Edinburgh Budget: Councillor Ross McKenzie dramatically quits Labour in middle of full council meeting

Edinburgh’s minority Labour administration reduced to 12 seats
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An Edinburgh councillor has quit the Labour party in the middle of a full council meeting. Sighthill/Gorgie councillor Ross McKenzie, who was already suspended from the party, used the budget debate at the City Chambers to criticise the city’s Labour minority administration for working withe the Tories and announce he was quitting the party. His resignation reduces Labour’s numbers from 13 to just 12 out of the 63 councillors – the same as the Lib Dems and seven fewer than the SNP, which is the biggest party on the council.

Cllr McKenzie said it would be a “British nationalist majority” – meaning a combination of Labour, Lib Dems and Tories – which would pass the budget for 2023/24. He said: “I know how little work the administration has put into this budget and that could be down to personal failings but it’s also down to the political reality of the need to leave space in the motion for priorities of the Tory party. When I sit down just now I will resign from the Labour Party, I won’t be voting for any of the motions today I don’t think.”

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He continued: "As an independent councillor I’ll always be ready and willing over the next four years to work with anybody in this chamber who wants to make this city a fairer place.” And he said to that end, he hoped the “Edinburgh Effective Rate” – the council tax ploy floated by the SNP, but not proposed at the meeting, to freeze bills for the lower-band properties and impose bigger rises on the highest bands – would “have its day sooner rather than later”.

Councillor Ross McKenzie has quit Edinburgh's Labour group (Photo Donald Turvill, LDR)Councillor Ross McKenzie has quit Edinburgh's Labour group (Photo Donald Turvill, LDR)
Councillor Ross McKenzie has quit Edinburgh's Labour group (Photo Donald Turvill, LDR)

Looking to next year’s budget, Cllr McKenzie said: “I look forward to coming here to vote for a budget that makes a serious attempt to extract some of this city’s vast wealth and redistribute it to where it’s genuinely needed.”

First elected at the May 2022 council elections, Cllr McKenzie has since been suspended twice from the Labour group. Within weeks of arriving at the City Chambers he was suspended along with Leith councillor Katrina Faccenda for failing to vote for the creation of the current administration because it involved handing non-political posts to Tory councillors. His latest suspension came after he broke ranks in October to vote with the SNP and Greens on a bid to speed up a review of the council's controversial strip club ban.