COALITION partners Labour and the SNP have strengthened their hold on power in the Capital by each winning a seat in a unique double council by-election.
SNP candidate Lewis Ritchie topped the poll in the contest in Leith Walk ward and was elected in place of party colleague Deidre Brock, who quit after becoming an MP at the general election.
Labour’s Marion Donaldson took the other vacant Leith Walk seat – previously held by Green Maggie Chapman, who stood down to concentrate on her bid to become a North East Scotland MSP next year. It was the first time that a Scottish council by-election used the Single Transferable Vote system – where candidates are ranked 1, 2, 3, etc in order of preference – to fill more than one vacancy in the same ward.
The SNP got 36.2 per cent of first preferences, Labour 25.7 per cent and the Greens 21.8 per cent, while the Conservatives received 7.9 per cent and the Lib Dems four.
Hailing Labour’s success, council leader Andrew Burns said the result was significant. “It’s an additional seat for us and it means the coalition is all the larger,” he said.
“Marion ran a very strong local campaign. She is well known in the area and picked up a significant personal vote.”
The Greens said the result was not surprising since Labour and the SNP had finished first and second in the ward at the last council elections in 2012. But they admitted they were disappointed. They had hoped the fact there were two vacancies meant they could hold on to their seat by persuading SNP voters to make them their second preference.
Senior Green councillor Gavin Corbett said the party had won far more second preferences than anyone else but the numbers were not enough to overtake Labour.
He said: “Labour had a well-managed, systematic campaign and they got the reward, but Labour would be wrong to assume this is a thumbs-up for their popularity.
“A lot of people are still very doubtful what Labour stands for now.”
Defeated Green candidate Susan Rae said: “One of the quirks of the by-election is that Labour now has three of the four councillors in Leith Walk. Even the most tribal Labour supporter would concede that this dramatically overstates Labour’s support in the area.
“So I look forward to the Greens reclaiming that seat in the next full elections in 2017.”
New Leith Walk SNP councillor Lewis Ritchie said: “I am delighted that the people of Leith Walk have put their faith in me to represent their interests in the council. I am very grateful to all of those people who turned out and gave me their vote – I will work tirelessly for all of my constituents to repay the trust they have placed in me.”
The turnout in the by-election was 25.1 per cent.
The result was announced around 12.30am yesterday after an electronic count. It leaves Labour with 21 of the 58 seats on the council, while the SNP has 17, Conservatives 11, Greens five, Lib Dems three and independent one.