With almost all of the base figures now available from the council election on 3rd May 2012, For Argyll has been working on a range of calculations to establish the relative performances of the major groups.
In this we have chosen to work with the actual numerical votes in 2007 and 2012 since share of the vote loses sight of the fact that more or fewer people have chosen to vote for a specific group.
A key indicator of the popular view is the performance of the Alliance of Independent Councillors, which has led a series of administrations and is now out of power.
Since the Alliance has no formal electoral presence, its performance can only be distilled from the combined votes in the 2007 and 2012 council elections of those councillors standing as Independents but who have been members of the Alliance and showed no sign of moving away from it.
Similarly, the Argyll First group is electorally invisible yet, as with the Alliance, Argyll is interested to read just how voters responded to this group, formed between the 2007 local election and the current one so, to show this we have aggregated and disaggregated individual performance as appropriate.
There are quite a few significant electoral anomalies in Argyll and Bute in relation to shifting and complex allegiances. We came to specific decisions in each case as to how to treat these in our calculations, in order to end up with as accurate a picture as possible of where the Argyll electorate stands today. At the end of this article is an account of exactly what we did in thee cases – and why.
Seats – at the vote
- SNP: 13 – GAIN 3
- Alliance of Independents: 9 – LOSS 4
- Liberal Democrat: 4 – LOSS 2
- Conservatives: 4 – GAIN 1
- Argyll First: 3 – Stable. Stood no other candidates.
Seats – the political reality
- SNP: 13 – GAIN 3
- Alliance of Independents: 8 – LOSS 5. Councillor Elaine Robertson left the Alliance and joined the new coalition for progress. (See below under Anomalies.)
- Liberal Democrats: 4 – LOSS 4. The Lib Dems won 7 seats at the 2007 election and quickly took an additional seat at the by-election following the death of Independent, Ronnie Kinloch in Helensburgh and Lomond South. This was a total of 8 wins. But between the election and the by-election , they had lost 2 to the Alliance in its leadership of the then coalition with the SNP, hence the headline loss of 2 from 6 in the first set of figures.
- Conservatives: 3 – No change. The Conservatives lost Councillor Donald Kelly to his c0-founding of the Argyll First group between the 2007 and 2012 elections; and won a seat in Lomond North with Maurice Corry in 2012.
- Argyll First: 3 – No change. Stood no other candidates.
Group performance in 2012 in relation to their 2007 vote
- Liberal Democrats: LOST 36.77% *includes the 2012 defection of Councillors Mary Jean Devon and Neil Mackay; and the death of Councillor Al Reay of Helensburgh Central, who was not replaced. However, the single Liberal Democrat candidate remaining in Helensburgh Central in 2012, Aileen Morton, who had stood in 2007 alongside Al Reay (and won 6 more votes although he was elected), did not inherit any of the Reay vote in 2012 and lost some of her own 2007 vote.
- Alliance of Independents: LOST 34.18% *includes the loss in protest of Councillor Dougie Philand who went on to become a co-founder of the respected Argyll First group; the retirement of Provost William Petrie; the loss by expulsion of Councillor George Freeman – who topped the poll in Lomond North; and includes the vote of Councillor Elaine Robertson in Oban North and Lorn – because thus is where voters (for and against) imagined her political alignment would continue.
- Conservatives: LOST 16.7% * includes the 2012 defection Councillor Donald Kelly and his substantial vote in 2012. In both the 2007 and 2012 elections, Councillor Kelly’s was the highest personal vote of any candidate. Those who voted for him in 2012 were clear about his continuing allegiance to the non-political Argyll First group. For all of these reasons, aggregating Councillor Kelly’s vote with that of the Conservative group cannot be relied upon to show an accurate picture of the general party political voting preferences of the Argyll electorate at this time.
- Labour: LOST 5.62%, standing 5 candidates in 2012 against 6 in 2007.
- Argyll First: GAINED 9.05% in a series of resoundingly successful personal votes.
- SNP: GAINED 23.29% *includes acquiring Councillor Devon and her substantial personal vote from the Alliance. This group also lost to death three sitting councillors in the last year – Councillors Donald Macdonald and Donald ‘Skye’ MacIntosh in Oban and the Isles; and Councillor Alister McAlister in Dunoon. The first two were replaced by alternative candidates, the former in a successful by-election with Louise Glen-Lee; the second left dormant until the latest election when Fred Hall took the seat. The SNP was standing two candidates in Dunoon in 2012 but chose not to replace Mr McAlister.
