Council polls: a hint of potential changes and challenges to come

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Alex Orr @Alex_M_Orr

Renowned pollster, Professor John Curtice, has provided his analysis for the Scottish council elections, to be held next May, and the results prove mixed for the major political parties.

Of course, such polling based on analysis of recent council by-elections should come with a massive health warning. It is dangerous to hypothesise on future results based on past results, which can sometimes prove misleading.

However, if the predictions come to fruition there will be considerable alarm in the ranks of the Labour Party, which facing a 13 per cent swing to the SNP risks falling into third place as it has already done at Holyrood.

The SNP could win an outright majority in as many as 12 councils, up from two (Angus and Dundee) at present, and emerge as the largest party in 12 more.

Labour’s stronghold of Glasgow and other municipal strongholds, such as North and South Lanarkshire, are projected to fall into SNP laps, with it predicted that Labour would lose control of 16 councils currently run by itself or as the lead party in a coalition.

Indeed, all but one of Scotland’s cities is predicted to be SNP run after next May. The party already runs Dundee, Perth and Kinross, but would also take control of Aberdeen, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Stirling, only missing out on Inverness as it is part of the wider Highland authority.

The prediction for Labour will be good news for the Scottish Conservatives, although according to Professor Curtice this would not necessarily translate into the party controlling more councils. They are likely to be the largest party in East Renfrewshire and potentially South Ayrshire, with few other prospects.

However, it will not be plain sailing should this sweeping election success come to fruition. At present the Scottish Government can usefully blame local authorities for failing to deliver key policies. Councils in turn can turn their ire on the SNP Government for failing to provide them with the adequate resourcing to do what is required.

With local and national administrations potentially aligned this will create a new dynamic in the debate, especially with cuts to local government budgets and SNP policies that diminish the role of local councils – from control of schools to childcare. Such measures could create internal divisions.

Should the SNP be as successful as is predicted, how it manages the challenges ahead will be a measure of how far it has matured as a party at a local government level.

SNP targets and favourites

Targets for overall majority (current political control)

  • Aberdeenshire (SNP/Ind/Lab partnership)
  • Angus (SNP majority)
  • Clackmannanshire (Lab minority)
  • Dundee (SNP majority)
  • East Ayrshire (SNP/Con coalition)
  • Falkirk (Lab/Con/Ind coalition)
  • Midlothian (SNP/Ind) coalition
  • North Ayrshire (Lab minority)
  • Perth and Kinross (SNP minority)
  • South Lanarkshire (Lab majority)
  • Stirling (Lab/Con coalition)
  • West Lothian (Lab minority)

Favourites to be the largest party

  • Aberdeen (Lab/Con/Ind coalition)
  • East Dunbartonshire (Lab/Con/minority coalition)
  • East Lothian (Lab/Con coalition)
  • Edinburgh (Lab/SNP coalition)
  • Fife (Lab minority)
  • Glasgow (Lab majority)
  • Inverclyde (Lab minority)
  • North Lanarkshire (Lab majority)
  • Moray (Ind/Con mimority)
  • Renfrew (Lab majority)
  • West Dunbartonshire (Lab majority)

Source: Professor John Curtice. Political control source: COSLA