The future of Aberdeenshire Council rests with the Liberal Democrats as negotiations over a possible coalition continue.
No party put forward enough candidates in Thursday’s local government election to secure an overall majority in the chamber at Woodhill House.
Although the Conservative group gained seven seats to take their total number of councillors to 23, the diminished SNP group still remains 21 members strong.
Any coalition would almost certainly require the support of all 14 Liberal Democrat councillors to reach a majority of 36. The remaining votes would have to be found from Green, Labour or independent members.
The Liberals are yet to elect a leader after Banchory councillor Karen Clark stood down.
Last night long-standing councillor Peter Argyle said: “The Liberal Democrat group held its first meeting after the council election on Saturday to discuss the outcome of the poll.
“Further discussions and meetings will take place over the next few days.”
Although no deal has been struck to form an administration for Aberdeenshire Council, the leaders of both the Conservative and SNP groups have been re-elected to their party posts.
Tory group leader Jim Gifford, who was the leader of the council until an SNP-led coup in 2015, said: “I’m honoured to have the support of my colleagues in taking on this role again and looking forward to completing negotiations on forming a new administration for the council.
“We have had preliminary discussions with a few people over the weekend and will hold initial formal meetings tomorrow morning.”
He added that any deal to lead the local authority would need to have his party’s manifesto pledges to improve education and build more houses at its heart.
SNP chief Richard Thomson – who was unanimously returned to his role at a party meeting on Friday – said his group are “ready to discuss forming a coalition for Aberdeenshire”.
In the wake of last week’s election results, Mr Thomson – who succeeded Mr Gifford as authority leader two years ago – hinted that a “coalition of the centre” could be formed to keep the Conservatives out of administration.
The first full meeting of Aberdeenshire Council will be held on the morning of Thursday, May 18.