Councillor lines up bid to lead authority if SNP is victorious

Cllr Tom Buchanan
Cllr Tom Buchanan
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The Capital’s economic development leader is lining up a bid to become Edinburgh’s next council leader.

Councillor Tom Buchanan is understood to hold ambitions of becoming city leader if the SNP group is elected as the leading party in the next council administration following the local elections next May.

The surprise move would mean the end of the leadership of the group by Steve Cardownie, who switched from the Labour benches in 2005 to become the SNP’s only Edinburgh councillor before overseeing a successful 2007 election campaign that returned 12 councillors and saw the group form a coalition with the Liberal Democrats.

It is thought Councillor Cardownie could look to take on the role of Lord Provost if the SNP was elected, paving the way for Cllr Buchanan, who is well-respected for his work in the economic development remit, to mount a bid for the leadership.

The SNP has enjoyed a massive increase in its popularity in Edinburgh and its strong showing in this year’s Scottish Parliament elections makes it the favourite to become the leading party in a future coalition following the May elections.

One SNP source said: “I think Steve would be happier with a role such as Lord Provost as opposed to leader. It is 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week stuff and he has a young family. It is up to him what role he wants to play but it is a pretty full-on job being leader, especially if the party becomes the main party in administration.”

Cllr Buchanan, who was first elected in 2007 after winning a bigger share of the vote in the Liberton/Gilmerton ward than any other candidate, was today not willing to confirm or deny that he wants to become the next group leader.

He said: “I’ve got to be selected as a candidate and that does not take place until next week. I may or may not be selected; that is down to the membership.

“We then have the issue of getting through the election and the number of councillors we return so we’ve got to deal with that first and that is as far as it will go just now.”

When asked if he would consider attempting to become leader if the SNP became the biggest group on the council, he said: “I won’t deny it or publicly say it at this stage.”

Cllr Cardownie, who was previously deputy Lord Provost while a Labour councillor and is also currently the city’s festivals and events champion, said: “I would not be so disrespectful to the internal democratic workings of the SNP as a party in Edinburgh or a group to comment on who be our leader after the next election.

“There are no guarantees in this business that we will be the largest party and I would never be saying that is a done deal. We will fight for every vote and there are so many imponderables that it is fanciful to say who will be [council] leader.”