‘The Lib Dems may lose half their seats’

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at first glance, an SNP win in a city council by-election caused by the resignation of another Nationalist councillor may seem like a pretty dull result.

A change of face, but not of the rosette on the lapel representing the City Centre. No adjustment in the wider political numbers. And the Lib Dem/SNP coalition set to cling on until May.

But yesterday’s count was very significant in many more subtle ways.

For a start, the complete collapse of the Lib Dem vote shows that a national trend sparked by the party joining the Tories at Westminster has continued at a micro-local level.

That will register as a mild concern with the party’s UK and Scots leaders, Nick Clegg and Willie Rennie, who face elections in a few years. For Jenny Dawe, with a full council poll in eight months, the prospect of a wipeout looms large.

Few, if any, local politicians have covered themselves in glory on the trams, but the Lib Dems remain the favourite Aunt Sallies of the project’s critics.

Add that to the national picture and it is easy to predict that, even with the corrective measures of the Alternative Vote, the biggest local party will lose at least half of its 16 council seats.

On the face of it, yesterday’s result suggests the main beneficiaries will be the Nationalists.

Again, an SNP win in May would be in line with the national trend, and the odds are short on Steve Cardownie choosing either the leader’s office or the Provost’s chains at City Chambers.

The crumb of comfort for Labour and the Tories is that both ran the SNP close – indeed Tory Iain McGill topped the poll in the first four rounds until the Labour vote was redistributed.

All of which poses the question of whether, come May, the two unionist parties might have to consider an unprecedented coalition to squeeze out the SNP.

Finally, yesterday’s result gave one more pause for thought – an exceedingly low turnout of 23.4 per cent.

The Festival and holidays are partly to blame, but it is incumbent upon politicians of all parties to enthuse more voters come May.