The ‘nearly’ seat gains
- The Conservative’s Alastair Redman in Kintyre and the Isles came very close indeed to taking a seat from an incumbent – Councillor Robin Currie of the Liberal Democrats – who had taken the first seat in 2007 on the first count but in 2012 had to wait until the 7th count to be elected to the third seat.
- Labour’s Adam Bellshaw in Isle of Bute took the SNP’s Councillor Isobel Strong to the 6th Count before losing the third seat to her.
- The SNP’s Kenneth Smith in Lomond North took both Maurice Corry and Robert Graham MacIntyre to the fifth count before seeing both go on to take a seat at the sixth count.
2012 Group performance in vote share in the four administrative areas
Mid Argyll, Kintyre and the Islands
- Argyll First took 35.5% of the vote. GAIN 9.05% on 2007 vote of its 3 candidates.
- SNP took 24.35% of the vote. GAIN 6.14% on 2007.
- Alliance of Independents took 5.13% of the vote. LOSS 2.06% on 2007.
- Liberal Democrats took 15.10% of the vote. LOSS 10.44% on 2007
- Conservatives took 9.12% of the vote. LOSS 12.38% on 2007. *Includes the loss of Councillor Donald Kelly to Argyll First.
- Labour took 5.0% of the vote. LOSS of 2.06% on 2007. *In 2012 Labour did not stand a candidate in South Kintyre.
Oban and the Isles
- SNP took 43.78% of the vote. GAIN 15.11% on 2007. *includes the pre-election switch from Alliance of Independents of incumbent Councillor Mary Jean Devon who has a strong personal vote.
- Alliance of Independents took 17.55% of the vote. LOSS 10.76% on 2007. *Includes the vote of Councillor Elaine Robertson, an Independent who, post-election, joined the new coalition for progress.
- Liberal Democrats took 5.31% of the vote. LOSS 13.53% on 2007. *Includes the defection of two 2007 candidates who stood again in different colours – Councillors Mary Jean Devon and Neil MacKay.
- Conservatives took 7.47% of the vote. LOSS 1.47% on 2007.
Bute and Cowal
- SNP took 33,75% of the vote. GAIN 1.47% on 2007.
- Alliance of independents took 37.45% of the vote. LOSS 2.22% on 2007.
- Liberal Democrats took 1.38% of the vote. LOSS 6.56% on 2007.
- Conservatives took 8.63% of the vote. GAIN 0.19% on 2007.
- Labour took 8.55% of the vote. GAIN 2.929% on 2007.
Helensburgh and Lomond
- SNP took 19.68% of the vote. GAIN 0.67% on 2007.
- Alliance of Independents took 8.79% of the vote. LOSS 19.14% on 2007. *Includes retirement of Provost William Petrie and expulsion of Councillor George Freeman who went on to top the poll in Lomond North.
- Liberal Democrats took 21.83% of the vote. LOSS 6.24% on 2007.
- Conservatives took 20.83% of the vote. LOSS 4.04% on 2007.
- Labour took 4.41% of the vote. *Labour did not stand a candidate in this area in 2007.
The greatest loss was the 19.14% drop of the Alliance in Helensburgh and Lomond. The second biggest loss was the 13.23% drop of the Liberal Democrats in Oban and the Isles.
The greatest gain was the 15.11% SNP rise in Oban and the Isles. The second biggest gain was the 9.05% rise of Argyll First in Mid Argyll, Kintyre and the Islands.
There are four sets of election results whose voting patterns throw up both conundrums and insights into the way the electorate here sees its options.
There is the recent (2012) council election; its predecessor in 2007; the 2010 Westminster election for the Argyll and Bute seat – which is a match for the geographical territory of Argyll and Bute Council; and the 2011 Scottish Parliamentary election, which is a much smaller constituency, losing Helensburgh and Lomond to Dumbarton in this context.
- The overall Conservative vote in the 2012 local election was 3678 – or 4811 if the vote of Councillor Donald Kelly – inflated by both personal respect and Argyll First’s attractions – is added. Yet in the 2010 General Election, Conservative candidate Gary Mulvaney polled 10,861 votes across the same overall constituency.
