AS voters finally take to the polls after weeks of campaigning from Scotland’s political parties, The National has picked out the key regions to watch out for as the results roll in.

Still feeling the impact of the pandemic, Scottish councils won’t be kicking off the vote count until tomorrow morning, and we should expect most of the results to be declared by dinner time that day.

Some people think that local elections are a bit dull, but not here at The National. There are some areas that could provide some drama throughout the day. There are a number of areas where the Tories are doubling up on candidates, such as Dumfries and Galloway and the Scottish Borders, where they have a core vote and are bidding to oust other parties.

It comes down to whether or not the public will use this vote as a catalyst to send a message to the Tory party in Westminster over the partygate scandal and the cost-of-living crisis, something the SNP have been pushing frequently through the campaign.

But what are the key battlegrounds in Scotland?


The National: Buchanan Street, Glasgow.

AFTER almost 40 years of Labour rule, Scotland’s biggest city became an SNP minority administration in 2017 after the party came out on top with 41% (+7.4) of the vote share. Labour dropped from 46.7% of the vote in 2012 to 30.2% in 2017 (-16.5).

But it hasn’t been an easy five-year term, with the pandemic impacting services, in particular cleansing, and workers strikes during COP26, could rubbish be a defining issue for voters in this election? It’s unlikely that Labour will regain enough votes to take control of the authority but they will be banking on disenfranchised Tory voters bolstering their support.

Yet it’s possible that the SNP may have to lean on the Greens for support to form an administration. During our election profile series, SNP council leader Susan Aitken didn’t rule a form of coalition out, it’s certainly one to watch.

Our political reporter Abbi Garton-Crosbie will be bringing you live coverage from the vote count tomorrow.


THE capital is a shared SNP-Labour administration, and Labour leader Anas Sarwar ruling out any power sharing deals after the vote could cause some issues here. No party has enough candidates standing to form a majority on their own, so some form of agreement will have to come into play, but in what form will be for voters to decide. The Tories came close to catching up with the SNP in 2017, with the pro-UK party returning 18 councillors to the SNP’s 19, who joined forces with the 12 Labour candidates. Could a drop in Tory support provide a boost to Labour, and will more Greens (8 councillors) get in?

The SNP are backing a tourist tax and promising to tackle the number of AirBnBs and second homes in the city, but it remains to be seen if these policies will keep them in the top spot.

North Lanarkshire

THE SNP narrowly missed out on taking control of North Lanarkshire in 2017. Despite returning the highest amount of the vote share, they only returned 33 councillors, leading Labour and the Tories to enter into a power-sharing pact. The SNP clearly have this area in their sights, with the leader of the group Jordan Linden, standing in Bellshill, saying they would work with other candidates, including independents and even Labour, to secure an SNP-led administration. This race will be tight, and historically smaller parties have struggled to gain ground in North Lanarkshire, so all eyes will be on the big three.

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar

THE Western Isles has the title of Scotland’s only remaining all male-council, and with only eight women standing this time round, the likelihood of that changing is small. The female candidates The National spoke to ahead of polling day were confident the council needs a shake-up, and claimed that the all-male council needed a woman in the room so that “respectful debate” can take place.

The issue of a lack of representation has made media headlines across the UK and the Western Isles came out at the bottom of our analysis of the gender balance of each candidate list across Scotland. But the reality is it is up to voters – and most of their decisions are made on local issues, not on the gender of the candidate. Party politics don’t fly in the islands, with most of the candidates standing as independents, and very few under a political banner. The previous administration was made up of 23 independents, with the SNP only gaining seven seats. But, all eyes will still be on if any women make it into the chamber after today’s vote.

Aberdeen City

The National: Rosemount Viaduct in Aberdeen

IN 2017, there was a dramatic drop to the Labour party’s vote share, falling to nine seats, while the Conservatives jumped from the fifth biggest vote share to the second (+15). This meant the SNP finally became the lead party with 19 councillors – but a coalition between the Tories, Labour and some independents meant they formed a majority with 23 out of the 45 seats.

As Scottish Labour HQ didn’t back the coalition and demanded their councillors withdraw, the group had to spend the term as independent councillors. It will be interesting to see if the SNP can make enough gains to oust the administration, or if partygate chips away at the Tory vote and the SNP can form a minority. Another one to keep an eye on.

Dumfries and Galloway

THE Tories have doubled up candidates in pretty much every ward in D&G – but will it help them? The vast area has a decent core Tory support, electing Finlay Carson as the area’s constituency MSP in 2021, and not to mention Scotland Secretary Alister Jack is the region’s MP. But at the local level, the SNP and Labour are in a shared administration. Historically the area has been under Labour control, but the SNP have slowly started to make gains over the years and on the flip side Labour have lost ground. In 2012 Labour came out on top with 15 councillors (29.3%), but this dropped significantly by 2017, where they dropped down to fourth place and only returned 11 councillors and 17.7% of the vote (-11.6). The Tories on the other hand saw a 10.6% increase to their vote, taking them to the top of the leaderboard, but they were stopped from forming an administration by Labour and the SNP.

This is one of the areas where the Tories could actually make gains, if voters decide to look past partygate.

Shetland Islands

ANOTHER rural area dominated by independents – who won all 21 seats in 2017. The SNP gained one seat but that was due to it being uncontested, as not enough candidates stood for election. It will be interesting to see if any political parties make gains, the Greens have their eyes on the local authority too, or if independents will reign once again. Which is likely – as in 2017 they won 99% of vote share.

There has also been a boundary change so there are now 23 seats up for grabs, which could let some party affiliated councillors in, but there aren’t that many on the ballot paper either. The Tories, Lib Dems and Alba aren’t standing any candidates here, but Labour are contesting one ward, SNP are contesting two and the Greens three.


ANAS Sarwar may have ruled out coalitions, but the Kingdom of Fife is an area where power-sharing has reigned for almost a decade. First an SNP-led coalition, then a Labour-led coalition, then back to the SNP again in 2017. It’s all to play for in the area, and despite Sarwar’s comments, Labour here could again enter into a coalition after the votes are counted.

The SNP won 33.6% (+2.5) of the vote share in 2017, returning 29 councillors. Labour fell back into second place with 24.3% (-14.2) and the Tories saw a 13.1% boost to their vote share to take them into third place, with the LibDems falling into fourth place for the first time here. It’s a two horse race here, and Labour will be banking on picking back up on those voters who backed the Tories in 2017.