The Scottish National Party remains the largest group on North Ayrshire Council after securing a resounding victory in a by-election held last Thursday (October 30).
The poll was necessary following the untimely death earlier this year of North Coast & Cumbraes SNP councillor Alex Mclean, which left the SNP and Labour with 11 councillors each. The local authority is currently run by a minority SNP administration, but had Labour managed to secure a by-election victory and become the largest group, it was likely the party would have sought to take control of the council.
However, electors in Largs, Fairlie, Skelmorlie and Cumbrae backed the SNP candidate, Grace McLean, Alex McLean’s widow, when the election was held.
Ultimately, the Labour vote collapsed, with the party falling from second-place in 2012 to a poor fourth this time. In the first counting of ballots under the Single Transferable Vote (STV) system of proportional representation, the result was:
Grace McLean (SNP) – 2,021
Drew Cochrane (IND) – 1,190
Toni Dawson (CON) – 1,125
Valerie Reid (LAB) – 691
Meilan Henderson (UKIP) – 192
Using STV means that the candidate finishing in last place at each stage (counting) is removed and their ‘second-preference’ votes are redistributed to other candidates, in line with voters’ intentions, until one person secures at least 50% + 1 of all votes cast. After UKIP, Labour and then the Tories were removed, the final count between the SNP and the Independent candidate produced the result: Grace McLean 2.279 – Drew Cochrane 2,000.
Mr Cochrane recently retired as editor of the local newspaper, the Largs & Millport Weekly News.
Following her election to represent the North Coast & Cumbraes, Grace McLean said she was “overwhelmed” by the support she received from local people, and that she was sure her late husband, Alex, would have been very proud.
When Mrs McLean takes her place on the Council, the SNP Group will be gender-balanced – 6 women and 6 men. The Labour Group has 10 men and 1 woman.
The turnout at the by-election last Thursday was 37.5%, with a total of 5,219 votes cast.