Coalition deal '˜will last 5 years' despite Labour dissent
LEADERS of Edinburgh's new SNP-Labour administration say they are confident the coalition will last the full five years until the next council elections.
But there is evidence of continuing unease among Labour members and activists in the Capital over the deal.
The agreement was formally signed by SNP group leader Adam McVey and Labour group leader Cammy Day at the City Chambers yesterday after the deal got the final go-ahead from Labour’s Scottish executive committee (SEC) on Thursday night.
Edinburgh was the last of Scotland’s 32 councils to form an administration, six weeks after the local elections.
Cllr McVey, who at 30 will be the city’s youngest ever council leader, said: “I am pleased we have been able to reach this agreement, which will provide stable leadership for the council.
“This administration will implement a progressive policy agenda which will have as our top priority the improvement of our core public services and dealing with the key issues that face the people of our Capital.”
Cllr Day said Labour and the SNP offered the strong partnership needed to lead the council.
He said: “Our vision has always been to progress projects and policies which benefit the citizens of Edinburgh and we will continue this throughout our term of office, working with our trade union colleagues and devolving decision-making to local communities as far as possible.”
But just as the coalition plans were getting final approval, Edinburgh Southern Labour party – the constituency of MP Ian Murray and MSP Daniel Johnson – agreed a motion critical of the deal and seeking to mandate the area’s councillors to reject it unless it could guarantee no more cuts.
An activist tweeted that Edinburgh Central had agreed by just one vote – 12-11 - to back the coalition.
And Scott Arthur, Labour councillor for Colinton/Fairmilehead, warned the party must not be left “implementing Nicola Sturgeon’s cuts”.
Cllr Day acknowledged there were different views within the party. It is understood the council group voted 8-3 to approve the deal this week.
Cllr Day said: “We have had robust discussions among members of the group and with the wider party. And the group made a decision by majority to move forward with this deal.
“I accept we need to bring the Edinburgh Labour group, the constituency parties, local campaign forum and parliamentarians together and I will play my role in doing that.”
He said the deal would deliver everything in Labour’s manifesto and was confident the partnership would work.
“I’m sure we will have our disagreements but we will have a process to resolve them and I’m confident the coalition will last the full five years.”
Tory group leader Iain Whyte said a “coalition of minorities” seemed a “pretty unstable beast”.
He said: “It seems very strange it has taken them all this time to get together the same coalition with different numbers as we had before the election. It’s our job as the second biggest party, just one seat behind the SNP, to hold them to account and work towards better services for Edinburgh.
“We will be a very strong opposition.”
The Greens are expected to back the coalition on an issue-by-issue basis.
Green co-convenor Steve Burgess said: “There are a number of things from both manifestos which we would expect to support.
“Our main role will be to push the parties of the new coalition to go further than they otherwise would go – to bring forward more ambitious plans on walking, cycling and public transport, for example; to tackle high housing costs and empty homes; to improve the quality of social care; and to open up the way the council works.”
Lib Dem group leader Robert Aldridge said: “This deal could have been signed weeks ago. However, Labour’s dilly-dallying and indecision left the city facing weeks of uncertainty.
“Even with this deal, the new administration is a minority in the City Chambers. It’s not good enough for Labour and the SNP to simply rearrange the deckchairs on their Titanic. This new administration will have to reach out, listen and govern by consensus.”