THE Capital’s wait for an administration to be formed following last month’s council elections could be nearly over.
The SNP and Labour groups at the City Chambers – who have already agreed to go into coalition – are expected to sign off a joint policy programme tonight.
And they hope to secure the approval of Labour’s Scottish executive committee (SEC) for the deal tomorrow, with a possible official signing on Thursday.
The SNP emerged from the May 4 elections as the biggest party on the council with 19 seats while the Conservatives were close behind on 18, Labour has 12, the Greens eight and Lib Dems six.
Talks on possible coalition arrangements began immediately and Labour and the SNP came to an agreement in principle within days.
But Labour’s SEC refused to give its approval without more information and grassroots party members in the Capital also raised concerns.
Opponents claimed the deal was being delayed because of the general election and Labour fears that if the party was seen to be co-operating with the SNP it could damage Edinburgh South MP Ian Murray’s chances of retaining his seat.
As time dragged on without the deal being approved, Labour was accused of putting party interests ahead of the city’s.
But now the two groups are finalising a detailed policy programme and how many posts each party will get within the administration.
SNP group leader Adam McVey said the details were due to be agreed tonight.
If Labour’s SEC gives its endorsement, a special council meeting could be called for June 22 to elect the council leader and deputy and the committee conveners ahead of the scheduled full council meeting a week later.
Cllr McVey said: “I’m hopeful, with the election out of the way and politics settling down, we can get on with the day job of forming an administration and getting to grips with the issues that are important for the people of Edinburgh.”
However, not all Labour councillors are keen on the coalition plan.
Scott Arthur, newly elected in Colinton/Fairmilehead ward, said in a blog that the SNP’s record in government had not lived up to its campaign rhetoric against austerity.
He wrote: “Nowhere was this more stark than the council elections. People saw that whilst SNP local government manifestos across Scotland had a clear commitment to tackling ‘Tory austerity’, none were willing to say they’d do anything about cuts imposed by the Scottish Government.
“We were clear that we’d protect the poorest by opposing austerity and the Scottish Government’s willingness to cut services for the vulnerable rather than use its revenue raising powers. We were just as clear about this as the damage we feel independence would do to Scotland.
“That’s why I will be arguing that Edinburgh’s Labour councillors should not back any city administration that’s unwilling to oppose cuts inflicted on our capital by the Scottish Government. I also want to see the city administration make a clear commitment to protecting the benefits the UK and EU single markets give Edinburgh.”