Tory councillor in Edinburgh calls for new leader

A TORY councillor standing down at tomorrow's elections has called for Conservative group leader Cameron Rose to be replaced.

Wednesday, 3rd May 2017, 9:55 am
Updated Tuesday, 9th May 2017, 8:20 pm
Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson makes a statement to media and supporters about the local government campaign.

Dominic Heslop accused Councillor Rose of failing to provide effective or constructive opposition to the Labour-SNP administration and claimed other parties would not contemplate a coalition with the Tory group while he was the leader.

The Conservatives are expected to make gains in the elections and could end up as the second largest party on the council. Negotiations between the various groups are likely to get under way very soon ­after the results are known on ­Friday.

But first, the newly elected councillors in each party will meet to choose their leaders.

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Ruth Davidson spoke out against the dirty Edinburgh streets.

Cllr Heslop, who has represented Pentland Hills since 2012, said he hoped Inverleith councillor Iain Whyte, who has led the group before, would replace Cllr Rose, though other names which could emerge include transport spokesman Nick Cook and City Centre councillor Joanna Mowat.

In a statement to the Evening News, Cllr Heslop said: “I believe opposition should be constructive. There is no point in opposing simply for the sake of opposing. This is something that, over the last five years I have been a councillor, my group leader has continually failed to understand.

“When Cameron Rose speaks in committee or in the chamber there are audible groans and raised eyebrows from other councillors, including those from my group.

“Being pernickety, using old and tired slogans such as ‘five years of waste’ does not provide effective nor constructive opposition. If anything, it simply alienates politicians from other parties who we want to get on side for the benefit of the people of Edinburgh.

Ruth Davidson spoke out against the dirty Edinburgh streets.

“Having spoken to senior councillors from other parties, the clear message is that they will not ‘do a deal’ or contemplate a coalition with Edinburgh Tories if Cllr Rose remains Conservative group leader.

“This saddens me, as he has many qualities. But if he has failed to get that across, then he has shown his weakness as a leader. He also has shown bad judgement in bringing to the council his own personal beliefs, such as his views on climate change. I don’t think you can attack other parties for raising issues outwith our remit, for example, Palestine, then speak in the chamber on other issues which we have no control over.”

He said Cllr Whyte had the right experience to take over. “He is widely respected in all parties for his sharp intellect and ability to engage with political opponents.”

Cllr Rose is currently awaiting a Standards Commission hearing after an investigation by the standards commissioner concluded he had breached the councillors’ code of conduct by publicly naming five council employees involved in the management of a troubled project to rebuild Cameron House community centre in Prestonfield.

Cllr Rose said: “Dom was not selected as a candidate and it will be entirely up to the councillors who are elected or re-elected who they choose as leader. In the meantime we are all focusing on the election.”

If there is a change at the top of Edinburgh’s Tories, they will not be the only ones picking a new leader within hours of the election results.

Labour councillors elected tomorrow have no choice but to find a new leader since current chief Andrew Burns is leaving the council. Planning convener Ian Perry, a City Chambers veteran, is thought the most likely to succeed him, though education convener Cammy Day’s name could also be in the frame.

And there is speculation that SNP group leader Frank Ross could face a challenge when the new Nationalist councillors – tipped to be the biggest group on the council – meet for the first time.

He recently caused controversy with comments in the Evening News suggesting pro-Union parties only called themselves “Scottish” as a branding exercise to win votes.

And he also found himself in the headlines for forgetting to declare the purchase of a Highland hotel in his register of interests.

Cllr Ross is the third leader the SNP group has had since the last council elections in 2012.

Morningside councillor Sandy Howat replaced the long-­serving Steve Cardownie in 2015, but a year later he was defeated by Cllr Ross.

There is speculation Cllr Howat could now mount a comeback bid. But other names ­mentioned include finance ­convener Alasdair Rankin and Portobello/Craigmillar councillor Mike Bridgman.

And one source said there could even be a bid for the leadership from one of the candidates expected to be elected tomorrow, Alison Dickie.

Ms Dickie, who is standing in Southside/Newington, is a teacher and a former senior civil servant at the Scottish Parliament.

She stood for Holyrood last year in Edinburgh Central, which she was tipped to win. But in a surprise upset she lost out to Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson.