Edinburgh Council elections: Why Labour may ditch Cammy Day as group leader – Steve Cardownie

As the local government elections in May draw ever nearer, speculation continues to mount as to what will be the political composition of the new City of Edinburgh Council administration.

Tuesday, 11th January 2022, 4:45 pm

The current SNP/Labour coalition has confounded many critics by seeing out its full five-year-term but it looks increasingly likely that this will be its swansong and the next council term will be dominated by a completely different kind of political leadership.

In a previous column, I referred to statements made by some Labour candidates that they stand for “rebuilding our services, not managing cuts” – which would effectively rule them out of being part of a coalition as any future administration will inevitably have to include further cuts and savings when setting council budgets.

This has been largely confirmed by recent declarations from the Scottish Labour leader, Anas Sarwar, who publicly announced that he does not want his party to strike deals with either the SNP or Conservatives in local government.

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He said: “I don’t think we should be looking at coalitions with any political party, but rather looking to maximise Labour representation.”

Although Labour’s Scottish executive committee has the final say on coalition proposals, it is unlikely that it would sanction such arrangements and thereby undermine the leader’s unequivocal view that Labour should stand alone and shun the prospect of forming partnerships with other parties to run local councils.

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If followed through, it may also spell the end of Councillor Cammy Day’s leadership of the Labour group on the City Council. Cammy has been an avid supporter of the current arrangement so his days might be numbered, as a newly elected group, armed with this new policy, is more likely to look for a leader who has already has an anti-coalition outlook.

Cue Councillor Scott Arthur who has been a consistent critic of the current arrangement and would therefore seem to fit the bill.

So, it looks increasingly likely that the SNP will either have to form a minority administration or seek a new partner to run the city. Their natural ally would be a fellow “independence” party in the shape of the Greens but, although giving tacit approval of the current administration by regularly voting with it, they have so far turned their face against the prospect of joining a coalition.

This may change however if they spot an opportunity to exert more influence and to capture key convenorships such as transport and environment which could help progress their policy objectives.

In the last Scottish local elections in 2017, there was a voter turnout of 46.9 per cent with 1,889,657 votes cast from a total electorate of 4,110,790 which included 16 and 17-year-olds for the first time and which proved to be the highest voter turnout for a set of standalone council elections since 1977.

This year’s elections will, of course, also be standalone and parties will now be going all out over the next few months to maximise their vote.

The campaigns and manifestos in Edinburgh should be interesting – hopefully interesting enough to capture the imagination of the electorate and secure a record turnout in May.

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