Subscribe to Holyrood updates

Newsletter sign-up


Follow us

Scotland’s fortnightly political & current affairs magazine


Subscribe to Holyrood
by Kirsteen Paterson and Louise Wilson
06 May 2022
Scottish council elections: SNP 'won the election by a country mile' says Nicola Sturgeon

Scottish council elections: SNP 'won the election by a country mile' says Nicola Sturgeon

Greens and Lib Dems break new ground as SNP win more seats

Nicola Sturgeon has said her party "won the election by a country mile" following the announcement of all but a handful of local election results. 

"It is a stupendous result for the SNP and sends the clearest possible message to Boris Johnson and the Tories," the First Minister added.

Speaking from Glasgow, where the SNP just beat Labour to maintain their place as the council's biggest party, Sturgeon said Labour had benefited from the collapse of the Conservative vote "yet they still can't beat the SNP".

It was a photo finish in the city, with the SNP returning 37 councillors to Labour's 36. Discussions will now turn to whether either of them will look to the Greens, who returned a record 10 councillors, for support.

Elsewhere, it was a bruising day for the Tories as the winners and losers of Scotland's local council elections emerged.

Leading his party into a local election for the first time, Douglas Ross saw the Scottish Conservatives drop to third place.

Amidst partygate and criticism over his u-turn on Boris Johnson's leadership, the Tories have suffered a score of seat losses, including urban seats newly-won in 2017 and in traditional heartlands.

However, it's been better news for Labour who made a number of gain, including winning a majority of seats in West Dunbartonshire. Every one of Labour's candidates was returned there.

Both Labour and the SNP made overall gains, as have the Lib Dems and the Scottish Greens.

It's the first time the Greens have broken through in the Borders, East Lothian, South Lanarkshire, North Lanarkshire and Shetland, and party co-leader Lorna Slater said her team has "made in-roads across the country" and will "bring new impetus to councils where we have never been represented".

Meanwhile, LibDem leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said he was "over the moon" thanks to "historic gains" for his party in areas including Edinburgh. He said the party had forecast the results months ago, stating: "This is going to be a great day for the Scottish Liberal Democrats."

The SNP won around one third of first preference votes at the last council elections and with final seats still to declare the party has beaten its 2017 record. Gains this time include the victories for Susan Thomson and Frances Murray in Comhairle nan Eilean Siar - a result that means that authority can nolonger be the only all-male council in the UK.

And Fatima Joji, a volunteer director at the 50:50 Parliament project which aims to increase women's participation in elected politics, won her bid for office in Aberdeen while Nadia el-Nakla, who is married to Health Secretary Humza Yousaf, is now a councillor in Dundee.

However, one of the SNP's most prominent councillors, key Nicola Sturgeon ally Mhairi Hunter, was ousted in Glasgow. And the Greens saw their candidate Holly Bruce overtake SNP council leader Susan Aitken in first preference votes, though both were returned.

There were big losses for Alex Salmond's Alba as its general secretary Chris McEleny and his father Jim lost their seats in Inverclyde. The pair previously won there for the SNP before defecting to Alba, but neither were returned. In Fraserburgh, long-serving councillor Brian Topping, who switched to Alba last year, also failed to secure re-election and there are questions over whether or not the party, formed in 2021, will make a single gain.

Chris McEleny said: "We may not have made the breakthrough that we had hoped for but I am confident that for as long as Scotland is handcuffed to the calamities of Westminster, and Alba are the only party setting out a plan and positive vision for the necessity for Scotland’s independence as an immediate priority, then there will be a much needed space for Alba Party in the political sphere of Scottish politics.

"The reason I got into Scottish politics was to restore my country’s independence, and that is a job that is not yet complete. So tremble, false Whigs, in the midst o' yer glee - you've not seen the last of my bonnet - and me."

This morning, Ross related the Scottish results to Conservative performance in England, where the Tories have dropped more than 170 councillors, including in long-held seats like Westminster. And, repeating his prior assertion that Boris Johnson must stay in post because of the Ukraine conflict, despite partygate, Ross said: "I've been very clear that my position on the prime minister changed because of the situation in Ukraine. Sadly, since the close of polls last night to the start of the count this morning, the situation in Ukraine has not improved."

Former Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said the results were "undoubtedly disappointing" though she highlighted it was off the back of record gains five years ago.

On the question of party leadership, she said: "I know what it's like to lose seats at my first local election, before coming back stronger. The Scottish party needs to pull together around [Douglas Ross's] leadership."

Counting continues, but last night Tory sources had already started briefing reporters about expected losses. Former Tory MSP Adam Tomkins dismissed suggestions Johnson would be to blame for bad results, tweeting: "Whatever today's results show Douglas Ross owns this, not Boris. It was Douglas who u-turned, Douglas who flipped and Douglas who backed the PM. He and his team need to own the consequences."


Holyrood Newsletters

Holyrood provides comprehensive coverage of Scottish politics, offering award-winning reporting and analysis: Subscribe

Read the most recent article written by Kirsteen Paterson and Louise Wilson - SNP leadership contest: Who are the candidates for Westminster roles?.

Stay in the know with our fortnightly magazine

Stay in the know with our fortnightly magazine


Popular reads
Back to top