Brian Monteith: The voters have had their say, now real battle can commence

The real fight has still to be fought. The sigh of relief from Labour Party hacks in Glasgow and London could be heard across the land as the party managed to prevent another humiliating defeat at the hands of the SNP.

True, the SNP has made some handsome gains, of which winning Dundee outright is the most notable, but the failure to win Glasgow will be disappointing, especially as Labour have regained majority control.

For the Conservatives, the achievement of becoming the third largest party, measured by number of councillors, should be tempered by the realisation, if they are big enough to accept it, that leapfrogging the Liberal Democrats has essentially been achieved by losing fewer councillors. Doing well in the Scottish Borders and South Ayrshire cannot hide the fact that the “other parties and independents” have more councillors than the Conservatives.

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For the Liberal Democrats, there really is little that can be said that is good news. To lose in the first ballot to a candidate standing in Edinburgh’s Pentlands ward as a penguin is nearly as bad as a humiliation can be, only the fact that he was ultimately eliminated by later transfers of votes spared the coup de grâce.

Nevertheless, losing its top two councillors in former leader Jenny Dawe and transport convener Gordon McKenzie illustrates the depth of Liberal Democrat unpopularity and how much they have become associated with the scandal of Edinburgh’s trams.

The main beneficiaries appears to have been Labour and the Greens. Indeed, if the Lib Dems had held their ground, it’s fair to say that Labour would have struggled to have recorded so many victories – so Johann Lamont should not think her party has fully recovered yet.

If the Greens can maintain this momentum into future elections we may be witnessing the beginning of a long-overdue realignment of the leftist parties. And we may yet see the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats forming administrations where they have suffered setbacks and the SNP or Labour kept out of power even where they are the largest party. Such is the reality of our new proportional democracy.