Edinburgh council coalition talks: Other parties 'frustrated' at lack of clarity over 'what Labour can and cannot do'

Talks on possible coalitions to run Edinburgh were due to continue today amid “frustration” over a lack of clarity about Labour’s ability to do any deals.
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Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar is opposed to any formal deals with other parties, a position endorsed by the party’s Scottish executive on Sunday. But it is less clear whether the Edinburgh Labour group has the freedom to reach a more informal agreement and whether the ban on formal deals, principally targeted at the SNP and the Tories, also includes any arrangements with the Lib Dems or Greens.

An SNP-Green partnership has been seen as the most obvious option for the Capital’s new administration, given the two parties’ deal at Holyrood. But since it would not have an overall majority it might seek a deal with a third party. The Lib Dems yesterday ruled out any deal with the SNP and Mr Sarwar’s stance may prevent Labour from offering support.

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An alternative scenario has been floated which would see Labour, the Lib Dems and the Greens come together – a combination which would produce a majority – but again it is unclear whether Labour could take part.

One source familiar with the talks said: “There is definite frustration starting to come in about the Labour group not pinning down definitively what they can and cannot do.”

The SNP emerged from last week’s elections as the biggest party on the council with 19 seats, Labour has 13, the Lib Dems 12, Greens 10 and Tories nine.

Announcing the Lib Dems’ decision to rule out a deal with the SNP, 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.

Talks about a new administration were continuing at Edinburgh City Chambers today.Talks about a new administration were continuing at Edinburgh City Chambers today.
Talks about a new administration were continuing at Edinburgh City Chambers today.
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“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 insider said there had been “positive aspects” in their discussions with the Lib Dems, but there had also been differences. “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.

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.”

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