I know that some people are looking for reassurance that the "vote till you boak" message didn't go totally unheeded on Thursday. So allow me to present to you Exhibit A - the Irvine Valley ward in East Ayrshire, which has become famous for its new 'Rubbish Party' councillor, but which should really be better known for its shrewd use of lower preferences to prevent a Tory from being elected. This was the result on first preferences -
You wouldn't have been terribly optimistic about the chances of stopping the candidate in second place from being elected in a three-seat ward, but that's exactly what happened. The decisive moment was the elimination of the less popular SNP candidate after five counts. With the top-placed SNP candidate having already reached the quota and been declared elected, there were now only three candidates left in contention for the two remaining seats, and so whoever found themselves in third place on the sixth count was going to draw the short straw. The Tory looked safe-ish, with a lead of 75 votes over the Rubbish Party, and 84 over Labour. But then 112 of the votes from the eliminated SNP candidate transferred to Labour, 147 transferred to the Rubbish Party, and only 25 went to the Tory. That meant the Tory was brutally leapfrogged by the other two candidates simultaneously - but only just.
Sixth count (votes rounded to nearest whole number) :
Councillors elected : 1 SNP, 1 Rubbish, 1 Labour
So the equation here was really simple and stark - if all SNP voters had only ranked the two SNP candidates, they would have ended up with a Tory councillor. But because a significant number of them used their lower preferences, they got a Labour councillor instead. Maybe not something to dance in the streets about, but I think most of us would regard a Labour councillor as the lesser of two evils in the current circumstances. The flip-side of the coin, though, is that the majority of SNP voters did not use enough of their lower preferences, which made the Labour-Tory battle for the final seat much closer (3 votes!) than it needed to be.
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We still don't have the nationwide popular vote totals, but a lot of the gaps have been filled over the last 24 hours. In most councils that I've been able to find figures for, the SNP vote share was up. That's been offset by sharp declines in a limited number of SNP/Tory battleground areas (such as Moray and Angus), but given that those are not the most populous councils, I'm struggling to see how the national SNP vote share isn't going to be up at least slightly. I may end up eating my words, but that's how it looks at the moment.
I'm more confident in saying that the Tories' vote is only going to be in the low 20s. The increase in their vote in some councils looks reasonably impressive until you recall that it's being measured from a pathetic 13% national vote at the last local elections in 2012. When the exact percentage figure is finally revealed, there are going to be some red faces among the media organisations who indulged in wishful thinking over a Tory performance that in reality is almost certainly well short of the high 20s/low 30s recorded in recent opinion polls.