Local Elections: Cheers and tears as city vote shaped up

Tory Phil Doggart celebrate wins. Picture: Neil Hanna
Tory Phil Doggart celebrate wins. Picture: Neil Hanna
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IT was a day of nerves, jubilation and the odd spot of tears as election fever took a firm hold of the Capital.

Candidates were faced with an anxious wait from the outset as the city held its breath to find out how Edinburgh’s political landscape would change since the last election in 2012.

As the first ballot boxes were emptied under the watchful eye of party hopefuls, conversation on the floor was quick to flow, with rumours abound of an SNP landslide and a low voter turnout.

Neither of these turned out to be true – turnout actually rose to a respectable 50 per cent – and while the Nationalists claimed 19 seats, it wasn’t enough to secure an outright majority.

It was the Lib Dems who enjoyed the first cheers of the day, with no less than a brother-sister partnership emerging in Almond, the first ward to be 
announced.

Joining Tory Graham Hutchison and the SNP’s Norrie Work, Lib Dems Kevin Lang and Louise Young kept it in the family – and there was no sibling rivalry between these two.

In fact, according to a “delighted” Councillor Young, the familial bond was actually a help.

She said: “The thing is we know each other’s strengths and I think we’ll make a great team for Edinburgh. We are hoping to get a strong team of Lib Dem candidates back into the council. We will absolutely focus on what matters – the everyday challenges that our residents are facing to make sure their voices are heard.”

Cllr Lang said his party had built on the success last year of Edinburgh Western MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton and said he had enjoyed canvassing voters alongside his sister.

He added: “As far as I know it’s the first time we have ever had a brother-sister team elected in the same ward and I couldn’t think of a better running mate.”

But where one family enjoyed mutual success it was a different story for SNP husband and wife Claire and Mike Bridgman, who were contesting Drum Brae/Gyle and Portobello/Craigmillar respectively.

While it was a good result for Mrs Bridgman – taking one of three ward seats up for grabs – just hours later came the surprise news that her husband had narrowly lost out on his own.

With results coming in thick and fast, it wasn’t long before social media was flooded with parties sharing congratulations and commiserations as the new council make-up emerged.

A guest appearance came in the form of Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson, who was met with a volley of cheers from her fellow party members as they celebrated gains across the Capital.

Posing for pictures with some of her newly-elected councillors, Ms Davidson hailed what she said had so far been a “very good day” for the Tories.

She said: “All the indications are it’s going to be a very good day for the Scottish Conservatives across the city and the wider Lothian region.

“We have got some great new faces but we have still got a core of an experienced team at the council so we’ll see what happens in the next few days.

“I take my hat off to Cameron Rose and his team because they have worked their socks off – I have helped them several times and they deserve the gains that are there.”

A not-unexpected decline in support saw Labour slump from 21 seats to 12, but despite what some will have considered a slightly disappointing day, there was still plenty of hope for the future among new 
councillors.

Labour’s Maureen Child, who held her Portobello/Craigmillar seat, said she was “delighted” to be back serving the community for another five years.

Describing her role as councillor as “the best job in the world”, Cllr Child admitted she was nevertheless surprised by the success of her Tory 
counterparts.

She said: “That was a bit of a shock because I didn’t hear them talking anything about local issues – I think there was a national trend there.

“It’s going to be a rainbow coalition of some kind as far as I can see from how the numbers work. People are going to have to become very consensual about the way forward for Edinburgh and find a way forward to bring a stable government to the city.”

As the count drew to a close, it was clear eyes were already turning to the future and what could lie in store for Edinburgh over the next five-year term.

Unfurling a banner and with smiles all around, the Capital’s Green contingent were in a jubilant mood as they posed at Meadowbank for a commemorative photo.

While he acknowledged disappointments such as the loss of Nigel Bagshaw’s Inverleith seat and Sighthill/Gorgie candidate Dan Heap, party leader Steve Burgess spoke of his delight at a larger team.

He said: “Green support in Edinburgh continues to rise once again. Against a backdrop of a heated general election and an attempt by some parties to divert voters away from vital council issues, voters took a look at hard-working, community-focused Green candidates and backed 
them.”

florence.snead@jpress.co.uk