Nationalists seize control in third major city as provost quits Labour
THE SNP will next week seize control of Scotland's fourth-largest city for the first time in the party's history, following the surprise decision of John Letford, the Lord Provost of Dundee, to quit the ruling Labour group and stand as an independent.
Mr Letford will vote with the SNP at Monday night's special meeting of the full council, giving the group the 15 votes it needs to wrest control of the 29-seat council from the Labour and Liberal Democrat coalition.
It will give the SNP power in three of Scotland's four major cities. The party is already part of the ruling coalitions in Edinburgh and Aberdeen.
In the past year, the Nationalists have also seized control of Stirling from Labour and are now either part of the administration or in full control of 12 of Scotland's 32 local authorities.
As part of the new administration in Dundee, Mr Letford will continue as the lord provost, while Ian Borthwick, the current depute lord provost, who is also a former Labour councillor, will retain his civic post.
But Mr Letford insisted yesterday that the agreement to allow him to remain in the post had played no part in his decision to quit the Labour group after 15 years as a Labour councillor in the city.
He said: "The decision tore me apart. I do this knowing full well that there will be criticism from certain quarters.
"I will be told I have sold my soul to the devil and I have just done it so I can remain lord provost.
"The fact that the SNP wish to continue with me (as lord provost] played no part in my decision. I am going to give the SNP the opportunity to take the city forward."
The lord provost, a member of the Labour Party for more than 30 years, said: "I have resigned from the Labour group. I plan to continue as a member of the Labour Party, but I would anticipate that they may expel me."
In explaining his decision, he said there had been "serious differences" between him and his former colleagues on the Labour group for several years, which had never been resolved.
Mr Letford said: "The Labour group has been accused of hanging on to power by its fingertips just because they wouldn't speak to the Scottish Nationalists. I had suggested some time ago that the group should approach the SNP and discuss a coalition, but the answer was no.
"It was political dogma," he said. "The group and I have lost confidence in each other."
The SNP's victory in the by-election for the Maryfield ward 14 days ago gave the group 14 seats on the 29-strong council.
Councillor Ken Guild, the leader of the SNP group, stressed: "We are not going to go charging in with lances at the tilt. Our intention is to make the transition from one administration to another as quick, as efficient and painless as possible.
"We owe that, not only to the councillors of all parties, but also the council employees and, most of all, the citizens of Dundee."
Councillor Kevin Keenan, the leader of the Labour group, said he was "deeply disappointed" by the lord provost's decision. "I am really surprised," he said. "John is the biggest royalist and unionist that I know. And I will be watching with interest in the future to see what happens when John sees the Union flag being lowered and the Saltire going up."
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Thursday 20 June 2013
Temperature: 12 C to 21 C
Wind Speed: 7 mph
Wind direction: South east
Temperature: 11 C to 19 C
Wind Speed: 12 mph
Wind direction: West