SNP sets sights on council control after Falkirk successes

Angus MacDonald is joining Michael Matheson in the Scottish Parliament after winning Falkirk East for the SNP
Angus MacDonald is joining Michael Matheson in the Scottish Parliament after winning Falkirk East for the SNP
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Scottish Nationalists are celebrating after taking both Falkirk seats in the Holyrood elections.

Michael Matheson was returned as the MSP for Falkirk West while, in a shock defeat for Labour’s Cathy Peattie, Councillor Angus MacDonald was elected in Falkirk East.

But the champagne corks had barely stopped popping when thoughts turned to next year’s local authority elections.

The Labour Party, stunned not only by the loss of its political veteran but the size of the SNP’s majority, has vowed it will be no walkover in 2012.

However, the Nationalists believe the public will give them a further vote of approval in 12 months’ time.

Councillor David Alexander, group leader of the SNP opposition on Falkirk Council, said he had always been confident of his party securing victory in the two local seats but was “a bit surprised” at the overwhelming victories elsewhere in the country where the Nationalist record was not as strong.

Speaking after the two Falkirk MSPs were sworn in yesterday (Wednesday) at a ceremony in Holyrood, he said: “We are very proud of them both. Cathy Peattie was generally well liked which makes this a tremendous victory for Angus and it is a great testament to him.”

Looking ahead to the forthcoming council elections, he added: “We are not going to make the same mistake as Labour made and think there is a set voting pattern for elections. Labour took people for granted.

“Next year’s election is there to be won, but only by hard work and positive vision.

“The lesson to be learned from the Scottish Parliament election is to run a good, positive campaign, not always be negative.”

Meanwhile, Councillor Craig Martin, leader of Labour-led Falkirk Council, described last Thursday’s events as “a political tsunami” with a sea of yellow engulfing Scotland.

He said: “In the last three days of campaigning there was a massive switch to the SNP. However, what is baffling is the Labour vote only went down 0.5 per cent, while the Lib Dem and Tory vote went straight to the SNP.

“It was a difficult one for us and it’s a real shame for Cathy Peattie who was a very experienced and very good MSP, who was well liked in the community.”

The council leader said the Scottish people had given Labour a massive majority at last year’s UK Government elections, but this time around they were asking the SNP to look after their interests in Holyrood.

He added: “Only time will tell whether they carry that out. The SNP now have a privilege and with that comes responsibility. If they don’t get that right, the people of Scotland will tell them.

“However, I do look forward to the opening of Grangemouth railway station, something that was backed by Angus MacDonald, Michael Matheson and Jamie Hepburn who have all been elected to Holyrood.

‘‘They criticised us for doing nothing, well now they are part of the government that can bring it about!”

Mr Martin believes the Labour Party will learn a lesson from its poor performance on May 5 and come out fighting in the weeks and months ahead.

He said: “The people of Falkirk and the people of Scotland spoke very loudly last week about what they are looking for and we have to respond to that over the next eight or nine months. Let the battle commence.”

Mr MacDonald’s future as a councillor has still to be decided, but Labour are calling on him to stand down and allow a by-election to take place.