LABOUR suffered two embarrassing by-election defeats last night, losing council seats in Edinburgh and Inverclyde.

The Scottish National Party was victorious in the Leith Harbour ward, while the Scottish Liberal Democrats ousted Labour by a large majority in the Inverclyde seat.

Labour's discomfort was heightened when, against some predictions, the Conservatives held on to their lone seat in Clackmannanshire, winning in Dollar.

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The Edinburgh seat became vacant when Mr Derick Wilson failed to attend a council meeting for more than six months. He had admitted embezzling almost #5000 from a prostitute's support group while acting as treasurer, and was placed on probation for one year.

His successor, Mr Phil Attridge, found the Labour vote halved.

SNP chief executive Mike Russell welcomed the return of the party to the Edinburgh council chambers, adding: ``In all three by-elections held tonight, New Labour has performed abysmally.''

In Inverclyde's ward 11, a Labour majority of 129 was overturned by the Liberal Democrats, who romped to victory by 529 votes.

In Clackmannanshire, political novice Alastair Campbell, 57, a retired chartered accountant, will take his seat alongside three SNP and eight Labour councillors.

Results:

q Leith Harbour: Rob Munn (SNP) 567; Phil Attridge (Lab) 522; Douglas Chisholm (SLD) 221; Gavin Brown (Scottish Socialist Alliance) 96; Robin Slack (Con) 72.

q Inverclyde: Scottish Liberal Democrats 955; Labour 426; SNP 164.

q Dollar: Alastair Campbell (Con) 716; Gerry Fisher (SNP) 560; Charles Bell (Lib Dem) 430; Graham Watt (Lab) 145.