LABOUR’s dreams of an all-party coalition to run Edinburgh for the next five years look set to be dashed tonight as opposition politicians prepared to shoot down the proposals.
Negotiating teams from all parties will hold a crunch meeting at the City Chambers this evening to give their response to Labour leader Andrew Burns’ vision of a grand coalition “of all talents”.
Senior opposition figures have voiced fears the plan could be a recipe for indecision and inaction.
Today, there was speculation that a more manageable coalition deal could be struck between Labour and the Conservatives, mirroring the one struck by the same parties in East Lothian.
Conservatives said the city needed an administration which would provide strong leadership. One senior Tory said: “Labour have been talking about decisive leadership but it would seem that would be incompatible with this grand coalition.”
Another senior figure said: “The cleanest result is Labour-Conservative, which would give the administration a majority with 31 [of 58 seats].
“One of the things you can’t put a cigarette paper between is our belief that the last administration lacked leadership and was instead led by council officials.”
Councillor Burns said he still hoped to make a deal with as many parties as possible and move away from party politics.
Asked whether his all-party coalition vision was still a possibility, he said today: “We are getting towards decision time on that for all the groups involved.
“All the options are still on the table, no-one has closed the door on them.
“We are talking to the Conservatives, but we are talking to the Lib Dems, the SNP and the Greens as well.”
He added: “I’m not going to be rushed into anything.
“We’re going to take our time and get it right.”
Individual party groups were meeting today to consider Labour’s plan ahead of the all-party meeting.
But one source said: “We are meeting at 6.30pm, so things should be clearer by about 6.32pm.”
Meetings were held throughout the weekend but negotiations are expected to run on for several days.
Labour is the largest party with 20 seats but that falls far short of the target of 30. The Nationalists have 18, the Conservatives 11, the Greens six and the Lib Dems on three.
If Labour managed to get 29 it could form an administration, but the opposition would also have 29 and every split decision would have to be made by the Lord Provost.
The party would also need other support to get the Lord Provost elected in the first place, which would require up to 30 votes.
SNP leader Cllr Steve Cardownie said today: “We are all meeting tonight to respond to Labour’s proposal. If that does not find favour, more conventional models of administration would have to be looked at. That could take any shape or colour, as has been seen across the country.”
One source involved in the negotiations at the City Chambers said of the grand coalition: “It would involve sharing our convenerships among all the parties, but with Labour taking the leader’s role.
“But there are questions about whether that could work and how the electorate would know when it comes to the next election who had been responsible for what.
“It would be pandering to the idea that all politicians are the same by making us all the same.”
On Friday evening, the Greens emerged as a new force in the City Chambers having doubled their presence to six councillors.
Their policies are seen as being close to many of Labour’s, although they have indicated they are reluctant to enter a formal coalition.
Cllr Steve Burgess, leader of the Edinburgh Greens, said: “We agree that Edinburgh needs to rebuild trust and credibility with people in the city, moving away from the ‘we know best’ culture.
“Edinburgh needs ambitious and innovative policies for the next five years and beyond. At this stage I believe that’s best-served by building support for these bold policies each in turn within the City Chambers but, more importantly, with people in the city more generally.
“The top priority for now is transforming the way Edinburgh works.”
The Lib Dems, who suffered a heavy defeat on Friday, said they are open to Labour’s idea but had not made a final decision.
Cllr Jeremy Balfour, the Edinburgh Conservative leader, said: “We’re continuing to talk to all parties and hoping some kind of agreement will emerge over the next couple of days.”
CARDOWNIE SURVIVES COUP
FORMER deputy council leader Steve Cardownie has survived an attempted coup to remove him as leader of the SNP in Edinburgh after three councillors turned against him when the party came in second at the local government elections.
The Evening News has learned Councillor Stefan Tymkewycz mounted a challenge to oust the veteran politician from the leadership at the weekend after Labour emerged as the largest party ahead of the Nationalists on Friday.
Cllr Tymkewycz, a former Lothians MSP and retired Metropolitan Police officer, only managed to secure the backing of colleague Norrie Work and new councillor David Keys, with 14 of the 18 elected members standing by Cllr Cardownie.
Another new member, Bill Henderson, abstained having not been present at the start of the challenge.
Labour now has 20 councillors and the SNP has 18, with the Tories on 11, Greens on six and the Liberal Democrats on three.
Cllr Cardownie, who has served as an elected member since 1988, became the city’s first SNP councillor when he defected from Labour in 2005.
