EPIC councillors fail in bid for Edinburgh Council seats amid 'undermining democracy' claims
Independent councillors saw a bid to be given seats on Edinburgh Council's decision-making committees rejected after the SNP-Labour administration teams up with Greens to block the move.
A newly formed independent group of former SNP councillors has been told to resign and face by-elections after being denied places on the authority’s decision-making committees.
Edinburgh City Council turned down proposals to hand the Edinburgh Party of Independent Councillors (EPIC) places on eight committees, at the expense of the Greens who were set to lose seats under the proposals.
The recommendation to hand EPIC committee places was drawn up by council officials following advice from the Electoral Commission which confirmed EPIC “does not need to formally register” to be recognised.
Cllr Gavin Barrie, Cllr Lewis Ritchie and Cllr Claire Bridgman, who were all elected to the authority in 2017 under the SNP banner but have since left the party to sit as independents, formed the EPIC group last month in a bid to take up places on committees. But the SNP-Labour administration teamed up with the Greens to agree no changes to the committee membership.
Cllr Barrie said: “There are not two tiers of councillors in legislation and those of you who describe yourselves as democrats should find your way to support the inclusiveness of all elected members.
“I urge all members to support our amendment and do the correct democratic thing.”
EPIC won support of Conservative and Liberal Democrat councillors.
Tory Cllr Joanna Mowat said: “We are all elected equally with equal rights and responsibilities. If they are to join together, we should recognise any such group. There’s nothing that says political parties have to be registered with the Electoral Commission in order to be recognised by this council.
“We think this is the democratic and right thing to do.”
Liberal Democrat Cllr Kevin Lang said the move to block the changes was setting a “dangerous precedent”. He accused the Greens of “political self-interest” and the SNP of “nauseating sour grapes” and attempting to “make sure that no-one else is tempted to leave” the group.
But Green Cllr Alex Staniforth labelled the plans by EPIC “completely unreasonable and undemocratic”.
Addressing the group, he added: “Stand down, stand for their seats again and we will see whether the public think they are as epic as they think they are.”
But fellow EPIC councillors blasted their plea for representation being denied. Cllr Lewis Ritchie claimed the administration was attempting to “deny a political party the right to exist” while Cllr Bridgman said the move was “undermining democracy”.
Councillors agreed to halt EPIC’s ambitions to sit on committees.
Council leader Cllr Adam McVey said: “I’m obviously disappointed by the comments made by Tory and Liberal Democrat councillors.
“Whatever happens in the future, they can’t say they were unaware of the issues which led us to the position we took.”
Green Cllr Melanie Main added: “I have rarely heard so much pompous hypocrisy in the council chamber.
“Once all the inflated rhetoric is stripped out it boils down to plain facts. Three councillors fell out with the SNP under whose banner they were elected. Despite never being elected as independents they are now seeking parity with the eight-strong Green councillor group.
“If they really care as much about democracy as they claim, they will resign tomorrow and stand as independents with a common manifesto. Until then, they should recognise that when they squabbled with their former colleagues there was a consequence to that.”