Local elections 2022 – summary of results
What do last week's election results mean for Scotland's councils? SFHA Public Affairs Intern Corrie Innes takes a look.
On a national scale, the SNP have further established themselves as the largest party in local government, winning a further 22 seats to take them to 453, and retaining largest party status in key councils, including Glasgow and Edinburgh. Labour may not have taken back their traditional stronghold of Glasgow, but they did make gains both there and elsewhere, and their 282 seats (a gain of 20) does take them back into second place in the nationwide tally.
The Scottish Conservatives lost 63 seats nationwide and slipped into third place, with 214. Their leader Douglas Ross doesn’t plan to resign, and has appointed a new Deputy in Meghan Gallagher.
The Scottish Liberal Democrats made gains (reaching 87 seats in total), especially in Edinburgh and Highland, while the Scottish Greens have gained representation on several new councils for the first time. They may soon find themselves in government on a local, as well as national level, with rumours circulating of an SNP-Green coalition in Glasgow.
Over the next few weeks, the political control of each council is likely to be uncertain as the parties negotiate coalitions and power sharing arrangements. As we saw in Aberdeen in 2017, the party with the greatest number of councillors does not necessarily form the governing administration. The next edition of our Housing Scotland magazine will contain a detailed analysis of the new local government administrations and what they will likely mean for social housing.
The West of Scotland
In Glasgow, the SNP remain the largest party, despite a Labour resurgence. Labour gained five seats to bring them to 36, one short of the SNP. The Greens moved into third place with 10 seats, while the Tories lost all but two of the eight seats they won in 2017. The Labour recovery was more decisive in West Dunbartonshire, where they took overall control of the council. Conservative representation there has disappeared altogether, with both of their seats lost.
The SNP gained one seat and retained their largest party status in East Dunbartonshire, where the Conservative contingent was halved to three councillors. In both North and South Lanarkshire, the SNP were comfortably returned as the largest party. Both councils also added a Green representative to their ranks, where previously the party had been absent, and both exactly halved their Conservative cohort, to five and seven councillors respectively.
The trend of Conservative losses in the region continued in East Renfrewshire, where they lost their largest party status to the SNP and find themselves tied for second with Labour, with five councillors each. In Renfrewshire, the SNP remain the largest party with 21 seats. Finally, Labour gained one seat and retained its largest party status in Inverclyde, whose only Liberal Democrat council seat has been lost.
The Conservatives suffered heavy losses in Edinburgh, where their share of the council has been halved from 18 to nine. The main beneficiaries are the Liberal Democrats, who doubled their share to 12 seats, and the Greens, who gained two seats to bring them to ten. The SNP remain the largest party with 19 councillors.
The SNP, with eight seats, also find themselves the largest party in Midlothian, having gained two seats to leapfrog Labour, who remain at seven. Labour did hold on in East Lothian, where a Green councillor has been elected following the party’s absence after 2017. The Liberal Democrats achieved the same feat in West Lothian, where the SNP remain the largest single party, as they do in Falkirk.
The North East
The SNP have taken overall control of Dundee thanks to one additional councillor, bringing their total to 15. The Liberal Democrats also improved their showing to four councillors (from a previous tally of two) while the Conservatives lost two of their previous three. The SNP remain the largest party in Aberdeen and Angus, while the Conservatives do the same for Aberdeenshire. Labour and the Greens have both lost their single seat on Aberdeenshire Council, while the Liberal Democrats lost both of theirs in Angus. However, Labour now have representation in Angus through a single new councillor.
The SNP fared well in Central Scotland, remaining the largest single party in Clackmannanshire and Fife and moving into first place in Perth and Kinross and Stirling. They achieved this in Stirling, despite losing one seat overall, as Labour gained two seats at the expense of the formerly leading Conservatives. The Liberal Democrats performed well in Fife, gaining six seats to bring them to a total of 12, while the Conservatives lost almost half of their group, declining from 13 to six councillors. Clackmannanshire is yet another local authority with new Green representation.
The theme across the south of the country was continuity. In both Dumfries and Galloway and the Borders, the Conservatives remain the largest single party (although a new Green councillor was elected in the Borders, yet another area where the party has newfound representation). The Conservatives also held on in South Ayrshire, as the SNP did in North and East Ayrshire. In the former, the Conservatives are the new second largest party, having overtaken Labour.
The Highlands and Islands
Across the Highlands and Islands, the SNP and the smaller parties made gains at the expense of independent representation. The loss of seven independents means the SNP becomes the largest single party on the Highland Council with an unchanged 22 seats, and results in gains for the Liberal Democrats and Greens, who climb to 15 and four councillors respectively. The SNP will remain the largest party in Argyll and Bute, where they will be joined by new councillors from Labour and the Greens. The Conservatives did manage to overcome the SNP in Moray, becoming the largest party there. With six fewer independents than after 2017, the Liberal Democrats and Greens have joined the council with one seat each.
Orkney, Shetland and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar have traditionally returned councils of independents, and largely continue to do so. The Greens now have two seats on Orkney Council and one in Shetland, where Labour and the SNP also have one councillor. In the Western Isles, the political balance is unchanged by the election, with 20 independents, six SNP councillors and one Conservative. However, the election has shifted the gender balance of the council. Two of the six SNP representatives are women, meaning there are now a total of two women on the council, which makes two more than prior to the election.