He declined to discuss the circumstances surrounding the leadership challenge, but said he was pleased to have been returned as leader again.
He told the Evening News: “I’m delighted the group has the confidence in me to confirm me as leader.
“All of the councillors have done a fantastic job in the last administration and we will continue to carry on doing so.
“We gained six seats in this election and we came very close to the result being tied at 19 SNP, 19 Labour.
“Of course, we wanted to be the biggest of any party, but we still increased our vote more than any other party and we are committed to playing an important role in a another administration.”
Meet the 25 new faces of the council
BORN in England, Nick Gardner has lived in Edinburgh since 1985 and is a self-employed web developer and part-time community care worker. He was elected for Labour in Leith ward.
AN SNP member since he was 16, Bill Henderson was elected first in the Pentland Hills ward. He is a former army communications technician and retired BT planning officer.
NEW SNP Leith councillor Adam McVey has degrees in economics and international law. He worked for Amnesty International and previously for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
FRANK Ross was elected for the SNP in his home ward of Corstorphine/Murrayfield. A qualified accountant with a successful career in blue chip firms, he also worked as election agent to MSP Colin Keir.
AN ex-accountant with energy firms in the UK and Norway, Denis Dixon is convener of the Edinburgh Central branch of the SNP and runs a small website business. He was elected in Sighthill/Gorgie.
VICKI Redpath was narrowly elected as the second Labour candidate in Forth, scuppering SNP plans to get a second councillor in.
The 52-year-old lives with husband Craigie and teaches adult learning.
A SUCCESSOR to retiring Kate MacKenzie in the Almond ward, Conservative Lindsay Paterson works for a medical firm in Edinburgh and, at 30 years old, is the third youngest councillor.
A FORMER council officer and business manager to the SNP, Catherine Fullerton was elected to the Sighthill/Gorgie ward for the same party after retiring.
She and her family live in Whitson.
PARLIAMENTARY aide Dominic Heslop, 35, successfully held the seat left when Tory Alastair Paisley retired last week.
He stood for local government in Fife in 1999 while at university.
JIM Orr was elected for the SNP in the Southside/Newington ward.
The 39-year-old said the conditions of schools is a priority. Cllr Orr lives in Marchmont, is single and works as a financial auditor.
BROUGHT up in Fernieside and educated at Liberton High, new Labour councillor for Craigentinny/Duddingston Alex Lunn, 33, is a baker to trade but now works for HSBC at the Gyle.
ALASTAIR Shields is the only new Lib Dem councillor having succeeded Lord Provost George Grubb in the Almond ward.
At 27, he is the second youngest councillor. He works in recruitment.
KAREN Doran took the City Centre seat for Labour after Lib Dem support evaporated.
The 50-year-old, who injured her ankle on campaign, had unsuccessfully contested last year’s by-election.
GAVIN Corbett was elected first in Fountainbridge/Craiglockhart, marking the first time a Green candidate has topped the poll in Scotland.
Chair of the parent-teacher council at Craiglockhart Primary School, the 46-year-old has gone on to help set up similar organisations across the city.
He said: “There’s an existing parent involvement strategy but it’s currently little more than a piece of paper. We want to open up the process and harness the informed and exciting ideas many parents have.”
Councillor Corbett is head of policy at Shelter Scotland, and lives in Shandon with wife Karen and their two sons.
FORMER comedy club promoter Melanie Main had a career organising major events before working for the Scottish Greens at Holyrood.
The mum-of-one ran for city council after being frustrated at the conditions at Sciennes Primary, her daughter’s school, and is determined to see parents given a greater say in the way individual schools are run.
Running in place of Alison Johnstone, now a list MSP for the Lothians, she came second in the four-member Meadows/Morningside ward. Cllr Main is married to Ian, an academic at Edinburgh University, lives in Sciennes and works for The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award.
A BOARD member of The Bike Station in Edinburgh, Chas Booth was elected for the Greens in Leith following the collapse of the Lib Dem vote and his involvement in a number of local campaigns.
The 39-year-old has been active in the Splashback bid to keep Leith Waterworld open and was a leading figure in securing funds for the PEDAL wind farm project in Portobello. He had a strong performance at the Federation of Small Businesses pre-election hustings and works as a parliamentary officer for the lobbyist group Association for the Conservation of Energy. He lives in Leith with his wife, Claire, and their daughter.
MULTILINGUIST Nigel Bagshaw was elected for the Greens in Inverleith, an early result in a day which saw the party double its presence in the chambers to six elected members.
