Coalition talks in deadlock amid claims of outside pressure

Tory Mark Brown celebrates his win in Drumbrae/Gyle at the count at Meadowbank last Friday. Picture: Neil Hanna
Tory Mark Brown celebrates his win in Drumbrae/Gyle at the count at Meadowbank last Friday. Picture: Neil Hanna
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TALKS between the SNP and Labour on forming a coalition have reached stalemate.

And Nationalists are accusing two Labour parliamentarians of putting pressure on the party’s councillors not to agree a deal with them.

A senior SNP source claimed Ian Murray, who is seeking re-election as MP for Edinburgh South, and his Holyrood counterpart Daniel Johnson had been “interfering” in the process.

Mr Murray – Scotland’s only Labour MP in the last parliament – has described his 
election contest a straight fight between him and the SNP.

The SNP source said: “They have been lobbying furiously for Labour to do a deal with the Conservatives rather than the SNP because they are worried about their seats.

“This is a time when they should be putting their city first and at least their party above themselves.”

Labour and the SNP ran the Capital in coalition for the past five years and it was widely expected the parties would come together again with the SNP taking the lead as the biggest party.

But the SNP’s 19 seats and Labour’s 12 do not add up to an overall majority on the 63-seat council. The Greens have ruled out becoming part of an administration but are willing to offer support from outside.

However, it is understood Labour is keen to try to draw them into a formal deal so it is not seen to be in a straight coalition with the SNP.

The Tories, who won 18 seats, have proposed a “pan-unionist” coalition with Labour and the Lib Dems, though Labour is understood to have privately rejected the plan. And a Labour idea of an all-party “rainbow” coalition appears to have fallen flat when the SNP and the Greens failed to turn up for the meeting.

The SNP has ruled out any arrangement involving the Tories, so Labour holds the key to whatever deal emerges.

Negotiations at the City Chambers have been going on since after the count on Friday and some talks are expected to continue today.

A Labour source said the current situation was different from 2012 because this time there was no majority, many of the politicians involved were inexperienced and the general election made any deals problematic.

SNP group leader Adam McVey said talks were ongoing. But he added: “I’m frustrated we have not reached a conclusion considering how close we have been since Monday to a deal which both Labour and we could accept.”

A Scottish Labour spokesman said: “Labour’s approach is clear and consistent: we will categorically refuse to do any deal with another party if it would result in further austerity being imposed on local communities. Labour values must run through any deals: the defence of local services against cuts; and the proper funding of the services so many people rely on such as education and care for the elderly.

“Additionally, we will require any power-sharing administrations to protect jobs by opposing any compulsory redundancies.”