Greens’ trajectory could mimic historic SNP rise
At first, the first sample data from Glasgow’s local election tally didn’t look quite right. Hunched over a single laptop in the Emirates Arena as Green campaigners paced back and forth with hastily written information marks, the small team entering sampled ballot boxes were skeptical.
If the figures were correct, they appeared to indicate that the city’s Langside area had overwhelmingly backed Green candidate Holly Bruce with first-preference votes over the current SNP leader from across the council – something that could be attributed Early through confirmation among activists gathered on a gray Friday morning.
After all, it’s natural for the eye to jump to what it’s looking for, and with only a second or two to spot a preference before an official counter smooths the folded lines of a ballot and lays down the results in a box, or moves to another sheet of pencil figures, it is understandable that small mistakes can slip in there.
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As official counting began however, with paper ballots piling up in scanners and being fitted with the complex equations necessary for proportional and representative advice, it looked less and less like an error in the counts and more like a potential reality. When Holly Bruce disappeared behind the curtain to hear the results, the waiting crowd seemed to realize something big was going on – and the roaring applause that followed her exit confirmed it.
A cannon shot had been fired with an unexpected victory, and the day was just beginning.
On paper, the local election results tell their own story, separate from the electric atmosphere of the counts taking place across Scotland. In terms of numbers, the election results went broadly as planned. The SNP remained the party with the most councilors elected in Scotland by a significant margin, even increasing their numbers. Labor also made small gains, while the Tories (mostly) paid the price for their leaders’ arrogance and rights. And the Alba party lost what few seats it had taken through defections and found its self-prophesied ‘breakthrough’ to be as soon as its promised reshuffle at Holyrood in 2021.
For the Scottish Greens however, at box level the gains looked quite moderate. Digging a little deeper however, a different national picture emerges; one that better matches the raw excitement that could be felt in Glasgow on Friday.
Although a small party, the Greens continue to make inroads across Scotland as a growing political force. Residents of the Borders, East Lothian, South Lanarkshire, North Lanarkshire and Shetland will have green representation on their local councils for the first time ever. Alongside Glasgow, Edinburgh and the Highlands sacked a record number of Green councillors; results flowed from campaigner to campaigner between counts as victories came in throughout the day.
With hits in Glasgow’s neighborhoods growing denser as the morning passed into the afternoon, there was a sudden rumble of uncertainty about an announcement. A candidate had been elected in a neighborhood where it was not even conceivable that a green victory could occur and, as such, no one had sampled the data for this area. Again, it was assumed that this was a misunderstanding. This was not the case.
These victories are the result of seeds planted by the party over many years. In many ways, the Greens appear to be on a trajectory not unlike the historic rise of the SNP and its breakthrough from small party to governing party, building on small victories to sow the seed.
And these victories were played out on the national stage. Despite their size, the Greens wield significant power; not only through the controversial cooperation agreement with the SNP government, but also on the local scene. They’ve probably just found themselves the kingmakers of Glasgow City Council.
The wider narrative here is no different to Holyrood’s last election in 2021, where the numbers alone told only part of the story. It’s a story about how power changes and shifts, yes, but it’s also a story about Scotland’s future.
While the crowd of candidates, campaign managers and party activists seemed largely buoyed by the results at the Emirates Arena (except for the Tories whose faces were mostly a picture-perfect picture of misery), he there was a wave of unease over the election of Labor’s Kieran Turner – a candidate with a side gig as Scottish Public Leadership and Advocacy Leader for the Evangelical Fellowship; an anti-LGBT organization supporting the harmful practice of conversion therapy.
Alongside the election of the former Orange Order of Labor world leader in Airdrie, there appears to be a growing divide between parties who represent the future more than the past.
Yet, it’s not just a central belt story, but a microcosm of a fight taking place across Scotland. In the future. The importance of local issues. And about who represents our communities.
While smaller, backward-looking parties like Alba and the Scottish Family Party once again found themselves left behind by the electorate, the upstart Greens instead ventured into fertile ground across Scotland and again dropped seeds in their wake.