Labour grassroots members veto SNP coalition

Coalition plans face further delays. Picture; Esme Allen.
Coalition plans face further delays. Picture; Esme Allen.
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GRASSROOTS Labour members in the Capital have refused to back the proposal for a coalition deal between their party’s councillors and the SNP.

A meeting of Labour’s local campaign forum (LCF) – made up of delegates from constituency parties – raised concerns with the agreement which the Labour group on the council reached with the Nationalists last week.

Frank Ross (centre) of the SNP  is elected''. Picture;''' Neil Hanna

Frank Ross (centre) of the SNP is elected''. Picture;''' Neil Hanna

One source said: “They have not accepted the proposal and asked the group to look at it again.”

The move looks likely to mean a further delay in resolving the question – which has been hanging over the city since the council elections on May 4 – of who will form the administration to run the Capital for the next five years.

The proposed SNP-Labour coalition has already been delayed by Labour’s Scottish executive committee (SEC), which has to approve the deal before it can go ahead. The SEC said it was not prepared to back the plan with more information, including the views of the LCF.

The source said: “Presumably if the LCF has asked the group to look at it again, the group will have to go back to the LCF and get their views before it can ask the SEC for approval again.”

Labour nationally has set criteria for any coalition deal, including rejection of austerity policies, a commitment to no compulsory redundancies and a presumption against privatisation of services.

But the source said the concerns of the grassroots went beyond that. “The question is: what would the benefit be for Labour or for the citizens of Edinburgh of going ahead with the deal?”

The SNP is now the biggest group on the council with 19 seats, followed by the Tories with 18, Labour on 12, the Greens on eight and the Lib Dems on six.

Negotiations to form some kind of coalition administration began as soon as the results of the elections were known. An SNP-Labour deal seemed the most likely since the two parties had run the city together for the past five years, albeit with Labour as the lead partner.

But the Tories pressed hard for a pan-unionist coalition of Conservatives, Labour and Lib Dems, who together would have a majority of the council’s 63 seats, while an SNP-Labour partnership would fall one short.

The Conservatives emailed all Labour councillors at the weekend to reiterate their proposals, but the Labour group ruled out a deal with the Tories.

Tory group leader Iain Whyte claimed Labour was now in an “utter mess”. He said: “Rather than form a coalition with unionist parties, Labour have decided instead to prop up the SNP.

“It’s a complete betrayal of all of those who voted for them and shows their promise to stand up for Scotland’s place in the union was a simply a lie.”

It now looks unlikely that a coalition can be agreed before tomorrow’s first full council meeting after the elections.

It is expected the meeting will vote on who should be Lord Provost but leave other appointments until a second meeting in a week’s time.