Party's city dominance under threat for first time in decades as voter apathy adds to local elections' unpredictability.
The battle for Glasgow may just represent the battle for Scotland. For the first time in decades, Labour's dominance of this sprawling city is under real threat.
On Friday, what was once the second city of the Empire may find itself with the Scottish National party in control along with large swathes of Scottish local government, just as Alex Salmond prepares to launch his campaign for independence.
For the first minister, Glasgow would be the greatest prize from Thursday's council elections. Nervous about the scale of the task there, he knows it is a significant test of his party's apparent dominance of Scotland, just 12 months after his dramatic landslide victory in the Holyrood elections.
Earlier this year, as the Glasgow Labour party went through a bloody deselection process, purging 20 out-of-favour sitting councillors, Salmond confirmed he wanted to win Glasgow. But now, with the SNP's stumbling leader in Glasgow, Allison Hunter, attracting critical press coverage, the outcome seems far less clear. The first minister, ever sensitive to the precise timbre of his message, is now hedging his bets.
As he launched his party's national council manifesto in Stirling last month, he was asked whether Glasgow was his main target. Maybe, was the apparent answer. "We will be looking to win more votes, more seats, than any other party in Scotland," Salmond said.
"I don't want to single out any council; we're working really hard in Glasgow to make substantial progress to win, but we're working hard across Scotland and our campaign is about local communities and priorities for local communities in Glasgow, Dundee, Aberdeen – all the great cities of Scotland."