SNP win by-election to become biggest party on Midlothian Council

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Former Midlothian provost Joe Wallace has won the Penicuik by-election for the SNP, making the Nationalists the biggest party on the council.

He took 35 per cent of first preference votes in the four-cornered contest and won on the final count, by 2237 votes to 1788 from Tory candidate Murdo Macdonald, with Labour finishing in third place.

Joe Wallace has been elected onto Midlothian Council for the SNP

Joe Wallace has been elected onto Midlothian Council for the SNP

But there is unlikely to be any immediate change in control of the council because the SNP and the Conservatives would have to combine to oust the minority Labour administration.

The SNP now has seven out of the 18 seats on the council, while Labour has six and the Tories five.

The by-election was caused by the death of provost and long-serving Labour councillor Adam Montgomery.

READ MORE: Tributes paid to Midlothian Council Provost who died

SNP group leader Kelly Parry said: “There will have to be political conversations between the group leaders and we will see what transpires from that. We will certainly be listening and looking to have those chats.”

But she added: “We have been fairly clear where we are with the Tories as a party. It’s unlikely we would want to be doing any kind of deals or working with the Tories.

“We work well together at ward level, but as parties we are as diametrically opposed as you could be.”

She said the by-election was a bad result for Labour, especially since both UK leader Jeremy Corbyn and Scottish leader Richard Leonard had visited the during the campaign.

Council leader Derek Milligan said there would be no change in control unless the SNP and the Tories got together to defeat Labour.

He said Labour had been working “across the parties” since winning power from the SNP at last year’s council elections.

“We work with both the other parties where possible and disagree where necessary.”

He continued: “At last year’s elections, people in Penicuik voted to have representatives from all three parties, so we’re disappointed now that even though we got nearly a third of the vote Labour doesn’t have a representative at all for the Penicuik area.”

Tory group leader Pauline Winchester said the result was disappointing. “We were expecting a lot of Labour transfers, but unfortunately most went to the SNP.” She said the outcome left the council at an impasse. “Our council meetings will be very lively.”

The first of those meetings comes on Tuesday when the council is due to choose a new provost to replace the late Cllr Montgomery.

By-election victor Cllr Wallace, who had lost his Penicuik seat at last year’s local elections, said there would have to be “negotiations” “We are now the largest party,” he said. “Surely we’re entitled to some sort of position.”

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