Edinburgh Council: Will SNP continue what's turning into longest sulk in Scottish politics or co-operate across party lines in public interest? – Kevin Lang
"I’ve left the stirring spoon on your desk.” This was the cryptic and rather puzzling message I received from Robert Aldridge shortly after he was elected Edinburgh’s new Lord Provost and I succeeded him as the new leader of the Liberal Democrat group on Edinburgh Council.
Up until this point, I knew nothing of the long-standing tradition of the Lib Dem group leader possessing, quite literally, a large wooden spoon engraved with the message “chief stirrer”.
Listing its past owners, the stirring spoon is a reminder to always ask the difficult questions and never to be afraid to speak out.
Now I accept that some (particularly a certain former transport convener) would argue I need little in the way of encouragement when it comes to stirring up trouble on Edinburgh Council. As we get going in this new term, there is certainly a lot to stir up trouble about.
But it is also important to be constructive, especially with the most politically fragmented council in Edinburgh’s history. The new arithmetic thrown up by the recent election requires political parties to work together and find consensus where it exists to get things done. That will not always be easy.
The new Labour leader of the council, Cammy Day, has announced a plan to invite other parties to help shape the council’s priorities over the next five years.
Liberal Democrats will take part in those discussions in good faith. We know we won’t get everything we want and there will be times we will vote against the new Labour administration, just as we did in last month’s council meeting.
However, we want to be in the room to argue for the things we care about, like getting basic council services right, for better public transport, and for improved schools so we give every child the best possible start in life.
Just as important is the need for a change in the culture and attitude within Edinburgh Council. We desperately need to end the ‘we know best approach’ which besieged the last SNP-led administration, with its ‘tick box’ approach to consultation which left too many people feeling as though the council doesn’t listen or, worse still, doesn’t care.
So, there is much to discuss, much to fight for. The question is whether other political parties also choose to be in the room to influence a compelling programme for change.
Unfortunately, it looks like SNP councillors will boycott these discussions after being voted out of power in the Capital, continuing what is fast becoming the longest sulk in Scottish politics.
The SNP leader may have gained the nickname ‘Adam McStay’ for initially refusing to vacate the council leader’s office. It could quickly become Adam McNay; the chief naysayer of the council chamber.
Whatever the choices of other political groups, Liberal Democrats will go into those discussions armed with the mandate for change we got from the recent election; a huge increase in our vote share and a doubling in the number of Lib Dem councillors. We will use our increased strength to fight for the change we know Edinburgh needs. Who knows, I might even take the ‘stirring spoon’ with me.
Kevin Lang is the new leader of the Liberal Democrat group on Edinburgh Council