Labour wins Dunfermline by-election

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  By a Newsnet reporter

The Labour party has won the Dunfermline by-election, taking the seat from the SNP.
 
Labour’s candidate Cara Hilton won the seat, beating her main rival SNP candidate Shirley-Anne Somerville into second place.

The by-election was called when disgraced former MSP Bill Walker resigned after being convicted of domestic violence.  Walker won the seat for the SNP in a shock victory in 2011, the SNP had finished third in 2007.

The win will come as a relief to Johann Lamont’s Scottish Labour group who were hot favourites to take the seat from the SNP.  Labour required a mere one per cent swing but in the end achieved a decent 6.9% swing, winning by a margin of 2873 votes.

Labour’s winning candidate attacked the SNP and independence in her winning speech saying: “We need a Scottish government that will address the needs of Scots, not one that will simply make promises about what will happen after 2016.

“Today Dunfermline has sent a message to Bute House and Alex Salmond: it’s time for you to focus on the real priorities of Scots, not your constitutional obsession.”

SNP candidate Shirley-Anne Somerville said she was proud of the campaign she fought.

“We’ve run a positive campaign trying to support local parents in their schools and I hope we can come together, all of us in the party, to make sure those three schools in the Dunfermline constituency stay open,” she said.

The Lib Dems managed to take third ahead of the Conservatives, but saw their vote drop a further 8%.  They won in 2007 with 33% of the vote but managed only just over 11% yesterday, down from 19% in 2011.  The Conservative vote was up 1% on their 2011 total.

The SNP will be content with the final result which comes with the party having been in power for over six years.  They were not expected to win and party chiefs will see this as a positive performance given the backlash they would have felt from voters angry at the Bill Walker scandal.

Labour achieved a smaller swing than they did in Aberdeen Donside, but will be relieved to have won the seat after a poor campaign by their inexperienced candidate who only became a councillor one year ago.  Media scrutiny was less focused on Dunfermline than it had been on the previous Aberdeen by-election, which helped Cara Hilton who performed badly when in front of camera. 

The Labour campaign though may have long term ramifications for Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont given pledges made by Labour on policies such as the council tax freeze, free prescriptions and free personal care.

The Lib Dems continue their downward slide with a further significant drop.  They won in 2007 with a third of the vote, but are now scrabbling to keep ahead of the Tory party.

Commenting on the result of the Dunfermline by-election, the Scottish National Party’s Business Convener Mr Derek Mackay MSP said:

“The SNP fought a strong campaign with an excellent candidate in Shirley-Anne Somerville, and we made the issues of the by-election the issues that matter to the people – saving local schools, and protecting vital public services.

“In the event, the seat was just too marginal, and we wish Cara Hilton well in representing the people of Dunfermline and the West Fife villages.

“However, the swing of just 6.9 per cent to Labour is extremely small – and contrasts with the swing towards the SNP of over 4 per cent in tonight’s Dunfermline South council by-election. It is even less than Labour achieved in the Donside by-election just a few months ago, and is one of the lowest by-election swings in the history of the Scottish Parliament – which indicates the underlying strength of the SNP after six-and-a-half years in government.

“When voters in this seat last went to the polls – in the 2012 council elections – the SNP were some 4,000 votes behind Labour – winning just a quarter of the vote – and the SNP vote has gone up substantially since then and Labour has gone down.

“And compared to the 2007 election – when the SNP won nationally across Scotland – the SNP vote in this by-election is 6.5 per cent higher.

“In the last days of the campaign, Labour tried to adopt wholesale the policies delivered by the SNP Government – services which are all threatened by Johann Lamont’s Cuts Commission.

“In the aftermath of this by-election, Labour now need to explain exactly what their policy is – do they back the Council Tax freeze, no prescription charges, no tolls on the Forth Bridge, free education, free personal care and the bus pass? Or does the Cuts Commission still pose a threat to every single one of these gains of the Scottish Parliament?”

The final result was:

  • Cara Hilton (Lab) 10,275 (42.46%, +6.89%)
  • Shirley-Anne Somerville (SNP) 7,402 (30.59%, -6.99%)
  • Susan Leslie (LD) 2,852 (11.79%, -7.93%)
  • James Reekie (C) 2,009 (8.30%, +1.16%)
  • Peter Adams (UKIP) 908 (3.75%)
  • Zara Kitson (Green) 593 (2.45%)
  • John Black (Ind) 161 (0.67%)

Lab win by 2,873 (11.87%)

6.94% swing SNP to Lab

Electorate 56,743; Turnout 24,200 (42.65%, -10.16%)

Turnout 24,200 – 42.65% (29299  52.5% in 2011)

 
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