THE coalition deal agreed between Labour and the SNP to run Edinburgh for the next five years may come as a surprise to many.
Although the two parties have much in common when it comes to policies, the fierce political rivalry between them – and the fact SNP group leader Steve Cardownie was a Labour councillor until he defected in 2005 – had led many to say such a partnership was the least likely outcome of the negotiations following last week’s council elections.
It was clearly not Labour group leader Andrew Burns’ first choice – he wanted a grand coalition of talents, with all parties represented in the administration. The desire for co-operation was laudable, but the practicalities always looked tricky.
But in the deal he has now struck with the SNP, Councillor Burns has probably got as close to achieving his objective as he could. These two parties, traditionally at each other’s throats, have pledged to put their differences to one side and work together in the interests of the city.
The fact the administration parties can rely on 38 of the 58 councillors will bring a stability to the council which was missing over the past five years when the Lib Dem-SNP coalition was dependent on the casting vote of the Lord Provost.
And the two party leaderships include politicians with significant experience, which will also stand the city in good stead.
Of course, it remains to be seen just how the arrangement will work and what impact it will have on the city. A lot may depend on the personalities of the key figures and how they can get on. But Cllr Burns has insisted he is confident he can work with Cllr Cardownie and the rest of the SNP “without any problem whatsover”.
The trams issue, which led voters to give the Lib Dems such a bloody nose at the election, will be one the new administration is anxious to neutralise. All parties say the priority is to get on and deliver the project.
The fact that Labour is sharing power in the Capital with the Scottish Nationalists in the run-up to the referendum on independence may cause some raised eyebrows and embarrassment. No doubt the SNP was keen to make sure it did have a stake in running the Capital at such an important time.
But Labour, probably rightly, concluded it would have been more of a problem to go into coalition with the Tories – the other option which was being touted right up until yesterday afternoon. The Lib Dems are a warning of what can happen there.
So the new Labour-SNP coalition looks at least a promising starting point for the city as it faces five years which could prove very tough.