At the last General Election the number of Lib Dem MPs went down from 62 to 57. But the power they had went dramatically up. In Scotland, the number of Conservative councillors has just gone down. But those left standing have often found themselves as king makers. This is probably due to the number of Lib Dem having fallen even more sharply, so that their horse-trading opportunity has diminished.
I have already mentioned that Aberdeen and Stirling are being run by Lab/Conservative coalitions and Moray as a Conservative/independent coalition. The Labour/Conservative coalition for East Lothian is now confirmed. A similar arrangement will be taking place in Falkirk, as it will in South Ayrshire – although there is the difference there that the Conservatives are the senior partner. East Dunbartonshire has a Labour/Conservative/Lib Dem coalition leaving the SNP in opposition. Aberdeenshire will be a Lib Dem/Conservative/Independents coalition.
There is a report that Fife is to have a minority Labour administration rather than a coalition. But Labour has done a deal with the Conservatives to secure support in return for greater transparency and localism. In contrast, Perth and Kinross will have a minority SNP administration dependent on Conservative support.
Dumfries and Galloway will be an SNP/Conservative coalition.
On the other hand, the Conservatives are out of power on the Scottish Borders council despite being the largest party.
In some places there is still haggling going on. But of the 32 councils in Scotland that is already 10 where the Conservatives have some sort of power.
This must be helpful for the respectability of the Conservative brand. Such was the level of hostility towards the Conservatives in the past that I don't think the other parties would have been willing to have had anything to do with us. On the other hand, it makes it harder for the Conservatives to offer a distinctive message as an anti-establishment party.
What I hope is that where Conservatives have done deals they have got concessions on policy rather than just committee chairmanships. I hope they have not sold their birthright for a mess of pottage.
Of course the demands have to be realistic. Home ownership? School choice? A cut in Council Tax might be pushing their luck. What about spending transparency? Agreeing to publish all items over £500? Wouldn't that be a modest enough demand as a deal breaker.