LABOUR is almost certain to continue leading a coalition on Inverclyde Council after taking half of the 20 seats at Thursday's elections.

Results were declared yesterday at the Waterfront Leisure Centre in Greenock, where electronic counting started at 9am and revealed an average turnout of 43.75 per cent of voters.

Inverclyde is believed to have been the first local authority on mainland Scotland to declare overall results.

After the count had been completed, Labour leader Stephen McCabe said: "We were quitely confident.

"Our voter management was better than at the last council election.

"One of the other big factors was the collapse in the Liberal Democrat vote."

The Scottish National Party won six seats and their group leader, Councillor Innes Nelson, said the party was ruling nothing in or out over a possible coalition.

Mr Nelson said: "This is a positive result for us, getting one more councillor than in 2007."

Two of the remaining berths on the council went to the Liberal Democrats, with Tory David Wilson and Independent Ronnie Ahlfeld - who gained the highest individual number of votes - making up the balance.

Labour could try to rule with the 10 councillors they will have, but the Tele understands that it is more likely they will renew their previous coalition arrangement with councillors Wilson and Ahlfeld, bottom right.

However, neither Mr Wilson nor Mr Ahlfeld was willing to publicly commit to a deal yesterday.

Mr Wilson praised his unsuccessful Conservative colleagues on their performance, but there was disappointment in the Tory camp that they did not get a second councillor, with Graeme Brooks coming closest in the Inverclyde North ward.

Councillor Wilson said: "Much of my vote was an anti-independence vote. I believe the people of Quarrier's Village, Kilmacolm and Port Glasgow have indicated they want Scotland to remain as part of the United Kingdom."

Councillor Ahlfeld was clearly staggered by his vote.

He said: "This was an unbelievable number of votes.

"I campaigned on local issues and will continue to do over the next five years."

The Liberal Democrats, who ran Inverclyde from 2003 until 2007, saw their vote collapse in four of the six wards.

But ex-Provost Ciano Rebecchi, left, had tears in his eyes as he defied the national trend against the Lib Dems and retained his Inverclyde South West seat.

He said: "I'm delighted the voters have put their trust in me again.

"We all have to work together for the benefit of Inverclyde."

Former Lib Dem George White, who defected to the Liberal Party during the last council session, came second bottom in Inverclyde West and lost his seat. Returning officer John Mundell declared the first result, Inverclyde East, before 11am and the final one, Inverclyde South West, just over an hour later.

Labour gradually built up their tally and only one of their 11 candidates - Colin Jackson in Inverclyde South West - failed to get a seat.

Another casualty from the previous council was Charlie McCallum, who was elected for Labour in 2007 but then became an Independent.

He came bottom of the Inverclyde North poll.

There will be a total of six newcomers when the council meets for the first time on 17 May, and Labour have until then to form an administration.

As part of an agreement to form the new administration, talks could involve offering the position of Provost to Conservative David Wilson, who served as depute provost in the previous Labour-led council, However, such an offer will depend on Labour's Scottish hierarchy, who have to give permission for any coalition.

The lowest number of votes for any candidate went to Independent Peter Campbell, who received 62 in Inverclyde South West, and not far behind was the 96 recorded by Tory Harry Osborn in Inverclyde East Central.