Council election predictions (with a little help from Mystic Malc)

We were so good at predicting the results of the Scottish Parliament elections last year, we thought we’d entertain you again with our thoughts on Thursday’s council elections.  Malc H, whose blogging we all miss dearly, came for his tea and to cast his mystic eye over the runners and riders in several local authority areas.  We are indebted to Kristofer Keane who has done all the hard work in a number of key local authorities.  We just looked at what he said, tossed a coin and decided aye or naw.  Or something like that.

Anyway, our predictions for nine local authorities.  For all the background and detail, visit the very excellent

Aberdeen: 43 seats, 22 needed for majority administration.  Big deficit, SNP-LibDem administration, huge budget cuts, city bucking the economic trend, still no bypass and Union Gardens controversy.

Malc and I reckon the Lib Dems are going to take a pasting with the SNP benefiting most, due to its buoyancy currently in the city.

So 19 for the SNP (+12);  Labour 11 (+1);  Lib Dems 3 (-12), Conservatives 5 (no change); Scottish Greens 1 (+1);  Independents 4 (+3)

Prediction: The SNP will finish just short of an overall majority and will form a coalition with the Lib Dems or Independents.


Aberdeenshire: 68 councillors, 35 needed for a majority.  Rural, home to Trump and also to the First Minister, small towns with some big problems, home to what’s left of our fishing industry.

And the pundits say?  Big gains for the SNP at these elections, again at the expense of the Lib Dems, but also a big fat zero for Labour.

The SNP will take 32 seats (+10), Conservatives 14 (no change), Liberal Democrats 13 (-11), Independents 8 (no change) and Scottish Greens 1 (no change but really a nominal gain as Martin Ford, former Lib Dem councillor who defected to the Greens will hold his seat).  Labour 0 (no change).

Prediction:  The SNP will have enough seats to form a minority administration, but could be outflanked by a joint Conservative/LibDem manoeuvre to seize power.


Fife: a big local authority with 78 seats, so 40 needed for an overall majority.  once a Lib Dem citadel in the East Neuk, with solid Labour heartlands, lots of surprising gains for the SNP, home to the Presiding Officer and also Bill Walker.

This will be a two horse race to the finish between SNP and Labour with the SNP’s strength and popularity winning the day.

SNP 34 (+12), Labour 26 (+2), Lib Dems 7 (-14), Conservatives 6 (+1), Independents 3 (-2), Scottish Greens 1 (+1)

Prediction:  SNP-Lib Dem-Green coalition.  There might be an attempt to form an anyone-but-SNP coalition but it won’t work.


Edinburgh: A 58 seat local authority, 30 needed for a majority.  The capital city, fond of rainbow politics with no party dominating, trams, financial services, the Parly, hidden poverty, attempts to privatise care services.

SNP 20 (+8), Labour 17 (+2), Conservatives 11 (no change), Scottish Greens 5 (+2), Lib Dems 5 (-12)

Prediction:  Yep a polarising of support and the trouncing of the once vibrant Lib Dems.  Labour will fall just short of numbers needed for anything other than opposition.  It will be an SNP minority administration (with tacit Tory support issue by issue in return for a few baubles).


Clackmannanshire: The wee-est local authority in the land with only 18 seats.  As Kristofer Keane points out, the fact that it divides between Labour and the SNP makes forming a stable administration difficult.  Last time round, we had a minority Labour one and in the final months, an SNP one. Ten seats are needed for a majority.

SNP 9 (+2), Labour 8 (no change), Conservative 1 (no change).  Lib Dems and the Independent will lose their sole respective seats.

Prediction:  An SNP minority administration with the Conservative able to demand his or her price.


Falkirk:  32 seat authority, 17 required for overall control.  Hit hard by the recession, home to Denis Canavan and the far less august Eric Joyce, a big refinery, UFOs (possibly) and has always been a solid area at council level for the SNP.

SNP 16 (+3), Labour 12 (-2), Independent 3 (no change), Conservative 1 (-1).

Prediction:  Some of the independents returned might well be disgruntled ex Labour councillors who were de-selected.  Are they likely to join their former party colleagues in a coalition with a Tory that is still only a minority administration?  An SNP minority administration then.


