Scottish Labour candidate Alex Rowley will succeed the late Helen Eadie as Member of the Scottish Parliament for Cowdenbeath following his victory at Thursday’s by-election.
Rowley won with a significant 27.4% majority over SNP candidate Natalie McGarry, a high-profile independence activist who had hoped to close Labour’s smaller 4.9% majority over the SNP at the general election in 2011. There was a turnout of 34.81%.
Rowley’s 11,192 votes translate into a vote share of 55.8% – a boost of 9.3%, putting him well ahead of McGarry, with 5,704 votes and 28.4%.
The result builds on Labour’s strong showing in the neighbouring constituency of Dunfermline, where Cara Hilton MSP was elected in last October’s by-election with an upwards swing of nearly 7%.
But Rowley’s election victory tonight will also see Fife Labour scrambling to find a replacement for him in his role as leader of the Labour group in Fife Council, where Labour runs a minority administration with the support of the Conservative Party and some Independents.
The SNP’s share of the vote slipped by 13.2% on their 2011 result, with Labour and Conservative sources citing the independence referendum as the main reason voters are turning away from the party, whose landslide victory in 2011 paved the way for the referendum in September.
But SNP minister Derek McKay says his party’s canvassing in Cowdenbeath showed more support for independence than for the union. He says they canvassed over 11,000 people in the constituency and found 41% planning to vote Yes in the referendum against 36% planning to vote No, with the remaining 23% unsure of where they stood.
And the by-election coincided with a well-attended rally of Labour for Independence supporters at the STUC in Glasgow.
Conservative candidate Dave Dempsey came third in the election with 9.4% of the vote, followed by the Ukip candidate in fourth place – their highest standing in a Scottish Parliament election to date – with 3% of the vote and the Liberal Democrats in fifth with 2.1%.
Local campaigner Stuart Graham, who contested the election under the banner ‘The Victims Final Right’, won 0.9% of the vote and was trailed by Scottish Democratic Alliance leader James Trolland, whose pro-independence eurosceptic platform won 0.3% of the vote and saw him arrive in last place.