THE Scottish Conservatives last night claimed a voter backlash had "sunk" the case for a second referendum after the party recorded its strongest council result in four decades.

The Tories more than doubled their seats, with gains in once impenetrable areas including Ferguslie Park in Paisley, Shettleston in Glasgow’s east end, and Cumnock in East Ayrshire.

Mirroring last year’s success at Holyrood, the Conservatives came second across the country, adding 161 councillors to end on 276, with Labour pushed into third place.

Ms Davidson said her party’s best local performance since 1974 showed it was “leading the fightback against the SNP” and “constitutional division”.

Her deputy, Jackson Carlaw, added: “More pro-Union councillors were elected than independence ones and the SNP vote share is down as people backed the Scottish Conservatives in huge numbers. That sinks the case for independence."

Nicola Sturgeon also claimed an “emphatic” victory for the SNP as it ended Labour’s 40-year reign in Glasgow, although the party fell short of the overall majority it was hoping for.

As Labour’s vote slumped, the SNP replaced it as the largest party in a wave of local authorities, including Aberdeen, Edinburgh, East Dunbartonshire, Fife, North Lanarkshire, Renfrewshire, South Lanarkshire, West Dunbartonshire and West Lothian.

Even after a decade in power at the national level, the SNP emerged as the largest party in 18 of Scotland’s 32 councils, adding six councillors to its 2012 tally to end on 431.

However the Nationalists lost their majority on the two councils they won outright last time, and were replaced as the largest party in Aberdeenshire by the Conservatives.

The results will encourage Tory supporters and activists going into the General Election, with many of the party’s best results in target seats in the Northeast, Perthshire and the Borders.

The Tory surge, after a fiercely pro-Union campaign based on opposing a second referendum, is also likely to cause the First Minister to reflect on her plans for a new vote by spring 2019.

Labour were the clear losers, dropping 132 councillors to 262 and losing their grip on all four councils they previously ruled outright.

One bright spot was a gain in Edinburgh South, where Labour’s sole Scottish MP, Ian Murray, is trying to fend off the SNP.

Labour was the largest party in Midlothian and Inverclyde and replaced the SNP as the largest party in its target seat of East Lothian.

However Labour was outpolled two-to-one in its other Westminster target, East Renfrewshire, where the Tories became the biggest party.

Despite hopes of a revival on the back of Scotland’s strong Remain vote, the LibDems failed to make progress, falling by four councillors to 67, a virtual repeat of 2012’s disappointing result.

The Greens saw a modest increase from 14 councillors to 19.

The newly formed Rubbish Party had its first councillor elected in East Ayrshire.

Sally Cogley was rewarded by voters after promising to tidy up the Irvine Valley ward.

For the first time, Western Isles Council now has no female politicians.

Ms Davidson said the result, with gains in every mainland council and the party’s first councillor in the Western Isles, had shown "only the Scottish Conservatives have the strength to fight back against the SNP."

She said: “We denied the SNP a majority at Holyrood. We have gained seats in councils all over Scotland. We are now in a position to lead Scotland’s fight back in the general election too.

“We will speak up for the millions of Scots who have had enough of the uncertainty and division of the last few years.

“We will stand up for everyone who doesn’t want a second referendum on independence.”

Ms Sturgeon said the Tories had come a “distant second”.

Speaking at the Glasgow count, she said: “This is a fantastic, historic result in Glasgow. I can't but feel proud of the SNP. More seats, more votes, more councils won, the largest party in all of our major cities.

"What we've seen is the SNP vote holding firm. The SNP hasn't lost ground. What we've seen is the collapse of Labour and that's the reason for the increase in the Conservative vote.

"I think Labour really have a lot of soul searching to do."

Ms Dugdale said there had been a "clear rejection the length and breadth of the country of Nicola Sturgeon's plans for a second independence referendum".

She said: “This is obviously a disappointing election for Labour, but thousands of people across Scotland have placed their trust in us and we will continue to play a major role in local government."

With no party having an outright majority in any council, the next few days will see rounds of coalition talks.

Labour’s Scottish executive meets today to discuss possible deals on a case-by-case basis. The SNP have already ruled out deals with the Tories, and have urged Labour to do likewise.

South of the border, The Tories made the biggest gains by a governing party in 40 years, mostly at the expense of Labour and Ukip, with the latter losing all the seats it was defending.

The Conservatives also won four of the the six new “metro mayor” positions, including the West Midlands, home to a series of vulnerable Labour seats at the general election.

Despite the victory, Theresa May said she was “taking nothing for granted” on June 8.

Jeremy Corbyn admitted Labour faces a challenge on a “historic scale" if it is to regain power.