Council election results – what can we learn?

53
1907

By Dave Taylor

The first thing we learn is not to trust the BBC, or other London sources!

While the easy thing to do is to accuse them of anti-SNP bias, in this particular case they simply seem incompetent in their presentation of Scottish (and Welsh) news. 

That the Press Association is similarly incompetent is not an excuse.

By Dave Taylor

(Article updated to include the Dunoon result)

The first thing we learn is not to trust the BBC, or other London sources!

While the easy thing to do is to accuse them of anti-SNP bias, in this particular case they simply seem incompetent in their presentation of Scottish (and Welsh) news.

That the Press Association is similarly incompetent is not an excuse.

Given the reputation and standing of both as sources of accurate news, this is a much more serious charge.  It should also be noted that their reliance on the methodology of Professors Colin Rallings and Michael Thrasher from the University of Plymouth is hardly a good argument either.  These academics are concerned with analysing the GB political position – in which Scotland and Wales are unfortunate aberrations.

While the media presentation of “gains” in Scotland exaggerated the position of Labour, in Wales the same strange definition of a “gain” underplayed Labour’s significant advance there.

There has been much discussion on Newsnet threads about the inappropriate methodology adopted by the BBC and the other London media.  Clearly we haven’t learnt our place in the order of things in the UK.

For English local government, the BBC/PA methodology may actually be appropriate.  There has been so much tinkering with English local government by successive UK Governments and, since England has multiple voting structures for a proportion of seats in some categories of councils in different years, that it is rather difficult to define exactly what the comparison of a particular set of local election results should be.

Imposing a reporting structure based on English needs on Scotland and Wales isn’t bias against a particular party, but simply the arrogance of London based organisations imposing an alien structure upon the other nations in the UK.

While BBC Scotland is hardly friendly to the SNP, the reporting pattern of the Scottish and Welsh elections has been determined in London, not Glasgow, and has been forced into an English model so that all GB councils could be incorporated into a common system – no matter how inappropriate.

Welsh Labour should be just as incensed as the SNP about the misrepresentation that London BBC reporting produces.

Local elections are notoriously difficult to interpret, for a variety of reasons – not least of which is that they are local.  While UK or national politics have a significant effect (just ask a Lib Dem!) local factors at council or ward level come into play.  Extrapolating council election results to Holyrood, Westminster or EU elections or a referendum has limited value.

However, Newsnet member scottish_skier has published an interesting graph of the relative party strengths in 2011 and 2012, and suggests that there may be little difference.  For those who haven’t seen it, his post here is worth reading.  As he wisely suggests – “never interrupt the enemy when it is in the process of making a mistake”.

This article, however, will simply concentrate on a comparison of councillors elected and party vote share between 2007 and 2012.  As Gerry Hassan notes in his excellent article on the Glasgow election there are a number of ways of analysing election results.  In local elections, these need to be done at council/ward level.  At the end of this article are the vote share and real gains/losses at council level.  Hopefully, this will allow activists to look at where local strategies may have been useful – or otherwise.

Over Scotland the SNP, Labour, Greens and Independents increased their number of councillors at the expense of the UK Coalition parties.

  • SNP lost councillors in West Dunbartonshire (3) and Renfrewshire (2), but made gains in 24 other councils
  • Labour lost 1 councillor in each of Glasgow, Angus, Midlothian and North Ayrshire, but made gains in 18 other councils.
  • Greens made gains in 4 councils.
  • Conservatives gained 1 councillor in each of Argyll & Bute and East Lothian, but lost councillors in 15 others.
  • Lib Dems simply lost.  In 22 councils their representation reduced (in 7 councils to 0).  In 9 others they had no representation anyway.  Only in East Dunbartonshire did they keep all their councillors.

To compare “like with like” over all Scotland, one Labour “gain” is illusory.  Bathgate got a 4th councillor in 2012, but analysis of the 2007 result suggests that they would have won that extra seat, if it had existed then.  That seat has been excluded from the following list of gains/losses.

SNP: 5 losses, 67 gains, net +62*
Lab: 4 losses, 49 gains, net +45
Green: 6 gains
Con: 30 losses, 2 gains, net  -28
LD: 95 losses

(* Some have questioned the SNP gain of 62 because they may have relied on inaccurate published data from 2007.  This analysis is based on ward level figures from 2007 and 2012 from the councils themselves.  Anyone who cares to replicate the analysis should find the same figure).

Share of 1st preference votes, while giving a better picture of shifting patterns of support, suffers from the decisions of minor parties as to whether to put up candidates or not, and the popularity of some independent candidates.  It is of little use in the island councils where party activists often follow tradition and stand as independents.

In reality it is only of value in comparing the relative performance of the two major parties – SNP and Labour.

