Aird and Loch Ness is a large rural ward straddling areas of the Parliamentary constituencies previously held by Danny Alexander and Charles Kennedy. A by-election was called following the resignation of the former SNP council leader.
So how did we win?
We won by careful planning and relentless implementation right up to close of poll. Given the nature of the ward this was challenging. We were lucky to also have a very hard working candidate, Jean Davis, and a small but very hard working volunteer team.
It was largely a traditional Liberal Democrat ‘ground war’ campaign, using Connect and launched with the help of Scottish Leader, Willie Rennie which led to some useful early press coverage.
Volunteers delivered 3 leaflets in the first 3 weeks of the campaign to those areas where logistically possible given the remote nature of the area. We also ran a successful crowdfunding appeal. Early on we worked to increase name recognition by voters. Greeted by ‘oh it’s you’ meant that Jean often didn’t even need to initiate a conversation!
The early work paid off and by the time the postal votes were sent we had a significant number of our voters identified. We were unsure whether it was enough but focused on getting our vote out which we did relentlessly. Blue letters, targeted deliveries and phoning continued until close of poll.
We asked people to switch, we squeezed and we asked all for second preference votes - and it worked!
At the count we were ahead at every stage though at one point Jean’s lead was only 2. On polling day 2 voters were identified who had forgotten to go out and vote. They went - at 9pm – allowing us to maintain the lead throughout!
Not unexpectedly, the SNP picked up very few second preferences, even from the Greens. Interestingly, it looked like a lot of SNP voters were also picking Jean as their second choice, although the Nationalist votes were never redistributed. By the final stage we were more than 12 points (350 votes) ahead.
After the disappointment and tragedy of early 2015 we needed to do well. We motivated and encouraged our supporters to get out there again. We found our opponents support to be less strident than in May and we reinvigorated our team and laid the basis for the SP elections next year and the full council elections in 2017.