By a Newsnet reporter
The final breakdown of results from Scotland’s local authority elections has confirmed the SNP as the most popular party nationwide.
Detailed analysis published by the SNP confirms that, for the first time in its history in a local government election, the party outpolled all others in terms of first preference votes.
Last Thursday’s showing was an improvement from 2007, where despite winning more seats than Labour, the SNP were behind in the vote count.
In Thursday’s election however the SNP overtook Labour in gains and number of councillors and crucially increased its vote share to 32.32%, with Labour behind on 31.39%.
This represents a 4.46% increase on the SNP’s 2007 performance, against a Labour vote rise of 3.24%. The figures also show the Tory vote fell by 2.26% and the Lib Dem vote was down by 6.10%.
In addition, the SNP was the party with the most first preference votes in 16 councils, compared to 14 for Labour. The increase in vote share was accompanied by a doubling of the SNP’s lead in seats over Labour, from 15 in 2007 to 30 this year.
The analysis also revealed that the number of SNP council seats increased by 62, and not 61 as previously thought. The SNP won 424 seats – an increase of 17%. Labour increased their number of councillors by 46 to 394 – a 13% increase.
However it has also emerged that the system adopted by the BBC to calculate party gains in Scotland may have broken the broadcaster's own election guidelines.
SNP Campaign Director Derek Mackay said:
“This was a triple success for the SNP – more votes, more councillors, and more gains than any other party, which means that with over half-a-million votes we are in an even stronger position to represent and deliver for local people.
“There can be no doubt about who the winner was in this election - the SNP have now won four out of the last five national elections in Scotland – and we also beat Labour in terms of the increase in votes and increase in number of councillors.
“For a party to achieve this five years into government is truly remarkable, and stands in stark contrast to the hammering that the coalition parties suffered north and south of the Border - only two years into their administration.
“The Lib Dems performed disastrously – but so too did the Tories, whose vote fell back in Scotland even from their low water mark of 2007.
“Labour may have gained 13% more seats in Scotland – compared to the SNP’s 17% increase – but their performance north of the Border was nothing like that in England, where they increased their number of seats by 82%. It’s not just a tale of two governments – it’s also a tale of two oppositions as well.
“SNP Council groups all over Scotland will now work with others and with the Scottish Government to deliver the progressive policies that we all want to see.”
The confirmation of a 62 seat gain is not accepted by the BBC in Scotland who continue to insist that the SNP gained only 57 seats, one less than Labour who the broadcaster claims won an extra 58.
However the methodology used by the broadcaster, where it ignored the 2007 election results, has been challenged by many observers.
It has also emerged that the system employed by the BBC is at odds with the broadcaster’s own guidelines published in April of this year.
According to the BBC online guideline called for ‘A glossary of election terms for Vote 2012’, a gain is defined as: "If a party wins a seat that it did not win at the last general[sic] election this is described as a ‘gain’".
Many of the gains attributed to the Labour party were in fact seats they won at the previous election in 2007 and, according to the guidelines, should not have been counted as gains but as holds.
Although the term ‘general election’ is used, the ‘Vote 2012’ headline and the April timestamp suggests that this was in fact aimed at explaining this year’s local elections, which were indeed described as 'Vote 2012'.
Other news outlets appear to have been confused by BBC Scotland’s figures. The Scotsman newspaper has also reported the BBC figure of 57 SNP gains, and claims it as being “compared with 2007.” However, a straight comparison with 2007 gives a figure of 62.
The row over the actual figure will rumble on, but questions will surely now be asked as to why the BBC appears to have ignored its own election guidelines when calculating election gains for the 2012 Scottish local elections.
According to figures released by the SNP, the final results of all first preference votes are as follows:
The final tally for councillors is:
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