Aberdeen City Council’s co-leader today claimed his party’s by-election success is a “ringing endorsement” of the Town House’s ruling administration.
The Scottish Conservatives topped yesterday’s Bridge of Don by-election poll with 1,857 first preference votes cast, closely followed by the SNP on 1,797 votes.
The result, which saw the Tories increase their vote share by 10% compared to 2017, leaves the ruling Conservative/Labour/Independent administration in control with a majority of two.
Douglas Lumsden, group leader of the Tories, claimed the result showed the “real progress” being made in the city.
However, opposition councillors have disputed this, pointing to the collapse of the Labour vote after the party came in fourth behind the Liberal Democrats, gaining just 305 votes.
SNP group leader Stephen Flynn claimed the party was a “busted flush”.
Aberdeen Labour claimed the Scottish Labour Party was to blame for the party’s poor result, following its decision to suspend the group of councillors more than two years ago.
Speaking after the vote count, Mr Lumsden said there was a “little bit of relief” that his administration continues to hold a majority.
He added: “It’s brilliant we have topped the poll today. We’ve beaten the SNP on first preferences. For me I think that’s a ringing endorsement of the progress that’s going on in the city.
“This administration is making real progress in the city and the people of Bridge of Don have put their faith in us and want us to carry on making the changes we’re making and improving the city the best we can.”
Mr Lumsden said elected councillor Sarah Cross is a “brilliant local candidate” who stays in the ward, adding she had spent the last two months focusing on local issues.
He added: “I was confident from the start that we had a positive story to tell and we’ve got that story across.”
Ms Cross said it was “overwhelming” to have won, thanking all those who had voted for her.
She said: “I’ve been out for the last 10 weeks, three nights a week canvassing and people just really appreciate you knocking on their doors and talking to them and listening to their views and concerns.
Mr Flynn said the result had been “catastrophic” for the Labour Party.
He added: “To get a few hundred votes in a by-election in Aberdeen city is something that will be very hard to recover from in the future.
“In 2017 the Tories and the SNP were basically neck and neck and we’ve seen that again.
“The main thing that stands out to us is that during this campaign the Conservatives threw absolutely everything they had at it.
“I think they had about nine or 10 pieces of literature out, they left no stone unturned and they still barely scraped ahead of the SNP. Our vote share remained extremely strong compared to 2017.”
Newly-elected councillor Jessica Mennie said the Aberdeen SNP group had run another “great campaign”. She added: “What we’ve done in Bridge of Don is speak to as many of the electorate as possible and some of the big national issues have come up on the doors, but we’ve always tried to talk about the local issues.”
A total of 5,201 votes were cast (5,135 valid)from a total electorate of 15,188, a turnout of 34.2%.
The Liberal Democrats came third with 929 votes, increasing their vote share by 8.8% since 2017, with group leader Ian Yuill claiming the party was “back in business”.
He said: “We are very pleased with this result.
“We have doubled our share of the vote, increased our actual number of votes on a lower turnout.
“The Liberal Democrats are back in business in Aberdeen, just as we’re back in business across Scotland and the UK.
“On the basis of this result we could more than double the number of candidates we have in the next council elections.”
Mr Yuill said there would be many people across Aberdeen who would be “disappointed” to see the administration still “hanging on to control” in the Town House.
He added: “I’m sure that will change in 2022, if not before.”
And the Liberal Democrat group leader disputed claims the success of the Tories was a ringing endorsement of the administration.
“I think that’s a questionable claim given the pathetic share of the vote that Labour got and clearly the administration is in trouble,” he said. “The Conservatives got a good share of the vote but parties opposed to the administration got a good share of the vote, so time will tell.
“But for 2022 we’re confident we will do well across Aberdeen.”
Aberdeen Labour Group leader, Jenny Laing, admitted: “This was a disappointing result for Labour but unsurprising given it is now over two years since the Labour Party took the decision to suspend Labour councillors in Aberdeen. I remain confident that Labour will do better in the 2022 local elections, given the investment our Labour-led administration is making.
“Our administration will continue to deliver on Labour’s manifesto commitments, which includes focusing on helping those in most need.
“When you analyse the figures, it was also a disappointing result for the SNP as they were pushed into second place and for the Lib Dems, who were unable to get their candidate elected in an area where they once had three councillors.”
Graeme Lawrence, Scottish Labour candidate in the ward, said: “This was always going to be a hard election for Labour given we did not have a councillor in the ward. I am grateful to all those who voted Labour and I am confident that come the 2022 local elections, Labour will gain a seat in the Bridge of Don.”