- In the Scottish Parliamentary Election of 2011, Conservative candidate Jamie McGrigor polled 4847, 18.3% of the vote, on a constituency which excludes Helensburgh and Lomond, a Conservative leaning area.
- The overall Labour vote in the 2012 local election was 1,422. Yet in the 2010 General Election, Labour candidate David Graham polled 10,274 votes.
- In the Scottish Parliamentary Election of 2011, Labour candidate Mick Rice polled 4041, 15,3% of the vote, in a constituency which excludes Helensburgh and Lomond where there is a Labour vote.
- In the Scottish Parliamentary Election of 2011, SNP candidate Michael Russell polled 13,390, 50.6% of the vote in a constituency which excludes Helensburgh and Lomond where there is an SNP vote.
- The overall Liberal Democrat vote in the 2012 local election was 3540. Yet in the General Election of 2010, Liberal Democrat candidate, the incumbent Alan Reid, took the seat with 14.292 votes in the same effective constituency. This was a drop of 4.9% on his 2005 performance and before the coalition which his party went on to form with the Conservatives – which was the correct political decision but proved unpopular – saw a disastrous nationwide drop in the Liberal Democrat vote.
- In the Scottish Parliamentary Election of 2011, Liberal Democrat candidate, Alison Hay, polled 3220. Compare this with the party’s total of 3540 in the current local election in the bigger constituency where 1860 votes within this total came from two wards in the Helensburgh and Lomond stronghold of the Liberal Democrats, which is excluded from the Argyll and Bute Scottish Parliamentary constituency.
Electoral anomalies and how we dealt with them
Oban and the Isles: In this administrative area we had the problem of deciding how to deal with the fact that two councillors elected as Liberal Democrats in 2007 had switched their loyalties between then and the 2012 election.
Councillor Neil Mackay left the Liberal Democrats, became a member of the Alliance of Independents and stood this time as an Independent wit8h no indication of any further change to come.
His colleague on the shifting sands of political allegiances, Councillor Mary Jean Devon, left the Liberal Democrats around four months after the 2007 election and also joined the Alliance of Independents. In July 2011, nine months before this election, she changed affiliation again – to the SNP and went on to top the poll in this ward.
What we did in our calculations of the relative performance of each of the main groups across the 2007 and 2012 local elections was this:
- We counted both Councillor Devon’s and Councillor Mackay’s 2007 votes as Liberal Democrat votes – which they were. The obvious loss to that party of two candidates on its 2012 slate in this ward and of the votes they would have attracted, is a fair element in the measurement of that party’s fall.
- We also counted Councillor Mackay’s 2007 vote as an Alliance vote, since he had joined them post-2007, become a senior member of that group and clearly intended to stay in its membership post-2012, had he been elected. His vote in the 2012 election can legitimately then be read as an indication of the popular credibility of the Alliance in its most recent administration.
- We counted Councillor Devon’s 2012 vote as the SNP vote it formally was.
Councillor Elaine Robertson stood as an Independent in both the 2007 and 2012 elections and was a loyal member of the Alliance who gave no indication during the 2012 campaign that she had any intention of leaving it.
We have therefore set her vote in both council elections to the credit of the Alliance. Councillor Robertson, in an election where she held her seat with a reduced but still poll topping vote, despite being seen as a member of the discredited Alliance, can be said to have earned the right in honour to move away from it. She has since done this in becoming, as an Independent, a member of the new coalition for progress – but those who voted for her on 3rd May saw her as a continuing member of the Alliance, so, fairly, that is where her vote lies in these calculations
South Kintyre: Another statistical anomaly, this time in the South Kintyre ward, is the position of Councillor Donald Kelly who stood as a Conservative in 2007 and during that term left the that group and co-founded the non=political Argyll First group. In 2012, while making it clear that, if elected, he would be continuing as a member of Argyll First, he chose to stand not as an Independent but as a Conservative, This was open about his personal political voting preferences and also enables the strength of the Conservative vote to be established.
We set Councillor Kelly’s 2007 vote to the credit of the Conservatives and to that of Argyll First, in establishing the performance of each over the period to 2012. Then we set his 2012 also to the credit of each, while additionally subtracting ot form the Conservatives vote in 2012.
This then allowed the impact upon that party of losing Donald Kelly’s participation to be shown; while, in also showing his vote added to the Conservatives; enabling the possible potential vote for that party to be demonstrated.