The Scottish National party has carved out a healthy and substantial lead after the first 14 Scottish councils released their results, taking 38.1% of the vote – nearly 10 points higher than their 28.9% total in 2014.
SNP officials still believe they will win two seats, rather than the three projected by some polls, but the early results for Labour are dire – far below the 13 to 20% forecast by the polls.
Labour is currently trailing in fifth on 9.1%, and senior party sources now fear they will lose all two of their current seats – and are on course for their worst election result in modern times.
The Brexit party is in second, on 15.9%, with the Lib Dems up in third on 13.1% after their support was boosted by votes from Orkney and Shetland, a traditional heartland. The Tories are in fourth on 11.9%.
Councils across Scotland are reporting noticeably higher than normal turnout for a European election, with close to 50% of voters casting ballots in authorities including Edinburgh, East Renfrewshire and Stirling.
Shortly before 10pm, it emerged the overall turnout for Scotland was just under 40%, at 39.7% – 6.2 points higher than in 2014
A series of opinion polls had forecast the SNP was on course to win three of Scotland’s six European parliament seats, with Labour expected to win one and the Brexit party taking another. That would leave the Conservatives, Lib Dems and Scottish Greens scrapping for the sixth seats.
However, Britain Elects has forecast the SNP would only take two seats – the same as it currently has. And there are sombre faces amongst SNP officials at Edinburgh city chambers, where the council is hosting the declaration of the Scottish results.
Total turnout in 2014 was 33.5% but in East Renfrewshire the vote was up 5.3 points to 48.4%, and up by 8.6 points to 46.7% in Stirling. In East Dunbartonshire, it reached 47.1%, up 8.7 points. In Edinburgh, the turnout hit 50.2%, up 8.6 points on 2014.
A Scottish Green party activist blogging on Twitter as @BallotBoxScot, Alan Faulds, who happens to be sixth on the Greens list for this election, calculated that turnout across the country was up by 6 points at least after the first 14 councils announced their turnout figures.
The final Scottish result is not due until late morning tomorrow because the Western Isles council, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, won’t carry out its count until tomorrow as it observes the sabbatarian injunction against working on a Sunday.
But with the results from 31 of Scotland’s 32 councils due to be declared tonight, a very firm picture of the final result will emerge. In 2014, only 7,705 of the Western Isles’ voters turned out – just under 0.6% of the Scotland total.