Leader: Axing Cardownie would be gamble for SNP

ROLL up, roll up for the main event at the City Chambers. Will the veteran political fighter Steve Cardownie hold on to his title as leader? Or will the “new kid on the block” succeed in knocking the great survivor off his perch?

In years gone by, a tussle for the leadership of the SNP group at the city council would have held little interest outside a very small band of political anoraks. Today, we all have good reason to be interested in the contest.

The winner will not only be deputy leader of the council, but will also play another crucial role in the future of the Capital as a key influence in the SNP government.

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A strong and politically astute operator will use the role to ensure the interests of the Capital are never forgotten at the top table. If a less able person fills those shoes, then we all stand to suffer.

So what would the best result be for the city as a whole?

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Well, challenger Sandy Howat is bright and articulate, a passionate nationalist, with broad experience of life outside politics. Yet he has not yet had the chance to show his mettle in a senior political position.

Taking on the leader’s mantle would be a big step up, but who is to say he would not rise to the occasion?

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In truth, Councillor Cardownie is probably a little relieved that the men widely seen as his heirs apparent – Gavin Barrie and Frank Ross, who has won many admirers for his handling of the city’s finances and is being talked of as a future leader – appear reluctant to stand against him next week.

Everyone has their own opinion of Cllr Cardownie. Like anyone who switches political colours to join their party’s bitter rivals, he has more than his share of critics.

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But only a fool would underestimate him. Very few can match his political nous and populist instincts.

Ditching him would certainly be a gamble for the Nationalists – and therefore in the circumstances for the city, too.

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Maybe our SNP councillors are in the mood for a flutter. It is going to be fascinating to watch.