Edinburgh Council elections: New councillors should cooperate for the good of the city, not stoke 'toxic' feuds – Susan Dalgety

There will be a lot of new faces on Edinburgh City Council come May.

Monday, 10th January 2022, 12:30 pm
Graham Hutchison is among seven Conservative councillors who will stand down at the elections in May

Six of Labour’s veteran councillors have already said they are retiring from public office. And seven Conservative representatives have thrown in the towel, the latest being the party’s transport spokesman, Graham Hutchison.

Councillor Hutchison told this newspaper that “the atmosphere in the council is absolutely toxic”. And he complained that the ruling SNP/Labour administration does not take into account that opposition councillors are there to “do good” for their residents, just as they are.

There has been a spate of complaints recently about the council’s leadership. Some are no doubt gratuitous.

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But there does seem to be something amiss in Edinburgh. It might just be the early stages of the election campaign that will end on May 5 when the voters will decide who runs the city for the next five years.

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At the last election, the Tories just won the popular vote, beating the SNP into a close second place. But the Nationalists won one more seat with 19 councillors to the Tories’ 18. Labour was third with 12 seats.

Instead of acknowledging that the Tories have considerable support across the city, the SNP/Labour administration has largely dismissed them as irrelevant, and by doing so has ignored the people who voted for them.

Council elections are no longer based on the crude first-past-the post system. There are now 17 multi-member wards, with up to four councillors elected for each. Councillor Hutchison represents the Almond ward – which includes Barnton and Muirhouse – along with two Lib Dems and an SNP councillor.

The Cosla guide to becoming a councillor insists that working with the other councillors in your ward is a key feature of the job, and by all accounts Edinburgh councillors work reasonably well together at the community level.

So why can they not bring that same collegiate approach to the City Chambers? Party differences matter of course, but Labour didn’t hesitate to do a deal with the SNP in exchange for a handful of leadership positions.

Let’s hope that the 2022 intake of councillors, whatever their allegiance, can work together on behalf of the city and not solely their narrow party interest.

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