By-election ‘shows confidence in Labour coalition’

Newly-elected Keith Robson says the current administration has achieved a lot in a year. Picture: PA

Newly-elected Keith Robson says the current administration has achieved a lot in a year. Picture: PA

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THE Capital’s newest councillor today claimed his victory in the Liberton/Gilmerton by-election was a vote of confidence in Edinburgh’s Labour-led coalition.

Keith Robson won the seat for Labour, taking more than 39 per cent of first-preference votes to the SNP’s 31 per cent.

It was the first electoral contest in the Capital since Labour and the SNP, the two biggest parties on the council, agreed to form a coalition in the wake of last year’s city-wide elections, replacing the previous Liberal Democrat-SNP partnership.

Mr Robson said: “The administration has achieved a lot in a year, there is a sense of purpose, clear leadership, we have introduced the living wage; we got a positive response on the doorstep and that translated into a result we are very pleased with.”

The by-election was caused by the death of the council’s former economic development convener, Scottish Nationalist Tom Buchanan.

Together Labour and the SNP took more than 70 per cent of the votes, leaving all the other parties trailing.

Labour and the SNP each won roughly the same share of the vote in the ward as at last year’s council elections. And since there was only one vacancy to fill instead of all four seats in the multi-member ward, that meant Labour took the seat previously held by Cllr Buchanan.

The result shifts the balance within the coalition in Labour’s favour, giving Labour 21 seats to 17 for the SNP.

And that creates the theoretical option of an alternative “traffic light” coalition between Labour, the Lib Dems and Greens if the current Labour-SNP pact were ever to fall apart.

Council leader Andrew Burns said he was “delighted” with the result but insisted it made no difference to the Labour-SNP coalition agreement for running the city. “It just alters the internal balance very slightly.”

And he dismissed the idea of an alternative three-way deal. He said: “We formed a secure partnership with the SNP last year and we have every intention of seeing that remain stable right through to 2017.”

SNP candidate Derek Howie said the result represented a seven per cent swing to the SNP since the 2010 by-election.

“We campaigned well and I got fantastic support. I think there is scope for optimism.”

And he said he hoped to stand again in the future. “Don’t worry, I’ll be back.”

Tory candidate Stephanie Murray said she was pleased to have secured a “clear third”.

UKIP’s Jonathan Stanley had claimed he was challenging for third slot, but ended up sixth.

Lib Dem group leader Paul Edie detected “green shoots of recovery” for the party in his candidate John Knox’s increased share of the vote.

There had been talk of the Greens overtaking the Lib Dems, but although the party’s vote share increased slightly it still finished firmly in fifth place. Candidate Alys Mumford said she was happy with the result. She said: “The campaign gave us a real chance to build support and raise our profile in the area.”

iswanson@edinburghnews.com

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