One Monday by-election on 5th December 2016:
CARNOUSTIE AND DISTRICT
Angus council; caused by the death of Scottish National Party councillor Helen Oswald at the age of 69. The Provost of Angus since 2012, Oswald was first elected in 1999, serving for Sidlaw East ward until 2007. Before moving into politics she had worked in insurance, as an estate agent and for the council. Her daughter Kirsten has served since 2015 as MP for East Renfrewshire.
Last Monday we were in Arbroath; for our second Monday by-election in as many weeks we travel a few miles west along the coast to Carnoustie. Known worldwide for its golf course, which is on the Open Championship rota, Carnoustie developed in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries as a centre for linen weaving and tourism – it was promoted as the Brighton of the North. While the town does still attract tourists – although these days for the golf rather than the bathing – the economy is now based on commuting to Dundee along the A92 and the railway line, although two of the three stations within this ward – Barry Links and Golf Street – only get two trains a day and usually finish near the top of the annual list of the UK’s least-used railway stations. The ward also includes a rural hinterland running inland as far as the Monikie reservoir. Although golf isn’t the only sport in town – the Barry Buddon rifle range hosted the shooting events at the 1986 and 2014 Commonwealth Games – the difficulty of the course in the 1999 Open, memorable for the French golfer Jean van de Velde blowing a huge lead on the final hole, inspired the term “Carnoustie effect” for the shock created when false assumptions meet reality.
The Scottish National Party – for whom Carnoustie is a traditionally strong area – have been suffering a little from the Carnoustie effect of late. They dominated the 2007 election here, polling 47% and winning two of the three seats, the other seat going to Labour; but at the end of 2010 one of the SNP councillors resigned on health grounds and the Nationalists lost the by-election in February 2011 to independent candidate Brian Boyd, who started 37 votes behind the SNP but pulled ahead on transfers from the other parties to win by 28 votes. The SNP’s woes continued in the 2012 election: they failed to knock out Boyd, who topped the poll, and failed to gain the Labour seat which went to a second independent candidate, Bill Bowles, who got strong transfers from Boyd, the Conservatives and Labour; first preferences were 40% for Boyd, 36% for the SNP and 11% for Bowles. The SNP hold the local parliamentary seat (Dundee East) and Holyrood seat (Angus South), and following their by-election gain in Arbroath last week a hold in this by-election will give them overall control of Angus council.
So, high stakes for the defending SNP candidate Mark McDonald, from Monifieth. His toughest challenge may well come from independent candidate David Cheape, an accountant who is the only candidate to give an address in Carnoustie. Also standing are Ray Strachan for Labour, Derek Shaw for the Conservatives and Beth Morrison for the Liberal Democrats. Don’t wait up all night for the result, as the count will start on Tuesday morning at 10am.
Parliamentary constituency: Dundee East
Scottish Parliament constituency: Angus South
May 2012 result Ind 1750 SNP 1611 Ind 483 Lab 274 C 271 LD 41
Feb 2011 by-election SNP 1289 Ind 1252 Lab 258 C 217 LD 93; final round Ind 1454 SNP 1426
May 2007 result SNP 2476 Lab 1160 C 863 LD 748 Solidarity 62