This week's Scottish by-election comes from the Coatbridge North and Glenboig ward of North Lanarkshire Council, which covers Coatbridge's town centre and northern suburbs as well as the rural area to the north between Coatbridge and Cumbernauld, encompassing the villages of Glenboig, Marnoch and Annathill. This is also yet another one of those wards that's having a second by-election within the current local government term, which is somewhat statistically unlikely given the large number of seats that have seen no by-elections at all!
Four candidates are contesting the seat this time around. Michael McPake is looking to defend the seat for Labour, which was previously held by the popular veteran councillor Tony Clarke who sadly passed away in August after a long battle with cancer. Out of three Labour candidates in 2007, Clarke won more than half of the Labour first preferences, although this may be in part due to topping the three alphabetically as well as any personal vote. There was a considerable Labour lead over the SNP in the 2007 first preferences, although this was somewhat reduced in the 2009 by-election.
Potentially further reducing that Labour lead, the SNP candidate this time around is Julie McAnulty, who was the third-placed independent candidate behind Labour and the SNP in the 2009 by-election. McAnulty has a campaigning history in the area, specifically with the Save Monklands Campaign which fought to protect the A&E department of the local hospital. In 2009, her independent vote combined with the SNP vote would have given her a large lead over Labour, although with a large number of her votes transferring to Labour in 2009's final round, it's not a given that all her previous voters will still support her in her new party colours.
The Conservative candidate is Bob Burgess, a perennial council and parliamentary candidate, standing a second time here after also contesting the 2009 by-election. Meanwhile the Lib Dems are contesting this seat for the first time, and the SSP and Greens are not standing this time around.
Overall, this is a very safely Labour ward within one of Labour's last remaining stronghold towns after May's Holyrood elections. However, the personal popularity of the SNP candidate, as well as the voters she carries over as a previous independent candidate, will combine with the nationwide swing to the SNP to make this contest very competitive and too close to call. Campaigners on both the SNP and Labour sides have told me they think the final result will be very close, although each side is expecting their own candidate to win it.
Coatbridge North & Glenboig
Michael McPake (Lab)
Julie McAnulty (SNP)
Robert Burgess (Con)
Graham Dale (LD)