THE dust soon settled after Scotland’s council elections, with the seat tally showing the SNP had been the clear winners.

The party won 453 seats across the country’s local authorities, up 22 on their 2017 result. They were returned as the largest group on 21 of the 32 Scottish councils.

But simply winning the most seats is often not enough to secure control over any council administration. After the 2017 vote, the largest group on nine of Scotland’s 32 councils was not part of the ruling administration.

READ MORE: These are the winners and losers of every council election in Scotland

Coalitions, deals, and pacts are the name of the game when it comes to negotiating your party into power, and the weeks since the May 5 vote have been a flurry of barter and rumour. 

Only now – with slews of first full-council meetings having taken place – can we get a proper picture of what control over Scotland’s local authorities will look like for the next five years.


Aberdeen City Council

Largest group: SNP, 20/45 seats.

In Aberdeen, the LibDems were kingmakers. Twenty-three seats are needed for a majority on the council – which had been controlled by a “Better Together” Tory-Labour coalition before the election. The LibDems, with four seats, had enough votes to hand power to the SNP, or they could facilitate a repeat of the same coalition. The SNP and LibDems – who had spent the previous term together in opposition – eventually struck a deal, something observers expected but sparked fury among the Conservatives

Aberdeenshire Council

Largest group: Tories, 26/70 seats.

The Tories actually gained seats in Aberdeenshire, bucking the national trend. The largest group before the election became even larger, having taken seats off Labour and the Greens to wipe those parties off the council completely. The Conservatives struck a deal with the LibDems (14 seats) and the independents (nine) to establish a ruling coalition. The SNP (21 seats) criticised the LibDems for striking the deal and warned the council faces years of "stagnation"

Angus Council

Largest group: SNP, 13/28 seats.

The SNP had a strong result in Angus, putting clear ground between them and the Tory group. The Conservatives who had run the council were plagued by scandal after scandal, but were propped up by their independent allies. Following the elections, the SNP managed to talk two independents, David Cheape and Brian Boyd, into a co-operation agreement. As such, the party has taken over the running of Angus Council from the Tories, with the SNP’s Beth Whiteside becoming its first female leader.

The National: Arbroath Abbey - currently closed off for repairs but the visitor centre is open. Picture from VIsit Angus

Argyll and Bute Council

Largest group: SNP, 12/36 seats.

The SNP are the largest group in Argyll and Bute, and had been aiming to wrest power from the previous ruling coalition – a rainbow grouping of LibDems, Tories, and independents known as The Argyll, Lomond and the Islands Group (Talig). Despite winning a seat in each of the council’s 11 wards, the SNP's 12 councillors were unable to block a refreshed Talig from negotiating with each other and holding onto the administration.

Clackmannanshire Council

Largest group: SNP, 9/18 seats.

The SNP managed to take half of all the seats on this small council, meaning they will be able to form an administration. Eight of the other 50% of the seats are held by Labour (five seats) and the Tories (three). The Greens returned their first councillor in the area to take the final seat, meaning the SNP might be able to get motions passed without having to lean on the provost, who gets the deciding vote in the event of a tie.

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar

Largest group: Independents, 20/29 seats.

The Western Isles Council saw its all-male tenure come to an end after the elections, with two women being elected for the SNP. However, the administration is to remain dominated by men, as no female independents were elected and they are by far the largest group. A repeat of an independent-led administration on Comhairle nan Eilean Siar was always a done deal, but the cut of a deck of cards saw the SNP’s Kenneth MacLeod elected convener.

Dumfries and Galloway Council

Largest group: Tories, 16/43 seats.

In Dumfries and Galloway, Anas Sarwar's "no coalitions" rhetoric was shown not to be worth the paper it was written on. Three weeks after the votes were counted, Labour (who dropped two seats to return nine councillors) and the SNP (who held steady on 11) leant on independents' votes to form a joint administration. Both parties each have a co-leader on the local authority, which thanks to the loss of Labour councillors has a slightly weaker coalition in power after the election than it did beforehand.

Dundee City Council

Largest group: SNP, 15/29 seats.

One of only two councils in Scotland where negotiations were not necessary, after the SNP managed to win majority control of the local authority. The SNP formed an administration in Dundee led by Councillor John Alexander.

The National: Dundee City

East Ayrshire Council

Largest group: SNP, 14/32 seats.

Rumours of a coalition deal between Labour's 10 councillors and the Tories' four did not come to pass. That had always seemed unlikely, as the Tories and SNP had formed a coalition after 2012, taking control away from Labour. More recently the local SNP group had leant on the Tories for support in an unofficial capacity. After talks concluded, the SNP managed to form another minority administration on East Ayrshire Council. The win for the party also saw the return of the popular "Rock and Roll" provost Jim Todd, who had been ousted by a Labour-Tory plot in 2021

East Dunbartonshire Council

Largest group: SNP, 8/22 seats.

