NOTE: Caol and Mallaig ward was uncontested, meaning no vote was held. This will impact vote share slightly.
A really dramatic election in Highland, as for the first time ever Independents weren’t collectively the largest bloc. A net loss of seven seats put them on 21, one behind the SNP who remained steady on 22 and also took a vote lead. They’d likely have won a further 3 seats if they hadn’t under-nominated. The Lib Dems had a tremendous result here, which looks a lot like rebuilding support in a historic stronghold, gaining five seats to elect 15 councillors, on a 7% increase in their vote. Perhaps they benefitted most from departing Independents? Compared to poor results elsewhere, the Conservatives held steady in seat terms, still on 10.
Labour continued to wither in Highland despite a national advance, losing one of their seats and leaving them with a pair. After the Lib Dems, the Greens then probably had the best election in Highland, quadrupling their group, despite the loss of their 2017 councillor. One of those was in uncontested Caol and Mallaig ward, mind you.
They also saw a couple of knife-edge results, with their Inverness West councillor benefitting from Labour falling 0.3% behind Conservatives at the crucial stage. The reverse would likely have led to Labour winning. Across the city in Inverness South, one of those SNP under-nominations, only 27 votes separated them from a fifth seat. If they hadn’t inexplicably not stood a candidate there, I bet they’d have taken a seat in Wester Ross too. This is quite a long section for one party, but this is a really notable result, giving the Greens their first substantial group of councillors outside the two big cities.
After the election, the SNP and Independent groups reached an agreement to form an administration. Unlike other councils, Highland Independents typically act as a single group, and thus the entire bloc are currently counted towards the Administration below.
This is the big one – the biggest one. In a country that makes a mockery of the concept of local government, Highland council is a joke so bad it’s long since ceased to be funny. Famously huge, Highland covers what used to be the counties of Inverness, Nairn, Caithness, Sutherland, and Ross and Cromarty, along with small portions of historic Argyll and Moray. Under the 1973 Act, Highland was a region, under which there were districts for Caithness, Sutherland, Ross and Cromarty, Inverness, Skye and Lochalsh, Nairn, Lochaber, and Badenoch and Strathspey.
Come the 90’s, rather than turn those districts into unitary authorities or do some mild mergers, we just took the region made that a unitary. Nobody likes this anymore. Nobody. Combining a major and rapidly growing city in Inverness with a dizzying array of rural communities simply hasn’t worked. Even some MSPs, past and present, have begun to talk about the need to divide Highland back up.
Politically, the Highlands have often been diverse, with all of Labour, the Conservatives and Lib Dems holding Westminster seats here historically. By the late 20th century, the Lib Dems were typically the lead party, though Labour had a brief spell in the Inverness-centred constituency in 1997 and 2005 before the Lib Dems reasserted themselves. The SNP have held the Scottish parliament equivalent since 1999, and all Highland constituencies since 2011. They similarly gained the Westminster seats in 2015, though the Lib Dems have held the northernmost since 2017.
At local level, Highand has long been the most Independent leaning of the big rural councils. They historically held clear majorities on the region and in all districts, with only Inverness ever having an Independent minority. That continued into the unitary era, with Independent majorities in all three FPTP elections. It was clear the Highlands weren’t entirely Independent-minded however, as the Lib Dems, Labour and SNP all had consistently solid groups through that time.