As the BBC are busily misleading their viewers by claiming that the SNP have "lost seven seats since 2012", I thought it might be useful to post the real numbers.
Councillors won with changes since 2012 :
SNP 431 (+6)
Conservatives 276 (+161)
Labour 262 (-132)
Independents 172 (-28)
Liberal Democrats 67 (-4)
Greens 19 (+5)
The 2012 result was the SNP's best ever showing in a local election, so by exceeding that they have set a new record high. Even taking into account the slight change in the overall number of seats, it's also a record high for the SNP in terms of the proportion of seats they've won.
The BBC's excuse for giving inaccurate figures is that they are using 'notional results' to provide a baseline - in other words, they are using rough estimates of what the 2012 result might have been if the new boundaries had been used. In my view that is unsatisfactory. The difference between a 7-seat drop and a 6-seat increase is a trivial one, but it does have a big psychological impact, and to give viewers such precise numbers based on educated guesswork seems wholly wrong.
One other obvious point I didn't hear anyone on the BBC programme making is that if Scotland had been using the English voting system (you know, the one that artificially produced the hundreds of "incredible" Conservative gains we heard so much about), we'd have been looking at an SNP landslide and much more sweeping gains.
All the same, the three unionist parties have in combination narrowly failed to win a majority of the council seats in Scotland. It's likely that there are enough pro-union independent councillors out there to swing the balance - but it's also highly likely that those independent councillors were not elected on the basis of their constitutional views. So the Peter Kellner propaganda line that this was some sort of vote against an independence referendum simply does not stack up.
In fairness, though, perhaps we should be raising our glasses to the propagandists in London, because the over-hyping of the Tory gains is going to send expectations of a Ruth Revolution sky-high. If the SNP win three-quarters of the seats in June (which is still eminently possible), it's going to be hard for the media to plausibly switch narrative and argue that Nicola Sturgeon should be winning every single seat, and that anything short of that is all terribly unexpected.
Given the hoo-ha over the Tory surge, it's truly extraordinary just how close the Tories came to remaining stuck in third place in terms of seats - which would have been acutely embarrassing for them and would have enormously complicated their spin operation. It'll take time to pick over the entrails of the results, but I'm wondering if anti-SNP lower preferences from Tory voters helped Labour win significantly more seats in SNP/Labour battleground areas than they otherwise would have done, and paradoxically almost kept Labour in overall second place. That might also help explain why an increase in the SNP's popular vote was not replicated in the form of a significant increase in their number of councillors.
If it turns out that Labour have indeed proved a little more resilient than expected in their former heartlands on the back of Tory transfers, there may be reassurance at hand for the SNP as far as the general election is concerned. With just one vote at every Tory supporter's disposal, it's unlikely that the zealous new converts will be lending their support back to Labour in sufficient numbers to make much of a difference.
I was mightily relieved that the SNP managed to become the largest single party in my home council of North Lanarkshire by the absolute skin of their teeth. Labour and the Tories do still have the numbers in combination to freeze the SNP out of power, but will Labour take such an enormous gamble? It's one thing for them to do deals with the Tories in places like Stirling, but in North Lanarkshire they would be crucified for it.
It's fascinating to see that the Tories were "only" 11% ahead of Labour on UK-wide projected vote share - much lower than the lead suggested by most recent opinion polls for the general election. It's true that there are ample precedents to demonstrate that local election results can flatter the main opposition party, but nevertheless with Labour morale at rock bottom it wouldn't have been surprising to see carnage on a much bigger scale. Opinion polls in Britain have very rarely overestimated the Tories, but it's an interesting possibility.