Edinburgh council elections 2022: Coalition talks this weekend

Talks are expected to take place over the weekend to decide Edinburgh’s next administration, with a Nationalist-Green coalition looking the most likely outcome, after the SNP was re-elected as the biggest party on the council.

By Ian Swanson and Neil Johnstone
Friday, 6th May 2022, 9:39 pm

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But the two parties combined would be three short of an overall majority, so they might seek a less formal deal with another party.

Labour group leader Cammy Day is understood to be interested in continuing a partnership between his party and the SNP, despite the stance Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar has taken against formal coalitions. Together, the SNP and Labour would have just the 32 seats needed for an overall majorty.

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It is understood Cllr Day sees the SNP-Green arrangement a Holyrood – where the Greens got ministerial posts, but are still able to speak out against the SNP on certain issues – as a possible model for an SNP-Labour deal at the council.

However there is said to be opposition from his group to the proposal and if he takes part in talks over the weekend he will not be in a position to commit the party to anything.

Cllr Day survived a challenge for the leadership from Lezley Marion Cameron when the newly-elected group met on Friday evening, although almost half the group are said to have voted for Cllr Cameron.

The Lib Dems were the biggest winners in the Edinburgh election, doubling their numbers to a dozen and the Greens also made gains while the Tories suffered huge losses.

Edinburgh Western Lib Dem MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton leads celebrations outside the EICC after his party made huge gains. Photo: Scott Louden

The SNP won 19 of the council's 63 seats, the same as at the last elections five years ago. Labour, who have been in coalition with the Nationalists since 2017, increased their tally by one to 13 and the Greens went up from eight to ten, creating the biggest group the party has ever had in the Capital. The Tories' contingent of councillors is now just nine – half what it was in 2017 – taking them from being the biggest party on the council before the election to being the smallest.

SNP group leader Adam McVey said he was "very pleased” the SNP was the biggest party "by some considerable distance". He said: “The right-wing agenda of the Tories has been systematically rejected across communities. It's not just about the lies, corruption and sleaze of Boris Johnson, it's about the ineptitude of [Scottish Tory leader] Douglas Ross to call it out and have a backbone and also about the Tories here in Edinburgh, who have failed miserably to offer voters a positive vision of what they would do. Their manifesto was a list of what they wouldn't do.

"I think the voters have given all parties the result they deserve. We will be working with other parties, working out where there is synergy in our programmes. The really important thins is Edinburgh has a clear way forward. The challenges are too big to ignore or compromise on. We need bold action on climate change, bold action on poverty reduction and we need to think outside the box on improving some of our local services in what can be a challenging financial situation - so parties that are willing to work with us on that agenda, we will absolutely work with them."

Greens hinted at their readiness to co-operate with the SNP. Alluding to the two parties’ deal at Holyrood, co-leader Claire Miller said: “Greens in the Scottish Government are already making change, from free bus travel for under-22s to banning the most harmful plastics. In Edinburgh,we will show the same commitment to working alongside others to halt climate change and address the cost of living.”

SNP group leader Adam McVey (centre) applauds one of his party's candidates being elected. Photo: Scott Louden

But Edinburgh Western MSP and Scottish Lib Dem leader Alex Cole-Hamilton signalled his party was unlikely to do any deal with the SNP. “I struggle to see how the SNP, who have failed Edinburgh many, many times over and also are fixated on the wrong thing which is independence next year, would be a likely bedfellow.”

Tory losses included the defeat of sitting councillors Cameron Rose in Southside/Newington, Mark Brown in Drum Brae/Gyle and Jim Campbell in Forth.

The SNP finance convener Rob Munn was a rare SNP defeat, losing his seat in Leith Walk in a surprise win for the Lib Dems. The Lib Dems scored a major success with the first result of the day, taking three out of the four seats in Almond ward and followed it up by winning two out of three in both Drum Brae/Gyle and Corstorphine/Murrayfield. They also won seats in Forth and Southside/Newington.

The Greens gained seats in Forth, Inverleith and Sighthill/Gorgie, but lost the Fountainbridge/Craiglockhart seat which Gavin Corbett had held until he stepped down on becoming a Scottish Government special adviser.

The votes were counted at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre. Photo: Scott Louden

Jack Caldwell, the Lib Dem victor in Leith Walk said he was "over the moon”. But he added: “I realise there’s a lot of work to do in Leith Walk so I’m looking forward to getting stuck in and getting some of the priorities sorted. We’re feeling that the Liberal phoenix is flying once again. We put forward a really positive plan and now the hard work begins. It’s been the same council for five years and I think people recognised there was a change needed towards sensibleness.”

Fellow Lib Dem Edward Thornley, elected in Drum Brae/Gyle, said: “The overwhelming thing that’s come through from this campaign was that people feel they're not being listened to. I think that’s what a council is for and I really hope we can try to bring a bit of that to Edinburgh council because it has been lacking really.”

Jule Bandel, 24, the new Green councillor for Inverleith, said she was “absolutely thrilled” to be elected. I’m very excited to have so many young people for us in the council now. The climate emergency is such a big topic for all of us. Young people’s issues like the housing crisis, so many of us are renters. Those kinds of topics were neglected and now that we’re getting more young people I’m really excited to finally take some action on issues that actually matter to our generation.”

Tory group leader Iain Whyte, who held onto the party’s seat in Craigentinny/Duddingston despite the widespread losses, admitted he had not expected such bad results. “We will have to review this. I think there must be a large element that is a protest against the government. I’m fairly sure what we were putting across was the right stuff for Edinburgh people, easily for the 27 per cent share of Edinburgh voters we had last time, so to be well down from that can only be about other things that are going on in wider politics.”

And he claimed it would be “foolish” for the SNP to take the result as approval for their policies. Their entire campaign, as far as I can see, has been entirely negative and all about the prime minister. If they claim it’s any kind of endorsement of their policies that’s basically just lying to the public.”

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