The sad death of Brian Adam MSP just under a fortnight ago means the first Holyrood by-election of this session, and only the sixth since the Parliament was established. Only in the first of those, the 2000 contest for Ayr, did a seat change hands.
This is a particularly crucial vote for Holyrood’s numbers, given that the SNP have lost five of the 69 they elected in 2011, one to the PO’s chair, two on principle, one to a complete absence of principle, and now, regrettably, Brian. If they fail to retain this seat they will theoretically be a minority administration again.
The 2011 result in Aberdeen Donside was hardly close, though – Brian had a majority of more than 7,000 and a margin of more than 25% over his Labour challenger, Barney Crockett, now leader of Aberdeen Council.
Labour held the predecessor seat in 1999, narrowly lost it to Brian in 2003 (he served in the first session as a regional MSP), and lost it by 15% to him in 2007. So the trend-lines here seem clear. The 2011 result was as follows:
|SNP||Brian Adam *||14709||+2544||55.4||+10.6|
|Liberal Democrat||Millie McLeod||1606||-2734||6.0||-10.0|
|Independent||David Henderson #||317||+317||1.2||+1.2|
|National Front||Christopher Willett #||213||+213||0.8||+0.8|
And it’s certainly no more than a two-horse race, assuming it’s that, with the Tories and Lib Dems scoring less than 10% each in 2011. It’s also the worst part of the North-east for the Greens, should the local branch choose to stand – we polled just 2.5% on the list in this seat that year. If I were Labour I would be inclined to throw the kitchen sink at this campaign – the symbolic power of depriving the SNP of their majority would be hard to over-estimate, unlikely as that result would be.
In terms of candidates, the totally unsubstantiated rumour I’m hearing from the area is that Mark McDonald MSP, the final SNP member elected from the North-east regional list, may choose to do what Richard Lochhead and Mary Scanlon did in 2006 – resign a list seat to fight for a constituency, perhaps against Cllr Willie Young for Labour.
If Mark were to stand, and if he were to win as would be expected, the actual new face at Holyrood would be Christian Allard, sixth from the SNP’s 2011 regional list. Curiously, Mr Allard is the last candidate on that list not yet at Holyrood, given the SNP’s extraordinary success in the North-east, so any subsequent vacancy on their list before 2016 would then go unfilled.
Anyway, RIP Brian. I knew him pretty well from his 2007-2011 role (which from a Green perspective was mostly deputising for Bruce Crawford when the SNP needed Green votes in the Chamber), and he was tireless, totally committed to the cause, and always warm even when he was being blunt. He loved elections, too. Let’s hope this is a good one, much as it’d be better if it wasn’t happening at all.