Scotland Democracy, devolution and governance

Scotland’s new political landscape


Charlotte Maddix shares an update on the minority administrations and coalitions that have taken shape following the local elections. This post was updated 16/06/2017 to reflect the news from Edinburgh. 

In every council bar one, the new administrations that will run Scotland’s services for the next 5 years have been formed. Next week’s general election has overshadowed – even affected – the process of electing council leaderships. Despite the distraction of the snap election, the councillors who will make decisions that affect communities all over Scotland have been chosen.

Since my last update, the local political landscape in Scotland has become a little clearer. Six weeks on from the elections, Edinburgh has at last formed an administration: an SNP-Labour coalition, joining five similar administrations across the country.

Six councils – Clacks, East Ayrshire, East Dunbartonshire, Glasgow, Renfrewshire and South Lanarkshire – are now run by SNP minority administrations. Prior to the elections, the SNP ran two councils as majority administrations and one as a minority. In addition, the SNP are in coalition, in partnership arrangements or in joint leadership in nine other councils: Edinburgh, Stirling, East Renfrewshire, South Ayrshire, West Dunbartonshire, Falkirk, Dumfries and Galloway, Fife and Dundee. Before the elections, they were involved in just two councils as coalition partners. Despite the headlines that surfaced directly after 4th May, this election has not been a disaster for the SNP and they are now involved in more council administrations than ever before.

Labour now run six councils as a minority administration: East Lothian, Midlothian, North Lanarkshire, Inverclyde, North Ayrshire and West Lothian. Pre-election, they controlled five authorities outright and ran a further six in minority. Now, they also have a stake in eight other councils (counting Aberdeen and its administration, still suspended from the Labour party). Only one council – South Ayrshire – had a Labour coalition before the elections. Looking at the bigger picture, there can be little doubt that Labour influence in Scottish councils has decreased.

Pre-election, the Conservatives made up part of administrations in just two councils – the Moray, where they worked with independent councillors; and South Ayrshire, where they were supported by Labour. Now, they are involved in the leadership of six councils: Aberdeen, Angus, Argyll and Bute, the Moray, Perth and Kinross and the Borders. 

Looking at this another way, before the election the Conservatives had one leader – at South Ayrshire. While South Ayrshire now has an SNP leader, a grand total of three authorities now have Conservative leaders. 18 councils had Labour leaders; now, it’s just nine (again counting Aberdeen). The SNP have gone from six leaders to 13.

Not forgetting, of course, Aileen Morton in Argyll and Bute – the only Liberal Democrat council leader in Scotland.

(And, incidentally, we’ve gone from 5 women leaders to 7 – a modest but welcome increase.)

The central belt is dominated by SNP and Labour-led councils. In the North East, the West and the South East, Conservative gains at the elections have left them holding the reins in multiple councils (although always alongside others).

The next local government elections in Scotland will be in 2022. However, it’s possible that not every administration will make it that far: operating as a minority administration or coalition can be tricky. Watch out for a briefing next week on how it’s done. We’ll also be profiling the new leaders of Scottish local government.

Council Political Control
Aberdeen City Conservative, Aberdeen Labour, Independent
Aberdeenshire Consevative, Independent, Lib Dem
Angus Conservative, Independent, Lib Dem
Argyll and Bute Conservative, Independent, Lib Dem
Clackmannanshire SNP minority
Comhairle nan Eilean Siar Independent
Dumfries and Galloway Labour, SNP
Dundee SNP, Independent
East Ayrshire SNP minority
East Dunbartonshire SNP minority
East Lothian Labour minority
East Renfrewshire SNP, Labour
Edinburgh SNP, Labour
Falkirk SNP, Independent
Fife SNP, Labour
Glasgow SNP minority
Highland Independent, Lib Dem, Labour
Inverclyde Labour minority
Midlothian Labour minority
Moray Conservative, Independent
North Ayrshire Labour minority
North Lanarkshire Labour minority
Orkney Islands Independent
Perth and Kinross Conservative, Lib Dem, Independent
Renfrewshire SNP minority
Scottish Borders Conservative, Independent
Shetland Islands Independent
South Ayrshire SNP, Labour, Independent
South Lanarkshire SNP minority
Stirling SNP, Labour
West Dunbartonshire SNP, Independent
West Lothian Labour minority