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Local Government Elections - Counting Down to the Counting Up

Cara McLean

With local elections now less than two months away, our thoughts have turned to the candidates for the 1,227 councillor posts up for grabs across Scotland. Numerous long-serving representatives are standing down across the country and the leadership of Scotland's 32 local authorities hangs in the balance. From tracking who's who and highlighting some of the key emerging issues, we take a look at 10 things you need to know (and try to avoid Star Wars references) ahead of polling day on May 4th.

  1. The number of council seats in Scotland increases from 1,223 to 1,227 in May, covering 32 local authorities. Glasgow has the largest number of senate, I mean, council seats up for grabs at 85, followed by North Lanarkshire with 77, Fife with 75 and Highland with 74, while at the other end of the scale, Clackmannanshire, East Renfrewshire and Midlothian each have 18 seats.
  2. Official lists of candidates for each council will be published at the end of March, with 29th March the deadline for withdrawals of nomination for anyone having a change of heart. Whether the lists of candidates will include any rogue ones such as 2012's mannequin "Helena Torry" remains to be seen.
  3. The count will take place on Friday 5th May using a combination of electronic verification and counting. Ballot boxes will be opened after 08:00 and no later than 09:30. Results are expected to be announced from late morning, depending on turnout.
  4. Local government elections use the Single Transferable Vote system, making coalitions a common historic result. While the SNP won the most votes in 2012, they only ended up as part of the administration of nine councils, while Labour (either alone or in coalition) were on 20.
  5. This year will be the first time 16- and 17-year olds have been able to vote in Scotland-wide council elections. Among those seeking the support of his classmates will be Kirkcaldy North candidate and school pupil Daniel Penman, who will be 18 by election day, and former Dumbarton Academy pupil Dean Allardice, 17, who is standing in Clydebank Central. Both will be hoping to be more than young apprentices come results day.
  6. The 2012 election saw an increase in the number of women taking up post to a record (though still uninspiring) 24.3%, even lower than the 35% elected to Holyrood last May. In terms of representation by party, the Lib Dems led with way with an overall rate of 36.6% women (in contrast to 0% of its current group of MSPs), with the Greens on 28.6%, Labour on 26.1%, SNP 24.8% and the Conservatives 24.3%.
  7. With the end of the nine year long council tax freeze coming just ahead of the elections, all 32 authorities now have the force to raise the basic bill by up to 3%. Expected to be a key issue across Scotland, only eight authorities have taken the decision to continue to freeze rates: South Lanarkshire, Renfrewshire, Inverclyde, West Lothian, West Dunbartonshire, Aberdeen, Stirling & North Lanarkshire.
  8. The run-up to polling day will see a number of familiar faces hitting the campaign trail, including a few former MSPs who are hoping to make a return. Among those seeking election are Jamie McGrigor, Anne McTaggart, Chic Brodie, Frank McAveety, Chris Ballance and Christian Allard. Political relations also come to the fore as a number of candidates have links to sitting MSPs and MPs, with candidates Marra, Macdonald and Sturgeon among those particularly ringing a bell.
  9. We can look forward to some changes to the order post 4th May as as a number of sitting councillors across the country have taken the decision not to stand for re-election. Long-servers such as buckfast swigging Eric Milligan (43 years of service) and Allan Jackson (40 years) are among a glut of well-known names exiting City of Edinburgh Council, alongside Transport (or tramsport) Leader Lesley Hinds and current Council Leader Andrew Burns. Over in Glasgow, as many as six of the 13 female councillors have decided against seeking re-election, while up in the north east, wrestling superstar Len Ironside, is leaving Aberdeen City Council after 35 years.
  10. The latest polling on voting intentions (Ipsos MORI for STV News) gives the SNP 46% of first preferences votes, 27 points ahead of the Conservatives on 19%. Labour in third with 17%, ahead of the Greens on 8%, the Liberal Democrats on 6% and UKIP on 3%.  A double word of caution beyond the obvious one about polling, how voting percentages relate to the final tally of seats delivered will be down to the rollout of the STV system.  Parties are having to make careful judgements about whether there's opportunity or risk in running a second candidate within localities there there might be a chance of picking up two seats in, say, a four person ward. 

Candidate & Councillor Contacts

If you're interested to know who's standing for election and how to contact them, we are providing a comprehensive contact database service covering candidates and councillors so your organisation can engage with local campaigns. With regularly updated versions of the candidate database now available, a final candidates version in early April and details of elected councillors in early May, we'll make it easy for you to get it touch with those seeking (and securing) election. You can find more information and an order form here, or get in touch for more details.

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