Edinburgh council draws lots over appointments

A tied vote shows how life might be under minority SNP rule. Picture: Greg Macvean
A tied vote shows how life might be under minority SNP rule. Picture: Greg Macvean
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THE perils of minority administration became obvious at the first city council meeting under the new SNP-Labour coalition when a tied vote ended with senior councillors having to draw lots.

The coalition was proposing the appointment of conveners for four “locality” committees which are due to be set up so some council decisions can be taken closer to communities.

But the Tories, Greens and Lib Dems came together to argue that it was premature to appoint conveners before it was even clear what the committees’ responsibilities would be. They also suggested the committees should be able to choose their own conveners.

With some absences on both sides, the vote was tied 29-29. And since the Lord Provost has no casting vote on appointments, the decision had to be made by SNP council leader Adam McVey and Tory leader Iain Whyte pulling numbered beads out of a bag.

Cllr McVey won it for the coalition by drawing out the bead marked 83 while Cllr Whyte drew 72. Council officials are expected to make sure the “bean bag” is close at hand at all future meetings.

The SNP and Labour together have 31 out of the 63 councillors, one short of an overall majority.

The meeting approved committee convener and vice-convener posts and the remuneration they will receive.

New SNP councillor Lesley Macinnes takes over the hot seat as convener of transport and environment. Labour veteran Ian Perry is the new education convener, while party colleague Donald Wilson becomes culture and communities convener and Joan Griffiths was elected Deputy Lord Provost.

In a streamlined system, the number of committees has been reduced from eight to six, with a more balanced share-out of the workload.

Cllr McVey said: “I am delighted that we have now formed an administration and I look forward to getting to work improving services and providing better opportunities for the people of Edinburgh.

“I accept this chamber is very finely balanced and we have a responsibility to take other parties with us.”

Cllr Day said the coalition would provide strong leadership for the Capital. He said: “We want to work with all parties across the chamber for the best for our city.”

Among the coalition priorities are construction of 20,000 affordable new homes, building two new secondary schools and 10 new primaries, improving waste services and boosting roads and pavement maintenance.

On the locality committees, Cllr Whyte claimed it was “premature and inappropriate” to appoint conveners to committees that did not yet exist and when no-one knew what they would do or what their remit was to be. He also argued it was wrong to appoint only SNP and Labour councillors to the posts when in some areas the two parties were in a minority.

But Labour’s Lezley Cameron said: “These locality committees are committees of the council, which is being run by an SNP-Labour coalition so it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that the conveners for those committees would come from the coalition parties.”

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com