Nationalists drop aim to take outright control of city

Steve Cardownie
Steve Cardownie
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THE SNP has given up on its ambition to take overall control of the city council.

The party – which has run the Capital in coalition with the Liberal Democrats for the past five years – no longer plans to field enough candidates in the local elections in May to give it an overall majority at the City Chambers.

Instead, SNP group leader Steve Cardownie said its aim was now to become the biggest party on the council and lead the next administration.

The Nationalists – currently the third-biggest party with 13 of the 58 seats – had been considering putting up 30 candidates across Edinburgh’s 17 multi-member wards in a bid to get more councillors than all the other parties put together.

They hoped the massive surge in SNP support which saw Alex Salmond lead his party to an unprecedented overall majority in the Scottish Parliament last year would carry forward into the local elections.

But after detailed analysis and an internal debate, the party will now field a maximum of 26 candidates.

Councillor Cardownie said the number was still subject to final confirmation.

But he said: “It will not be sufficient to take over the council without a coalition.

“We have gone through it all very scientifically and evaluated the risks and tried to make a realistic assessment.

“There is a view we could have afforded to be a bit more adventurous in the number of candidates we put up, but there was equally a view our main goal should be to be the largest party and hopefully lead any future administration.”

Under the Single Transferable Vote system – first used at the last council elections in 2007 – voters number candidates in order of preference and three or four councillors are elected for each ward.

But the way second, third and fourth preferences are distributed can prove crucial.

If a party puts up two candidates in one ward, it risks getting neither elected.

Councillor Cardownie said: “If you have too many candidates you can spread the vote too thinly.

“When you looked at it ward by ward there was a risk which could have tipped the balance in favour of our opponents.

“After great discussion and poring over computerised print-outs, we felt that, on reflection, we had to ensure we got ourselves the greatest opportunity to return the greatest number of councillors.”

At the moment, the Liberal Democrats are the largest party with 16 seats. Labour has 15, the Conservatives 11 and the Greens three.

The SNP’s decision means no party will now be fielding enough candidates in May to win an overall majority.

Cllr Cardownie said the SNP was not taking anything for granted, but whoever was the biggest party after the election would have two options.

He said: “One is to have a coalition with one or more other parties, the other is to operate as a minority administration and proceed policy by policy with the support of different parties at different times.”