By Martin Kelly
SNP leader Alex Salmond has hailed the success of the party's local government election campaign, following figures which show the party outperformed their electoral rivals in three key areas of vote share, gains and overall councillors.
After Friday’s count, official returns show that the SNP have more councillors and have won more councils, more gains and the biggest share of the vote than any other party.
At 424 councillors, the SNP have gained 61 councillors since 2007, doubling its lead in terms of council seats over Labour from 15 to 30.
In addition, the SNP is now the largest Party on 11 local authorities - with Dundee and Angus giving the SNP its historic first overall majorities under PR.
The SNP have also made gains in Labour strongholds across Scotland - including Glasgow and Lanarkshire, and have now pulled level in Clackmannanshire and Midlothian. In Midlothian, reports suggest that the SNP are close to securing a coalition that would see Labour lose power for the first time ever.
Despite what many feel was a disappointing result in Glasgow, the party have witnessed their council representation increase from only 4 councillors in 2003 to 27 in 2012.
On the basis of analysis of first preference voting figures from 305 out of 353 wards, the SNP is projecting to have won 32.7% of the vote, ahead of Labour on 31.5%, meaning that the SNP is set to emerge with the largest share of the vote for the first time in its history.
Congratulating the new Councillors from Angus and Dundee today, Mr Salmond said:
"On every indicator, the SNP has had its best ever council result. We have more councillors and more gains than any other party - doubling our seats advantage over Labour.
"We have become the largest Party in more councils across Scotland - including our first ever overall majorities.
"And we also look set to have won the overall share of the vote in a local government election for the first time in our history.
"This has all come about as a result of the positive message that SNP Councillors gave voters on the doorsteps - councils working for jobs, for families and for fairness.
"While the Westminster coalition parties were given a mauling north and south of the Border, the SNP as the incumbent party of government in Scotland since 2007 have just won another election - an extraordinary achievement.
"Any way you look at our result, it is a landmark achievement for the SNP, who are the only Party who can claim to be the party of all of Scotland - north and south, east and west, rural and urban."
The party’s Deputy Leader Nicola Sturgeon echoed Mr Salmond’s praise as she announced plans to visit council groups across Central Scotland to congratulate them on their successes.
Ms Sturgeon will meet SNP Groups in Stirling, East Ayrshire and North Ayrshire, who all gained seats from the opposition and emerged as the largest party.
In Stirling, where the SNP have run the council as a minority since 2008, the SNP took seats from Labour to emerge with 9 seats compared to their 8. In East Ayrshire, the SNP’s competence as a minority administration was also rewarded by voters, and saw the party overtake Labour as the largest party.
The SNP Group in North Ayrshire took 4 additional seats from Labour, Lib Dem and Tories and are now the largest party.
Commenting Ms Sturgeon said:
“The momentum and progress the SNP has achieved all over Scotland is very evident in the council groups I am speaking to today.
“In East Ayrshire and in Stirling, the increased number of seats is a clear vote of confidence on our record in administration over the last few years.
“Our key messages of working for jobs, families and for fairness have pushed us into poll position in many areas, and there is a real buzz among our councillors who are looking forward to the challenges ahead.”
Vote share - Based on analysis of actual share of first preferences in 305 out of 353, the results are projected as follows:
[Newsnet Scotland is aware of what appears to be misreporting of figures by BBC Scotland resulting in an inflation of Labour party gains. We are currently looking into this and are preparing an article for tomorrow’s edition.]