Mutiny in the SNP ranks at City Chambers - Kevin Lang

If anyone needs the excuse of New Year for a fresh start and new thinking then it's the SNP group on Edinburgh Council.
Kevin Lang is the leader of the Liberal Democrat group on Edinburgh CouncilKevin Lang is the leader of the Liberal Democrat group on Edinburgh Council
Kevin Lang is the leader of the Liberal Democrat group on Edinburgh Council

The week before Christmas saw a political shockwave sweep through the City Chambers when news broke of the sudden and unexpected resignation of Cllr Frank Ross.

The decision of the former Lord Provost and long-standing councillor to walk out of the SNP Group would have been big news in its own right. However, it is all the more remarkable when you realise Frank is the sixth SNP councillor in Edinburgh to turn their back on their group in just five years. No other group in Edinburgh of any political colour or at any time has seen such mutiny.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

It says a lot about the dynamics of the SNP group that good, hard-working councillors like Frank and before him people like Gavin Barrie, Alison Dickie and Claire Bridgman called it a day and walked out, either to sit as an independent or to leave the council.

Of course, every political party has disagreements. Personality clashes come with the territory. However, the level of abandonment under the current SNP leadership has been on a different level.

What’s all the more curious is why other SNP councillors put up with it, particularly given the alternatives on offer. The election last May saw a generation of new and SNP councillors get elected, many of whom are already showing real leadership of their own.

Look at Cllr Finlay Macfarlane, who has done some impressive cross-party work on drug death prevention. Cllr Simita Kumar has emerged as a powerful voice in the chamber and managed to get unanimous support for some of her motions, not easy in the current febrile political climate. Cllr Danny Aston has brought a far more reasonable and collaborative approach as SNP transport spokesperson compared to his predecessor.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Don’t get me wrong, I still have big disagreements with these councillors politically. However, their approach and openness to genuine cross-party working has compared starkly to the divisive, combative, “it is always someone else’s fault” style we have seen from the current SNP leadership for almost six years.

I know last year was a difficult one for the SNP in Edinburgh. At a time when their vote was going up across Scotland, it went down here in Edinburgh.

While the leaders of Glasgow Council, Stirling Council, Dundee Council and co-leader of Aberdeen Council are all SNP, the party was frozen out of power here in the Capital. It amazes me how the local SNP’s answer has been to carry on with the same approach that left them as the odd ones out within their own party.

Last May saw people in Edinburgh elect the most politically balanced council in the city’s history. Residents want political parties to work together, find common ground and get things done. You can see many SNP councillors wanting to do this, the question is whether their leadership in the chamber lets them. If not then, who knows, councillor departure number seven may not be that far away.

Kevin Lang is the leader of the Liberal Democrat group on Edinburgh Council

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.