Opponents told to stop ‘turning a molehill into a mountain’ amid Edinburgh Council leadership squabble

Opponents have been told to stop turning “a tiny molehill into a massive mountain” amid a squabble as to who is in charge of the city when the council leader takes six weeks off for adoption leave.

Thursday, 22nd August 2019, 7:09 pm
Cllr Ellie Bird.

Cllr Ellie Bird has been officially named as interim SNP group leader while Cllr Adam McVey takes adoption leave as of Friday. The Forth ward councillor will also take on council leadership responsibilities for the SNP, the largest partner in the coalition.

But Conservatives called for the council’s depute leader and Labour group leader, Cllr Cammy Day, to simply take over from the council leader – claiming there’s no need for Cllr Bird to be elevated to a new paid-for role .

Cllr McVey, paid thanks to the “incredibly heartening” messages of support he has received over the news he and his partner will become dads to two boys.

He said the council was faced with a “legal quagmire” – with no official guidelines in place for councillors in Scotland to take adoption leave.

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He added: “There’s no guidance so we have to use best practice. I know Cllr Day and Cllr Bird will do an able job – there’s a whole number of responsibilities.

“This is not me off with a cold, it’s me on parental leave. I hope that there is strong national guidance in the future. This is a entirely sensible, proper way to make sure this council continues to function.”

But Conservative leader Cllr Iain Whyte called for a stop to the “nonsense” and said there was no need for Cllr Bird to be Cllr Day’s “man-marker for six weeks”.

He added: “We have no difficulty over Cllr McVey taking adoption leave. It’s absolutely correct that he should have his position covered over that.

“What does not make sense is of the knowledge  of who’s going to be in charge. If I was an alien landing here, I could say ‘take me to your leader’ but nobody would know who that was. The issue is, who’s in charge for this period.”

Cllr McVey moved to reassure councillors that he was technically still the council leader during his period of leave.

He said: “The leader will still be me during that six-week period. In the event of the alien invasion, I will return to work.”

Independent Cllr Gavin Barrie, who was ousted as SNP group chairman by Cllr Bird before quitting the party last year, said he couldn’t support the position.

He said: “I find myself once again voting with the Conservative amendment.”

But Liberal Democrats, who backed the SNP-Labour proposals, called for clarity over who is responsible for what.

Cllr Robert Aldridge said: “Normally we would expect the deputy leader to step into the shoes of the leader. Who is in charge of what? Is Cammy keeping an eye on Ellie or is Ellie keeping an eye on Cammy?

“While we are happy to support the coalition on this, it’s on the basis we get a clear briefing note within 24 hours about who is in charge of what. It’s simply not acceptable in Scotland’s capital city.”

Labour Cllr Mandy Watt blasted opponents.

She said: “It’s six weeks. Adam should be able to go off on his adoption leave without people turning a tiny molehill into a massive mountain.”

Councillors voted in favour of Cllr Bird taking on the six-week role, which comes with a  £39,310 pro rata allowance.

David Bol , Local Democracy Reporting Service

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