  • The SNP increased their vote share in 31 councils, losing votes in 2 (Renfrewshire and West Dunbartonshire).
  • Labour increased their vote share in 26 councils, losing votes in 4 (Comhairle nan Eilean, North Ayrshire, South Ayrshire and Angus).
  • Tories saw an increase in vote share in 3 councils (Moray, Inverclyde and Aberdeenshire) but lost votes in 29 councils.
  • The only comfort for the Lib Dems was that they saw a small increase in South and East Ayrshire – otherwise, unremitting disaster.

Despite the concentration on party performance, across Scotland voters showed an encouraging willingness to vote for independents that they saw as representing their communities.

The number of successful independents in previously party dominated councils was a feature of the 2007 election.  In 2012, the number of independent councillors increased, and votes for independents increased in 19 councils.

The detailed profiles for Scotland and each council (seats followed by vote share) are:

Scotland: SNP 425 (+62); Lab 394 (+46*); Con 115 (-28); LD 71 (-95); Grn 14 (+6); Oth/Ind 204 (+10)
Scotland: SNP 33.3% (+4.5%); Lab 31.4% (+3.2%); Con 13.3% (-2.3%); LD 6.6% (-6.1%); Grn 2.2% (+0.2%); Other 2.3% (+0.9%) Ind 11.9% (+1%)

Aberdeen: SNP 15 (+3); Lab 17 (+7); Con 3 (-2); LD 5 (-10); Oth/Ind 3 (+2)
Aberdeen: SNP 31.3% (+1.8%) Lab 29.7% (+5.1%) Con 9.7% (-4.4%) LD 15.1% (-11.8%) Green 2.5% (+0.9%) Other 0.6% (-0.1%) Ind 11.2% (+8.5%)

Aberdeenshire: SNP 28 (+6); Lab 2 (+2); Con 14 (n/c); LD 12 (-12); Grn 1 (+1); Oth/Ind 11 (+3)
Aberdeenshire: SNP 39% (+4.5%) Lab 6.8% (+1.4%) Con 21.3% (+0.5%) LD 15.4% (-9.8%) Green 2% (+0.9%) Other 0.7% (+0.6%) Ind 14.7% (+2%)

Angus: SNP 15 (+2); Lab 1 (-1); Con 4 (-1); LD 1 (-2); Oth/Ind 8 (+2)
Angus: SNP 44.4% (+6.1%) Lab 7.3% (-4.5%) Con 17.7% (-1.4%) LD 5.8% (-3.9%) Other 0% (-0.1%) Ind 24.8% (+3.9%)

Argyll and Bute: SNP 13 (+3); Con 4 (+1); LD 4 (-3); Oth/Ind 15 (-1)
Argyll and Bute: SNP 29.7% (+7.5%) Lab 4.6% (+0.9%) Con 15.5% (-0.2%) LD 11.4% (-7.8%) Green 0.2% (+0.2%) Other 0.1% (-0.1%) Ind 38.4% (-0.7%)

Clackmannanshire: SNP 8 (+1); Lab 8 (n/c); Con 1 (n/c); LD  (-1); Oth/Ind 1 (n/c)
Clackmannanshire: SNP 46% (+7.9%) Lab 38.1% (+0.3%) Con 9.9% (-0.9%) LD 0.9% (-4.3%) Other 0% (-1.2%) Ind 5.1% (-1.8%)

Comhairle nan Eilean: SNP 7 (+3); Lab 3 (+1); Oth/Ind 21 (-4)
Comhairle nan Eilean: SNP 23.8% (+11.7%) Lab 4.6% (-2.1%) LD 0% (-2.5%) Ind 71.6% (-7.2%)

Dumfries and Galloway: SNP 10 (n/c); Lab 15 (+1); Con 14 (-4); LD 1 (-2); Oth/Ind 7 (+5)
Dumfries and Galloway: SNP 19.5% (+0.5%) Lab 29.3% (+1.2%) Con 26.6% (-5.6%) LD 4% (-4.3%) Green 1.8% (+0.8%) Other 0.7% (+0.4%) Ind 18.1% (+6.9%)

Dundee: SNP 16 (+3); Lab 10 (n/c); Con 1 (-2); LD 1 (-1); Oth/Ind 1 (n/c)
Dundee: SNP 43.4% (+3.4%) Lab 30.7% (+1.3%) Con 11.3% (-1.2%) LD 9% (-2.3%) Green 0.6% (0%) Other 1.3% (-1.9%) Ind 4.4% (+1.4%)

East Ayrshire: SNP 15 (+1); Lab 14 (n/c); Con 2 (-1); Oth/Ind 1 (n/c)
East Ayrshire: SNP 39.5% (+0.3%) Lab 41.4% (+0.3%) Con 11.3% (-1.5%) LD 0.2% (+0.2%) Green 0% (-0.5%) Other 0% (-1.2%) Ind 7.6% (+2.5%)

