AT first, the early sample data from the Glasgow local election count didn’t seem entirely right. Hunched around a single laptop in the Emirates Arena as Green activists strode back and forth with hastily penned tally marks of information, the small team entering the sampled ballot boxes was sceptical.

If the numbers were right, they seemed to indicate that the Langside ward of the city had overwhelmingly backed the Green candidate Holly Bruce with first preference votes over the current SNP leader of the entire council – something that could be attributed early on to confirmation bias amongst the activists gathered on a grey, Friday morning.

After all, it’s natural for the eye to skip to what it’s looking for, and with only a second or two to spot a preference before an official counter smooths out the folded lines of a ballot and drops the results into a box, or moves to another sheet of pencilled numbers, it’s understandable that little errors can creep in.

READ MORE: SNP eye North Lanarkshire takeover after local elections

As the official counting began however, paper ballots piling through the scanners and being fitted with the complex equations necessary for a proportional and representative council, it seemed less and less like an error in the accounts and more like a potential reality. When Holly Bruce disappeared behind the curtain to hear the results, there seemed in the waiting crowd to be an understanding that something significant was happening - and the roaring applause that followed her exit confirmed it.

A starting gun had been fired with an unexpected victory, and the day had only just begun.

On paper, the local election results tell their own story, separate from the electric atmosphere of the counts taking place across Scotland. Numbers-wise, the election results broadly played out as expected. The SNP remained the party with the largest number of elected councillors in Scotland by a significant margin, even increasing their numbers. Labour too made small gains, while the Conservatives (mostly) paid the price for their leadership’s arrogance and entitlement. And the Alba Party lost what little seats they had taken through defections and found their self-prophesied “breakthrough” to be as forthcoming as their promised Holyrood shake-up in 2021.

For the Scottish Greens though, on a surface level, the gains looked to be quite moderate. Digging a little deeper however, a different nation-wide picture emerges; one that fits better with the raw excitement that could be felt in Glasgow on Friday.

Despite being a smaller party, the Greens are continuing to make inroads across Scotland as a growing political force. People in the Borders, East Lothian, South Lanarkshire, North Lanarkshire and Shetland will have Green representation in their local councils for the first time ever. Alongside Glasgow, Edinburgh and the Highlands returning a record number of Green councillors; results passed from activist to activist between counting as the wins came in through the day.

With successes in Glasgow wards coming thicker and faster as the morning passed into afternoon, there came a sudden rumble of uncertainty over an announcement. A candidate had been elected in a ward where it hadn’t even been conceivable that a Green victory could happen and, as such, no one had been sampling the data for that area. Once again, it was assumed this must have been a misunderstanding. It wasn’t.

These wins are the results of seeds planted by the party over many years. In many ways, the Greens appear to be on a trajectory not unlike the SNP’s historic rise and breakthrough from small party to party of government, building on small victories to sow what comes next.

And these wins have played out on the national stage. Despite their size, the Greens hold a significant degree of power; not only through the controversial cooperation agreement with the SNP government, but in the local arena too. They’ve likely just found themselves the kingmakers of Glasgow City Council.

The National: National Extra Scottish politics newsletter banner

The bigger narrative here is not dissimilar from that of the last Holyrood election in 2021, where the numbers alone only told a piece of the story. It is a tale of how power shifts and moves, yes, but it is also a story about the future of Scotland.

While the crowd of candidates, campaign managers and party activists seemed broadly buoyed by the results in the Emirates Arena (barring the Conservatives who’s faces were a perfect picture of misery for the most part) there was a ripple of unease over the election of Labour’s Kieran Turner – a candidate with a side gig as the head of public leadership & Scottish advocacy for the Evangelical Alliance; an anti-LGBT organisation supporting the damaging practice of conversion therapy.

Along with the election of the former world leader of the Orange Order for Labour in Airdrie, there does appear to be a widening gap between parties that represent the future more than the past.

Yet this isn’t just a central belt story, but a microcosm of a fight playing out across all of Scotland. On the future. On the importance of local issues. And on the subject of who represents our communities.

While smaller, backward-looking parties like Alba and the Scottish Family Party found themselves once again left behind by the electorate, the upstart Greens instead were ploughing ahead in fertile land across Scotland, and dropping seeds in their wake once more.