This series of briefings will cover the elections to be held across England, Scotland and Wales on 04 May, 2017.

There will be elections to much of the English shire authorities, the principal authorities of Scotland and Wales, the six mayoral contests in England and the Metropolitan Borough of Doncaster.

This part, of three, covers Scotland.

Scottish Authorities

There will be 1,223 seats up for election in 353 wards across all 32 Scottish authorities. Though not universal, a notable number of these wards have undergone boundary restructuring, making direct comparisons with 2012 a tad difficult. Elections to Scottish local authorities, unlike those in England and Wales, are conducted using Single Transferable Vote.

The 2012 elections for Scotland were the last set of national Scottish elections where Labour came away nearly tying with the SNP for seats. In 2012 they took 393 seats to the SNP’s 425; the Tories took just 115. With major changes in Scottish public opinion since, and with a snap general election on the horizon, significant changes in the political composition of Scotland’s councils are without question.

To recap, here’s the 2012 results:




This series of briefings will cover the elections to be held across England, Scotland and Wales on 04 May, 2017.

There will be elections to much of the English shire authorities, the principal authorities of Scotland and Wales, the six mayoral contests in England and the Metropolitan Borough of Doncaster.

This part, of three, covers Scotland.

Scottish Authorities

There will be 1,223 seats up for election in 353 wards across all 32 Scottish authorities. Though not universal, a notable number of these wards have undergone boundary restructuring, making direct comparisons with 2012 a tad difficult. Elections to Scottish local authorities, unlike those in England and Wales, are conducted using Single Transferable Vote.

The 2012 elections for Scotland were the last set of national Scottish elections where Labour came away nearly tying with the SNP for seats. In 2012 they took 393 seats to the SNP’s 425; the Tories took just 115. With major changes in Scottish public opinion since, and with a snap general election on the horizon, significant changes in the political composition of Scotland’s councils are without question.

To recap, here’s the 2012 results:



2012 results mapped

Map: authorities by largest party. Yellow – SNP. Red – Labour. Blue – Conservative. Pink – independent grouping. Grey – two parties tied.


Though not a proportional system, STV in practice yields more proportional results than First Past The Post, and as a consequence only nine of the 33 authorities saw one party attain a majority to govern. Four of these are Labour (Glasgow, North Lanarkshire, Renfrewshire and West Dunbartonshire), two are SNP (Dundee and Angus) and three are governed by independent groupings (the island authorities of the Eilean Siar, the Orkney Isles and the Shetland Isles).

Of the remaining hung authorities, ten saw Labour as the largest party, five the SNP, two the Conservatives, two for independent groupings and four with two parties tied.

Ipsos Mori has published a voting intention for the Scottish locals, though I would urge caution regarding its accuracy given the low share of support it affords to independents.

Having won a majority in Holyrood the year previous, 2012 was a disappointing year for the SNP, coming ahead of Labour by only 31 council seats (out of 1,223). It should be expected that the SNP will make major gains this year, mostly at Labour’s expense in authorities such as Aberdeen, Falkirk, Fife, North Lanarkshire, Midlothian and Glasgow.

Glasgow saw a Labour majority in 2012. Unless the divine intervention of the late Donald Dewar is the weather forecast for polling day, the SNP will either win a majority on the council or pip the reds for largest party. Though rumours did at one point circulate of Labour giving up on the city, it does seem that they are attempting one final showdown. Regardless, anything other than an SNP leap here will be a shock, but if in the instance they just miss out on an overall majority, it will be interesting to see if the Greens are willing to prop them up with a coalition.

Readers should note Glasgow will this year be featuring Gisela Allen, a UKIP candidate whose views, I expect, will make all the difference between last place and second to last place in Garscadden ward.

Edinburgh gave Labour the status of largest party in 2012, and it’s unlikely that this year they will retain it. The SNP should be the favourites to become the largest party here, and the Tories may just overtake Labour for second. The Greens won six seats here last time, and opportunities for further gains seem likely. Boundary changes which saw the number of seats in the city centre increase should bode well for them.
In terms of votes, it would be interesting to see how well the Liberal Democrats do in the western portion of the city. If there exists a persistent vote for the Lib Dems at a local level, their chances of retaking Edinburgh West at the general election should be good.

We know the Conservatives are going to do well in Scotland compared to 2012, but as to how well is yet to be seen. A good night for them would be to outpoll Labour in seats and votes, overtake them in Dumfries & Galloway, and become the largest party on a number of authorities north of the Forth. Angus, Aberdeenshire and Moray all seem candidates for this. Elsewhere, Perth & Kinross and Stirling are an outside chance. Most have within them constituencies the Conservatives are said to be targeting for the general election. If the Tories want to win more than just the three seats in the Southern Uplands on 08 June, it is vital they do well here. As has been said in the Welsh briefing, the overwhelming presence of independent candidates in some authorities may deny parties the gains they are hoping for and skew the results somewhat. What’s to say a disproportionate number of [X party] voters go independent in local elections?