East Dunbartonshire Council had been run by a LibDem-Tory coalition since late 2017. However, after the May elections those two parties were left with a combined total of just nine seats. Labour's four councillors therefore had the power to hand the SNP or the former coalition power. They seem to have opted for the SNP, allowing the party to form a minority administration. This led to fury among the Tory group, who demanded to know the details of the "deal" the two parties had struck.

East Lothian Council

Largest group: Labour, 10/22 seats.

Labour had been in control of East Lothian Council for the past five years and have been allowed to form another minority administration. The SNP returned seven seats and the Greens one, meaning a coalition of Yes parties would still fall short of Labour’s total. The Tories make up the rest of the council with four seats, but were not welcomed into a ruling group for the sake of a majority.

East Renfrewshire Council

Largest group: SNP, 6/18 seats.

The previous two terms have seen the SNP, in coalition with Labour and one independent, run East Renfrewshire Council. However, the Labour group (five councillors) opted to strike a deal with the two independents elected at the May elections and run a minority administration without the support of the SNP. The Labour-independent group has just seven councillors, meaning it would need the votes of either the SNP (six) or the Tories (five) to enact any policy. The SNP have put forward their own proposal to form a minority administration, but would need the support of the Tories to do so.

Edinburgh Council

Largest group: SNP, 19/63 seats.

An SNP-Labour deal ruled in Edinburgh before the elections, but a repeat agreement was ruled out this time around. The LibDems, who won 12 seats, also ruled out working with the SNP, as did the Tories. As such, the only option for the largest party was a pact with the Greens' 10 councillors. Formal talks led to a coalition deal, but that fell at the final hurdle after Labour forged a pact with the other Unionist parties. Two Labour councillors abstained rather than vote for their own party’s Tory-backed minority administration, which will run Edinburgh Council despite having just 13 out of 63 seats.

The National:

Falkirk Council

Largest group: SNP, 12/30 seats.

Nothing was certain in Falkirk, where a raft of new faces were elected across the board. The region has a history of being run by Tory-Labour coalitions, but that proved to be off the table this time around. Instead, the Labour and SNP groups voted to install an SNP minority administration with a Labour provost, leaving the Tories out in the cold. With no formal deals arranged before the full-council meeting voting was often tight, with one position (depute convener of planning) having to be decided by the cut of a deck of cards.

Fife Council

Largest group: SNP, 34/75 seats.

The SNP-Labour power-sharing agreement in place since 2017 was ruled out in Fife thanks to Scottish Labour leader’s Anas Sarwar’s “no formal coalitions” line. The SNP were the largest group, just four seats short of an overall majority. However, Labour managed to woo the Tory and LibDem councillors and install themselves in a minority administration - despite winning just 20 seats in the party's worst-ever result in their former stronghold. 

Glasgow City Council

Largest group: SNP, 37/85 seats.

The SNP managed to hold on as the largest group in Scotland’s largest city, but they only pipped Labour to the post by a single seat. The Greens returned 10 councillors, making them a significant group while the Tories dropped to just two seats. The SNP and Greens have reached an agreement where the larger party will run a minority administration, drawing on the Greens support in return for some key roles - including chairing a net zero committee and a just transition working group.

Highland Council

Largest group: SNP, 22/74 seats.

For the first time, independents are not the largest group on Highland Council. The loss of seven seats has left the SNP as the largest group despite not making any gains. The two groups, by far the largest two on the council, have reached an agreement to enter administration together. The SNP-independent administration will have a majority of five on the local authority, leaving the other four of Scotland's main parties all in opposition.

The National:

Inverclyde Council

Largest group: Labour, 9/22 seats.

Scottish Labour have controlled Inverclyde Council for 15 years and that never looked likely to change after the most recent elections. The party was returned as the largest group, and their leader publicly stated an intent to form another minority administration soon after, claiming Labour has "sufficient cross-group support" to do so. No other realistic coalition could command a majority. The Tories have just two seats, the SNP have eight, and there are three independents.

Midlothian Council

Largest group: SNP, 8/18 seats.

A Labour-Tory coalition would have held 10 seats, a majority on Midlothian Council, but the chances of such a deal being struck always seemed remote. Instead, the SNP managed to form a minority administration after Labour – who had run the council – conceded they would be looking to their opponents to “take the lead”. The arrangement was confirmed at a council meeting in late March, with women taking many key roles

Moray Council

Largest group: Tories, 11/26 seats.

The Tories became the largest group on Moray Council after gaining three seats, but they fell short of a majority. The SNP fancied their chances of continuing to rule as a minority. Negotiations that went down to the wire saw both parties attempt to woo the Labour group's three councillors without success. A crunch vote held at the first full council meeting went the Tories' way after a raft of abstentions

North Ayrshire Council

Largest group: SNP, 12/33 seats.

