One Monday by-election on 28 November 2016:
ARBROATH EAST AND LUNAN
Angus council; caused by the resignation of Independent councillor Bob Spink on health grounds. He had served since 2003 after retiring from the family firm R R Spink and Sons, manufacturers of Arbroath smokies.
Monday by-elections don’t come around very often, but this is the first of two Monday polls to Angus council in consecutive weeks, with Carnoustie on the bill next week. Apparently the reason for this Monday poll was to take advantage of a school holiday in Angus today.
This week we are in the eastern of the two wards covering Arbroath, a mediaeval town developed at the mouth of the River Brothock around Arbroath Abbey, a late twelfth-century Tironensian foundation which is the final resting place of its founder, King William the Lion of Scots. The Scottish Parliament met at Arbroath Abbey in 1320 and composed the Declaration of Arbroath, a letter written to Pope John XXII attempting to sort out a dispute which had seen King Robert the Bruce excommunicated and, along the way, asserting the independence of Scotland. Following the dissolution of the Abbey Arbroath stagnated until the Industrial Revolution, when it became a major fishing port and textile centre, specialising in jute and sailcloth. Much of that industry is now gone (although some fish are still landed here) and today many people from Arbroath commute to Dundee along the recently-dualled A92 road; the main local contributors to the economy are the military (45 Commando Royal Marines is based here), tourism and the notorious smokie. Arbroath’s football team, although only in the fourth tier of the Scottish league system, attained immortality in 1885 by thrashing Bon Accord by the record score of 36-0 in a Scottish Cup tie.
Arbroath’s election results aren’t so one-sided as that. The Arbroath East and Lunan ward covers the eastern half of the the town together with a rural hinterland to the north and east as far as the hamlet of Lunan on its namesake bay. Spink had first been elected in 2003 as an independent to the former Hayshead and Lunan ward, based on the hinterland, and was re-elected to this ward under PR in 2007 along with two SNP candidates and a Conservative. There was no change to the party representation in 2012 with the SNP polling 44% of the first preferences, to 26% for Spink (who topped the poll) and 15% for the Conservatives.
Two independent candidates have come forward to succeed Spink. Lois Speed describes herself as a “passionate believer in social inclusion, equality and fairness”, while Kevin Smith is a former chairman of Arbroath community council and is used to pressure, having formerly been a deep sea diver and Royal Marine commando. No doubt Smith is feeling even more pressure than he expected in this campaign, as his wife Julie is the Tory election agent. The SNP will be hoping for a gain with their candidate Brenda Durno, a businesswoman who is hoping to follow her father, the late Alex Shand, onto Angus council. The Tories – although their election agent might be a little torn on the matter – are hoping that businessman and property developer Derek Wann is the one to win here; he led the Better Together campaign in Angus in the independence referendum and was the Tory candidate for Angus in the 2015 Westminster election. Completing the ballot paper are John Ruddy (of Montrose) for Labour and Richard Moore (a former York councillor now living in Forfar) for the Lib Dems.
Parliamentary constituency: Angus
Scottish Parliament constituency: Angus South
May 2012 result SNP 1624 Ind 955 C 547 Lab 472 LD 109
May 2007 result SNP 1902 Ind 1322 C 789 Lab 677 LD 504