DEPUTY First Minister Nicola Sturgeon praised the SNP’s Aberdeen Donside by-election victory as “an exceptional result and a fantastic victory” despite the party winning the seat with a reduced majority.
Ms Sturgeon insisted the win in the Granite City reflected well on the performance of the SNP government, now more than two years into its second term.
The SNP’s Mark McDonald won the seat after polling 9,814 votes, just over 2,000 more than Labour candidate Willie Young.
However, the SNP’s majority fell by more than 5,000 votes from the result in the 2011 Scottish Parliament election, when the Nationalists won the first overall majority under
The by-election was held after the death in April of Nationalist MSP Brian Adam. The 64-year-old father-of-five had been suffering from cancer.
In the last Holyrood election, Mr Adam won the seat with 14,790 votes, giving him a majority of 7,175 over Labour.
There was a swing of just over 9 per cent from the SNP to Labour, with Mr Young saying he was delighted to have taken more than 5,000 out of the
But Ms Sturgeon, speaking in Aberdeen yesterday, dismissed Labour’s challenge as a “powderpuff performance” and said: “The swing to Labour was just 9 per cent – a very poor result after six years in opposition.”
She said: “For a government that is mid-term into our second term of government, this was an exceptional result and a fantastic victory. People responded positively to the SNP’s record in government, our billion pounds of investment in Aberdeen’s infrastructure, and of course, Brian Adam’s legacy.”
But Scottish Labour deputy leader Anas Sarwar said the swing to the party in Aberdeen Donside, alongside two council by-election wins in Edinburgh and Fife, showed “the momentum is with Scottish Labour”.
He said: “This week was an important staging post on our road back and while we know we still have some way to go, we are delighted with the progress we are making. It is important Scottish Labour has the confidence to take our message to every part of the country and ask for support. That is what we have been doing over the last few weeks and that is what we will continue to do.”
Meanwhile, Mr McDonald, who stood down as a regional North East MSP to fight the contest, marked his first day as a constituency member yesterday with a pledge to challenge the Labour-led council’s proposals to close two schools.
He said: “There is no educational case to shut these excellent schools, and the council needs to lift the cloud of uncertainty that is hanging over them. The people of Donside have spoken – and Aberdeen City Council must listen.”
Mr Young, a Labour councillor in Aberdeen, insisted the result showed his party could win the seat in the 2016 Holyrood elections. “It’s an absolutely huge reduction in the majority,” he said. “I’m absolutely delighted with that. I’m very, very happy.”
The Liberal Democrats, who were fourth in the seat in 2011, overtook the Conservatives to take third place, with former journalist Christine Jardine polling 1,940 votes.
Conservative Ross Thomson, who took 1,791 votes, insisted he was pleased with the result. He said the Tory share of the vote “held up remarkably well”, adding that in 2011 the UK Independence Party did not contest the seat. Ukip candidate Otto Inglis took 1,128 votes – 4.83 per cent of those cast – meaning his party lost its deposit.
Mr Thomson, who is a councillor in Aberdeen, said his party was also squeezed as the contest was seen as a two-horse race between the SNP and Labour.
He claimed Labour targeted the Tory vote, urging people to vote for them in a bid to keep the SNP out. Mr Thomson said: “Because our voters are such committed unionists, that had an appeal for some of them.”
Nine parties contested the Donside by-election, with Green candidate Rhonda Reekie coming in sixth place with 410 votes. David MacDonald of the Scottish National Front won 249 votes, while Tom Morrow of the Scottish Christian Party secured 222 votes and James Trolland of the Scottish Democratic Alliance polled 35. A total 23,396 votes were cast on Thursday, putting the turnout at 38.8 per cent.