TO borrow TS Eliot’s well-worn line from the Hollow Men, the familiar world of Scotland’s town halls this week came to an end not with a bang but a whimper.

With the triggering of Article 50 and Holyrood’s referendum debate monopolising the agenda, few will have noticed the curtain come down on how we have been doing our bottom tier of government in these parts for decades.

Purdah is underway, campaigns launched and the political complexion of the councils map is on the cusp. Labour’s last real grip on power in former heartlands is certain to come undone, to what extent or how dramatic we will know in just five weeks.

And with education in pole position for a diminished role within the council remit and as talk of ‘reform’ wafts around ministerial circles for the first time since the early 1990s, what authorities actually do will be different by the next local election in 2022.

But if, as predicted, there is a major sweep of SNP administrations on May 4 expect real transitional change to be ushered in where it really matters, officialdom.

Across Scotland those people who actually run councils, the officers, have in the past year or so had to think like civil servants for probably the first time in their careers.

With power shifts looming they have learned to say no to their current political masters who have hoped to cling to power with the lure of a shiny new policy. But such refusals may not be enough for the next leadership.

Within many local authorities, old relationships linger in an atmosphere of connections. So as not to undermine new administrations run by the SNP in particular, a party which understands power better than its rivals, a new officer class is required.

Many of those at the higher ends of several local authorities are understood to have long considered not hanging around much beyond any handover; a pre-emptive jump (preferably with a pay-off) being more attractive than a demotion or being sidelined.

To quote one source with a deep history in local government: “The structural changes facing some councils will be unlike anything since (former city Labour Lord Provost) Sir Patrick Dollan cleared Glasgow of the stripey ties network in the 1930s.”

Of course employment law is a barrier but within council politics issues of competence are difficult to detach from trust, making the process of ‘moving people on’ that bit easier. Politics, both party and interpersonal, are pretty darn dirty at this level.

And while the personal is tricky to divorce from the political, many senior officers fiercely defending long-ingrained administrations from the opposition benches or turning blind eyes to low-level dubiety, the resulting fractious relationships are hardly conducive with the new brooms incoming leaderships will expect. And asked about pressing priorities post May, all those with an eye on power I have spoken with talk about ‘structural change’.

In the past year politicians have signalled their departure from local government in their droves. Expect the officers to follow suit. Will we see their likes again.