SNP back on top but not in control at Midlothian Council

The SNP celebrate with Cllr Joe Wallace (centre)
The SNP celebrate with Cllr Joe Wallace (centre)

The SNP is now the largest party at Midlothian Council after its candidate Joe Wallace won the Penicuik by-election last week.

Former Midlothian Provost Joe Wallace was declared as the town’s new councillor at Ladywood Leisure Centre on Friday, with the vote held following the death of Labour councillor Adam Montgomery in January.

Councillor Wallace’s re-election comes less than a year after he lost his seat at last May’s council elections. The Conservatives finished second in this by-election, with Labour third and the Greens fourth.

Speaking at last Friday’s declaration, following Thursday’s vote, Councillor Wallace said: “Big thanks to the voters of Penicuik. I am heartened by the way they turned out and for placing their trust in me. I will do my best to represent them.”

This result sees the SNP, now with seven councillors, replace Labour as the biggest party in Midlothian.

Labour are left with six councillors with the Conservatives on five.

But there is unlikely to be any immediate change in control of the council because the SNP and the Conservatives would have to combine to oust the minority Labour administration.

Cllr Cath Johnstone, who has taken over as SNP group leader with former leader Cllr Kelly Parry on maternity leave, said: “We are the biggest party now in Midlothian and we are all delighted that Cllr Joe Wallace is back with us.

“We are obviously settling in just now. We have got lots of decisions and discussions to take place.

“That’s on-going at the moment so we are not able to make any announcement about the future just yet.”

The current council leader Cllr Derek Milligan believes his party will not lose power to the SNP. He added: “They would need to team up with the Tories to remove us. They need ten votes or more to remove us from the administration.”

Speaking about last Friday’s vote, he added: “I’m disappointed as the people in Penicuik have clearly voted to have wide representation from three parties yet now there is no Labour representation in Penicuik. Labour got a third of the vote in May and about the same this time but we have no representatives in Penicuik.”

Conservative group leader Cllr Pauline Winchester said: “Although we weren’t successful it was heartening to see our vote share increase by four per cent pushing Labour in to third place. That shows that the Scottish Conservative & Unionist Party are the only party able to stand up to and defeat the SNP.”

Final result: Joe Wallace (SNP) 2,237, Murdo Macdonald (Con) 1,788, Vivienne Wallace (Lab) 1,310, Helen Armstrong (Greens) 344.

Turnout: 42.9 per cent.