Edinburgh Labour members in call for party to axe council coalition with SNP

Some Labour members have called on the party to rip up its coalition agreement with the SNP at City Chambers

Wednesday, 29th January 2020, 6:00 am
Edinburgh City Chambers

Opposition politicians have called on Labour councillors to “come clean” on the future of the Capital’s council administration after a local group reportedly backed ending their coalition wit the SNP at City Chambers.

Since the 2017 council elections, Edinburgh City Council has been run by the SNP in partnership with the smaller group of Labour councillors in a minority partnership. But some Labour members are now calling on the coalition agreement to be ripped up – as there’s a “real concern that we are being associated with the SNP’s inability to stand up for Edinburgh.”

According to Labour Cllr Scott Arthur, the Edinburgh Pentlands branch of the Labour party voted “overwhelmingly” in favour of axing the deal with the SNP, while the Edinburgh-wider organisation, the local campaign forum, has also called for examining an end to the ties, which dates back seven years to the previous council administration.

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The move comes weeks before the council agrees its budget for the next three years – with up to £40m of cuts expected to be made over the next 12 months and £100m over the three years.

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Liberal Democrat Cllr Kevin Lang said: “Labour councillors need to come clean on their plans for the coalition.

“A council budget needs to be set with weeks, yet there is now a question as to whether the city will still have a functioning administration to see these plans through.

“Labour councillors need to end this uncertainty. People in the city deserve to know if this ruling coalition is continuing or collapsing.”

A letter from the local campaign forum to constituency Labour groups, highlights Labour education convener, Cllr Ian Perry being grilled at a meeting where he “indicated that the Labour group were contemplating increasing council tax above three per cent in order to offset some cuts” but that delegates were not in favour of the move.

It adds: “There was a very vigorous exchange of views on whether remaining in coalition with the SNP was damaging Labour’s standing in the city,” ahead of upcoming elections.

A meeting will be held on March 21, after the council has set its budget, “to discuss whether Edinburgh Labour should continue to be a coalition partner with the SNP”.

Conservative group chairman, Cllr Jason Rust said: “It is utterly hypocritical for some to criticise an SNP led administration of which they form the other part and which is only in place because they and their colleagues are propping it up. The base line is that Labour are to date equally as responsible as their coalition partners for the failings in the council and for not standing up for Edinburgh residents.

“It seems we have this ongoing internal spat whereby some try to act as if they are in opposition and now is the time for them to either put up and cease their partnership with the nationalists or shut up and recognise their complicity.”

Edinburgh Labour group leader and depute council leader, Cllr Cammy Day, said the party “had all these discussions two and a half years ago when we entered into the coalition”.

He added: “Ultimately it’s a decision for the Scottish Labour Party, it was the Scottish Executive Committee that authorised the coalition.

“As part of the coalition, we are delivering what we put in our manifesto, given the challenging budgets we find ourselves from the SNP and Tory governments. Everybody stands in election to get into power and help make Edinburgh a better place and we want to help the people who voted for us.”