FOREVER saddled with the unfortunate connection to the word question” thanks to the late Tam Dalyell MP, West Lothian’s voters will soon be asked to decide their own question, which is: Who can best run their local authority, the Scottish Labour Party or the SNP?

With respect to all others who are standing, which includes a single Ukip candidate, Alan Cooper in Linlithgow, it really is a two-party fight in West Lothian where last time around Labour won 16 seats and the SNP 15; while one Conservative and one Independent secured seats.

With 33 councillors to be elected in nine multi-member wards, only the SNP, with 23 names on the ballot papers, is putting up enough candidates to win overall control of the council, with the party locally determined to try to achieve that aim.

Party sources point to the fact that in two by-elections in 2015, the SNP candidates held on to their seats, despite the fact that one of the by-elections was scandalously caused by the failure of the previous councillor to attend sufficient council meetings.

In an election where a remarkable number of incumbent councillors are standing for election – 26 out of the 33 current councillors are candidates again, very much against the national trend – the SNP are losing only one incumbent while Labour are seeing six members stand down, which may count against them in an area where many councillors command strong personal allegiance. One of those is Tom Kerr, provost of West Lothian and the only Conservative on the council at present. Independent councillor Stuart Borrowman in Armadale and Blackridge ward is also said locally to be “a certainty” for re-election.

The Conservatives (9), Greens (8), and LibDems (9) are all putting up a decent number of candidates.

Maire McCormack of the Greens is seen as having a good chance of success in Linlithgow, but the contest in West Lothian still looks to be between Labour and the SNP.

Council leader John McGinty is standing again in Bathgate, and he has recently had a higher profile than he would have liked as he had to comment on job losses in West Lothian, pledging the council’s commitment to work to alleviate the situation caused by two factory closures.

SNP Group leader Peter Johnston is also standing again in Livingston South and, indeed, the whole town of Livingston is very much seen as a target for the SNP which is putting up three candidates in each of the three wards in and around the area.

It will be interesting to see how much the recently announced closure of the Johnson & Johnson Ethicon plant in Livingston affects the outcome of the election in wards in and around the town which also houses the council head offices.

About 400 people will lose their jobs with the closure, and while West Lothian has suffered greater job losses in the past, the Ethicon plant was considered safe as it is part of Scotland’s life sciences industry.

Just days later it was announced that 260 jobs would be lost at the Jabil electronics factory, also in Livingston.

To lose almost 700 jobs in a few days will be of massive concern to everyone in West Lothian and it would be very surprising if voters were not asking questions of candidates about their response to these harsh economic setbacks.

In the northern wards of West Lothian, one issue has been dominant over many months, namely, the proposed changes to the Edinburgh Airport flightpath over the area. Candidates are being asked for their views on that matter more than any other locally.

The public consultation exercise being carried out by the Airport ends three days after the election on May 4, and a public meeting on the issue will take place in Blackness on Thursday evening.

As with every other local authority, West Lothian has had to contend with Westminster-imposed austerity, but £48 million worth of savings have been achieved in the life of this council, with no compulsory redundancies.

While there is likely to be a further need for cuts next year, the outgoing administration was confident that the “no compulsory redundancies” pledge would be maintained.

One issue which concerned many local people is now seemingly off the agenda, as the future of the children’s ward in St John’s Hospital in Livingston is now assured.

West Lothian really is a battleground between Labour and the SNP, and it will be a test of how both fare in June’s General Election.