Edinburgh coalition will be outnumbered on key committees

Group Leaders Councillor Adam McVey (SNP, left) and Councillor Cammy Day (Labour, right) sign a coalition agreement at the City Chambers. Pic: Greg Macvean
Group Leaders Councillor Adam McVey (SNP, left) and Councillor Cammy Day (Labour, right) sign a coalition agreement at the City Chambers. Pic: Greg Macvean
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THE Capital’s new SNP-Labour coalition will have to rely on support from opposition councillors to get its policies through committees over the next five years.

Proposals due to be approved by councillors on Thursday will mean the administration is outnumbered on every key committee.

The SNP and Labour together have 31 out of the 63 seats on the council – just one short of an overall majority.

And it is understood they originally proposed committees with equal numbers of coalition and opposition councillors. They would then have relied on the casting vote of the convener to win votes.

But with the other parties unwilling to accept the arrangement, the new proposals will give the opposition an advantage of one over the coalition on all the main committees.

Nevertheless, SNP group leader Adam McVey is optimistic the administration will be able to implement its programme.

He said: “The bulk of our programme is supported by the Greens and a lot of it also by the Lib Dems. So we hope when it comes to voting at committees, the number of times the opposition will feel able and willing to unite against what we are proposing will be few and far between. We’re trying to make that as close to zero as we can.

“We’re not anticipating it being a struggle to implement the programme.”

The council election gave the SNP 19 seats, the Tories 18, Labour 12, the Greens eight and Liberal Democrats six.

The coalition will formally be installed as the council administration on Thursday.

Under the model now favoured by the coalition, the number of executive committees would be cut from eight to six, each with 11 members – three SNP, three Conservative, two Labour, two Green and one Lib Dem.

Tory group leader Iain Whyte said he preferred a second model, which would involve just five committees, each with 13 members – giving the SNP and the Tories an extra seat each. He said: “Eleven is a fudge and makes the Greens over-represented and the SNP and ourselves under-represented.”

And he suggested the coalition could not count on getting its own way all the time.

“There will be opportunities from time to time for the administration to be defeated if they run as a minority. It would require everyone to come together, but usually there will be something at some point that causes an issue.”

The Greens’ Melanie Main said: “It’s important that a council which is in a minority also sees that reflected in the committee set-up. That will mean decisions have to be made on their own merits rather than simply weight of numbers. In turn, that is better for the quality of decisions and will make sure that people and organisations can see why things are decided as they are.

“Green councillors have said that we expect to support ideas which make our city greener and fairer. We’ll be constructive and positive as a matter of course, but equally determined to stand up where we think the wrong path is being chosen.”

Liberal Democrat group leader Robert Aldridge said it was right that the committees did not give the administration an inbuilt majority.

“Hopefully it means we reach as much of a consensus as possible and work in partnership rather than anyone forcing things through. We will look at every issue on its merits.”

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com