Edinburgh Council elections: If you're not happy with how the city's run, don't vote for the parties who have been running it – John McLellan

Those readers who follow local politics and are ill-disposed towards the SNP continuing to run Edinburgh Council after May’s election might have found yesterday’s Evening News column by former Nationalist group leader Steve Cardownie somewhat perplexing.
Cammy Day, left, and Adam McVey are the leaders of the Edinburgh Council coalition parties, Labour and the SNP, respectively (Picture: Ian Georgeson)Cammy Day, left, and Adam McVey are the leaders of the Edinburgh Council coalition parties, Labour and the SNP, respectively (Picture: Ian Georgeson)
Cammy Day, left, and Adam McVey are the leaders of the Edinburgh Council coalition parties, Labour and the SNP, respectively (Picture: Ian Georgeson)

Here’s an administration whose hallmark has been ignoring public opinion to bash on with its pet projects, yet might still be in control after May’s elections because apparently most voters will follow national trends and don’t give a stuff what the council gets up to.

As the national opinion polls undeniably point to continued SNP dominance, that may be so.

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Housing convener Kate Campbell seems to agree, telling a recent council meeting that, and I paraphrase, huffing and puffing in council meetings doesn’t make much difference to the outcome if voting always mirrors national patterns.

Elections expert Sir John Curtice too accepts the result will reflect national preferences, but not necessarily the political outcome and has a slightly different take on the situation in Edinburgh. “Nobody is going to get a majority in Edinburgh,” he told The Scotsman this week, and added that “it becomes a question partly of numbers and who is willing to do a deal”.

Sir John is a pretty sharp reader of the political runes, and it is true that the balance in Edinburgh is more fine than elsewhere, but his analysis does present a somewhat stark prospect for voters come May, because who will do a deal, or rather who won’t, is already known.

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None of the SNP, Labour or Greens will entertain any kind of agreement with the Conservative group, and although the handful of Lib Dems might squawk from the sidelines, any deals will be cut between the SNP’s dominant hard-left faction, the even harder-left Greens and whatever is left of the Labour group.

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The SNP and Greens can obviously strike a partnership because they are already in coalition at Holyrood and there is very little, if anything, between the controlling SNP knot and the local Greens.

A formal partnership would further marginalise SNP moderates, and, with the rump of Labour veterans standing down, they might be squeezed out when it comes to negotiations over the positions which come with the big responsibility payments.

If the Curtice/Cardownie analysis is correct, the only point to the May elections is to decide the make-up of a left-wing administration which will be virtually indistinguishable from the current controlling group. In other words, no choice at all, and if the SNP emerges with the most seats it will no doubt claim the result as a vote of confidence in its record.

In fact, the outcome could be an even more extreme version of the current administration, despite it not being what the majority of ordinary voters want, be they Conservatives, moderate Nationalists or traditional Labour supporters.

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There is no shortage of evidence that SNP and Labour voters are far from happy with their representatives’ stewardship of the City Chambers. In fact, plenty of their councillors are unhappy with the way the city is being run, but fear of discipline, expulsion or deselection keeps them in line.

Maybe turn-out will be low from an already exhausted electorate, but for those people who do not like how Edinburgh is being run there is only one option; don’t vote for the parties responsible.

John McLellan is a Conservative councillor for Craigentinny/Duddingston

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