Alex Salmond's hopes of sweeping Labour aside in Scotland's biggest city were dashed last night, fuelling claims that an unstoppable SNP march towards an independent Scotland had stalled.
Labour defied nationalist hopes in Glasgow to return to power while securing its position as the biggest party in Edinburgh, where the ruling Liberal Democrats were routed.
Mr Salmond's party is still on course to be the biggest party in local government, with unprecedented majorities in Dundee and Angus. However, most councils remained hung under the single transferable voting system.
Despite the low turnout both main parties were talking up their successes. Early indications suggested the Labour vote could increase by six per cent with the SNP up four per cent. Gains came at the expense of the Conservatives, fighting for the first time under their new leader, Ruth Davidson, and even more so the Liberal Democrats.
The backlash to the Coalition was strongest in Edinburgh, where voters were furious with the Liberal Democrats over their handling of a tram project which is now £400m over budget and running five years late. Among those to lose their seat was the former council leader Jenny Dawe. Voters vented their anger by spoiling ballot papers with the word "trams".
In her first electoral test as Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont said: "If last year was a tsunami for the SNP, perhaps now the tide is going out on Alex Salmond."
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