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SNP runaway winners as Tories drop to third in council elections

© Jane Barlow/PA WireFirst Minister Nicola Sturgeon with SNP candidates and supporters at the Glasgow City Council count at the Emirates Arena
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon with SNP candidates and supporters at the Glasgow City Council count at the Emirates Arena

The SNP returned the highest number of councillors in Thursday’s election while Scottish Labour was able to capitalise on the collapse of the Tories in Scotland.

The ruling party increased their figure by 22 to 453 councillors in Scotland, almost 200 more than Scottish Labour in second place with 282.

Anas Sarwar’s party saw their ranks increase by 20 councillors, as they leapfrogged the Tories.

In an election campaign dominated by national issues, including the cost-of-living crisis and the partygate saga, the Tories suffered at the polls, electing 214 councillors compared to 276 in 2017, a drop of 62.

The Scottish Greens and Lib Dems also benefited from the Tory downturn, increasing their councillor numbers by 16 and 20 respectively.

The Greens now hold the balance of power in both Edinburgh and Glasgow, while the Lib Dems doubled their tally in the capital to 12 and are looking to enter into coalitions across the country.

The Alba Party failed to return any councillors despite running more than 100 candidates, many of whom were already elected representatives who defected to the party after it launched last year.

Voters in two authorities also elected majorities, with the SNP controlling Dundee and Labour taking West Dunbartonshire.

After the 2017 election, no council had an overall majority of a single party.

Nicola Sturgeon hailed the victory for her party as “astonishing”.

“The results are absolutely incredible for the SNP,” she told journalists at the election count in Glasgow.

“The SNP has been in government for 15 years and today we won the election overwhelmingly, I think the eighth consecutive election victory since I became leader of the SNP, but more than that, we’ve increased our share of the vote, we’ve increased the number of councillors that we have returned, we’re the largest party in more councils today than we were yesterday.

“This is an astonishing result for the SNP and an absolutely brutal rejection of Boris Johnson and the Conservatives.”

Earlier in the day, Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross described the results as “very disappointing”, adding that the Prime Minister “can’t ignore the message” from voters sent in the election.

“The Prime Minister simply can’t ignore the message that’s been sent from voters not just here in Scotland, but across the UK,” he told the BBC.

“The Conservatives lost Westminster Council last night, that’s a council that even in the peak Labour years under Tony Blair the party held on to, so there’s been a very strong message from the public to the Prime Minister and to the party.”

Labour leader Anas Sarwar, speaking while the counting was still ongoing, said: “It’s been almost a decade and it’s the first time we’ve had a cheerful day for the Scottish Labour party.

“It’s a good day, we’ve made good progress.

“I think by the end of the day we will be in a good second both in terms of vote share and in terms of seats.”

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar with candidates and supporters at the Glasgow City Council count at the Emirates Arena (Pic: Jane Barlow/PA Wire)

Scottish Lib Dem leader Alex-Cole Hamilton said he believed his party’s boost at the election showed they were on the way to a “revival” across Scotland.

Scottish Greens co-leader Lorna Slater told the PA news agency in Edinburgh the result was historic for her party.

“This is an absolute record result for the Greens and it really shows that people care about the climate, they care about their communities,” she said.

She added: “We focused on local issues and I think that is paying off.”