When are the elections?
The Scottish local elections take place on Thursday May 4th, with voting open between 7am and 10pm.
What are the elections for?
Across the country, voters will be able to elect a total of 1,219 councillors to 32 local authority councils. Each voter will be able to elect multiple councillors to represent their ward, which is essentially a “constituency” for the local authority, to serve for the next five years.
In each council, an administration shall be formed to oversee the running of the council, once the election results are known.
How do the elections take place?
These elections take place with the Single Transferable Vote system, which means you can vote for multiple candidates by ranking them in order of preference, i.e: putting a 1 next to your favourite candidate, 2 next to your next favourite candidate and so on. You can vote for as many or as few candidates as you wish.
The election works by electing candidates that reach a “quota” of votes, which is decided by this formula:
If a candidate receives more votes than this quota then they are elected, and the votes they have gained over and above the quota are redistributed among the remaining candidate’s second preferences.
Then there is another count. If a candidate reaches the quota, they’re elected just as above. If no candidate is elected, then the candidate with the least votes will be eliminated and their votes will be distributed among their second preferences.
This is a proportional election system, which means that the number of councillors elected will broadly match the percentage of voters that support them. This means it’s unlikely in most instances for one party to be able to form an administration on their own.
Who can I vote for?
You can find a full list of candidates in each local authority, broken down by ward, below:
|Angus||PDF – Download|
|Argyll & Bute|
|Dumfries & Galloway|
|East Dunbartonshire||PDF – Download|
|East Lothian||PDF – Download|
|Highland||PDF – Download|
|Midlothian||PDF – Download|
|Perth & Kinross|
|Scottish Borders||PDF – Download|
|South Lanarkshire||PDF – Download|
|West Dunbartonshire||Word – Download|
Why should I vote?
Local council elections often have relatively low turnout, but they shape the Councils that deliver vital public services across the country.
Councils are in charge of running schools, hospitals, leisure facilities, local transport infrastructure and sanitation (bins, water and sewage services). Councils are also the authority for planning for new developments (such as housing) and also for licensing pubs, clubs and taxis. They’re also responsible for the delivery of social care and social work. This all makes Councils vital to the lives of almost everyone in the area.
Councillors have plenty of influence on the way that these services are run in our communities, and this is because the administrations are so often dependent on cross-party support. That’s why it’s important to make sure you vote for those you want in charge.
How did the last election go?
Across Scotland, the SNP and Labour made gains and the Conservatives and Lib Dems lost ground – as the effect of the coalition government was clearly felt. Significantly, the SNP won the election overall – pipping labour by 30 seats and under 1% of the national vote – but Labour held on to be the leading party in half the country’s councils, having a majority administration in three of them.
In the last Highland Council election, the group of Independent councillors won the most seats, but the administration that governed the Council to begin with was made up of a coalition of SNP, Labour and Liberal Democrat councillors. No Conservatives, Greens or other parties were represented.
In 2015, the Liberal Democrats left the coalition, which left the Independents running the administration for the remainder of the term, vowing to prioritise local politics over national interests.
What’s going to happen in this election?
The SNP share of the vote looks like increasing markedly over the last election, with this being the final round of elections in the current cycle to be affected by their post-indyref bounce.
Labour look set for some heavy losses, as last time they only narrowly lost to the SNP but may see their overall vote share almost halved.
The Conservatives will be the main beneficiaries, with the possibility of their vote share rising over 10% and overtaking Labour for second place.
The Lib Dems are polling about the same level as they received in 2012, although their victories in by-elections and their well-known support in local politics could see them do well.
The Green party may also make gains, as their support has increased dramatically since the last election, although their vote share will still be fighting it out for 5th place.
For Independent councillors, it’s hard to say how they’ll fare – as each of them is elected solely on local context. It may be the case that the last few years of partisan politics on a national level will see people gravitate towards parties they prefer, but the strength of local Independent connections with their community could mean they strengthen their hold on seats across the country.
There have been two polls published leading up to the elections, from Ipsos MORI and Panelbase, but both do not take into account Independent candidates – which means that only general trends for the major parties can be observed, rather than full-on predictions.
Here in the Highlands, it’s very likely that the Independents will maintain their first place status, although the SNP could strengthen their grip on second place and make them more able to form a coalition. The Lib Dems could make some small gains, as may the Conservatives – who could elect their first Highland Councillors since 1995.
Who will form an administration is largely dependent on the margin between the Independents and SNP, as if the Independents are strong enough on their own they may avoid coalition talks.