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Local By-Election Preview : May 1st 2014

May 1st, 2014

Caol and Mallaig on Highland (Independent defence)
Result of last election to council (2012): Independent 33, SNP 22, Liberal Democrat 15, Labour 8, Non Party Independent 2 (No Overall Control, Independents short by 8)
Result of ward at last election (2012) : Emboldened denotes elected
Independents 905, 710, 506, 71 (79%)
Scottish National Party 411 (15%)
Conservatives 66 (2%)
Non Party Independent 60 (2%)
Scottish Christian Party 45 (2%)
Candidates duly nominated: William MacDonald (SNP), Liam Simmonds (UKIP), Ben Thompson (Ind), Susan Wallace (Scottish Christian Party), Sandy Watson (Non Party Independent)

The Scottish Highlands have always had an independent streak in them. Back in 1990 (the first Scottish regional elections I have data for) the Independents had a majority of 14 on the council (but they were not the only Independents on that council). Highland, back in the last days of the Thatcher government, elected two Liberals, one Independent Liberal Democrat, one Green and one Conservative to boot. 1994 was no different so when the regionals and districts in Scotland were abolished in 1995, very few people expected anything different and sure enough the Independents won the new council with a majority of 26 (but with 1 Conservative, 6 Lib Dems, 7 Labour and 9 SNP also elected, there was the starting of a political nature to the council) and as time went on, that political force did start to make some inroads. In 1999, the majority fell to 20 (Lib Dem 12, Lab 10, SNP 8) but it was only really a pipe dream as in 2003, the Independents stamped their foot down and made seven gains to increase their majority to 34. It was beginning to look as if Highland would remain Independent until the cows came home. But in 2007, that all changed with the introduction of STV and suddenly the unthinkable happened. Highland declared as an Independent LOSS to NOC. The reason? 22 Independent losses, 12 Lib Dem gains, 1 Lab loss and 11 SNP gains. Yes, the Independents’ flaw had been found and that flaw was the “elected unopposed”. Now having to run the gavel of political parties the Independents were on the receiving end of a massive sea change and it was a sea change that even now they are not quite used to.