Scottish Labor faces the biggest challenger to Nicola Sturgeon’s Scottish National Party after Conservative support plummeted to its worst election result in a decade.
Labor won an unexpected victory in SNP-controlled West Dunbartonshire, taking overall control of the council as it won a large number of seats on the 32 Scottish councils and made surprising gains, putting it on track to face a major challenge. to get the largest share of the votes.
In a surprising result, Labor came very close to beating the SNP in Glasgow, Sturgeon’s home city, and fell just one seat short of victory. Labor won five seats and the SNP lost two, raising prospects that the SNP could form a formal coalition there with the Greens, whose support climbed to win 10 seats at the SNP’s expense.
Anas Sarwar, the Scottish Labor leader, said: “This is the first positive and happy day for the Scottish Labor Party [after 10 years of defeats] and I’m confident we’ll be comfortably second in Scotland at the end of the day. Our eyes are now firmly on the SNP.”
The results sparked grievances among the Scottish Tories, who were relegated to third place after voters punished them over the Partygate crisis by abstaining from the election or turning over their support to Labor or the Liberal Democrats.
Embarrassed by defeats in wealthy areas such as Edinburgh and East Renfrewshire, the Tories enjoyed a rare glimmer of success in Moray in north-east Scotland, home of Scottish leader Douglas Ross, with three seats.
Ross said: “It was a difficult night and in some areas it was very disappointing. In too many parts of Scotland we have lost excellent candidates.”
He said the Partygate scandal had dominated voter conversations, coupled with the cost of living. “There is absolutely no doubt that people have been messaging the Prime Minister and the government, especially around Partygate. That is absolutely clear.”
The SNP remained dominant, narrowly gaining control of Dundee by a single seat after five years in a minority government, winning 445 of the 1,227 available seats on Friday, up 24, with only a few councils yet to explain.
But Sturgeon, the prime minister and SNP leader, endured a few moments of terror as the Scottish Greens, the SNP’s partners in Holyrood, enjoyed a wave of support in the urban and rural elections.
In Glasgow, the first signal that the SNP was in trouble came when its group leader, Susan Aitken, was unexpectedly defeated in her ward by a Scottish Green candidate, Holly Bruce. Aitken held onto her seat after the second preference votes were counted.
Across Scotland, the SNP remained the largest party in many authorities, including Perth and Kinross, Edinburgh, Stirling and Angus, where the Tories lost seats. In Fife, the SNP won five seats and the Lib Dems five, at the expense of Labour, who lost four, and the Tories, who lost six.
Ian Blackford, the SNP leader in Westminster, said it was “moving full steam ahead” with the Scottish government’s plans for a second independence referendum. “The boiler is heating up,” he said, as Sturgeon is publishing a series of position papers this summer on the potential of independence.
“Our commitment to the people of Scotland is that we will absolutely live up to the mandate they give us,” he said.
The Greens were in high spirits after taking their first seats on several councils across the country, including Shetland, East Lothian and Scottish Borders, and boosting their results in areas such as Orkney and Highlands.
Party strategists believe they are reaping the rewards of their power-sharing deal with the SNP after last May’s Holyrood elections, making it much easier to convince voters that a Greens first preference won’t be in vain. In Glasgow, the newly elected Greens included Elaine Gallagher, the city’s first trans councillor.
The election was disastrous for Alba, Alex Salmond’s breakaway nationalist party, as it failed to retain either of its two council seats and won just a few votes elsewhere in its second election test. Despite fielding 111 candidates, it again failed to make a single breakthrough.
Alba general secretary Chris McEleny, who defected from the SNP, lost his council seat in Inverclyde, by 126 votes. Another Alba candidate in Inverclyde, who was elected to the SNP in the last election, also lost his seat. Both seats were retaken by SNP candidates.
Labour’s victory in West Dunbartonshire, where it won 12 out of 22 seats, has taken on additional significance as the proportional vote system used in Scottish local elections rarely allows one party to achieve an overall majority.
In the 2017 elections, no party had overall control of any of Scotland’s 32 local authorities. Scotland’s three island authorities, the Western Isles, Orkney and Shetland, are also dominated by unfettered independent councillors, so neither side is in power.
the western islands, Western Isles Council in Gaelic, the island authorities’ most significant developments had come when its undesirable status as Scotland’s only all-male council ended with the election of two women, Frances Murray and Susan Thomson, both for the SNP.
Voters in North Uist also chose Mustapha Hocine, a popular Algerian-born teacher, the Western Isles’ first ethnic minority councilor.
Eight women have applied after a joint campaign by the council and equality activists to improve gender diversity. Catrìona Murray, a community activist who failed to win a seat, said the council and the community still have a lot of work to do to improve diversity.
She said the low proportion of female councilors would continue to haunt the council and needed to be addressed. “I just don’t like the image it gives to the people of the Western Isles. It’s a misconception because women are running for election,” she said.