Edinburgh’s 2022 results are best summed up in the style of a newspaper headline – “CONSERVATIVE’S CAPITAL CALAMITY“. After a poor result in the city at Holyrood last year, the Conservatives plummeted from first to fourth in terms of votes. That caused them to lose half of their seats, leaving them with 9, and actually leaving them the fifth and smallest party on the council in terms of seats. It wasn’t the SNP or Labour that benefitted however, with the SNP’s slight vote slip still keeping them on 19 seats, and Labour gaining only marginally by both measures, up one seat to 13.
Instead, the big winners in Edinburgh definitely feel like the Lib Dems. They doubled their number of seats to 12, and although that put them one shy of Labour’s total, they were second in vote share with a superb 7% swing. Likewise very content with the outcome will be the Greens, who gained two to hit 10 councillors. However, they failed to elect a new candidate in the Fountainbridge & Craiglockheart ward, and some of their results were dicier than their counterparts in Glasgow.
After the election, a Labour minority administration was formed.
Though Scotland is a relative rarity in European terms in that our capital isn’t our largest city, Edinburgh is otherwise typical of capitals across the continent. It draws together areas of relative wealth and deprivation, and has extremely high political diversity. Unlike its counterweight at the other end of the Central Belt, Edinburgh has relatively minimal sprawl connecting it to historic surrounding towns – it only flows neatly into Musselburgh in neighbouring East Lothian. However, the council boundaries do include some outlying villages that the city proper hasn’t yet absorbed either, most notably at (South) Queensferry in the west.
The comparatively affluent nature of the city would see it retain Conservative MPs right up until the party’s collapse in 1997, and it would also be a site of one of their earliest constituency victories at Holyrood in 2003. Though Labour were the leading parliamentary force in the city for a time, the Lib Dems also had a strong presence, particularly in the West and South. At Westminster, Edinburgh South was Labour’s sole Scottish seat in 2015 and again since 2019, whilst the Lib Dem loss of West would only last until 2017. At Holyrood, the SNP first won a single constituency here in 2007 before almost sweeping the city in 2011. 2016 saw each of the pro-Union parties win a single constituency, though the Conservatives would lose theirs in 2021.
The old district council started with Conservative leads in the first three elections, though only 1977 was with a majority. This shifted to clear Labour leads for most of the rest of the time and through the early unitary era, with only 1992 failing to produce a Labour majority. That year was also the start of a steady uptick in Lib Dem representation in Edinburgh, culminating in taking the mantle of second largest party in 2003.