Cracks in SNP-Labour coalition reappear over council leader’s role

A row over who should head Edinburgh City Council when its leader is absent on adoption leave is putting the coalition running the capital under increasing strain.

Council leader Adam McVey expects to be absent for six weeks when he and his partner adopt two boys

Council leader Adam McVey expects to be absent for six weeks when he and his partner adopt two boys, but Edinburgh’s ruling SNP-Labour coalition is divided over who should take over his duties.

A report on who should “act up” as council leader will be debated at tomorrow’s full council meeting, with the SNP group already having announced that Councillor Ellie Bird will take on a “caretaker” role while Mr McVey is absent.

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However, the Labour group – the junior partner in the coalition – is adamant that Councillor Cammy Day, the deputy leader of the council, should be interim leader.

It is the latest power struggle between the parties which has seen councillors previously fall out over employee restructures, rent control policies and Labour criticisms of the SNP group’s “lack of pressure” on the Scottish Government to increase funding for the city.

One Labour insider said: “Cammy is the deputy – what would be the point of his role if it means he does not deputise when the council leader is absent?

“This is a power play by the SNP group, who cannot bear the idea of relinquishing any control, even for six weeks.

“If they need a councillor to take over Adam’s SNP duties, that’s fair enough, but Cammy should be the leader.

“It’s either a coalition or it’s not. The roles have already been agreed and they should be respected.”

The Scotsman understands that Mr Day was told by council chief executive Andrew Kerr that the decision on who should temporarily replace Mr McVey is a political one and not for officials to adjudicate.

Labour may now table an amendment to the report to make it clear that Mr Day is the de factor leader in Mr McVey’s absence, and suggest that the duties Ms Bird will take on should also be spelled out as it believes the “report is too vague”.

The Conservative group is also believed to be supportive of Mr Day acting as interim leader.

Yesterday Mr McVey publicly thanked Ms Bird for “putting herself forward to help cover my adoption leave.”

Mr Day said he was pleased for Mr McVey but added: “In my role as depute leader I will lead the council for this period and work with colleagues in the coalition to ensure we continue to deliver our joint commitments.”