Edinburgh council is 'absolutely toxic atmosphere' says departing Tory councillor

A Tory councillor who is to quit at the local elections in May has launched an outspoken attack on leaders of the Capital's SNP-Labour administration, claiming they had created an "absolutely toxic" atmosphere in the council and were "not fit to run the city".

By Ian Swanson
Thursday, 6th January 2022, 7:26 am

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Conservative transport spokesman Graham Hutchison said he would not be standing for re-election and warned the attitude of those in charge of the coalition could deter people from putting themselves forward as potential councillors.

He said: "My decision to stand down is largely personal, but also due to a sense of frustration bordering on dismay at the way the city is being run.

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Graham Hutchison is standing down at the elections in May

"The atmosphere in the council is absolutely toxic. There is no room for dissent or opposing opinions.

"There is no consideration that opposition councillors are there to do good for their residents as well. It's 'our way or the highway' as far as the administration is concerned and there are very few exceptions on the administration side in terms of councillors who are willing to work across party lines."

He said when he was Tory finance spokesman he had had a good working relationship with the SNP finance conveners, first Alasdair Rankin and then Rob Munn. "I found them both very constructive and very helpful. Obviously we did have some run-ins but they chaired committees in the way it should be done."

But he contrasted that with the transport and environment committee, on which he now serves, and put the blame on convener Lesley Macinnes.

"The way meetings are chaired, there is complete and utter disrespect shown to opposition councillors on that committee. Their opinions are not taken on board, there is no room for any discussion, it's just a case of ramming through the officers' and the administration's agenda – because they have largely become one and the same."

And Councillor Hutchison also turned his fire on the SNP council leader Adam McVey.

"The tone in transport and environment is set by the convener. More broadly on the council it is set by the council leader. In my opinion, in the four and a half years I've been on the council, it entirely comes from him."

He also criticised deputy council leader, Labour's Cammy Day, highlighting his "Miss Marple" jibe at SNP councillor Alison Dickie over her support of whisteblowers.

"The treatment of Councillor Dickie was absolutely appalling. The sneering attitude of the deputy leader of the council was completely unacceptable. These people are not fit to be running our city."

And he blamed the Greens too. "It is a minority administration, but in name only, and when it comes to key issues affecting the future of our city the Greens are very much part of that administration as well and they are very much responsible for that toxic atmosphere too.

"I feel I have tried to chart a constructive alternative course. Obviously there are always going to be political disagreements - but I have tried to work collaboratively and there's just a closed door.

"I went into politics because I didn't like the way things were going in Scotland or in Edinburgh. Having observed it from the inside, it's much much worse than I thought."

He said he had enjoyed being part of the Conservative group on the council, which he described as "a very good team".

But he said: "The atmosphere that has been created is discouraging to people who are potentially interested in getting involved in politics. It's not a good environment for someone to go into."

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