Voting guide

Scottish voters go to the polls again on Thursday, this time to elect 1224 councillors to serve in 32 local authorities across the country.

In this at-a-glance guide, we present the key statistics, identify the main battlegrounds, and remind you how to vote under the single transferable system.

The votes will be counted from 9am on Friday May 4, and we’ll be running special live election results coverage all day here at heraldscotland. There will also be comprehensive analysis in a special supplement in The Herald on Saturday May 5.

The statistics

1224 total councillors. The SNP has the biggest number, with 366, followed by Labour (351), the LibDems (164), the Tories (138), the Greens (10). Other parties and independents make up the remaining 193.

10 authorities run by a single party administration, albeit sometimes from a minority position. Labour runs six (Glasgow, North Lanarkshire, Midlothian, Clackmannanshire, Inverclyde, North Ayrshire); the SNP three (Dundee, East Ayrshire, Stirling), and the Tories one (South Ayrshire).

19 councils have coalition administrations,  with partnerships of virtually every political permutation.

3 island authorities in the Western Isles, Shetland, and Orkney all eschew traditional party labels and members stand under the independent label.

44.9 percentage of the Scottish electorate who bothered to cast a vote back in 1995, the last time council ballots were staged separately from Holyrood elections. There are fears that this week’s turn-out might be significantly lower, even dipping below 30% in some areas. Two recent by-elections in Glasgow and South Lanarkshire attracted just 14% and 12% of voters.

The main battlegrounds

Glasgow: the ultimate bellwether for Labour and the SNP, a year on from last year’s Holyrood poll, and ahead of the referendum. Never mind local factors (which should matter most), the eyes of both parties will be very firmly focussed on the count at the SECC and the outcome for the city’s 79 seats. Labour has held the City Chambers for four decades, but the SNP is genuinely optimistic of wresting control and achieving a massive victory.  Click here for full profile

North Lanarkshire: the other big target for the SNP, again because it would mean a triumph over Labour, which boasts long-standing majority rule. The campaign here has been particularly bitter. Click here for full profile

Edinburgh:  there’s probably only one big issue for voters…those trams. Members of the LibDem-SNP coalition will be nervous about the impact, with Labour the likely gainers. Click here for full profile

Aberdeen:  Labour also hope to profit from a local issue in Scotland’s third city, having vowed to scrap Sir Ian Wood’s controversial redesign for Union Street Gardens.  The SNP and LibDems could again pay a price here.

Highland: the SNP would love to repeat its success of last year’s Holyrood election and become the biggest party grouping, although Independents will almost certainly still hold the balance of power. Click here for full profile

East Dunbartonshire: it's the area where all four main parties have a meaningul stake. The current administration is a Labour-Conservative coalition, the SNP are the single biggest group...and the Westminster seat is held by a LibDem. Which of the four will triumph on Friday? Click here for full profile

Dumfries & Galloway:  a verdict of sorts on Scotland’s only Tory MP, Scottish Office Minister David Mundell. Labour is planning to oust the minority Tory-LibDem administration.

Aberdeenshire:  the other part of Scotland run by a partnership reflecting the arrangement in Westminster could be vulnerable to an SNP push, especially given the local powerbase of First Minister Alex Salmond.

How to vote


The ballot paper above is a sample devised by the Scottish Government to demonstrate the voting process. It is not a real paper for the 2012 election.

It can be as easy as 1-2-3, even if the Single Transferable vote doesn’t sound like it.

Essentially, you can vote for as many – or as few – candidates in your ward, which will be represented by, on average three or four councillors.

Just take the ballot paper, and mark 1, 2,3 and so on against the candidates of your choice, in descending order.

Electronic counting of the papers will again be used but, after problems in 2007, the Electoral Commission has promised a more rigorous approach this time round.
The system involves the following processes:

Reception - Ballot boxes are received at the count centre from polling stations.

Registration - The number of ballot papers in each ballot box is entered into the system.

Scanning - The ballot papers are scanned by the system.
Verification - The number of ballot papers that have been scanned is verified against the number of ballot papers that have been registered.

Adjudication - Ballot papers with unclear voter intent are reviewed and interpreted by the Returning Officer or his staff.

Count - The STV calculation formula is run and the result is produced.

If you’ve any queries, contact your local council, or visit the Commission’s site

So go vote, and then come back to heraldscotland on Friday to see the outcome…