Labour had controlled North Ayrshire Council before the elections, but shock Tory gains dropped them into third place. The SNP, who became the largest party with 12 seats, managed to form a minority administration. Labour (nine councillors) and the Tories (ten) could have formed an administration, but talks stalled and the Conservatives said they would be happy in opposition to allow their young crop of representatives a chance to gain experience.

North Lanarkshire Council

Largest group: SNP, 36/77 seats.

The SNP won the most seats on North Lanarkshire council, but Labour aren’t far behind with 32 councillors. Both parties had announced their intention to bid for control of the local authority, and Labour had looked to have pipped the SNP to the post amid reports of a "backroom deal" with the Tories. However, that did not come to pass and the party capitulated to the SNP. The nationalists' victory meant they would take control, as a minority administration, of North Lanarkshire for the first time.

Orkney Islands Council

Largest group: Independents, 19/21 seats.

The only party represented on Orkney Council is the Scottish Greens, who have two councillors. Other than that the local authority is dominated by independents, and independents will form the administration again.

The National: Early morning shot from ferry just before leaving Stromness, on Orkney Mainland..

Perth and Kinross Council

Largest group: SNP, 16/40 seats.

The SNP made one gain here while the Tories lost three seats in Perth and Kinross. The relatively small seat change has had a big impact, with the council falling out of Conservative control. The SNP group has secured the support it needs among the four independents in order to form a minority administration.

Renfrewshire Council

Largest group: SNP, 21/43 seats.

The SNP fell just one seat short of the 22 needed for a majority in Renfrewshire, but Scotia Future's Andy Doig, who sits as an independent, agreed to lend them his vote on a confidence and supply basis. The Labour (15), the Tory (5), and LibDem (1) groups would all need to band together to match the SNP’s seat count, and even then would fall short thanks to the deal with Doig.

Scottish Borders Council

Largest group: Tories, 14/34 seats.

The Tories remained the largest party in the Borders despite losing 11% of their vote and one seat. They had ruled in a coalition with independents before the elections, and the seven seats held by that group would be more than sufficient to do so again. After negotiations, it was announced that three of those independents - Watson McAteer, Stuart Marshall and Caroline Cochrane - would be joining the Tories and forming an administration.

Shetland Islands Council

Largest group: Independents, 19/23 seats.

Representatives from the SNP (1), Greens (1), and Labour (1) won seats on Shetland’s independent-dominated council, but nothing like the numbers needed to topple the administration. Councillor Emma Macdonald became Shetland’s first female council leader, and Councillor Andrea Manson its first female convener after the first full-council meeting.

South Ayrshire Council

Largest group: Tories, 10/28 seats.

The Conservatives managed to remain the largest party in South Ayrshire, but they faced another term in opposition if the SNP (nine seats) and Labour (five) struck a new coalition deal. However, the Tories swept to power at the first full-council meeting thanks to Labour abstentions. The party also had the support of two of the local authority's four independents.

South Lanarkshire Council

Largest group: SNP, 27/64 seats.

The SNP had led a minority administration in South Lanarkshire since 2017 and fancied its chances of doing so again after winning the most seats in the elections. However, Labour (24 seats) secured the support of the Tories (seven seats) and the LibDems (three) to form their own minority administration. The result was dubbed a "sad day for democracy" by local MSP and environment minister Mairi McAllan.

Stirling Council

Largest group: SNP, 8/23 seats.

Remarkably, control of Stirling Council looks set to go to the third-largest party. Labour won six seats to the SNP's eight and Tories seven, but have struck a deal with the Conservatives to claim power. The smaller grouping offered both the SNP and the Tories the provost chain in return for their backing. The SNP declined, hoping to form their own administration as the largest group, but the Tories accepted. Accusations of a "grubby" deal flew as the SNP-Labour coalition which had held the council came to an end. 

The National: Wallace Monument, Stirling

West Dunbartonshire Council

Largest group: Labour, 12/22 seats.

Scottish Labour managed to take majority control of West Dunbartonshire Council and formed one of Scotland's two majority administrations, with the other run by the SNP in Dundee. The local authority had been run by an SNP minority before the election, so the flipping of the council was a key election victory for Labour.

West Lothian Council

Largest group: SNP, 15/33 seats.

Before the elections, a Labour minority administration ran West Lothian Council while propped up by Tory votes. However, the Tories won just four seats (down three) meaning that arrangement could no longer command a majority. Labour, who won 12 seats, managed to secure a loose coalition of support from the Tories, and the single LibDem and independent, to form another administration, dashing the SNP's hopes of taking power.