Edinburgh council elections: How are the parties' prospects looking as contest looms? – Ian Swanson
SNP members across Edinburgh will soon start selecting the party's candidates for the council elections in May.
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After some surprise extra vetting for senior figures including the Lord Provost, all current SNP councillors are said to have made it onto the list of approved candidates from which members will choose who stands in their ward.
But some may yet decide not to seek re-election and others who would like to stand again may face a challenge from other hopefuls within the party.
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All the other main parties have already got all or most of their candidates in place. And given that the election campaign officially gets under way at the end of next month, the SNP has left it very late to pick theirs.
Many of the councillors, eager to get on with campaigning, have privately been exasperated with the party nationally for foot-dragging. But some opponents in other parties cynically argue that most people voting SNP are voting for the party regardless of the name on the ballot paper and so it makes no difference who the candidate is.
Council election results often reflect the standing of the parties at national level more than their performance locally – but not always. In the 2012 council elections, the Lib Dems, who had led the administration for the previous five years, were reduced from 17 seats to just three in what was seen as voters punishing them for the trams fiasco.
Some may wonder whether the SNP, as the lead party in the current coalition, may suffer at the ballot box over the controversial Spaces for People programme.
The Tories are already the biggest party at the City Chambers after five SNP councillors quit the group, one after the other, to become independents. But none of the other parties wants to be part of a Conservative coalition so they have little chance of getting into power.
The party might hope to make some gains on May 5, but 2017, the year of the last elections, was seen as a good one for them and opponents say we are now past “peak Tory”.
Labour, which was in unbroken power at the council from 1984 until the first proportional-representation election in 2007, has had mixed fortunes in recent times.
The second biggest party in 2007 with 15 seats, it lost control to a Lib Dem-SNP coalition. Boosted to 20 seats in 2012, they became senior partners in a coalition with the SNP before falling to 12 seats in 2017 and renewing the deal with the SNP, but this time as junior partners.
Many of the most experienced Labour councillors are stepping down this time and although the party is proud of the calibre and diversity of its field of candidates, the other parties are sceptical about a Labour revival.
The Lib Dems recovered partially from their 2012 humiliation last time, doubling their contingent to six. They hope to increase their numbers again this year, but the chances of regaining their previous heights look remote.
The Greens won eight seats in 2017, their highest ever, and they aim to build on that again, but insiders admit two or three extra seats is probably the most they can expect.
The race starts soon – and it’s the voters that decide the result.