This week's Scottish by-election comes from the Highland ward of Perth and Kinross Council (not to be confused with the Highland Council, neighbouring this ward to the north). The ward covers the small, picturesque towns of Aberfeldy, Pitlochry and Blair Atholl, along with a vast wilderness of surrounding mountains, lochs and little villages.
Not only is the geography interesting, but there is also some history here with a previous by-election held in 2008. Indeed, this is now the 4th ward in Scotland to have held two by-elections since the new multi-member wards were formed at the last all-out elections in 2007 (the others being Abbey ward in Dumfries and Galloway Council, and Drumchapel/Anniesland and Baillieston wards of Glasgow City Council). Indeed, there is also a pending vacancy for another ward at the moment which will be a 5th such example, which seems to suggest given the large number of wards yet to see any by-elections that when one councillor in a ward is replaced it increases the likelihood of another by-election in the future!
In both that previous by-election and back in 2007, the ward was ultra-safe SNP. It elected two SNP councillors and one Conservative councillor originally, and then the SNP held one of their seats in the past by-election. The by-election this time around is the result of the other SNP councillor elected back in 2007 resigning, citing that he is emigrating to Australia, but also various internal party grievances.
One of the independent candidates contesting this seat, Chris Rennie (who also contested the 2010 Strathallan ward by-election in the same council area), is playing up this party infighting saying that an independent candidate is better placed to represent their constituents without party influence. However, his result in his previous outing of just 1.2% of the first preference votes suggest the odds are stacked very firmly against him.
The other independent, William Leszke, may manage to make more of an impact as he comes into this by-election with a history of local organising in Aberfeldy, chairing local committees and having been voted "2008 Citizen of the Year" by the local rotary club.
Graham Rees is contesting the seat again for the Conservatives, having done so in the 2008 by-election where he managed a 1.4% swing from SNP to Conservatives on first preferences. While he is the main challenger in this seat, he will require a very much larger swing than that to threaten the SNP for the single seat up for grabs here.
The Liberal Democrat candidate Victor Clements may do better in this ward than his party has managed in other parts of Scotland lately, as they have been somewhat more resilient in wards with a strong Tory vote elsewhere in the UK. However, a substantial drop in their share would be more in character with their recent results in other parts of Scotland.
However, even without the massive swings to the SNP we've seen this year, this is a seat that already starts firmly in the SNP column, and their candidate Mike Williamson seems virtually certain to win the seat come Thursday night, likely on first preferences alone with a very substantial majority of the vote. This will result in the current SNP/Lib Dem administration maintaining its majority control of the council.
Perth and Kinross Council
Mike Williamson (SNP)
Graham Rees (Con)
Victor Clements (LD)
William Leszke (Ind)
Chris Rennie (Ind)