Scotland Democracy, devolution and governance

Clinching the deal: update on political control of councils


As councils race to form administrations, Charlotte Maddix reports on how the political balance across Scotland is shaping up.

More than two weeks on from the local elections, many councils have yet to form administrations. No council in Scotland – bar independent alliances in the island councils – was left in majority control of one political party after May 4th, so those councils unused to coalition working have had to enter into unfamiliar dealmaking. Events in Aberdeen – see below for more on this – have overshadowed developments elsewhere.

On the upside, the number of female councillors in Scotland has risen from 24 to 29 percent. Currently there are six female leaders – a slight improvement on five female leaders pre-election.

Here’s a quick update on the administrations that are forming around Scotland:


As widely expected, Susan Aitken was elected as Glasgow’s new leader, heading up an SNP-led administration. The 7 Green councillors will have been key to enabling an SNP minority administration in Glasgow.


The SNP was left as the largest group on Edinburgh City Council – by one councillor. With 19 SNP councillors to 18 Conservative, an administration has yet to be formed.


9 Labour councillors have been suspended after defying central party orders to withdraw from a coalition with the Conservatives. Council leader Jenny Laing and her team have so far indicated that they will be continuing with their coalition arrangement, which includes Conservative and Independent councillors. Prior to the election, Aberdeen also had a Labour, Conservative and Independent coalition.


Dundee – which was an SNP majority council before May – looks set to continue to be led by the SNP, support by independent councillors, although this will not be confirmed until the election of the leader next week.


Two Conservative councillors were suspended in Stirling over offensive social media posts. This has left the SNP as the largest party on the council, with 9 councillors – the Conservatives had been level with them. Labour, who previously led the council in partnership with the Conservatives, now have 4 councillors. This may affect the speed at which an administration will be formed.


Aberdeenshire has passed from an SNP, Independent and Labour partnership agreement to a Conservative, Independent and Liberal Democrat coalition. Jim Gifford was re-elected at leader –  he had previously been leader until the SNP-led coalition took power in 2015.


Like Aberdeenshire, Angus will now be led by a Conservative, Independent and Liberal Democrat administration. Bob Myles – an Independent councillor and former leader – was elected as the new leader.

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar

Roddie Mackay was elected as the new leader of the Western Isles, heading up a council composed of 23 Independent councillors, 7 SNP and 1 Conservative.

Dumfries and Galloway

Dumfries and Galloway was previously led by a Labour minority administration. No news yet on whether that will continue – at the elections, the Conservatives took 16 seats, while Labour and the SNP took 11 each.

East Ayrshire

Prior to the elections, East Ayrshire was run by an unusual agreement between the SNP and the Conservatives.

East Dunbartonshire

The new administration in East Dunbartonshire will not be confirmed until next week. The previous leader, Labour’s Rhondda Geekie, lost her seat as a councillor. With the SNP, Conservatives and Liberal Democrats at 7, 6 and 6 seats respectively, this is a very finely balanced council.

East Lothian

The previous administration – Labour, Conservative and one independent councillor – is unlikely to continue. Labour remain the largest party on the council, and previous leader Willie Innes has suggested he will form a minority administration.

East Renfrewshire

East Renfrewshire – formerly a Labour, Independent and SNP coalition – could become an SNP minority administration, although the Conservatives are the largest party on the council. The new administration should be announced next week.


Falkirk’s new leadership will also be announced next week. However, it looks likely that the council will be run by an SNP minority administration, headed up by Cecil Meiklejohn. This will be confirmed next Wednesday.


It remains unclear who will run Midlothian – a former SNP/Independent coalition council. Both the Labour and SNP group leaders have spoken out about the lack of movement in the ongoing negotiations.


Talks in the Moray have been delayed as the Conservatives and the SNP continue in their attempts to form an administration. Like East Dunbartonshire, this is a finely balanced council – with 9 SNP councillors, 8 Conservative and 8 independent.

North Ayrshire

Joe Cullinane continues as leader in North Ayrshire, once again heading up a minority Labour administration. The majority of councillors who held cabinet posts prior to the election are also back in their old jobs – only one role has changed hands.

North Lanarkshire

Former leader Jim Logue has again formed a Labour administration at North Lanarkshire – although following seat losses at the elections, this is now a minority administration.

Orkney Islands

Orkney returned a Green councillor at the elections – but of course remains predominantly independent, with 20 out of 21 independent councillors. Previous leader Stephen Heddle stood down as leader; James Stockan is the new political leader.
Perth and Kinross

The SNP – who ran Perth as a minority administration before the elections – have lost power to a Conservative, Liberal Democrat and independent coalition. Conservative group leader Ian Campbell is the new leader of the council.


A Labour majority council before the election, Renfrewshire will now be run by the SNP – which was left with 19 councillors to Labour’s 13. New leader Iain Nicolson said Labour had rejected an alliance.

Shetland Islands

Former leader Gary Robinson unexpectedly lost his seat the elections; Cecil Smith will now lead the Independent council. The council also has one SNP councillor.

South Ayrshire

An SNP, Labour and Independent coalition will run South Ayrshire Council. Previously, the administration was led by the Conservatives and supported by Labour. The new leader is the SNP’s Douglas Campbell.

Argyll and Bute

Liberal Democrat councillor Aileen Morton will lead another Conservative, Independent and Liberal Democrat coalition at Argyll and Bute.


Clackmannanshire was a Labour minority council before the elections. The SNP remain the largest party on the council, but as Labour and the Conservatives have 5 councillors each, the composition of the administration remains unclear.


Margaret Davidson is one of the handful of leaders who will continue in post, as the independent councillor will once again lead an alliance of Independent, Liberal Democrat and Labour councillors.


Inverclyde was also run by a minority Labour administration prior to the elections. Labour remain the largest party on the council by one seat. They have ruled out a formal coalition, but are seeking support from the Conservatives to continue as the ruling party.

Scottish Borders

The Borders was one of the first councils to announce its new administration, as Conservative Shona Haslam became leader of a Conservative and Independent coalition. The outgoing Conservative group leader, Michelle Ballantyne, has just been sworn in as an MSP.

West Dunbartonshire

The SNP have teamed up with an Independent councillor to form an administration at West Dunbartonshire, headed up by the SNP’s Jonathan McColl. The council was previously in majority Labour control.

West Lothian

West Lothian remains in stalemate, as Labour councillors have reportedly been told – like their Aberdeen counterparts – to withdraw from a potential coalition with the Conservatives.


Labour and the SNP have struck a deal, meaning that Davids Ross and Alexander are now co-leaders of the council.

South Lanarkshire

Three Labour and two SNP councillors have resigned from their parties, and all five will now sit as independents. Despite this, the SNP will lead South Lanarkshire as a minority administration. Group leader John Ross is set to be the new leader.