As the results come in thick and fast for the 2017 Scottish Council elections, a clear theme is emerging: the Scottish Conservatives are resurgent.
With some results are still to be called, the picture so far is showing the SNP holding steady – with some gains balanced out by some losses – while Scottish Labour have borne heavy defeats (at the time of writing, they have lost 115 seats and are likely to lose more). The Scottish Conservatives, on the other hand, have increased their number of seats significantly, managing to win in places like Ferguslie Park in Paisley, a ward which has never voted Tory before.
It was always expected that the Conservatives would have a good election, having sought to position themselves as the pro-union party and appeal to voters who do not want a repeat of the independence referendum. However, the level of success has shocked many.
Some commentators are already using the results to predict similar Tory gains in the upcoming general election. Indeed, when you look at the number of first votes for Conservatives in places like Stirling, where the Conservative candidate finished top in six of the seven wards, it is a credible prediction that the Conservatives will make gains during the Westminster elections next month.
However, it is also important to note that council elections in Scotland use the STV system of voting, meaning that only the first votes for each constituency give a clear indication of voting intentions for the general election. Even then, the results in a council election can fail to give an accurate picture due to split votes (where a party fields more than one candidate and lose out on the top spot due to the votes being split between them) and low turnout. Also, STV negates the need for tactical voting by allowing more proportional representation, whereas this is regularly a feature of general elections.
Despite all this, the local authority elections in Scotland have made one thing very clear – next month’s general election is likely to be a fight between the SNP and a resurgent Scottish Conservative party.