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Last Updated: Friday, 4 May 2007, 17:29 GMT 18:29 UK
SNP strategy pays off in local elections
Professor Richard Kerley, of Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh, is one of Scotland's leading experts on local government.

Here he gives a run-down on the Scottish council elections as result start to come through.

A kilted man at a polling station
The SNP's local government strategy may have paid off

The decision to run the Scottish council elections on the same day as the elections to the Scottish Parliament has meant that in both print and broadcast media, as well as on the streets, the local elections have been all but overshadowed by the Holyrood poll.

This is, of course, compounded by the order in which the votes are counted and declared: constituency first, then regional list and council counting and then results to follow on.

The major talking point of the local elections this year is in the new system of voting - the Single Transferable Vote.

This system was forecast to dramatically reduce Labour council representation and increase the number of SNP councillors in almost every council.

Early results suggest that this is exactly what was happened.

The overnight results show Labour losing control of councils where the old system had given them comfortable majorities. East Lothian, South Lanarkshire and Midlothian went from Labour to no overall control.

In other council areas, the results have been far more mixed, both reflecting and contrasting with the known parliamentary results.

So, in Clackmannanshire and Stirling where political control has always been tightly balanced (in Stirling control of the council has twice been decided by cutting cards) Labour is the largest party but in a minority, with the SNP one councillor behind in each case.

Ballot papers
A number of council results have still to be declared

In Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire, the different parties have gone up and down in various ways, but both councils remain without a single majority party. In each case, the Lib Dems must remain favourites to lead any administration.

In the two Northern Isles councils, the authorities appear to remain firmly 'apolitical' with Independents winning a clean sheet in each case.

The most likely council to look for a so-called 'rainbow' collation must be Dumfries and Galloway where Lib Dems and Independents are down, SNP and Conservatives each almost doubling their councillors and the Labour Party holding steady.

It is too early to make an overall judgement on how well the parties have contested the elections, in contrast to how many seats they have won.

What does seem clear is that all parties have been cautious in how many candidates they have put forward, in some cases very cautious indeed.

In a number of areas that the major losers from STV have been Independent councillors
Arguably the SNP have played these elections best, with a modest number of candidates in each council, and often, with a few odd exceptions, only one in each ward.

On first results, that appears to have paid off for them in a big way as they appear to have secured the highest proportion of candidates nominated being elected of each of the major parties.

The STV system for local government has also evened up results for parties other than Labour, just as it was anticipated that it would do.

In Angus, the SNP have lost overall control after running the council since 1995, dropping from 17 wards to 13 in a council of 29.

It also appears in a number of areas that the major losers from STV have been Independent councillors, in those parts of the country where party politics has been gradually assuming a stronger and stronger influence.

While Shetland and Orkney still elect almost entirely Independent councillors, in other parts of the country the change in voting systems has been a major trigger for change.

In Aberdeenshire, Dumfries and Galloway and Moray Councils the number of Independent councillors has slumped, in Dumfries and Galloway its down from 12 to a new low of two.

In the Scottish Borders, the number of Independent councillors has tumbled from 15 to five with both Lib Dems and SNP increasing their numbers on the council and a new 'Scottish Borders' party emerging for the first time.

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