SCOTTISH Nationalists today insisted they could win tomorrow’s council by-election despite the odds apparently stacked against them.
The contest in Liberton/Gilmerton ward was caused by the death of senior SNP councillor Tom Buchanan.
On paper, Labour should win the seat comfortably – because the by-election is to fill just one vacancy, rather than choosing all four councillors in the multi-member ward. At last year’s council elections, Labour polled 40.9 per cent of the votes and took two seats while the SNP polled 31.6 per cent and took one, with the other going to the Tories.
SNP candidate Derek Howie, a retired social worker and paralympian gold medallist who is registered blind, said: “Based on last year’s result we have had some catching up to do and we realised that from the outset.
“We are trying to overturn what is in effect a Labour majority.”
He claimed they were “making headway”. “We don’t have any polls to go by, all we can do is keep beavering away. I think we are in with a shout.”
The by-election pitches the council’s coalition partners against each other. Labour’s Keith Robson remains the favourite to emerge as victor when the votes are counted on Friday morning.
He said: “There’s a good amount of support on the doorstep. We talk to people about what the council has done since Labour took charge, including moving forward with the tram project.
“There are enough votes out there for Labour to win, but we are not being complacent about it.
“I’m hopeful – but I’m a Hearts fan, I don’t take winning for granted.”
Turn-out could prove a crucial factor. Last year 39.9 per cent of Liberton/Gilmerton voters took part in the council election, but another by-election in the ward in 2010 saw a turn-out of just 28 per cent.
The area has not traditionally been seen as good territory for the Greens, but the party says it has had a “very positive” reception.
Candidate Alys Mumford said: “Many people are disillusioned with Labour and the SNP, and recognise that there is a fresh alternative in voting Green.”
Ukip candidate Jonathan Stanley claimed the controversial visit by his party leader Nigel Farage to Edinburgh – when he was locked in a Royal Mile pub for his own safety as demonstrators protested outside – has given him a boost. “It helped promote the party and gained us a lot of sympathy,” he said.
Mr Stanley claimed he was “neck and neck” with the Tories for third place.
Tory Stephanie Murray said her campaign was going well and she was feeling “positive”.
Polling stations will be open tomorrow from 7am till 10pm.
The candidates are: Derek Howie – SNP; Phil Hunt – Pirate Party Scotland; John Knox – Scottish Liberal Democrats; Alys Mumford – Scottish Green Party; Stephanie Murray – Scottish Conservatives; Keith Robson – Labour; John Scott – independent; Jonathan Stanley – Ukip Scotland.