ABERDEENSHIRE Council’s ruling rainbow coalition has been left clinging to power by a knife edge following the surprise resignation of a key Independent on the administration.
• Council now hung with 34 councillors in coalition and 34 in opposition
• SNP dominate opposition block
Ian Tait, the veteran Fraserburgh councillor, has quit as a member of the Independent Group on the ruling alliance in protest against the administration’s decision to exclude the Buchan town from the Strategic Growth Area being developed as part of the flagship Energetica corridor scheme.
His resignation has left Aberdeenshire a hung council – with 34 councillors remaining in the rainbow administration and 34 opposition councillors, dominated by the 28-strong Scottish National Party Group.
It could leave the alliance relying on their casting vote on the full council and the main committees in pursuing the administration’s key policies.
Councillor Hamish Vernal, the leader of the SNP group, declared: “Clearly, the cracks in the ‘Aberdeenshire Alliance’ are starting to show – a little over six months into the five-year term.
“The desperation of the Liberals and Tories to keep the SNP out of administration, despite our winning the election with more seats than those two parties combined, meant that they had to cobble together a grand coalition of disparate interests. That is now starting to unravel and leaves the administration and opposition poised on a knife edge with 34 seats each.”
Councillor Tait, who was once a prominent member of the SNP group on Aberdeenshire Council before standing as an Independent, said he had walked out of the ruling alliance because he wanted the freedom to speak out on issues which affected his ward.
He said: “There are some really first-rate people in the Alliance – as there are in all the political groups – and I sent my best wishes to all of them. However I felt there were issues I needed to speak out on that I could not as a member of the administration because they went against policy.”
Mr Tait explained that he was determined to campaign to ensure that the Energetica development corridor will carry on to Fraserburgh, instead of stopping at Peterhead, as is currently planned.
He claimed: “Fraserburgh is missing out on key investment which I completely disagree with and I need to have the freedom to fight for this policy to be changed.”
Councillor Martin Kitts-Hayes, the Liberal Democrat deputy leader of the administration, claimed that the departure of Councillor Tait was unlikely to have any impact on the coalition’s programme.
He said: “I don’t think it’s going to make our job any harder. Ian has decided to leave the alliance but Ian hasn’t actually gone to support the SNP. He just wants to have a bit more freedom and manoeuvre and we would expect Councillor Tait to support us on most items.
“Councillor Tait is very much an independent Independent and the coalition is stronger now than it was six months ago.”
And Councillor Jim Gifford, the Tory leader of the council, said: “Aberdeenshire Council has always worked very collaboratively in the past. We have our differences, but on many, many issues we agree on things across the piece.
“So I hope we can bring people on board with anything we bring forward.”