, Karen Keil, a local minister’s wife, who was a leading light in the battle to save Drumbrae Primary School. The school was shut in the last round of the council’s school closures, but Mrs Keil said the experience of campaigning with the community had made her decide to stand for the council.

The Conservatives were ahead of Labour on first preferences last time and say their candidate, Mark Brown, is working hard and could be in with a chance. One senior figure privately suggested that, if the SNP did not perform well, both Labour and the Tories could win seats along with Cllr Aldridge.

Forth (4 councillors)

2007 Steve Cardownie (SNP), Allan Jackson (Con), Elaine Morris (Lib Dem), Elizabeth Maginnis (Lab)

2008 by-election: Cammy Day (Lab) Turnout 53.4 per cent

Candidates

Steve Cardownie (SNP)

Cammy Day (Lab)

George Gordon (SNP)

Ruth Henderson (Scottish Anti-Cuts Coalition)

Allan Jackson (Con)

Kate Joester (Green)

Seumas Macmhicean (Liberal Party in Scotland)

Vicki Redpath (Lab)

Tim Wight (LD)

LABOUR and the SNP are both fielding two candidates, bidding to double their representation in this sprawling ward which runs from Trinity to Muirhouse.

The Liberal Democrats, whose councillor here, Elaine Morris, defected to the SNP, are expected to lose their seat.

But Tory Allan Jackson is almost guaranteed to be re-elected, which means Labour and the SNP cannot both get two. SNP group leader Steve Cardownie should be safe, having topped the poll last time, but opponents say the fact the party is fielding two candidates introduces a risk and if the “vote management” strategy goes wrong, it is not impossible that this ward could produce a shock defeat.

Inverleith (4 councillors)

2007: Lesley Hinds (Lab), Tim McKay (Lib Dem), Iain Whyte (Con), Stuart McIvor (SNP) Turnout 64.4 per cent.

Candidates

Nigel Bagshaw (Green)

Gavin Barrie (SNP)

Scott Douglas (Con)

Lesley Hinds (Lab)

Tim McKay (LD)

Iain Whyte (Con)

John Young (SNP)

THE Conservatives and the SNP are both fielding two candidates in this ward, where each of the four biggest parties currently have one seat each.

The ward stretches from Goldenacre through Stockbridge and Comely Bank to Drylaw and Blackhall.

Labour’s Lesley Hinds topped the poll in 2007 and should be safely re-elected. If the Lib Dem vote plummets across the city, they are likely to lose their seat here, so the question is where their votes will go.

The Greens have made this one of their top target wards. Their candidate, Nigel Bagshaw, is chairman of Stockbridge/Inverleith Community Council .But the SNP and the Tories also hope to pick up Lib Dem votes. Tory Iain Whyte will hope being at the end of the alphabet does not cost him too many votes when his fellow Tory is closer to the top of the ballot paper. Putting up two candidates is always risky. The SNP privately admits standing two here was one of its “most ambitious” decisions.

Corstorphine/ Murrayfield (3 councillors)

2007 Jeremy Balfour (C), Paul Edie (Lib Dem), Phil Wheeler (Lib Dem). Turnout 66 per cent.

Candidates

Jeremy Balfour (Con)

Paul Edie (LD)

Dominic Hinde (Green)

Tom McInally (Lab)

James Nisbet (UKIP)

Frank Ross (SNP)

THE Liberal Democrats got two candidates elected here last time, but Phil Wheeler is retiring from the council and the party decided to make Paul Edie its sole candidate, effectively giving up a seat.

That means Cllr Edie should hold on to his seat in an area which is traditionally strong Lib Dem territory. Tory group leader Jeremy Balfour, who secured enough first preferences to be elected in the first round last time, should also be safe.

But there is effectively a straight fight between Labour and the SNP for the third seat. In 2007, Labour was just 30 votes ahead of the SNP on first preferences. One analysis suggests Labour could once again out-poll the SNP in first preferences, but Tory and Lib Dem voters are more likely to give the SNP their second preferences and help them to win.

Midlothian

THE SNP used to cite Midlothian as an example of the “one-party state”, Labour-controlled local authorities which it claimed represented what was wrong with Scottish politics.

Now the Nationalists could be poised to show how much the world has changed by seizing control of Midlothian in Thursday’s elections.

Before the introduction of the Single Transferable Vote, Labour dominated the council – back in 2000, the party had 17 out of the 18 seats.

At the last council elections in 2007, the first under STV, Labour still came out ahead with nine seats to the SNP’s six and three for the Lib Dems. But the defection of Midlothian East councillor Katie Moffat from the Lib Dems to Labour handed the party overall control.

However, that changed again just a few weeks ago when Bonnyrigg Labour councillor Jackie Aitchison failed to win reselection and opted to become an independent and Dalkeith Labour councillor Alex Bennett resigned to safeguard his pension. Labour was left reliant on the casting vote of Provost Adam Montgomery.

At last year’s Scottish Parliament elections both the Midlothian seats elected Scottish Nationalist MSPs.And the speculation is that the SNP is now set to capitalise on that increased support to win the council.

One source said: “Last time, all the SNP councillors got elected in the first round. Had they put up more candidates, they would have got more elected and it would have been a different result.

“Given the party’s general progress since then, they should be in a strong position to win this time.”

There are also local factors in different wards which could influence the outcome.

Most attention is likely to focus on Bonnyrigg, where the long-serving Cllr Aitchison, a former Monktonhall miners’ leader, is seeking re-election as an independent.

The move puts him directly up against Labour council leader Derek Milligan. In 2007, Cllr Aitchison was elected soon after the SNP candidate and well ahead of Cllr Milligan in the three-member ward.

Labour is now putting up a second candidate in place of Cllr Aitchison, but his decision to stand against his old party must mean Labour is in danger of losing one of its seats.

Sources also say long-serving Labour councillor Russell Imrie could be in some difficulty in Midlothian West ward, which covers Loanhead, if the SNP achieves a significant swing.