This week's two Scottish by-elections are coming from Oban North & Lorn ward of Argyll & Bute Council, and the Inverness South ward of Highland Council.
Addressing Argyll first, Oban North and Lorn is a largely rural ward covering a small portion of the north of Oban along with a wide rural expanse both to the north and south of the town. The by-election here was necessitated by the death of Scottish Nationalist Councillor Donald MacDonald. In common with much of rural Scotland, Independent candidates dominated the election here back in 2007, winning 2 out of 4 seats and taking half of the vote between six candidates. The other seat here went to the Liberal Democrats, who formed an administration along with most of the Independents on the council.
That pattern could be set to change however, with only two Independent candidates in this by-election, one of whom had stood in 2007 only taking 4% of the first preferences. The SNP look likely to be the strongest party in this by-election as they were quite comfortably ahead of the Lib Dems on first preferences last time around. Although the latter have the benefit of having the only party incumbent here, but it remains to be seen how much they will be affected in Argyll by their post-coalition drop in support across Scotland.
The Conservatives had a low vote share last time though, and there is no Labour candidate in what is a county where they essentially do not exist, meaning there is little in the way of organised opposition to take advantage of any Lib Dem collapse. Doyle could potentially increase his vote in the reduced field of independent candidates, although Gwyneth Neal is likely to be the Independent to watch, with a seemingly wide-ranging number of positions across various boards and bodies in the area.
Argyll & Bute Council
Oban North & Lorn
Louise Glen-Lee (SNP)
Graham Dale (LD)
Roy Rutherford (Con)
George Doyle (Ind)
Gwyneth Neal (Ind)
* AoIC = Alliance of Independent Councillors; AF = Argyll First; N-A = Non-Aligned; A&BICG = Argyll & Bute Independent Councillor Group.
Moving north to Inverness, the seat here was vacated by Labour Councillor John Holden after being jailed for benefits fraud. Inverness South covers the south-eastern fringe of the city along with a vast expanse of virtually empty land sweeping to the south along the A9 road and the River Earn, and as a point of interest also contains the site of the Battle of Culloden which ended the Jacobite uprising of 1745.
Any uprising this time around is likely to be to the benefit of the SNP who took the most first preferences here in 2007. In contrast to the Oban seat, Inverness South has much more significant party political support with a seat each for the SNP, Liberal Democrats and Labour as well as one independent. Akin to Labour in Argyll, the Highland Council area is a Tory-free zone for councillors, although this was one of their relatively stronger wards in the region. This time around, all four main Scottish parties are contesting the seat along with the Greens, a new Independent candidate, and the Christian Party who are fielding their Scottish leader who lives in the city.
The Christian Party poll relatively well here, and beat the Conservatives in an Inverness West by-election back in 2009. However, the likely contenders for the seat will be the SNP unless the Lib Dems can maintain their previous support here or if Labour can somehow increase their support despite their former councillor's departure under a cloud.
Ken Gowans (SNP)
Carolyn Caddick (LD)
Katherine MacKenzie (Lab)
David Bonsor (Con)
Donald Boyd (ChrP)
Gale Falconer (Grn)
David McGrath (Ind)
* IMG = Independent Members Group; IAG = Independent Alliance Group.