Edinburgh Council bust-up as SNP and Labour chiefs no longer talking

Opposition councillors have raised fears that Edinburgh's SNP-Labour coalition is 'pulling in different directions' following a bust up between the housing and economy convener and her deputy.

SNP convener of the housing and economy committee, Cllr Kate Campbell, and her Labour deputy, Cllr Lezley Cameron, are said to be no longer on speaking terms – despite working together in coalition on big housing projects at City Chambers.

A council source said: “Kate Campbell won’t meet with Lezley unless there’s somebody else in the room, following an alleged incident. They can’t work together and there’s certainly no partnership.”

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Cllr Cameron said: “I’m committed to the coalition succeeding. I work very hard at building constructive, mutually respective relationships with every elected member. By the very nature of politics, there are differences of views.

Cllr Kate Campbell. Picture: Neil Hanna

“I believe it’s very important for Labour’s voice to be heard and I make no apology for standing up for Labour values.”

At last week’s meeting, Cllr Cameron put her partner on the spot by asking what she had personally done to pressure the Scottish Government to speed up rent pressure zone proposals.

Later, the Labour councillor for Liberton and Gilmerton took offence at not being asked by officers to approve the Lord Provost’s trip to the International Mayors’ Conference in Florence – an issue she still hasn’t had assurances over.

At the meeting, Cllr Cameron said: “This is not a one-party administration – it’s a two-party coalition and I’m getting pretty tired of saying that to officers.”

Lezley Cameron, Labour councillor

In a tense moment during the public meeting, Cllr Cameron added: “I don’t know why you’re smiling, convener. It’s serious when the person on this side doesn’t know anything about it.”

A source close to the administration said that housing work was still being managed effectively despite the differences and added that “opponents have been trying to build a divide between them. Cllr Cameron is always having a dig at the Scottish Government which probably doesn’t help matters”.

Cllr Campbell said there were “issues to be resolved” between the two parties.

She said: “Obviously complaints are a matter for Labour to deal with and I wouldn’t want to comment about any specific incidents which are unresolved.”

Opponents have raised fears the long-standing row is distracting the council administration from delivering services to the Capital.

Conservative Group chairman, Cllr Jason Rust said, “The SNP has already lost three councillors since this dysfunctional minority administration was formed, including the former housing convener, Cllr Gavin Barrie.

“If the coalition is now publicly pulling in different directions with apparently no communication between the parties or with officers on a major portfolio that is of serious concern. It is not only embarrassing, but it calls into question where this council actually stands on significant issues and challenges facing our capital city.

“It seems the SNP and Labour ranks are more interested in jockeying for position than the real priority of working together and effectively delivering for Edinburgh. For how much longer can this divided administration continue if it does not even command the support of its own councillors?”

The views were echoed by the Liberal Democrats.

Cllr Kevin Lang said: “There are so many important issues for this committee to deal with, including tackling homelessness and growing the Edinburgh economy.

“That effort risks being hindered by a relationship between the convener and vice-convener which is clearly broken. Why should be the people of Edinburgh have confidence in this coalition administration which two of its most senior members are in such constant disagreement?”