Edinburgh Lib Dems could bid for power on council after winning by-election

Lb Dems now second biggest party on Edinburgh council
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The Lib Dems have won the Corstorphine/Murrayfield by-election, making them the second biggest party on Edinburgh council.

Lib Dem candidate Fiona Bennett took 56 per cent of first-preference votes to become the party's 13th councillor. And it means the Lib Dems now have all three seats in the Corstorphine/Murrayfield ward. The by-election was caused by the resignation of SNP councillor and former Lord Provost Frank Ross.

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The result leaves the SNP with 18 seats, the Lib Dems 13, Labour 12, Greens 10 and Tories nine, with one independent. The fact the Lib Dems have now overtaken Labour, the party they helped into power as a minority administration after last year’s elections, could see them bid to increase their influence, demand a coalition or even bid to take control of the council themselves. The party was already in buoyant mood after their budget proposals were adopted by the council after tactical voting by the Greens ensured Labour’s package was defeated.

Lib Dem group leader Kevin Lang celebrates with new councillor Fiona BennettLib Dem group leader Kevin Lang celebrates with new councillor Fiona Bennett
Lib Dem group leader Kevin Lang celebrates with new councillor Fiona Bennett

New councillor Fiona Bennett, a former nurse who now works for Lib Dem MP Wendy Chamberlain, said she was delighted, which was announced just after midnight after the votes were counted at the council offices in Waverley Court.

Lib Dem group leader Kevin Lang said: “This is a historic result for the Liberal Democrats. It's the highest number of votes we have ever got in a council by-election in Edinburgh or anywhere in Scotland. It’s an endorsement of the approach we took, which was to focus on the issues that mattered and that people told us they cared about – fixing the roads and pavements, stopping cuts to schools and action on public transport. I'm over the moon for Fiona Bennett. She was a first class candidate and I think she will make a big contribution to Edinburgh council in the months and years ahead.

"This result propels us into being the second largest party on the council. That's an extraordinary advance given that this time last year we were fifth in the council chamber. The group, with our newest member, is going to be meeting early next week to consider how best to use our increased presence on the council."

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The SNP finished in second place with 13.2 per cent of the votes, down from 18.7 per cent at last year’s council elections. But senior SNP councillor Danny Aston said he did not think Nicola Sturgeon's resignation and the current leadership contest had affected the vote. He said: "We've been in government for 16 years, I think our vote held up pretty well considering. We had never come second before last year's council elections and we've held onto second place."

The turnout for the by-election was 42.3 per cent. Although the election used the Single Transferable Vote system, with voters marking their ballot papers 1, 2, 3, etc, there was no need for second preferences to be taken into account because Ms Bennett won more than half the first-preference votes.

Full result

Fiona Bennett Lib Dem 4,577

Donald Rutherford SNP 1,086

Hugh Findlay Con 788

Richard Parker Lab 568

Chris Young Green 417

Elaine Miller Ind 327

Pete Gregson Ind 295

Richard Fettes Family Party 90

Gary Smith Libertarian Party 20