Election looms as it’s all up to the voters

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Ian Swanson guides you through the Lothian wards in the last of our council vote countdowns

SOUTHSIDE/NEWINGTON

(4 councillors)

2007 Ian Perry (Lab), Gordon Mackenzie (Lib Dem), Steve Burgess (Green), Cameron Rose (Con) Turnout 57.5 per cent.

Candidates

William Black (Scottish Anti-Cuts Coalition)

Steve Burgess (Green)

Margaret Lea (Liberal Party in Scotland)

Gordon Mackenzie (Lib Dem)

Gordon Murdie

(Independent)

Jim Orr (SNP)

Ian Perry (Lab)

Cameron Rose (Con)

INDEPENDENT candidate Gordon Murdie, a quantity surveyor who is campaigning to unearth the truth about Edinburgh’s statutory notice repairs scandal, could hold the key to one of the city’s tightest contests.

Few expect Mr Murdie to win, but public anger about the scandal, which has seen allegations of corruption, mismanagement and incompetence in the council, could mean he has a respectable showing.

With the main parties likely to be bunched close together in this ward, the votes he takes from each of them could be the deciding factor on who gets elected.

There is a solid Labour and Tory vote in the ward, which includes Sciennes, the Grange and Prestonfield.

Last time, Labour’s Ian Perry topped the poll with 18.6 per cent of first preferences, but Tory Cameron Rose was close behind with 18.5 per cent. The Lib Dems had two candidates, who between them polled 31 per cent, which suggests Gordon Mackenzie, standing on his own this time, is still in with a chance of re-election despite the party’s fall in support and his own high-profile involvement with the trams project as transport convener.

The Greens’ Steve Burgess polled 14.1 per cent of first preferences last time, but overtook Councillor Rose when the votes of other candidates were redistributed, and was elected third out of the four councillors.

The SNP did not do well here in 2007, taking just 13.1 per cent, but since then the party has won the Edinburgh Southern Scottish Parliament seat from the Lib Dems, so must be a contender.

Mr Murdie says he has helped hundreds of residents affected by the statutory notice scandal. “I forecast that the scandal will have a true cost to taxpayers, by the time things are even nearly resolved, of no less than £200 million,” he says. “It made me wonder what other feckless and costly bungling was going on.”

He says the trams have made Edinburgh a laughing stock and warns electors: “Your money is being haemorrhaged by institutional ineptitude and petty party politics.”

LEITH WALK

(4 councillors)

2007 Deidre Brock (SNP), Louise Lang (Lib Dem), Maggie Chapman (Green) Angela Blacklock (Lab). Turnout 53.3 per cent.

Candidates

Angela Blacklock (Lab)

Miles Briggs (Con)

Deirdre Brock (SNP)

Maggie Chapman (Green)

Nick Gardner (Lab)

John Hein (Liberal Party in Scotland)

John McArdle (Scottish Anti-Cuts Coalition)

Jimmy McIntosh (Independent)

Jamie Paterson (Lib Dem)

Seumas Skinner (SNP)

Alex Wilson (Independent)

LABOUR and the SNP are both fielding two candidates here and many expect both parties will get two elected.

Labour had two candidates last time, but senior councillor Trevor Davies failed to win a seat while newcomer Angela Blacklock did get in. That was blamed in part on the “alphabet effect” But Labour says it is managing its voter strategy better this time, trying to ensure its candidates get a roughly equal number of first preferences.

The SNP, who put up only one candidate last time, is doing the same and both parties hope to capitalise on the expected collapse of the Lib Dem vote. The Greens believe Maggie Chapman will be re-elected, but the other parties claim she is far from safe.

LEITH

(3 councillors)

2007 Rob Munn (SNP), Marjorie Thomas (Lib Dem), Gordon Munro (Lab) Turnout 52.6 per cent

Candidates

Chas Booth (Green)

Irvine McMinn (Liberal Party in Scotland)

Adam McVey (SNP)

Rob Munn (SNP)

Gordon Munro (Lab)

Nicola Ross (Con)

Marjorie Thomas (Lib Dem)

THE SNP topped the poll here with 27.4 per cent of the vote to get Rob Munn elected on the first count – and now the party is bidding to get a second seat.

Lib Dem Marjorie Thomas polled 21.8 per cent of the votes in 2007, but is tipped to lose her seat because her party’s popularity has plummeted. Labour, which had two candidates and took 26.8 per cent last time, is only fielding one this time, so Gordon Munro should be safely re-elected.

But some think it will be “a bit of a stretch” for the SNP to win another seat and the Greens are targeting this ward.

One key issue is the campaign to reopen Leith Waterworld, closed by the council to save cash. Green candidate Chas Booth has been active in the Waterworld campaign and also the community wind turbine at Seafield.

