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2022 Council Elections

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Probably needs a thread of its own.

Generally I don't think that you can read across from results in council elections to voting intentions in general elections or indeed referendums for a few reasons.  While people do tend to vote on party lines, there are of course very often local issues at play, you have a relatively large number of non-aligned independent candidates and the voting system is totally different.   However, you can guarantee that the Tories will be going full tilt on a "Stop IndyRef2" campaign, although quite how Tory councillors could stop that is beyond me although it will be the case that any fall back in support for the SNP will be characterised by the media at least as the death knell for IndyRef2.

It's interesting to look at the results from 2017 based on First Preference votes which is about the best you can get for a view of party support.  It's important here to understand that Independents took 10% of FP votes, which will impact on all parties.  Also, we're 5 months out and a lot can and will happen between now and the election.

The SNP were unsurprisingly the biggest party but were essentially flat from the previous election in 2012.  Their vote share at 32.3% was virtually unchanged from 2012 and they only lost 7 seats, which is real toss of the coin stuff under STV.   However, that five year period 2012-2017 represents a seismic change in the dynamics of Scottish politics given that the IndyRef was right in the middle.   Rather than being a straight line over those five years, their support probably represents a bell curve, with peaks being the 2015 UK election and 2016 Holyrood Election.  2017 probably represents a low point in recent years and was reflected in the 2017 GE.   Since then it's been pretty much an upwards trajectory.   Again it's not ideal but polling for list voting intention probably represents the best comparison to FP votes under STV and they've been pretty consistent at around 40%.  I don't think they'll get close to that because the impact that independents will have.   All things being equal, if national polling is to translate to these elections you would expect them to improve on 32% though - although I think there may be one issue for them which I'll go into later.  If they don't then it should be considered - at least internally - as a failure.  SOmething around 35% is probably a good prediction.

The Tories vote share in 2017 was 25.2% and while that year represented a relative low for the SNP, it was also peak Tory, resulting in them getting 28.9% - under FPTP so not a great comparison - in that summer's GE.   Since then, even before the recent shenanigans, it's been a slow decline and even though they managed to maintain their vote share in 2021, arguably that was as a result of Labour - their only real opposition for votes - being so god awful.  From this point in time, its hard to see how they can improve on their share from 2017 and will probably lose both share and seats.   That will probably be blamed on the goings on in WM, but in reality its probably because their ceiling in Scotland is probably about 25%.

In 2012, Labour ran the SNP a close second and were just under 1% behind them, in 2017 they'd fallen to a poor third with 20% of FPs.  If they thought that was a low, there was worse to come and I'm not sure that they've bottomed out yet.   If they have any hope in these elections then it will to peel back some votes they lost to the Tories because of the WM effect and maybe they'll get back to second spot but they'll still be someway behind.

The Lib Dems are irrelevant.

The Greens are obviously the only party that's really increasing it's vote share markedly over the last couple of years and I think these elections could be a real success for them particularly in the cities.   In 2017 they only picked up 4% of FP votes which resulted in 19 seats.  Compare that to the Lib Dems who picked up 6.9% of FPs but got 67 seats.   I think the disparity there is due to the way the STV system works.   Now clearly anyone would expect the Greens to get more than 4%, the last HR list poll I saw had then on 12%, and they are obviously transfer-friendly to SNP voters.   I suspect the problem they had in 2017 was that they were knocked out before those transfers could take place.  I think they will attract FP votes from new voters, the SNP and Labour and I wouldn't be surprised if they didn't end up with around 70 or 80 seats and I could actually see them forming part of a formal coalition in Glasgow with the SNP.

In last years HR elections I was really surprised at the level of support for the Greens in Glasgow.   It wasn't so much the fact that they got 11.8% of the list vote - 0.3% less than the Tories - or that they were essentially cheated out of a second MSP but rather when you looked at the spread of votes across the city and that's something that in a council election under STV can really translate into seats.

If you think about the Greens in Glasgow you tend to think about the West End and Patrick Harvie, students and Partick Thistle but their support is much deeper and you can see this in the list votes in certain constituencies.  

Kelvin - SNP 39.4%, Greens, 21%, Lab 20.2%
Cathcart - SNP 40.8%, Lab 23.3%, Greens 15.9%
Southside - SNP 41.6%, 23.5%, 18.4%

Those are the three constituencies where they did best, and no doubt a fair proportion of those are SNP voters trying to maximise the pro-Indy vote, but I know people who are SNP members and voters who voted Green on the list because they wanted Kim Long - 2nd on the Glasgow list - in Holyrood.  They've currently got 6 seats on GCC, I wouldn't be surprised if they had closer to 15 in May.

Finally, Alba.   I've no idea how many seats they have, under 20 certainly and they are all defections from the SNP.  For the reasons I outlined about the Greens in 2017, I can't see them adding to that, in fact I'm not certain they'll even be able to hold on to the ones they currently have.   That's just a matter of arithmetic as even if - and its a big if - they can attract a sizeable number of transfers from the SNP they'll be knocked out before these can kick in.   The only caveat to that is that if they have candidates who have a big enough personal local following, and are effectively standing as independents, they may buck the national trend.

The real winner will obviously be Ruth Davidson.


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