Edinburgh Council elections: Labour may still find a way to be in 'coalition', even with the SNP – John McLellan

I’d wager fellow Evening News columnist Steve Cardownie’s tongue was firmly in his cheek when he mused that Councillor Scott Arthur could be the new leader of Edinburgh Council’s Labour group if he is re-elected in May, following reports that Scottish leader Anas Sarwar had ruled out coalitions with the SNP.

Wednesday, 12th January 2022, 4:45 pm
Anas Sarwar has expressed his opposition to Labour coalitions with other parties, but less formal arrangements might still be made (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

Having shored up the SNP’s leadership in Edinburgh for five years, Mr Sarwar at least grasps the “Vote Labour, get SNP” problem the local party has created, but is a deal really ruled out?

What he said was, “with a proportional representation system, you’re likely to have almost all if not all councils where every political party is in a minority. We’ve got to be grown up about that… But I don’t think that’s about formal coalitions – I think that’s about doing the right thing on individual issues”.

If issue-by-issue deals are in, then so too are informal agreements, and with some jiggery-pokery that would appear to allow Labour joining Edinburgh’s next administration after the election.

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Anas Sarwar says Scottish Labour councillors should not form coalitions with SNP...

Banning any coalition would prevent non-administration councillors taking up committee convenorships and the extra responsibility payments which come with them, leaving all except the leader on the basic allowance, which would concentrate minds.

At risk of being cynical, if it comes to reforming an SNP-Labour partnership they’ll just perform some linguistic gymnastics and claim it isn’t a formal coalition, just a pragmatic agreement to manage responsibilities in the best interests of the city.

Going by the so-called 52 commitments which the current coalition agreed in 2017, self-serving tosh is one thing they have delivered.

John McLellan is a Conservative councillor for Craigentinny/Duddingston

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