FEELING in a party mood? Thought not, what with runaway inflation, rising energy costs, Covid recovery and conflict in Ukraine.

We all derive contentment where we can. (Rather easier, right now, for Rangers fans.) But the zeitgeist is, generally, less than ecstatic.

However, ironically, it’s party, party all the way for the local elections.

That is because most attribute significant Tory losses to Partygate. Many voters, frankly, were sickened by the reports of Downing Street jollity during lockdown.

Several Tories blame the Prime Minister directly for a shifty response.

Several – but still not anything like the entire party. Boris Johnson is evidently in trouble. But not, yet, finished.

It scarcely helped, of course, that the overall atmosphere remains solemn. Frankly, the economy is veering towards a critical state.

Folk tend to feel less than charitable in such circumstances towards the sundry incumbents of Downing Street, whether Number 10 or 11.

Does all that then wholly explain the slide in Tory support in Scotland? Douglas Ross, he who shepherds the Scottish Tory flock, inclines towards that view. He says Partygate was the “dominating” issue which deterred folk from voting Tory.

That is understandable. The alternative is that he takes the rap himself, as his party slips from second to fifth place in Edinburgh Council. That he personally “owns the consequences” of a bad election.

That helpful suggestion came from Adam Tomkins who was, until recently, a Conservative MSP and sat alongside Mr Ross on the Holyrood front bench.

The argument is that Mr Ross is, at least partly, responsible for the Tory malaise in Scotland because he dithered over whether the PM should quit or not.

In Scotland, it’s his party – and he’ll cry if he wants to. Except he is far too stoical to do any such thing and may even contrive to take some tiny comfort from the Tories gaining seats in Moray, his own backyard.

But it seems a mite simplistic to pin all or even most of the blame upon Mr Ross.

He did not, for example, play any part in the Tories’ losing Westminster Council which they have held since the borough was created. Or Wandsworth, once Margaret Thatcher’s favourite local authority because it kept local taxation so low.

These were defeats at the hands of Labour. However, these totemic victories for Keir Starmer’s party are not universally mirrored across England. Once again, London is rather distinctive as, intriguingly, it was during the Brexit referendum.

Sir Keir voiced delight at these results but the overall picture, while upbeat, is not one of unalloyed joy for Labour. (Plus the police say they are now investigating claims that he may have broken lockdown rules by sharing a comradely beer during a campaign visit to Durham last year.)

The results, when they are all analysed, will be encouraging for Labour. But do they depict a party ready, for certain, to oust Boris Johnson from Downing Street?

And in Scotland? An improved showing by Labour certainly. But Anas Sarwar, the party’s Scottish leader, is careful to avoid getting too excited. Much more to do, years of work, you know the formula.

That is sensible. Labour’s problem in Scotland for years – strike that, for decades – has been a presumption among too many of their supporters that they were entitled to rule north of the border, that the SNP were an aberration.

Slowly, steadily, Labour’s dominance in urban, proletarian Scotland was usurped by the diligent, dedicated SNP.

This time around, Labour has made up ground. They have moved up while the Conservatives have slipped back.

That relative success was sharply delineated, for example, in one of the first results where Labour took overall control of West Dunbartonshire; a remarkable feat under a proportional voting system.

But the SNP matched that success in Dundee and stayed firmly in the lead in Scottish political arithmetic.

The SNP are still decidedly number one, holding the lead in Glasgow and gaining seats elsewhere. Which, once again, is remarkable. Remember that they have been in Holyrood power since 2007.

Incumbent Parliamentary parties tend to suffer in mid term local elections. Just ask Boris Johnson or (if you prefer) Douglas Ross.

The SNP may now have to tweak their strategy somewhat, to cope with altered circumstances. But only somewhat.

They have a single transferable message: that Scotland is undermined by Boris Johnson and that Labour enable that situation by defending the Union and resisting the transfer of full fiscal power to Holyrood.

Indeed, the First Minister appeared to be preparing for a shuffle of the pack among her opponents. In Holyrood on Wednesday, she gently lampooned Anas Sarwar for making second place the summit of his ambition. Mr Sarwar demurred.

Stand by for some more direct SNP challenges to Labour, reflecting their altered status. It is, potentially, simpler for the SNP to combat the Tories: a clear independence versus Union conflict. But Ms Sturgeon will already be readying the revised rhetoric for the aftermath of these elections.

The other parties? The Liberal Democrats had a decidedly good election, north and south of the Border.

Indeed, Alex Cole-Hamilton, an instinctively eager individual, was moved to forecast that the election would prove a “springboard to success” for his party.

Good results for the Greens too who had been worried in advance that they might not pick up enough first preference votes to get into the race for lower ranked seats.

Countermanding that concern, they contrived to top the poll in the Glasgow ward contested by the SNP’s council leader Susan Aitken. She was elected at a later stage of the count.

It might be thought the SNP would welcome success for the Greens, their pro-indy chums. Up to a point, Lord Copper. They are a rival party, with a different economic agenda.

Then there is Alex Salmond’s Alba. Little sign of the promised break-through. Chris McEleny, their general secretary, lost out in Inverclyde, defiantly advising his rivals, as once did the bold Claverhouse: “Tremble false Whigs, in the midst o’ yer glee.”

I admire his adaptation of Sir Walter Scott’s great poem. Not sure about the message, though. Not many Whigs in Scotland these days. Nor indeed quite so many Tories.