THE Edinburgh City Council’s ruling SNP Group faces a crisis of “competence” after a double-whammy of loses to its team, rival politicians have claimed.
Two councillors quitting “asks serious questions about the competence of the administration”, according to the council’s opposition leader.
Cllr Gavin Barrie followed Cllr Lewis Ritchie by vacating the SNP benches to become an independent councillor last month.
The move means the Conservatives are now the biggest council group – even though the SNP-Labour coalition will continue to front the administration.
Speaking at full council meeting, Conservative leader Cllr Iain Whyte paid tribute to Cllr Barrie’s contribution to the administration – and hit out at the focus of the current SNP group.
He said: “Regardless of the circumstances of the loss, to lose one councillor could be regarded as unfortunate, to lose two looks rather careless.
“The loss in this case is one of their most experienced and able councillors who has decided to defect to the independent benches and rob an unseasoned and inexperienced administration of one of the few councillors who actually was able and willing to hold officers to account for the performance of the departments and the council.”
He added: “With two resignations in under a year, it asks serious questions about the competence of the administration and the SNP and also likewise the Labour party which continues to prop up this misfiring administration.
“They should really be asking themselves, can they continue to justify that? After all, the lack of direction means serious underlying problems in core services.
“These issues are not being properly addressed.”
Cllr Barrie and Cllr Ritchie did not sit next to each other at Thursday’s meeting and instead sat at opposite sides of the Green and Liberal Democrat benches.
Cllr Barrie responded to the comments and accused the Conservatives of hypocrisy.
He said: “Thank you Cllr Whyte for your kind words – they really are appreciated. Quite rightly you complimented me, I’m very grateful for that.
“I would like to be complimentary in response but I can’t.
“If you are criticising the administration, I might remind you that to lose one cabinet member might be careless but to lose five might suggest your Westminster government should resign.”
The Conservatives hit out at the delay and accused the administration of “picking and choosing” when to apply democracy.
Cllr Kate Campbell, who replaced Cllr Barrie as housing and economy convener, said they had to consider the best way forwards.
She said: “We want to look at the best ways to make committees work.”