Frank Ross takes SNP leadership from Sandy Howat

A SENIOR councillor with a reputation for backing large developments has been elected the new leader of the Capital's 17-strong nationalist group.

Councillor Frank Ross, formerly economy leader, defeated his colleague Sandy Howat in a vote that was held during the local party’s annual general meeting last night.

The Evening News understands Cllr Ross won by 11 votes to six, in a result which party sources have decribed as “emphatic”.

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He is thought to have supported a number of major development proposals in recent years, including an “Inca-style” transformation of the former Royal High building which was rejected by councillors in December.

Cllr Ross said: “It’s a great honour to have been elected as the leader of the SNP council group and I would like to thank my colleagues for their support.

“I look forward to leading the SNP group within the capital coalition and onwards to the council elections in May 2017.”

It is understood Cllr Gavin Barrie will become Edinburgh’s economy leader, with Cllr Mike Bridgman taking over as convenor of the regulatory committee.

And Cllr Bill Henderson will replace Cllr Bridgman at the helm of the police and fire scrunity committee.

Last night’s changes at the top of the SNP group come after Cllr Howat last year deposed long-serving councillor Steve Cardownie.

City leader Andrew Burns has congratulated Cllr Ross on his success.

He said: “At a personal level, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working with Sandy over the last 12-months, and wish him all the very best for the future.

“Internal political-group changes do happen, and the ‘Edinburgh Labour’ Group will continue to work constructively with the whole SNP Group on the Council.

“It’s important to stress that the local Labour-SNP Coalition will continue, as we collectively understand the importance of continuity and stability for Scotland’s great capital city.

“And I do now look forward to working with Frank, as the Council Deputy Leader, and both of our respective Groups continue to have every intention of ensuring this unique Coalition remains in place right through to May 2017.”

He added: “Our Coalition-agreement remains unchanged, and our focus remains on doing what is best for Edinburgh.”

Conservative councillor Jason Rust said: “I wish Councillor Ross well in his new post.

“With three leaders in three years, the SNP in Edinburgh is almost competing with Scottish Labour leaders for their longevity.”