SNP-Labour coalition would back Edinburgh tram extension

Edinburgh City Chambers. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Edinburgh City Chambers. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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THE coalition deal hammered out between the Capital’s SNP and Labour councillors includes a pledge to go ahead with the £162 million tram extension – so long as the business case and delivery plan are “robust”.

A decision on whether to proceed with the extra stretch of tramline down Leith Walk and onto Newhaven was postponed until after the local elections.

In their manifestos, Labour pledged support for the project while the SNP backed it in principle but said it would only approve it on certain conditions.

Now the two parties have agreed to press ahead with the plan, to be completed by 2022, so long as they are satisfied with the costs and timescale.

Other key points in the deal agreed between the two groups include building new schools, spending an extra £100m on roads and pavements and delivering the City Deal, as well as establishing a homelessness task force, a child poverty action unit and devolving powers to communities.

The agreement also includes a commitment to campaign against austerity, a continuation of the no compulsory redundancies policy and a presumption against privatisation – all points laid down by Labour as conditions for any agreement.

If approved, the coalition deal will see the SNP’s Adam McVey become council leader at the age of 30 with Labour’s Cammy Day, 42, as deputy leader.

But the groups were last night still waiting to hear whether Labour’s Scottish executive committee (SEC) would give the necessary approval for the coalition to go ahead.

The city has already been waiting six weeks since the council elections which saw the SNP emerge as the biggest party at the City Chambers.

There are now 19 Nationalist councillors, 18 Conservatives, 12 Labour, eight Greens and six Liberal Democrats.

Negotiations on possible coalitions began immediately after the results of the May 4 elections were all declared and the SNP and Labour groups reached an agreement within days to form a renewed partnership to run the city, following the Labour-SNP coalition which was in charge for the previous five years.

But Labour’s SEC refused to sanction the deal without more information. Opponents claimed it was delaying a decision for political reasons because of the general election.

Edinburgh Labour activists also voiced concerns about the proposed deal.

The policy package, approved by the two groups at the City Chambers on Tuesday night, includes a total of 54 individual policy commitments as part of a “clear and transparent work programme”.

Cllr Day said the agreement would deliver all the pledges in the Labour manifesto.

And he said one of the main reasons for Labour entering into the coalition was to push anti-austerity policies.

He said: “We don’t want to see unfair budget reductions to local government. We will be putting Edinburgh first in everything we do – and we want to do that in conjunction with our trade union colleagues.”