East Dunbartonshire: SNP 8 (n/c); Lab 8 (+2); Con 2 (-3); LD 3 (n/c); Oth/Ind 3 (+1)
East Dunbartonshire: SNP 26.2% (+8%) Lab 29.1% (+3.2%) Con 12.7% (-8.8%) LD 14.4% (-3.5%) Green 0.6% (-1.8%) Other 0.9% (+0%) Ind 13.5% (+0.3%)

East Lothian: SNP 9 (+2); Lab 10 (+3); Con 3 (+1); LD  (-6); Oth/Ind 1 (n/c)
East Lothian: SNP 30.4% (+3.5%) Lab 43.1% (+10.5%) Con 14.3% (-3.1%) LD 5.8% (-9.6%) Green 0% (-1.6%) Other 0.8% (+0.1%) Ind 5.6% (+0.3%)

East Renfrewshire: SNP 4 (+1); Lab 8 (+1); Con 6 (-1); LD  (-1); Oth/Ind 2 (n/c)
East Renfrewshire: SNP 19.8% (+3.8%) Lab 31.1% (+3.3%) Con 29.7% (-4.6%) LD 3.4% (-6.8%) Green 0.8% (+0.2%) Other 0.2% (-0.2%) Ind 14.9% (+4.1%)

Edinburgh: SNP 18 (+6); Lab 20 (+5); Con 11 (n/c); LD 3 (-14); Grn 6 (+3)
Edinburgh: SNP 26.9% (+6.6%) Lab 28.1% (+5.2%) Con 21.2% (-0.9%) LD 9.3% (-12.7%) Green 11.4% (+3.2%) Other 1.2% (-1.3%) Ind 1.8% (-0.1%)

Falkirk: SNP 13 (n/c); Lab 14 (n/c); Con 2 (n/c); Oth/Ind 3 (n/c)
Falkirk: SNP 40.5% (+5.4%) Lab 37.7% (+1.5%) Con 11.2% (-2.3%) LD 0% (-0.8%) Green 0% (-0.9%) Other 0% (-1.7%) Ind 10.5% (-1.4%)

Fife: SNP 26 (+3); Lab 35 (+11); Con 3 (-2); LD 10 (-11); Oth/Ind 4 (-1)
Fife: SNP 31.8% (+4%) Lab 38.3% (+9.6%) Con 7.8% (-2.8%) LD 12.9% (-9.5%) Green 1% (-0.4%) Other 2.2% (+0.6%) Ind 6.1% (-1.5%)

Glasgow: SNP 27 (+5); Lab 44 (-1); Con 1 (n/c); LD 1 (-4); Grn 5 (n/c); Oth/Ind 1 (n/c)
Glasgow: SNP 32.6% (+8%) Lab 46.7% (+3.4%) Con 5.9% (-1.7%) LD 2.9% (-5%) Green 5.5% (-0.9%) Other 4.6% (-4.4%) Ind 1.7% (+0.6%)

Highland: SNP 22 (+5); Lab 8 (+1); LD 15 (-6); ; Oth/Ind 35 (n/c)
Highland: SNP 25.8% (+5.4%) Lab 12.6% (+2.1%) Con 5.1% (-2%) LD 13.5% (-5.8%) Green 1% (+0.3%) Other 1.9% (+0.8%) Ind 40.2% (-0.7%)

Inverclyde: SNP 6 (+1); Lab 10 (+1); Con 1 (n/c); LD 2 (-2); Oth/Ind 1 (n/c)
Inverclyde: SNP 25.4% (+3.9%) Lab 44.2% (+6.3%) Con 10.1% (+1.5%) LD 7.9% (-12.4%) Other 0.9% (-0.2%) Ind 11.4% (+0.7%)

Midlothian: SNP 8 (+2); Lab 8 (-1); LD  (-3); Grn 1 (+1); Oth/Ind 1 (+1)
Midlothian: SNP 39.4% (+6%) Lab 39.5% (+2.7%) Con 8.5% (-1.6%) LD 3.7% (-9%) Green 4.5% (+2.6%) Other 0.7% (-2.5%) Ind 3.7% (+1.7%)

Moray: SNP 10 (+1); Lab 3 (+1); Con 3 (n/c); Oth/Ind 10 (-2)
Moray: SNP 39.4% (+4.3%) Lab 9.2% (+0.5%) Con 17.5% (+1.7%) LD 0.7% (-1.1%) Green 2.8% (+2.8%) Other 1.6% (0%) Ind 28.8% (-8.2%)

North Ayrshire: SNP 12 (+4); Lab 11 (-1); Con 1 (-2); LD  (-2); Oth/Ind 6 (+1)
North Ayrshire: SNP 35.6% (+6.1%) Lab 31.4% (-1%) Con 9.3% (-4.1%) LD 1.6% (-3.1%) Other 3.1% (+0%) Ind 19% (+2.1%)

North Lanarkshire: SNP 26 (+3); Lab 41 (+1); Con  (-1); LD  (-1); Oth/Ind 3 (-2)
North Lanarkshire: SNP 34.6% (+2.9%) Lab 51.2% (+1.6%) Con 5.5% (-2%) LD 0.4% (-1.4%) Other 0.6% (-1.8%) Ind 7.8% (+0.8%)

Orkney: Ind 21 (n/c)
Orkney: SNP 3% (+3%) Con 0% (-0.8%) Other 0.1% (+0.1%) Ind 96.9% (-2.3%)

Perth & Kinross: SNP 18 (n/c); Lab 4 (+1); Con 10 (-2); LD 5 (-3); Oth/Ind 4 (+4)
Perth & Kinross: SNP 41.8% (+4.6%) Lab 12.8% (+4.3%) Con 25.9% (-2.2%) LD 9.3% (-10.4%) Green 0.5% (-1.2%) Ind 9.6% (+4.8%)

Renfewshire: SNP 15 (-2); Lab 22 (+5); Con 1 (-1); LD 1 (-3); Oth/Ind 1 (+1)
Renfewshire: SNP 33.9% (-1.5%) Lab 48.7% (+11.9%) Con 9.3% (-2.2%) LD 4.3% (-5.4%) Green 0% (-0.2%) Other 2.1% (-0.7%) Ind 1.7% (-1.9%)

Scottish Borders: SNP 9 (+3); Con 10 (-1); LD 6 (-4); Oth/Ind 9 (+2)
Scottish Borders: SNP 20.7% (+1.9%) Lab 6.3% (+4.4%) Con 23.2% (-3.6%) LD 16.5% (-8.1%) Green 0.4% (-0.5%) Other 0% (-0.6%) Ind 32.8% (+6.4%)

Shetland: Ind 22 (n/c)
Shetland: SNP 1.9% (+1.9%) Con 0% (-1.6%) LD 0% (-3%) Other 1.2% (-1.4%) Ind 96.9% (+4.1%)

South Ayrshire: SNP 9 (+1); Lab 9 (n/c); Con 10 (-2);  Oth/Ind 2 (+1)
South Ayrshire: SNP 28.6% (+3.3%) Lab 25.3% (-3.1%) Con 31.8% (-5.4%) LD 0.7% (+0.7%) Other 0% (-0.7%) Ind 13.6% (+5.3%)

South Lanarkshire: SNP 28 (+4); Lab 33 (+3); Con 3 (-5); LD 1 (-1); Oth/Ind 2 (-1)
South Lanarkshire: SNP 36.4% (+7.2%) Lab 43.2% (+3.6%) Con 10.8% (-2.1%) LD 2.8% (-4.4%) Green 1.4% (-1.3%) Other 1.7% (-0.1%) Ind 3.7% (-2.7%)

Stirling: SNP 9 (+2); Lab 8 (n/c); Con 4 (n/c); LD  (-3); Grn 1 (+1)
Stirling: SNP 37.2% (+7.9%) Lab 28.6% (+0.4%) Con 19.9% (-5.4%) LD 5.5% (-6.1%) Green 5.8% (+4.1%) Other 0% (-0.3%) Ind 3.1% (-0.6%)

West Dunbartonshire: SNP 6 (-3); Lab 12 (+2); Oth/Ind 4 (+1)
West Dunbartonshire: SNP 30.3% (-3.8%) Lab 46.6% (+8.9%) Con 4.2% (-3.4%) Green 0% (-2.7%) Other 5.7% (-1%) Ind 13.1% (+4.4%)

West Lothian: SNP 15 (+2); Lab 16 (+2*); Con 1 (n/c); Oth/Ind 1 (-3)
West Lothian: SNP 40.4% (+4.1%) Lab 38.1% (+1.5%) Con 8.8% (-0.6%) LD 0.4% (-4.7%) Green 0% (-0.5%) Other 0.2% (-1%) Ind 12.1% (+1.4%)

 

[On May 5th Newsnet Scotland contacted the BBC about their reporting of gains.  We believed (erroneously it now appears) that for both the English and Welsh elections they had used as their baseline, the 2007 elections and we asked about this.  We also asked why the BBC were not using 2007 as a comparator in Scotland as STV were doing in their reporting.  We suggested they appeared to be manipulating the results to inflate Labour gains.   The BBC did not respond to our enquiries.]