Scotland council elections 2022: Boris Johnson's Partygate law-breaking overshadowed election, but local issues must finally be the focus – Scotsman comment

With hundreds of Conservative councillors losing their seats in council elections across the UK, the decisive issue that swayed more voters than any other seems clear: Boris Johnson, Britain's first law-breaking Prime Minister.

Before the election, The Scotsman repeatedly called for local issues to be the main focus, while also calling for Johnson to resign for breaching his own lockdown rules.

We probably have to admit that our ‘manifesto’ was ignored by large numbers of voters, and not without reason. It would have been hard for supporters of the party of law and order to give even a tacit vote of confidence to our current Prime Minister.

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In Scotland, the SNP remained dominant with 454 councillors, up 23, while a resurgent Labour rose to 282, overtaking the Scottish Conservatives, who lost 62. The Liberal Democrats and Scottish Greens also added councillors to their ranks. A good result for every major party, but the Tories.

As the people’s verdict became clear, Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross was the focus of some ‘blue-on-blue’ flak over his decision to flip-flop on his earlier call for Johnson’s resignation – made when few Conservative colleagues were doing so – and instead back the Prime Minister, even as the Partygate scandal continued. More fines are still expected.

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Bizarrely, shortly before the election, Ross even chose to increase the spotlight on Johnson when he described him as a “truthful man” and “fit for office” – badly timed interventions that undermined the party’s efforts to fight the election on local issues and cast doubt on his political judgement.

It is ironic that, after council elections dominated by noise from an extraordinary national scandal, councillors across Scotland and the rest of the UK will be soon begin work on the local issues that were so overshadowed.

Nicola Sturgeon celebrates after the SNP added to its number of councillors (Picture: Peter Summers/Getty Images)

While many newly elected and re-elected councillors owe their seats to Johnson’s bad behaviour, they now need to put national politics behind them and focus on education, social care, transport, bins, potholes and other vital, if sometimes mundane, matters.

And just as The Scotsman sought to make those issues the focus of the election campaign, we will endeavour to shine a spotlight on councillors’ actions and hold them to account. Because local politics really does matter and it will only continue to suffer unless it receives greater attention.

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