Edinburgh Council elections: SNP set to be largest party but, apart from that, it's all to play for – Steve Cardownie

In last week’s column, when referring to the forthcoming local council elections in May, I wrote that “the success or otherwise of parties in a local election is largely determined by their national standings and, unless totally catastrophic, local cock-ups do not affect the outcome to any great extent”.

Tuesday, 4th January 2022, 4:45 pm
Adam McVey's SNP group is set to be returned as the largest party on Edinburgh Council at elections in May, says Steve Cardownie (Picture: Getty Images)

So, given that the SNP is currently riding high in the opinion polls, SNP candidates can piggy-back on this popularity and be successfully elected to the City of Edinburgh Council.

This provoked a response from two Conservative councillors, Iain Whyte and John McLellan, both of whom took the opportunity to write in the Evening News, calling on voters to take into account the poor record of the administration in Edinburgh and vote accordingly.

Given that after the votes have been counted, no party is expected to be in overall control, the winner will either have to operate as a minority administration or cut a similar deal to the one in operation at present and form a coalition with another group or groups to run the city.

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This would mean that the SNP, as the likely largest group and therefore the dominant partner, teaming up with Labour again or the Greens, numbers permitting.

Add to the mix the recent statement from Labour candidates in the election that they stand for “rebuilding our services, not managing cuts” and the waters become a little bit murkier.

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If they hold to this position once elected, and there is nothing to suggest that they won’t, then they would be effectively ruling themselves out of any coalition deal as future city budgets are likely to involve further cuts or savings.

They obviously could not be part of a coalition that was administering such a fiscal policy, so a term in opposition seems the only course of action they could legitimately take.

As no group will do a deal with the Conservatives that leaves the Lib Dems or the Greens as potential partners with the SNP and, although the SNP operated in a coalition with the Lib Dems before, that seems an unlikely prospect now, leaving the Greens to “step up to the plate”.

At present the Greens (more often than not) side with the current coalition and have so far resisted the temptation to enter into a formal agreement but, (as I wrote in a previous column), given that they have struck a deal of sorts with the SNP in Holyrood, they now might be prepared to bite the bullet and become the junior partner in a coalition in the City Chambers.

Another complication may arise in the shape of Alba, the party formed by Alex Salmond. If they hold true to their promise to field candidates in the local authority elections, they might just mop up sufficient preference votes down the line to get some of their number elected, creating a further headache for the SNP.

All in all, we will just have to wait until the dust has settled and the internal negotiations are concluded before we will see the colour of the new administration but, apart from the SNP reaping the rewards of Nicola Sturgeon’s popularity and being returned as the largest group, it is all to play for.

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