Edinburgh Council elections 2022: Labour's antipathy towards coalition with SNP looks set to prolong negotiations – Steve Cardownie

Had the Scottish Labour Party not come out against involvement in local authority coalitions, the political waters at the City Chambers would be much clearer.
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With 19 SNP councillors and 13 Labour, a renewed coalition between the two main parties would have afforded it an outright majority with 32 out of the 63 councillors elected. Easy, agree who should fill the various positions up for grabs and Boab’s yer Auntie’s husband.

Alas, it is not so easy. If the Labour party continues to dig its heels in and refuses to sanction a coalition deal with the SNP, it would leave no option but for the SNP to try and cobble a deal with the Greens.

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Back in January I wrote in this column “so it looks increasingly likely that the SNP will either have to form a minority administration or seek a new party to run the city. Their natural ally would be a fellow ‘independence’ party in the shape of the Greens but, although giving tacit approval of the current administration by regularly voting with it, they have turned their face against the prospect of joining a coalition. This may change if they spot an opportunity to exert more influence and to capture key convenorships such as transport and environment, which could help progress their policy objectives.”

This is not to say the Labour group have given up the ghost of playing a part in a new administration, with either an agreement with the SNP that falls short of a formal coalition or a deal with the Lib Dems and Greens, which would likely open up the prospect of them securing the leadership of the council as the largest party in the coalition.

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Both scenarios would still need national party endorsement and might expose Labour’s real national position of antipathy towards a coalition with the SNP rather than to one with other parties.

However, they would face at least two hurdles. Firstly, if a deal with the SNP offers up certain positions to the Labour group, how is that not a coalition? And secondly, how likely is it that the Greens would be happy to join a coalition which deprives the SNP of any power when they have recently entered into a loose arrangement with the very same party in Holyrood?

Edinburgh waits to hear the make-up of the new council administration following last week's election (Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto)Edinburgh waits to hear the make-up of the new council administration following last week's election (Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto)
Edinburgh waits to hear the make-up of the new council administration following last week's election (Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto)
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An SNP/Green coalition would comprise of 29 councillors, three short of the magic number which delivers a majority and that means major policy initiatives would still need to attract the support of another party if they were to see the light of day.

While a majority administration is obviously desirable, with a fair wind, a minority administration can still deliver although it undoubtedly slows up the already tortoise-like speed of council processes.

It may well be, of course, that by the time you read this a compromise has been reached, although it looks like this particular race may still have a wee bit to run before we will be made aware of the political complexion of the new leadership walking the corridors of power up in the City Chambers.

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