Edinburgh council elections 2022 are full of dramatic potential – Ian Swanson

Politicians have been flocking to the seaside, not so much in search of the sun, but hunting for votes ahead of Thursday's local elections.

By Ian Swanson
Tuesday, 3rd May 2022, 4:55 am

[Let us know what you think and join the conversation at the bottom of this article.]

The SNP's Nicola Sturgeon was in Portobello on Sunday, posing for selfies and even joining a hen party and donning a “See you Jimmy” hat. Then Tories Douglas Ross and Ruth Davidson were there yesterday as part of their campaign.

But despite such high-profile visits, council elections sometimes seem like the Cinderellas of the political system.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Nicola Sturgeon joined a hen-party on Portobello beach at the weekend (Picture: Lesley Martin/PA Wire)

Although local authorities are responsible for many of the services most important to people's day-to-day lives, turnout is typically lower than for other elections.

And even after being separated from the Holyrood elections in a bid to win them more attention, they do not get anything like the same media coverage.

However council elections are not without their dramas. In 2007, the first using the single transferable vote and multi-member constituencies and when council and Holyrood elections were still on the same day, problems with the new electronic counting system meant a chaotic count and long delays.

The 2012 elections saw the Lib Dems, who had led the council for the previous five years, humiliated over the trams fiasco, losing 14 out of their 17 seats, including council leader Jenny Dawe.

Read More

Read More
Edinburgh council elections 2022: Here's the full list of candidates

And at the last elections in 2017, the SNP's first victory in the Capital was followed within hours by a change in leadership by all three main parties. Labour needed a new leader anyway after Andrew Burns stood down and Cammy Day got the job. But in the SNP, Adam McVey beat Frank Ross to become the new council leader and Iain Whyte replaced Cameron Rose as Tory leader.

Who knows what awaits at the count on Friday.

Election guru Professor Sir John Curtice has said that since 2017 was something of a high point for the Tories across Scotland they could face "quite a reverse" on Thursday.

And with the polls showing Labour overtaking the Tories to reclaim second place, Professor Curtice says Labour could be in for "some degree of recovery". But the big unknown, he suggested, was the extent of any SNP advance.

Obviously the national picture does not necessarily reflect the individual outcomes around the country. But in Edinburgh, 2017 was indeed a very good election for the Tories. They topped the poll in nine out of the city’s 17 wards and beat the SNP in terms of total number of votes, though winning one less seat.

Tory candidates insist Boris Johnson is not mentioned much on the doorstep when they’re out canvassing, but it is hard to see that Partygate and other national issues currently hitting the Tories’ poll ratings will not having some effect on their performance.

Labour suffered badly last time, being reduced from 21 seats to 12, and will be hoping that they can recover some of that ground. But the SNP seems confident it will once again emerge as the biggest party at the City Chambers.

The Greens are hoping to add a few to the eight seats they won last time. And the Lib Dems are optimistic about making gains in the west of the city.

Then it will be a case of behind-the-scenes negotiations to put together an administration to run the Capital for the next five years.