Edinburgh councillors clash over calls for parties to work together

Councillors clashed over calls for them to work together on a five-year programme for the city after the local elections left no party with a majority of seats.

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Cammy Day, the leader of the new minority Labour administration, had tabled a proposal for cross-party co-operation, with working groups meeting in August to identify common ground and develop a shared strategic work programme.

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He told the council it represented a new, open approach to politics in the city. “We all accept there is no majority party and we need to do things differently. Piroritising key common manifesto points across all or many parties is our ambition – investing in our people and our communities, investing in our services, fighting for fair funding for Edinburgh and fair pay for our workers, tackling the climate emergency, and being ambitious about affordable homes.”

But the SNP argued Labour should put forward a programme based on its manifesto and see whether it could get majority support.

SNP group leader Adam McVey said: “We will continue to engage and work with other parties, but the principles of having a platform that is scrutinised effectively is not one we can let go for.

“Our voters did not vote to be part of policy programme with the Conservatives. Our ideas and they should be different. We are a democracy and we should be able to discuss those in a spirit of collaboration where possible and a spirit of division and disagreement where necessary.

“We cannot set a policy platform trying to come up with the least-worst, middle-of-the-road, nobody-can-object-to, weak plan for the city.”

Cammy Day says all parties will be invited to discussions and it's up to them if they turn up.

Green co-convener Steve Burgess said some parties had a “poor track record” on the shared priorities Cllr Day had highlighted, like the climate emergency and poverty and inequality. He said: “Reaching out to find common ground is fine, but that's not the same as coming together to try to devise a joint political programme between five parties.”

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Lib Dem group leader Kevin Lang said if the proposed SNP-Green coalition had been elected into power it would also have been a minority administration, needing to reach out to other parties. He said: “I think the people of Edinburgh want us to work together.”

Tory group leader Iain Whyte acknowledged he had concerns about some policies. But he said: “The whole point is we get round the table and talk about these things. It seems a lot more productive and collaborative than what we had for the last five years.”

Labour’s Scott Arthur said: “A big criticism of the last administration is that it didn't work with or listen to other parties enough. I think we all know that too often good ideas were rejected simply because they came from the wrong source. That's not good for our city and it's something we should be ashamed of.

“The reality is most people in the city are not members of a political party and they do want all parties just to work together. It's not about shoe-horning people in, it's about finding common interests where we can work together.”

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Afterwards Cllr Day confirmed he would call the joint meetings and invite all the parties. “It will be their choice whether they want to take part in seeking a plan for the city going forward or not.”

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