THE SNP are facing their first electoral test this week since the police investigation into the party’s finances – but a loss should not mean “writing political obituaries yet”, a political analyst has said.

Residents in Bellshill will go to the polls on Thursday to vote for a new North Lanarkshire Council representative.

The by-election was triggered by the resignation of former SNP councillor Jordan Linden, who quit as council leader following allegations of sexual misconduct, which he denied.

He subsequently left both the council and the SNP, with Labour taking control of the local authority.

An internal row over the handling of the scandal also led to a group of eight councillors quitting the SNP and forming a new party, called Progressive Change NL.

Meanwhile, support for the SNP has dipped following the police probe into the party’s finances.

READ MORE: Bellshill: Humza Yousaf launches campaign amid 'tense' branch

SNP Bellshill candidate Joseph Budd has said there has been a “mixed bag” of issues coming up on the doorsteps, ranging from local to national concerns.

He told the Sunday National: “Most of the issues that really matter to people – the big one is housing in the area, there is a big shortage of council housing, so that has been one of the big issues, litter, the roads – all the usual council stuff.

“We have quite a few people especially our street stall in the main street bringing up national issues quite a lot – they seem fascinated by the ferries. But I don’t really think that is people that would ever vote for the SNP.”

When it comes to the issue of the investigation into the SNP finances, Budd said that had been brought up a “few times” at the stall.

But he added: “I’m not really finding that on the doorstep, it is mostly about council services that is hitting home.”

Budd said it had also been mostly SNP members and voters than have asked questions about the Linden situation.

He added: “We have not shied away from that, as a branch our position was quite clear from the start.

“We as a branch had a vote of no confidence in Jordan and asked the NL group to remove the whip from him,.

“That was our position as a branch and it still is.”

The by-election has a lengthy list of candidates with large and small political parties represented - including Labour, Conservatives, Greens, Alba, Liberal Democrats, the Scottish Family Party, British Unionist and UKIP.

The winning candidate will join Labour councillors Angela Campbell and Pat Patton, as well as Lisa Stubbs of the SNP, in representing the Bellshill ward.

When asked how confident he is of success, Budd said it was “hard to gauge”, especially in a by-election which usually sees a lower than normal voter turnout.

READ MORE: Tories attack SNP Bellshill candidate Joe Budd over 'offensive' tweets

“We are driving home the message that council elections matter, it is probably the most important elections that affect your day to day life. So we are hoping for a good turnout,” he said.

“The SNP voter numbers are there, they outstrip the Labour voters in the area. But with proportional representation, once the smaller parties like the Tories get knocked out, they probably do know who their second votes will go to and that is when Labour will start catching up.

“I am confident we will win on first preference – the second and third preference is anyone’s guess."

Allan Faulds, who runs site Ballot Box Scotland, which specialises in election results and polling analysis, has predicted a definite Labour win for the by-election, writing in a blog: “Unless the Labour candidate is caught in the act of kicking a puppy down the street, there surely has to be no way they lose this by-election.”

But he also cautioned: “What I always say about local by-elections is they can reflect national trends, but don’t expect national trends to reflect the by-election.

“Because we have had quite a lot chaos nationally and have seen SNP support going down, that is likely to be reflected in the by-election.

“That doesn’t necessarily mean the by-election is itself going to reflect any longer term thing – the SNP have very often in the past had very bad council by-elections and it is has not really had much of an impact, it has recovered quite well by the time the next election rolls around.

READ MORE: Police probe Jordan Linden over sexual assault allegations

“Obviously we are thinking the UK Parliament elections are probably around a year, year and a half off and the Scottish Parliament election is not for nearly another three years.

“It is something they are likely to be very bruised by this – just because of the circumstances, then obviously the specific local circumstances.

“But my view is I wouldn’t read too much into that beyond confirming they are currently in a mess – that doesn’t necessarily mean they will be in a mess in a few years’ time.”

Faulds also said while many would view it as the SNP defending the seat which was formerly held by Linden, the picture was different when the single transferable voting system and election of multiple councillors for the ward are taken into account.

He said: “I went back to calculate who would have won the seat in 2022 election if it was a single seat – and it is actually Labour that would have won in that scenario.

“It is an SNP councillor but it is not an SNP ward – it is a Labour ward that has SNP councillors because of proportional representation.

“If Labour win this, in electoral terms based on votes, it will be a Labour hold - albeit that of course in terms of seats it would be a gain from the SNP.

“It is not the same as first past the post, where the party that won the seat and the party that created the vacancy are always one and the same.”

He said there would be “interesting and useful things” to take from the election because of the local situation and as the first electoral test for the SNP under the new leadership in wake of the party’s crisis.

But he added: “I can see right now a lot of people will be taking it as an indicator of what is going to happen at the next full election – I would caution against doing that.

“Yes it is a bit reflective of current polling and yes it is reflective of local circumstances - but don’t be writing any political obituaries for MPs or MSPs just yet.”