Edinburgh Labour councillor quits amid reports of internal party tensions

A KEY Labour member of the Capital’s coalition administration has quit the council amid reports of internal party tensions.
Marion Donaldson - Lab candidate in Leith Walk council by-election.Marion Donaldson - Lab candidate in Leith Walk council by-election.
Marion Donaldson - Lab candidate in Leith Walk council by-election.

Marion Donaldson, vice-convener of the council’s finance committee, resigned as a councillor for Leith Walk after being off for health reasons since October.

Sources said she had come under attack within the Labour group over some of the proposals for cuts in the city council budget which were being hammered out between Labour and the larger SNP group, which leads the coalition.

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One insider said: “The squabbles and fights at the City Chambers are getting ridiculous. They should play the theme tune to Eastenders at the end of council meetings”.

Her move will mean a by-election to choose a new councillor for Leith Walk.

Labour group leader Cammy Day said he had received Cllr Donaldson’s resignation yesterday morning.

He said: “She has been off work for a few months and has made the decision to move on from party politics.

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“She has been a really hard-working member of the group and I’m disappointed to see her go. She has made her decision to stand down and I respect that decision.”

It is understood Cllr Donaldson did not give any reason for her decision in the letter.

But sources said she had been “harangued” by fellow Labour councillors at a group meeting and accused of not standing up to SNP finance convener Alasdair Rankin when it came to drawing up proposed cuts to next year’s budget.

Cllr Donaldson had been due to return to her council work this month, as preparations for the budget build up ahead of a crucial finance committee meeting this Friday. But some colleagues had suggested that did not seem the most appropriate time for her return given the reasons for her being off.

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Cllr Day said he and others had covered the finance vice-convener role during Cllr Donaldson’s absence.

He said: “There will now be a temporary appointment to fill the role and we may have a mini-reshuffle in the coming weeks.”

Long-serving Portobello/Craigmillar councillor Maureen Child and Meadows/Morningside councillor Many Watt have been mentioned as possible replacements.

Cllr Donaldson was first elected to the council in a rare double by-election in Leith Walk in September 2015.

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Last year she bid to become Labour’s candidate for Edinburgh North and Leith at the next general election but was defeated by Leith councillor Gordon Munro.

Cllr Donaldson’s resignation is expected to be formally reported to a full council meeting next month.

The resulting by-election is likely to be held in April or May, with the SNP in pole position to win because it took two out of the four seats available in the ward at the last council elections in 2017.

Cllr Day said: “We will be campaigning vigorously to hold the seat as Labour, but we appreciate it will be a challenge and a lot of hard work to win it. We will be working the parliamentary candidate Gordon Munro to make sure we get Labour’s message across.”