CRAIGENTINNY/DUDDINGSTON

(3 councillors)

2007 Ewan Aitken (Lab), Stefan Tymkewycz (SNP), Gary Peacock (Lib Dem)

Turnout 60.6 per cent

Candidates

Kevin Ferguson (Scottish Anti-Cuts Coalition)

Joan Griffiths (Lab)

Jason Lingiah (Con)

Alex Lunn (Lab)

John Palmer (Green)

Gary Peacock (Lib Dem)

Stefan Tymkewycz (SNP)

Colin Williamson (SNP)

LABOUR’S Ewan Aitken and the SNP’s Stefan Tymkewycz each took a massive 29.2 per cent of the vote last time and were elected straight off.

Labour had a second candidate and if the party had managed its vote better, it might have got two councillors here. Similarly, if the SNP had fielded a second candidate it might have taken an extra seat. This time both parties are putting up two candidates, but even with a collapse in the Lib Dem vote that third seat might not go to Labour or the Nationalists.

Councillor Aitken is standing down and Labour will have to persuade its supporters to share their first preferences equally between the two new candidates to have any chance. Equally, the SNP must ensure the well-established Cllr Tymkewycz does not attract all the first preferences from Nationalist voters, which would disadvantage the party’s second candidate.

Otherwise, the third seat could go to the Tories as “last man standing”.

PORTOBELLO/cRAIGMILLAR

(3 councillors)

2007 Mike Bridgman (SNP), Maureen Child (Lab), Stephen Hawkins (Lib Dem). Turnout 54.5 per cent.

Candidates

Mike Bridgman (SNP)

Maureen Child (Lab)

Henry Christian (Con)

Norrie Davies (Independent)

David Manson (SNP)

Peter McColl (Green)

Martin Veart (Lib Dem)

David Walker (Lab)

VOTERS are set to snub the Liberal Democrats on polling day because of the party’s coalition with the Tories at Westminster – so says Stephen Hawkins, the Lib Dem councillor for this ward, as he bows out.

The SNP and Labour are both fielding two candidates. The Nationalists took 28 per cent of the vote last time and Labour’s two candidates together polled more than 30 per cent.

The controversy over the new Portobello High School is the biggest issue in the area – and is causing problems. Comments by Labour’s David Walker at a hustings when he said he opposed building the new school in Portobello Park prompted party colleagues to issue a statement making clear he was not expressing the official party view.

Sources say Green candidate Peter McColl could be the one to benefit from the fall-out.

LIBERTON/GILMERTON

(4 councillors)

2007 Tom Buchanan (SNP), Norma Hart (Lab), Conor Snowden (Lib Dem), Ian Murray (Lab). Turnout 55.3 per cent.

2010 by-election: Bill Cook (Lab)

Candidates

Norma Austin Hart (Lab)

Tom Buchanan (SNP)

Joan Carter (Green)

Nick Cook (Con)

Bill Cook (Lab)

Colin Fox (Scottish Socialist)

Derek Howie (SNP)

John Knox (Lib Dem)

THE SNP’s Tom Buchanan topped the poll here in 2007 with 26 per cent of the vote and Labour got both its candidates elected on a combined vote of 34.7 per cent.

Labour should have no difficulty repeating that success and the expectation is that Cllr Buchanan will be joined by his Nationalist colleague, though the Tories claim they are also in the running.

WEST LOTHIAN

LABOUR and the SNP are locked in a close fight for control of West Lothian.

Five years ago, Labour emerged from the elections as the biggest party with 14 seats to the Nationalists’ 13. But it was the SNP who formed the administration, in coalition with the three councillors elected under the Action to Save St John’s Hospital banner and the sole Conservative.

Now the SNP has set its sights on obtaining an overall majority and ruling alone. It is fielding a total of 22 candidates and needs to get 17 elected to secure an outright majority. The SNP leadership says it is “quietly confident” it will more than achieve that. In four of the four-member wards, the Nationalists are putting up three candidates.

The SNP says it is campaigning on its record, including the building of 800 council houses, the first for 30 years.

One senior Nationalist source says that although past contests have always been close between Labour and the SNP, the evidence from campaigning this time suggests a “buoyant” SNP vote which has grown since last year when the party won the Linlithgow Scottish Parliament constituency to add to the Livingston-based Almond Valley seat.

Labour has opted for a more cautious approach, fielding 16 candidates across the nine wards, insisting it expects all of them to be elected. That’s not enough, however, for an overall majority, so even if all Labour’s candidates are successful and it ends up as the biggest party, it will still be looking at a coalition if it wants to take back control of the council, which it lost in 2007.

In terms of potential coalition partners, Labour leaders say nothing is ruled out, but one senior party figure promised to “eat my hat” if there was a Labour-SNP deal.

The Action To Save St John’s Hospital group is putting up a candidate in every ward. Labour says it expects to gain an extra seat in Livingston North where the sitting “hospital” councillor, John Cochrane, is standing down. But the group, whose declared aim is to hold the balance of power on the council to prevent the “downgrading” of the Livingston hospital, could also find itself squeezed out of its other seats if there is an SNP surge.

Altogether there are 62 candidates competing for West Lothian’s 33 seats. The old council was 32-strong, but a growing population turned Bathgate from a three to a four-member ward.

The council’s one Tory and one independent are expected to be returned.