Scottish Council Elections, Put Simply

By Head of Media and Senior Campaign Agent Richard Wood

In the last few years Scotland has gone to the polls a lot; the independence referendum, the Scottish general election, the UK general election and the EU referendum show how active Scotland’s democracy is. The country is going to the polls once again!


The Scottish Council elections are one set of many taking place on the 4th May 2017. Voters in England and Wales will also be heading to the ballot box for local elections.


In total, all of Scotland’s 32 Council elections are having elections meaning that approximately 1,223 seats are up for grabs. In Edinburgh, 63 councillors will be elected whereas in Shetland 32 seats are up for election.

Electoral System

Scottish councillors are elected to multi-member wards under the Single Transferable Vote system where candidates are ranked in order of preference. Three or four councillors are elected in each ward. Such a system means that there is more of a chance of smaller parties gaining seats than in single member First-Past-The-Post wards.

Click here to read our guide to different types of Voting Systems!

Key councils

Glasgow City Council is one of the key ones to watch. In 2012, one year after the SNP won a majority government at Holyrood, Labour pulled off a surprise victory, winning a majority of seats on the council. However, Scotland has come a long way since 2012. In 2014, the country had its independence reference in which Glasgow voted for independence, and in 2015 the SNP won every seat in Glasgow at the UK general election. Will Labour hold on or will the SNP push them out?

Another key council to watch is Edinburgh City Council. The party is currently led by a Labour-SNP administration with Labour as the largest party. The keys questions are:

  1. Will the SNP supplant Labour as the largest party
  2. Will the Conservatives build on gains from last year’s Holyrood elections in which Ruth Davidson managed to win constituency seats in the capital?

What will each party be hoping for overall?

The SNP will be hoping to hold steady or gain ground. Taking Glasgow would be a major win for the party. The Conservatives will be hoping to consolidate their second place victory in last year’s Holyrood elections by gaining across the country and pushing Labour into third place once again.

Labour will be hoping to beat the Conservatives and hold on to as many councils as possible. Another bad election would weaken leader Kezia Dugdale’s position after last year’s fall to third place at Holyrood.

The Scottish Greens jumped from 2 MSPs to 6 MSPs at last year’s Holyrood elections, beating the Liberal Democrats into fifth place. As a result, the party will be hoping to build on that success and gain councillors across the country. The party is standing in every ward in Glasgow. The Liberal Democrats lost a lot of seats in 2012 meaning the party will be hoping to build back up their base of councillors right across Scotland.

TalkPolitics, we are hoping for increased engagement and higher turnout!

What do you think will happen in the Scottish Council Elections 2017?

Leave your thoughts in the comments….

Think you know Scottish politics – complete our quick quiz now.


Image rights: Walkerssk @ Pixabay

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