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A full meeting of the city council on Thursday is due to appoint a successor to the outgoing Lord Provost Frank Ross and Councillor Aldridge – the city’s longest-serving councillor – had been widely seen as a likely candidate but it was unclear whether other parties would push their own candidates. The SNP’s decision to propose him suggests there is cross-party backing for giving him the job.
But Lib Dems were quick to stress the move was not part of any deal. A source said: “It came as a surprise to us. We’re very pleased he’s getting cross-party support, but it’s not connected to any kind of agreement between the Lib Dems and the SNP.”
Meanwhile, the SNP and the Greens announced they had reached agreement on a draft coalition deal, which has already been endorsed by SNP councillors and will be put to Green party members for their approval tonight potentially paving the way for the two parties to take power as a minority administration at Thursday’s meeting.
However a Labour source said they expected plans for a minority Labour administration with Lib Dems appointed to “no-political” posts like licensing board chair to be put forward on Thursday as well. It is understood a Labour group meeting on Sunday night backed the move, though further talks still had to take place.
The SNP emerged from the May 5 council elections as the biggest party with 19 seats, Labour has 13, the Lib Dems 12, Greens 10 and Tories nine.
SNP group leader Adam McVey said: “We have worked hard with the Green group to develop a coalition proposal which delivers on both our manifestos, and will make our city fairer, greener and more inclusive. If our joint proposal is approved by Green branch members, we believe we can form an administration that will meet the challenges we face as a city and deliver on our promises to residents.”
But he said they also recognised that as a minority administration they would need to work constructively.
"As a long-standing and experienced councillor, we think Robert would be an excellent choice for civic leader. He will facilitate respectful dialogue between councillors which will be needed to help us reach consensus. He has worked cross-party in the past to deliver the best outcomes for our city. So we would like to start building that much needed consensus now, by backing him to become the Lord Provost.”
The SNP and the Greens were not giving details of what was in their draft coalition agreement, but it is understood as part of the deal the Greens want their co-convener Claire Miller to become transport and environment convener, although the SNP’s Lesley Macinnes, who had the job in the last administration is said to want to keep it. It is also rumoured that the committee could be split into two separate committees for transport and environment. Housing convener Kate Campbell is said to be hoping to be re-appointed to her role.
Lib Dem councillor Kevin Lang welcomed Councillor Aldridge’s nomination. He said: “With almost 40 years’ experience as a councillor and a strong record of public service, I can think of no better person than Robert Aldridge to be Edinburgh’s next Lord Provost. The fact he is attracting support from across the political divide shows how well suited he is to chair the council and be the civic head of our great capital city”.