Edinburgh council elections may be next year, but fierce and dirty fights will already be breaking out within parties – Steve Cardownie

Now that the City of Edinburgh Council has entered its summer recess period, some councillors will no doubt take the opportunity to lay the groundwork in preparation for their adoption as a party candidate in next May’s council election.

Wednesday, 7th July 2021, 4:55 am
The battle to win a councillor's seat in Edinburgh City Chambers has already begun ahead of next year's council election
The battle to win a councillor's seat in Edinburgh City Chambers has already begun ahead of next year's council election

As expected, councillors have already started jockeying for position and new alliances are currently being formed in an effort to ensure that they are safely returned to the council’s fold.

The first task is to get the party’s nod of approval to stand as a candidate and this is where the contest is usually at its fiercest and, dare I say, dirtiest.

There are always more contenders than there are positions up for grabs and success can usually be measured in a handful of votes cast by the party membership, so the battle to become a candidate is, more often than not, balanced on a knife edge. Once adopted as a candidate, the election campaign can begin.

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The ruling SNP/Labour coalition will have seen out its full term of five years, defying many predictions that it would fail to do so and the almost certain scenario is that no one party will achieve an overall majority, thereby paving the way for a similar alliance to be forged for the next council term.

The election itself will be fought on many fronts but some councillors within the administration may be concerned that the prospects of their re-election could be hampered by the recent Spaces for People controversy.

The introduction of low-traffic neighbourhoods, cycle lanes, pavement widening, floating bus stops, parking restrictions and disabled parking bays have all been beset by problems in one way or another.

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Spaces for People: Edinburgh scheme to remain for 18 months but with key changes

This has been compounded by the way that they were introduced. First of all, by using “emergency” powers which lasted for 18 months and then by extending them for a further 18 months by labelling them “experimental”, thereby avoiding statutory public consultation for a total of three years.

Add into the mix that the administration initiated market research on the Spaces for People measures of less than 600 people, ostensibly to challenge the results of its own consultation exercise which attracted over 17,600 responses and the accusation that the council only has time for consultation outcomes which meets its objectives might be difficult for it to shrug off.

Also, next year’s election will see a new hat thrown into the ring in the shape of Alba, the independence party formed by Alex Salmond which will likely field a candidate in each of Edinburgh’s 17 council wards, hoping to pick up enough preference votes to secure some seats on the council at the expense of non-independence supporting parties.

One crumb of comfort however for aspiring candidates is that the three councillors who make up the Epic group and who defected from the SNP will not be standing, creating a little extra headroom for new “talent” to make their mark.

So, when councillors pick up their tools again after the recess, the battle will commence in earnest. This paper in particular is likely to be inundated with press releases and invitations to report on the activities of political friends and foes alike which should herald in an interesting period in local politics. We can only live in hope!

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