A good night for Labour would be to retain the status of largest party on at least one authority and be best placed to go into coalition as a secondary partner in as many as possible. After their poor showing in 2016, 2015 and… the latest polls, if Labour wants to retain relevance in Scotland they must do so by showing it somewhere in this year’s council elections. East Lothian could be their saving grace. Though they may lose the status of largest party, they and the Tories could retain enough seats to keep the SNP out and continue a coalition.

2012 results, by council:



To summarise: what should we expect for Scotland?

We should expect the SNP to be the largest party in more authorities than ever before; we should expect Labour to suffer losses to a point where they are at risk of coming third; and we should expect the Tories to stage a comeback in the more rural parts of Scotland as well the borders region.

As a final note, it should be said that Scottish local government elections – as with those being held in Wales and England – will not necessarily reflect how public opinion is when it comes towards Westminster voting intentions. It provides a pointer/a direction of travel/a gauge of strength and nothing more.

Now that these briefings are complete, I will most likely be producing a forecast for the local elections in the final few days before polling day.


Polls will be open on 04 May from 0700hrs to 2200hrs. Results for Scotland will be counted and declared the day after. It is our intention to ensure vote and seat totals of the results are made available to you on our site and social media. If you would like to help with providing election results to our sheets on the night, do get in touch!

Thank you for reading. Help us improve our service. Consider a donation!

Ipsos Mori has published a voting intention for the Scottish locals, though I would urge caution regarding its accuracy given the low share of support it affords to independents.

Having won a majority in Holyrood the year previous, 2012 was a disappointing year for the SNP, coming ahead of Labour by only 31 council seats (out of 1,223). It should be expected that the SNP will make major gains this year, mostly at Labour’s expense in authorities such as Aberdeen, Falkirk, Fife, North Lanarkshire, Midlothian and Glasgow.

Glasgow saw a Labour majority in 2012. Unless the divine intervention of the late Donald Dewar is the weather forecast for polling day, the SNP will either win a majority on the council or pip the reds for largest party. Though rumours did at one point circulate of Labour giving up on the city, it does seem that they are attempting one final showdown. Regardless, anything other than an SNP leap here will be a shock, but if in the instance they just miss out on an overall majority, it will be interesting to see if the Greens are willing to prop them up with a coalition.

Readers should note Glasgow will this year be featuring Gisela Allen, a UKIP candidate whose views, I expect, will make all the difference between last place and second to last place in Garscadden ward.

Edinburgh gave Labour the status of largest party in 2012, and it’s unlikely that this year they will retain it. The SNP should be the favourites to become the largest party here, and the Tories may just overtake Labour for second. The Greens won six seats here last time, and opportunities for further gains seem likely. Boundary changes which saw the number of seats in the city centre increase should bode well for them.
In terms of votes, it would be interesting to see how well the Liberal Democrats do in the western portion of the city. If there exists a persistent vote for the Lib Dems at a local level, their chances of retaking Edinburgh West at the general election should be good.

We know the Conservatives are going to do well in Scotland compared to 2012, but as to how well is yet to be seen. A good night for them would be to outpoll Labour in seats and votes, overtake them in Dumfries & Galloway, and become the largest party on a number of authorities north of the Forth. Angus, Aberdeenshire and Moray all seem candidates for this. Elsewhere, Perth & Kinross and Stirling are an outside chance. Most have within them constituencies the Conservatives are said to be targeting for the general election. If the Tories want to win more than just the three seats in the Southern Uplands on 08 June, it is vital they do well here. As has been said in the Welsh briefing, the overwhelming presence of independent candidates in some authorities may deny parties the gains they are hoping for and skew the results somewhat. What’s to say a disproportionate number of [X party] voters go independent in local elections?

A good night for Labour would be to retain the status of largest party on at least one authority and be best placed to go into coalition as a secondary partner in as many as possible. After their poor showing in 2016, 2015 and… the latest polls, if Labour wants to retain relevance in Scotland they must do so by showing it somewhere in this year’s council elections. East Lothian could be their saving grace. Though they may lose the status of largest party, they and the Tories could retain enough seats to keep the SNP out and continue a coalition.

2012 results, by council:



To summarise: what should we expect for Scotland?

We should expect the SNP to be the largest party in more authorities than ever before; we should expect Labour to suffer losses to a point where they are at risk of coming third; and we should expect the Tories to stage a comeback in the more rural parts of Scotland as well the borders region.

As a final note, it should be said that Scottish local government elections – as with those being held in Wales and England – will not necessarily reflect how public opinion is when it comes towards Westminster voting intentions. It provides a pointer/a direction of travel/a gauge of strength and nothing more.

Now that these briefings are complete, I will most likely be producing a forecast for the local elections in the final few days before polling day.


Polls will be open on 04 May from 0700hrs to 2200hrs. Results for Scotland will be counted and declared the day after. It is our intention to ensure vote and seat totals of the results are made available to you on our site and social media. If you would like to help with providing election results to our sheets on the night, do get in touch!

Thank you for reading. Help us improve our service. Consider a donation!