The Tories have felt the impact of ‘partygate’ across Scotland, suffering heavy losses nationwide while the SNP and Labour gain key seats.
The Conservatives lost 62 seats and saw their share of the vote drop by double-digits in some wards, with leader Douglas Ross admitting the results were “very disappointing”.
He said Prime Minister Boris Johnson “can’t ignore the message” sent by voters in Thursday’s local elections.
But the Moray MP was criticised for backing down in his calls for the Conservative Party leader to stand down.
Speaking from the election count in Moray, he said: “There’s been a very strong message from the public to the prime minister and to the party”.
He highlighted gains in Moray and Aberdeenshire, but said: “In too many parts of Scotland, we’ve lost excellent candidates and councillors haven’t been re-elected because it seems many of our supporters decided to sit this one out, to protest and not cast their vote, and we’ve lost out as a result of that.”
The north and north-east was an outlier in this election, with the Tories not experiencing the same losses it has in other parts of the country.
SNP win most councillors
Elsewhere, the SNP secured an overall majority in Dundee, while Labour won control of West Dunbartonshire.
Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP secured the highest number of councillors in Thursday’s election at 453, including 22 gains.
This included returning the largest group of councillors in Aberdeen and becoming the largest group at Highland Council.
Ms Sturgeon hailed the victory for her party as “astonishing”.
She said: “The SNP has been in government for 15 years and today we won the election overwhelmingly, I think the eighth consecutive election victory since I became leader of the SNP.
“But more than that, we’ve increased our share of the vote, we’ve increased the number of councillors that we have returned, we’re the largest party in more councils today than we were yesterday.
“This is an astonishing result for the SNP and an absolutely brutal rejection of Boris Johnson and the Conservatives.”
It’s been almost a decade and it’s the first time we’ve had a cheerful day for the Scottish Labour Party.
– Anas Sarwar
Labour leapfrogged the Tories to take second place overall, picking up 20 new seats across the country.
In Aberdeen, they won all 11 seats they contested, including two gains.
Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said “the Ruth Davidson project is dead”, as his party celebrated gains in Glasgow City Council.
He said: “It’s been almost a decade and it’s the first time we’ve had a cheerful day for the Scottish Labour Party.
“It’s a good day, we’ve made good progress.
“For well over a decade now, we’ve had a politics in Scotland where there’s been one dominant party, and there’s been a Labour party that’s been not on the pitch, not been willing to compete, and a Conservative party whose limited ambition has been to come in second place.”
Greens make gains
Meanwhile, the Greens had reason to smile after almost doubling their total number of councillors to 34.
Green candidate Holly Bruce, who hails from Aberdeenshire, overtook Glasgow City Council’s leader on first preference votes.
The newly-elected councillor topped the ballot in the city’s Langside Ward with 3,173 first preference votes, while the SNP’s Susan Aitken received 2,899.
The staffer for Green Party co-leader Patrick Harvie was educated at Fraserburgh Academy and read law at the University of Aberdeen.
Liberal Democrat ‘revival’?
The Liberal Democrats doubled their tally in Edinburgh to 12, which party leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said showed they were on the way to a “revival” across Scotland.
However, the party did not make any major gains in the north and north-east despite Aberdeenshire and the Highlands being areas of historic success.
This enthusiasm was matched in England where the party’s national leader spoke of a “political earthquake stretching from Somerset to Cumbria”.
The Alba Party failed to return any councillors despite running more than 100 candidates.
Leader Alex Salmond told the Press and Journal the party was “disappointed not to win a seat”.
He added that the party is “focused on the Scottish elections in four years time”.
Although the number of councillors elected in each ward is now known, it will probably be next week before it becomes clear who will have control over most councils.
This is because parties will have to hold talks to discuss potential coalitions.
Only Dundee and West Dunbartonshire have obvious winners after the SNP and Labour respectively won overall majorities.