Advertisement

Council results and election predictions

Photo: Press Association

If I had a pound for every time I've heard a politician say: "The only poll that counts in the poll on....(insert relevant date here)" I'd be sunning myself in my Bahamas villa.

It's on a cliche par with the football manager's line about "It's only goals in the back of the net that count."

For politicians, like football managers, these kinds of answers are a way of deflecting from awkward questions journalists might like to put to them about their teams, political or sporting.

But between now and the UK general election it will be hard for Scottish politicians to use this formulation because we have just had a poll that counts - the local council elections.

It may not be goals in the back of the net, but we have votes in the bottom of ballot boxes and counted - which give us a decent idea of the standing of the parties ahead of 8 June.

Credit: Press Association

The picture that these real votes paint in the south of Scotland is an intriguing one, suggesting that in this part of the world anyway there has been that much talked about Tory revival.

In Dumfries and Galloway council the Tories got nearly double the SNP's vote, and the Scottish Labour party was behind the nationalists.

In Scottish Borders council the Tories again got nearly double the SNP vote, with the Scottish Liberal Democrats well behind.

Some further analysis, which was conducted by the Scottish Conservatives, suggests that when you apply these votes to the parliamentary seats in our region, the Tories are ahead.

You can see both these sets of figures for yourself below.

Dumfries & Galloway Council results 2017:

  • Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party: 21,138
  • Scottish Green Party: 1,026
  • Independent and no description: 11,350
  • Scottish Labour party: 10,077Scottish
  • Liberal Democrats: 1,350
  • Scottish National Party 11,779
  • Other parties 118 Total 56,838 Turnout 49.1%

Scottish Borders Council results 2017:

  • Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party: 19,355
  • Scottish Green Party:1,030
  • Independent and no description:11,050
  • Scottish Labour Party: 1,283
  • Scottish Liberal Democrats: 3,818
  • Scottish National Party: 9,959
  • Total: 46,495 Turnout 51.9%

And here's the breakdown of local government votes by Westminster seats with figures from the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party:

Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk:

  • Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party: 15,136
  • Scottish National Party: 7,796
  • Scottish Labour Party: 1,102
  • Scottish Liberal Democrats: 2,515
  • Independent/Other 11,070

Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale:

  • Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party: 18,853
  • Scottish National Party: 11,651
  • Scottish Labour Party: 9,390
  • Scottish Liberal Democrats: 2,924
  • Independent/Other: 6,823

So, it's clear then that there is going to be a straight race between the Tories and the SNP in Dumfries & Galloway; Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale; and Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk? Or is it?

Well, it's a reasonable assumption to start with and worth pointing out that Professor John Curtice of Strathclyde University - a highly respected academic - describes the Tory figures as "an honest attempt" at adding up the first preference votes by Westminster constituency.

However, there are caveats, as Prof Curtice points and which, in private at least, the political parties will accept.

Professor John Curtice Credit: ITV

These are only the first preference votes in a Single Transferable Vote (STV) local council election system.

It's quite possible people voted tactically using the STV system and may not vote the same way in an election for the House of Commons.

And there are large numbers of voters in the south of Scotland who give their support to small 'i' independent candidates. It is difficult to know where their support will go in the general election.

Having said that, Prof Curtice's analysis is the Tory vote is up by "well above average" (+18.4%) in Scottish Borders, though in his view, there "wasn't much of a SNP vote to be lost in the first place".

He adds that Dumfries & Galloway is "less impressive" (+10.6%) for the Tories, but that might be effected by the independents.

So in Prof Curtice's analysis even if you take a small 'c' conservative view of the data it looks as though the Anglo-Scottish border plus the North-East of Scotland (and East Renfrewshire) will be the main places where the Conservatives could make some gains.

Prof Curtice adds: "Although it is by no means certain that the SNP will perform as disappointingly in the general election as they did in the local elections, these figures confirm that the nationalists are at risk of losing some seats to a revived Conservative party - with the south of Scotland and the North East likely to be the focus of the battle between the two parties."

All of which will delight the Tories and disappoint the other parties. And they won't just accept this as fact.

The SNP claim they won the local elections emphatically, with more seats than any other party, an increased and higher share of the vote than any other party and as the largest party in more councils than any other party.

Their results show, in the SNP view, that more than ever Scotland needs strong SNP voices to stand up to Theresa May who is set to impose more cuts and put thousands of jobs at risk.

The Scottish Conservatives will of course dispute this. They will continue to campaign on a platform of opposition to a second independence referendum.

And they will say that only they are the only party which can challenge the SNP current dominance of Scottish politics.

Labour see it differently. They too are putting opposition to indyref2 at the heart of their campaign. They point to a continued presence in Dumfries & Galloway as evidence they still matter.

But they are also emphasising the fact that, in their view, they are the only party who can oust the Tories from power in Westminster.

Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats, which again being against a second referendum say that their pitch is to be the 'real opposition' in the Commons to the Tories.

And the Lib Dems point out that in the Scottish Borders their party has a legacy of Westminster, and council, representation. I could go on, at some length, in setting out the parties arguments to the voters in the south of Scotland, and Scotland-wide, but that is for another time.

For now these figures give some food for thought ahead of the next poll that counts - that general election vote a month or so away.

More on this story