East Dunbartonshire: 24 seat authority, 13 required for control.  Leafy commuter suburbs, hidden poverty, small towns, Jo Swinson, 2 SNP MSPs, bizarre Independent party.  Most interestingly, no party is standing enough candidates to win overall control. Nothing like admitting defeat before you start.  Even more perplexingly, the SNP has exactly the same number of candidates as in 2007 and will not be able to take advantage of its own popularity nor of the meltdown of the Lib Dems.

SNP 8 (no change);  Labour 8 (+2);  Conservatives 5 (no change); East Dunbartonshire Independent Alliance 2 (no change); Lib Dems 1 (-2).

Prediction:  Same as you were with a Labour-Tory administration.  Leaves you wondering why they bothered really.


East Ayrshire: 32 seats, 17 needed for overall control.  A bit of dual personality local authority with the bedrock of SNP support in the Kilmarnock area and old Labour former coalfields in the Cumnock valley.  Endemic deprivation in many areas, Johnny Walker, a Cup win for the Killie, a new college campus, strong local communities.

SNP 16 (+3);  Labour 13 (-1);  Conservatives 3 (no change).

Prediction:  SNP minority administration continues with tacit support of Tories.  But this is another local authority where the lack of ambition by the SNP might hold it back.  There is also a whiff of suspicion in this area, as in some others, that the dominance of local councillors in local party structures (not simply in the SNP) has resulted in a very cautious approach to fielding candidates.  Admittedly a two or even three candidate approach in wards is hard to work with STV, but it can and is done.  Many councillors won’t want “their” vote split so will push for them being the only candidates.  Hence, the astonishing situation where the SNP and indeed, Labour haven’t even fielded enough candidates in some local authority contests to be in with a chance of winning a majority.


Glasgow: 79 seats, 40 is the magic number.  Yes, I know we kept you waiting for the main event.  This prediction is a game of two halves with Malc doing the first lot of wards on his own and me only getting to interfere in the latter half.  We (I?) reckon Glasgow First might well pick up some seats at Labour’s expense.  We’ll see.  Whatever, this is a dogfight to the death with some transfers so close they might well still be counting on Sunday.  Every vote will count in the race to achieve the supposed prize in local politics.  A city with huge inequalities, astonishing levels of poverty, but also huge potential with the Commonwealth Games and investment in infrastructure.

SNP 37 (+15); Labour 32 (-13); Glasgow First 4 (+4);  Scottish Greens 4 (-1);  Conservatives 1 (no change);  Solidarity 1 (no change); Lib Dems 0 (-5)

Yep, we predict a big slide for Labour – based on nothing other than my belief that you can sniff the mood for change in the air – a rout for the Lib Dems and Gail Sheridan winning a ward (this one is the sentimental Malc’s choice – EDIT: Malc insists it isn’t sentimentality – he just doesn’t think Glaswegians can resist the name “Sheridan” on a ballot paper!).

Prediction:  Even if Labour wanted to form a coalition administration (or anyone wanted to form one with them) they won’t have the numbers.  An SNP-Scottish Green coalition doesn’t seem like too much wishful thinking…



So there you have it, mystic Malc and the burd Brahan Seer of blogging have given you the low down on some key and some interesting local authority contests.

Essentially, the SNP will make significant gains, its electoral popularity continuing to be buoyant.  Its march to electoral domination will only really be held back by a lack of ambition (or indeed, simply running out of folk to stand) in some areas.

But Labour will emerge somewhat bloodied from the loss of Glasgow but actually having done okay in terms of overall result.  No meltdown is a good result.

The Lib Dems, though, will have a terrible night, being reduced to a rump.  Meanwhile the Tories will find themselves largely stuck in neutral but they will gain more footholds and possibly, roles in more administrations.  The Scottish Greens, I think, will have a decent night, but not enough to make the breakthrough.

Applying a secret scientific formula which we couldn’t possibly reveal, here are our overall predictions for numbers of councillors across Scotland.  There are 1,222 to be elected.

SNP:  Malc reckons about 470 but for once, I’m being sunnily optimistic and suggesting that the SNP will end up with at least 500 councillors.  In 2007, they had 363 councillors, which was a doubling from its numbers in 2003.  A remarkable rise then, but the question is – are they any good?

Labour: Malc and I are agreed that Labour will come home with around 360 councillors, representing a small net gain on the night (343 in 2007).  Enough to call the dogs off the party leader but not much else.

