The next test for Scottish politics? A possible Holyrood by-election

Could there be a by-election in Holyrood’s Donside constituency?

Following the death of SNP MSP Brian Adam in 2013, a by-election took place in June. The SNP’s Mark McDonald won comfortably, but his party’s share of the vote did fall by 13.4%. Interestingly, two of his opponents - the Liberal Democrats’ Christine Jardine and the Conservatives’ Ross Thomson - now sit in the House of Commons.

Three years later, Mark McDonald held on to the seat winning 56% of the vote, following which he became the Minister for Childcare and Early Years, only to step down from the position at the end of 2017 following allegations of “inappropriate” actions at the time of the Westminster sexual harassment scandal, as reported by the BBC. According to the Times, he admitted “inappropriate behaviour” “towards a woman”.

McDonald remains an MSP, but the question is for how much longer?

Several outlets have discussed the possibility of a by-election resultant of a McDonald resignation with the Times even reporting that Alex Salmond could make a comeback in the seat.

Who would win a by-election?

In all likelihood, the SNP who won over half of the seat's votes in 2016 would retake the Donside easily. If Alex Salmond ran, this could have a positive impact, but it could cause unionists voters unite to send a signal to the SNP.

It is worth remembering that the former first minister lost his Gordon seat at the 2017 Westminster election.

However, this would be the first national electoral contest since that vote in which the Tories, Labour and the Liberal Democrats all took seats from the SNP. The SNP have held the seat since 2003, but by-elections are different kettles of fish and could a vote in Donside could produce an interesting result.

In 2016, the Tories and Labour each won around 18% of the vote, dwarfed by the 56% won by MacDonald, however, the negative publicity surrounding MacDonald’s actions could also have an impact.

The SNP will probably win if one does take place, but in the age of Trump, Brexit and Corbyn, anything is possible.

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