Chair of the Stockbridge Community Council for six years, the 48-year-old has been involved in the Save Inverleith Park and Save Glenogle Baths campaigns.
The professional translator speaks Polish, German, Russian, French and Italian, and works for a range of public and private sector organisations.
Cllr Bagshaw lives in Stockbridge with his wife, Jane, and their three children.
RETIRED firefighter Gavin Barrie was elected for the SNP in Inverleith, running in place of former police officer Stuart McIvor, who was de-selected by the local party.
He served with Lothian and Borders Fire and Rescue for 34 years and was chair and treasurer for the Fire Brigades Union.
Councillor Barrie said he has experienced delivering public services at the sharp end and his understanding of local government finance gives him a lot to offer.
He lives in the Warriston area of Inverleith and is currently working as an advisor to the Scottish Government on the single fire service for Scotland.
SELECTION of David Walker as a candidate proved controversial, but it was his victory in Portobello/Craigmillar which tipped the balance of power to Labour.
Had the 50-year-old lost to SNP rival David Manson – the battle ran to the eighth round – Labour and the SNP would have been tied on 19 councillors each. As a community activist, he has been involved in two costly Court of Session battles with the council, one being the failed bid to prevent Craigmillar Settlement community centre being turned into offices.
He said his focus is to “make sure the council improves conditions in the Portobello/Craigmillar ward”.
FIRST-TIME candidate Karen Keil stormed to victory in Drum Brae/Gyle, winning on the first round where Labour had not previously had a seat. The minister’s wife got involved in politics through the campaign against the closure of Drumbrae Primary School. She said: “I had never even been a member of a party before. This is all because of the closure of the school and the fact that the community is suffering as a result. I’m determined that somebody will speak up for them.” Born and raised in Edinburgh, she worked for Christian Aid for 20 years, has two teenage daughters and has been chair of Clermiston and Drumbrae Gala for 14 years.
Former financial consultant Sandy Howat, 41, once stood against SNP legend Winnie Ewing for the party presidency. Now he is the candidate who beat former Lib Dem council leader Jenny Dawe, taking the fourth seat in Meadows/Morningside for the Nationalists. His unsuccessful 2001 challenge to Mrs Ewing was a protest against “romantic nationalism” though he also said he did not believe anyone should be elected unopposed, saying: “It’s bad for democracy.” He joined the SNP when he was 16 and was the party’s candidate in Edinburgh South at the 2010 general election. He has also worked as a civil servant and a holiday rep in Spain.
RESCUE helicopter pilot David Key is a former SNP councillor in North Lanarkshire but now lives in Edinburgh with his wife, a clinical psychologist at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital, and their baby son. Born in Dunfermline, he won a scholarship to George Watson’s College and, after leaving school, served 25 years as a naval officer, including stints in Northern Ireland, the Falklands, the Gulf and Bosnia. He retired from the navy in 2004 in the rank of commander. He was elected in Fountainbridge/Craiglockhart, where the Tories and Lib Dems lost out.
MUSICIAN Richard Lewis was born in Sydney and grew up in both Australia and Edinburgh. He went to James Gillespie’s High School, then studied at Oxford and Edinburgh universities before working in Germany. He has worked as a freelance musician and conductor around Europe. His election as SNP councillor for Colinton/Fairmilehead was third time lucky for the 41-year-old father-of-one, who previously stood in Meadows/Morningside ward in the 2007 council elections and also in the 2010 Liberton/Gilmerton by-election.
THE youngest councillor to be elected, 24-year-old Nick Cook was a surprise Tory victor in Liberton/Gilmerton ward, where Labour and the SNP were expected to take two seats each. The political researcher for Lothians Conservative MSP Gavin Brown won fourth place in the ward with 12.3 per cent of the vote.
He said he was “shocked and excited” by the result. “I was really up against it because there was a second SNP candidate so it’s huge to triumph over them. I was hearing a lot of anti-independence talk on the doors, which obviously worked in our favour,” he said.
Active in the area for over 37 years, Labour’s Joan Griffiths secured enough first-preference votes to be elected as councillor for Craigentinny/Duddingston in the first round.
She has been a Justice of the Peace for over 20 years and is an active member of her local church.
Councillor Griffiths, 62, is client relations officer for Midlothian Council’s adults and community care, and chair of the Action Group, a voluntary organisation which works with children and adults who need additional support. She has a son with a profound disability and in 2010 received an MBE for her role in disabled care.