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After a weekend of talks between various parties on possible coalitions following last week’s local elections, the Lib Dems issued a statement making clear they would not sign up to any arrangement involving the Nationalists.
The SNP emerged as the biggest party on the council with 19 seats, but the biggest winners were the Lib Dems who doubled their numbers from six to 12, mainly at the expense of the Tories, who were reduced from 18 to nine. Labour gained one seat, taking them to 13, and the Greens were up two to 10, while the SNP total was unchanged.
Lib Dem group leader Robert Aldridge said: "People across Edinburgh turned to us because they wanted a new and different approach. We heard time and time again on the doorsteps how voters were fed up with the SNP’s arrogance, its centralised approach, and its inability to get basic council services right. The election offered the chance for real change.
“During our discussions over the weekend, it became clear that SNP councillors have learned nothing from the difficulties of the last council term and plan to simply continue with their previous approach. Liberal Democrats believe the people of Edinburgh deserve better than this. It is why our group has agreed we will not enter into any agreement with the SNP on Edinburgh council. We remain open to continue our discussions with other parties. We want to work constructively in the interest of the city we serve and explore options on how the council can change for the better”.
An SNP-Green coalition is widely seen as the most obvious partnership in the wake of the election result, especially given that Labour nationally is opposed to formal coalitions with other parties. But an SNP-Green coalition would not have an overall majority, leaving it reliant on support from other parties on an issue-by-issue basis unless it could secure a formal or informal deal with one of them.
An alternative has been floated of a Labour-Lib Dem-Green coalition, which is seen by some as the only remaining possible combination which would provide an overall majority –but it would mean the biggest party, the SNP, was excluded from power.
All parties apart from the Tories were involved on conversations over the weekend to explore the options.
An SNP insider said there had been “positive aspects” in their discussions with the Lib Dems, but there had also been differences. “We engaged in good faith, but for us some of the challenges were around outsourcing and privatisation of services and also no compulsory redundancies, so I think it’s unlikely the SNP group would have approved any deal with the Lib Dems.” The SNP is opposed to privatisation and committed to no compulsory redundancies in the council.
The insider added: “It was a fairly polite conversation and not one I would recognise as being arrogant.”
SNP group leader Adam McVey said: “We emerged from Thursday’s election as clearly the largest party, having set out a positive, progressive vision with a detailed programme to improve local services. We will continue talks with progressive parties about how to take forward the change Edinburgh needs to be fairer, greener and deliver the best for our residents.”