Joanna Mowat: Edinburgh did not vote for a coalition of chaos
BE very careful what you wish for . . . yesterday the Evening News said a minority administration would be a disaster for the city, and so backed an SNP-Labour deal even though that would still be short of a majority and subject to the same problems as an SNP-only minority.
Is this really what the city voted for last Thursday? Last week’s results show a significant shift – with the most votes cast for Conservative candidates it suggests that a significant proportion of the city would support our proposals for better service delivery.
Close reading of all the manifestos, and experience in the City Chambers, would indicate the Conservative, Labour and Liberal groups have more in common than divides them and a stable coalition of all three would be bound to the political centre and therefore concentrate on improving the delivery of services which we know the Edinburgh public demands.
There remains a golden opportunity for the city to get its services fit for purpose, but it will be lost if the very different SNP and Labour groups returned last week cuddle up to each other; this time with the eager puppy of the Greens invited into the bedroom to tug at the duvet at awkward moments.
What will be the end result of three parties locked into a contest to see who can out-left each other? What hope is there for responsible fiscal management in a time of reducing budgets, and what hope is there for the essential core services on which we all rely?
The Conservatives have put forward a pragmatic deal to the Labour group which recognises and respects our different positions. It concentrates on delivering better services for residents with a commitment to more openness and transparency through a structured programme of measurement with a new Edinburgh Index to show residents how services were improving. Where there are differences we propose carefully-considered compromises, but frankly those differences are not huge ideological gulfs but small brooks which can easily be bridged with pragmatism and goodwill.
What has become apparent is the council Labour group’s lack of autonomy. Whilst the Conservative group controls its own destiny and can take decisions best suited to meet the demands of the electorate, the Labour group is not empowered to take decisions without National Executive approval.
The current limbo in which the Labour group now finds itself appears to be down to central interference, but how foolish will they make MP Ian Murray look if they do a deal with the SNP? Just this week he was again claiming that “only Labour can stop the SNP” yet such an arrangement would mean the exact opposite. Only Labour can empower the SNP, but is that really what they want?
Edinburgh would be a city at the mercy of an SNP group tied by a pledge not to criticise the national party, in which the Capital would become just another plaything in the independence game, supported on demand by a Green group which otherwise refuses responsibility. So much for putting the best interests of the voters first.
It would be a city where blinkered dogma means the council tax goes up as services are reduced, where businesses are subjected to a constant rates raid, where tumbling standards in schools just have to be accepted. And where a clear public call for some sense to be brought to the 20mph speed limit policy would in all probability be ignored.
It really would be a coalition of chaos.
Joanna Mowat is a Conservative Councillor for the city centre ward