Conservatives:  Malc reckons they’ll have more or less the same number they started with – 140.  Maybe I just hope for fewer, but do think they will get squeezed in some areas and record a small loss.  130 is my call.

Liberal Democrats:  We are both predicting big losses.  In 2007, the Lib Dems returned 166 councillors.  I think that will halve and they will be left with about 85.  Malc is even more pessimistic with 60.  This will be the story of the night and maybe now everyone will start ignoring Willie Rennie and his rump.

Scottish Greens: I’m predicting a wee surge for the Greens, up to 20 councillors from 8 in 2007.  Malc reckons 12 which still represents a big proportionate gain.

Independents:  Still a huge feature in many local authorities, especially rural ones.  And while the Lib Dems will be officially routed, many will sneak in the back door as Independents.  In 2007, there were 192 independent councillors elected;  we both think this will slip back a bit.  The tradition is definitely in decline.  Malc is going for 160 returned, I’m suggesting far fewer at 115.

Finally, good luck to all those standing for election.  The finish line is in sight but in case you think it is nearly all over?  Apparently, City of Edinburgh council has Meadowbank booked til Tuesday.  Contingency planning, we understand, for mechanical failures and recounts.


9 thoughts on “Council election predictions (with a little help from Mystic Malc)

  1. Big swings in favour of apathy (+20%) and disdain (+30%) with most voting against particular parties or administrations rather than in favour of who they are actually putting their crosses (well, numbers) against.

    What does it tell us about Local “democracy” and the electorate’s view of Councils and Councillors? If we notice them at all it’s only because they’ve annoyed us about something.

    Pass the broom, please.

    • I think that pretty well sums it up. Still, at least we have a vote. Democracy a precious and fragile thing, so let’s use it.

      • Indeed, and I don’t think mayors, suggested by some, will help the situation. It adds personality politics, which I don’t think is good- party’s should be about policies.

        3 things I would suggest to increase voter numbers:

        1. Repeal the ban on placards made by Councils. Having placards are the best way of letting people know that an election is on. It also gives an indication that there is an event on.

        2. More powers to local authorities. Like it or not, with the Council Tax Freeze the Scottish Government have all but stopped any kind of fiscal responsibility for local authorities. How local councils deliver services is tied to money, and they should have the right to raise those funds. Giving them more responsibility would make voters take notice, and hopefully vote.

        3. The structure and size of local authorities is wrong. When you compare us to other European countries, we have the most unrepresented electorate by a long way. We should have more, smaller local authorities and/or Town Councils to bring politics closer to local communities.

  2. Even keeping 4 greens in Glasgow would be very tough. At least 3 of the 5 seats won by the greens last time were delivered by SNP transfers after they under-nominated…

    However, in Edinburgh they might even go higher than five as the SNP fail to escape the backlash from being part of the coalition that, for example shut leith waterworld, alongside a dire result for the lib-dems, might result in the greens scraping in on transfers in surprising places. The greens could also win their first seat in midlothian….

  3. On my own patch (Renfrewshire), I reckon we’ll see Labour as largest party (as they seem to be the only party to be out campaigning in my part of Paisley). Whether we’ll see them in a coalition is another matter. If there’s another SNP/AN Other coalition, expect the chuntering of Labour councillors to go on for months.

    Glasgow, I think the SNP will fall between 4 and 8 seats short. Whether they finish as largest party I think will depend on the Glasgow First factor.

  4. I think the SNP are in for a shock in Edinburgh, but not as much of a shock as the Lib Dems!

    Glasgow I think the SNP will scrape.

    Aberdeen possibly SNP at the expense of the Lib Dems.

    South Lanarkshire, where I live, based on the inactivity of all parties, will remain in NOC with Labour getting support from the other parties to continue their adminstration. The SNP haven’t bothered their backsides.

    Overall SNP gains, Labour fairly reasonable losses, Conservatives static(ish), Lib Dems meltdown!

    I think the turnout overall is going to be very low, possibly the worst in local election history.

  5. I’m delighted to see that finally someone has had the guts to publicly acknowledge the influence of the extra terrestrial vote in Scotland’s council elections.

    Keep watching the skies.

  6. Oy? What about the Highlands? Or does nobody really care….

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