Edinburgh Council elections could see SNP follow Nicola Sturgeon and form new pact with Greens – Steve Cardownie
As next year’s city council election looms ever larger, Councillor Iain Whyte, leader of the Conservative Group, took to the pages of this paper on Monday to lambast the SNP/Labour coalition’s record in running the city and called for its removal next May.
He cites the findings of the council’s recent internal audit report as evidence of failure when he says: “For four years in a row its internal auditors have sounded the red alert about the council’s ability to manage risks and to meet it’s objectives.”
And he doesn’t pull any punches when he continues: “Once would be bad enough, but four consecutive red ratings in the ‘traffic light’ system smacks either of wilfulness or gross incompetence.”
SNP and Labour will defend their record and deny the opposition’s accusations of failure but when it comes to the vote will all this really matter?
It is usually the case that local elections generally reflect political standing of the party nationally. A Panelbase opinion poll conducted in June put the SNP on 46 per cent, Conservatives 24 per cent, Labour 19 per cent, Lib Dems six per cent and Greens three per cent, albeit for the Scottish Parliament constituency vote.
If this is in any way reflects voting intentions for the forthcoming council election, then it is obvious that the prospects of unseating the SNP are slim to non-existent.
The voting system will ensure that all the above parties will return councillors in May but the SNP will have the largest group and will seek a partner to help govern the city. However if the numbers stack up, Labour may be left out in the cold.
I say this because the discussions between the SNP and the Greens in the Scottish Parliament to conclude a “co-operation agreement” look like bearing fruit, marking the first time that the SNP has officially co-operated with another party in government.
As a result, there is a distinct possibility that the Scottish Green’s co-leaders, Lorna Slater and Patrick Harvie, may be offered ministerial positions.
If such an agreement can be formed nationally, then why not locally? The Greens up at the City Chambers have kept an arm’s length distance between themselves and the SNP/Labour coalition but, when push has come to shove, have lent their support when it mattered.
Councillor Whyte refers to them as “chums” of the coalition but perhaps next time around they will consider putting their co-operation on a more formal footing and form a coalition with the SNP group?
Just as ministerial positions may be an attractive proposition for the Greens nationally, the prospect of a couple of plum convener-ships at the City Chambers might be just too tempting to resist.
For instance, the transport and environment committee must be “right up their alley” and the chance to be at the helm of such an important committee, which could also provide the platform to advance their own policy initiatives, would be difficult to ignore.
So, despite Councillor Whyte’s protestations, the Conservatives are destined to once more play a bit part in the next council term. Whether it is more of the same or a new coalition remains to be seen.