Vote count under way as parties prepare for talks over coalition

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COUNTING of votes in the city council elections was under way today as speculation mounted about the shape of the new administration expected to be formed over the weekend.

Ballot boxes from polling stations across the Capital were transported to Meadowbank sports centre last night ready for the count to begin early this morning.

A coalition is expected in Edinburgh.

A coalition is expected in Edinburgh.

Results from each of Edinburgh’s 17 multi-member wards are expected to be declared at intervals during the day.

And newly-elected councillors are due to meet in their party groups at the City Chambers later this afternoon ahead of talks between group leaders on coalitions.

The SNP is widely tipped to emerge with the most councillors and the Tories could overtake Labour to become the second largest party.

Everything will depend on the numbers – there are now 63 seats on the council, so any combination of parties would need 32 to command a majority.

But it is thought a coalition led by the SNP and with Labour as the junior partner could be the most likely outcome to replace the 
current Labour-SNP administration.

The SNP’s national executive has ruled out any Nationalist deals with Conservatives.

But the SNP fears Labour and the Conservatives could get together in a bid to form a pro-Union coalition, perhaps bringing in the Liberal Democrats if necessary.

However, one council insider was sceptical if Labour would be prepared to enter a coalition with Conservatives.

They said: “It would take a brave group to do a deal with the Tories, given what’s happening.”

A pro-independence coalition involving the SNP and the Greens could be an option. But when Labour’s Andrew Burns tried to form an all-party “rainbow” administration in 2012, it was rejected by the Greens.

The insider said: “The SNP has had coalitions with the Lib Dems and then with Labour. It’s not inconceivable they might want to go with the Greens this time, but I don’t know if the Greens have an appetite to be in a coalition.”

The SNP could opt to form a minority administration if a deal could be secured with the Greens guaranteeing their support on key votes.

But an SNP-Labour coalition looks the most plausible scenario, despite the parties’ difference.

A source said: “They could approach another independence referendum in the same way as they did in 2014 – they just didn’t refer to it and got on with running the city.”

And the source said Labour would swallow its pride over going from the lead party to the junior partner, given its poor ratings across the country.

“If Labour has any chance of being part of an administration anywhere in Scotland they’re going to have to take it.”

Another source suggested the general election made it difficult for any cross-party deals and said there could even be a “short period of minority administration” until after June 8, with any coalition agreement or other arrangement postponed until after that.

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com