West Side and Ness (An Taobh Siar agus Nis) on the Western Isles (Eilean Siar) (Ind defence)
Result of council at last election (2012): Independents 21, Scottish National Party 7, Labour 3 (Independent majority of 11)
Result of ward at last election (2012) : Capital E denotes elected
Independents: Alastair Dunlop 94, Alistair MacLennan 119, Iain Morrison 354 E, John MacKay 310 E, Kenneth Murray 289 E (80%)
Scottish National Party 298 E (20%)
Candidate duly nominated (and elected): Alistair MacLennan (Ind)
The Western Isles has been Independent for as long as I can remember. Prior to the days of the Single Transferable Vote the Indpendents had a stranglehold on the council and being a literal one party state with other parties only getting a look in occasionally. In 1994, Labour managed to win four seats, that was extended to 23 seats when the Western Isles became a unitary authority but with 49 seats the Independents still ruled the roost. In 1999, that opposition was reduced to just 9 (when the council was shrunk from 72 members to 30), and in the last first the post elections in 2003 there were just 7 opposition councillors. The first STV elections in 2007 (marred by the Spolit Ballot party polling better than the Scottish Green Party) didn’t have much of an impact on the Western Isles but the next elections certainly as the SNP made three gains against the Independents and for the first time in a long while the opposition was half the size of the Independent bloc.
And yet in that same timescale (1990 – 2012), the Western Isles has undergone a quite remarkable transformation at the Westminster level. Back at the 1992 general election, the Western Isles was a clear Labour heartland (having been gained at the 1987 election from the SNP) and the 1997 Labour landslide was reflected even in this far outreach of the nation with a 6% swing from the SNP to Labour turning it from Labour’s 70th most marginal seat in 1992 into it’s 147th most marginal. In the 2001 general election the SNP started to make some headway with a 7% swing back to them (taking it back to it’s 1992 level of marginality) and when they did gain the seat in 2005 not only was it on a 9% swing from Lab to SNP, but the name of the seat had changed as well. In 1983, the constituency of Anglesey was re-named Ynys MÃ´n to refer the Welsh heritage on the island but despite the fact that the Western Isles was majority Gaelic, it’s Gaelic name was rejected as a constituency name, that was until 2005 when David Dimbleby had the challenge of announcing that the SNP had won, not the Western Isles, but Na h-Eileanan an Iar (and as far as I can tell he managed it with aploumb). It does show though what a good election Labour had in Scotland in 2010, as although Angus MacNeil was re-elected, there was only a 1% swing from Lab to the SNP in the constituency, but with polls suggesting that every seat in Scotland will elect an SNP MP and despite the Western Isles rejecting independence I think it is safe to say that whilst the islands may vote for an SNP MP and SNP MSP, they will still be Independent in both thought and action.