THE single transferrable vote (STV) voting system used in Scottish local elections is more rigorously proportional than the additional member system used in Holyrood elections.

It is a system designed to militate against a local authority being controlled by a single party which has not received an absolute majority of votes, such as we saw in Glasgow during the 1980s and 1990s when the Labour party often took all but a handful of council seats despite the other parties winning a significant percentage share of votes cast.

Since the introduction of STV in Scottish local elections, as part of the coalition deal between Labour and the LibDems following the first Holyrood elections in 1999, councils where no one party has overall control are the norm in Scotland, meaning that the final composition of the ruling party or parties on a council is not usually decided until the week after the election once the horse-trading is completed and deals are done. Most often these deals fall short of a formal coalition.

Before the election, Anas Sarwar, the bureau chief of the Labour branch office in Scotland, demonstrated that Labour is still very much in its pre-devolution and pre-referendum entitled mindset when first-past-the-post allowed them to pile up seats out of all proportion to the percentage of votes they received. Sarwar loftily proclaimed that Labour were not going to do any deals with other parties in order to form the administration in councils – a diktat which, if strictly adhered to, would lock Labour out of power in every council except Jackie Baillie's West Dunbartonshire nuclear glee zone. 

Of course, as with so much of Labour in Scotland's estimation of itself, this was not a rule – I would say principle, but wasn't able to type it without laughing – that was able to survive contact with reality.

The Labour group in Edinburgh, where the SNP are the largest party on the council, are set to defy the Labour instruction and are open to reaching an agreement with other parties in order to form an administration. The 12 LibDem councillors have already ruled out doing any deals with the SNP.

The LibDems are only really happy when they form a coalition with the Tories. However, the Brexit-supporting Tories suffered a catastrophe in strongly remain-supporting Edinburgh, seeing the loss of half their councillors and plummeting from first to fourth in terms of vote share and becoming the smallest party represented on the council, with fewer councillors than the Greens. Edinburgh now has 19 SNP councillors, 13 Labour councillors, 12 LibDem councillors, 10 Green councillors, and just nine Tory councillors. Some sort of deal will be necessary to form an administration, but any Labour involvement risks being blocked by Labour's Scottish Executive Committee.

Meanwhile, the votes had barely been counted when it came out that Labour in North Lanarkshire had reached out to the extremist British nationalist über-Unionist elected in the Fortissat ward with a view to gaining his support in order to lock out the SNP.

He is sure to feel right at home. One of the new Labour councillors in North Lanarkshire is a former senior official in the Orange Order who addressed an anti-independence rally in 2014, saying: "Mr Salmond, you will not con the loyal Protestant people of Scotland. No to independence and no surrender to separatism."

Possibly the non-Protestant people of Scotland didn't really matter. There's your Labour People's Party for you right there. As with individuals, so with political parties, you can judge them by the company they keep. The republican socialist Home Rulers who founded the Scottish Labour Party will be birling in their graves.

This piece is an extract from today’s REAL Scottish Politics newsletter, which is emailed out at 7pm every weekday with a round-up of the day's top stories and exclusive analysis from the Wee Ginger Dug.

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