Steve Cardownie facing challengers as SNP leader

Steve Cardownie. Picture: Neil Hanna
Steve Cardownie. Picture: Neil Hanna
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DEPUTY council leader Steve Cardownie is facing a challenge to his leadership of the Capital’s SNP group.

Rivals are circling the Edinburgh SNP leader ahead of the party’s AGM on Monday, with economy convener Frank Ross and newcomer Sandy Howat thought to be frontrunners to mount a coup.

Councillor Cardownie, who defected from the Labour Party in 2005, survived a takeover plot last May with three councillors turning against him when the party came second at the local government elections.

Then, Councillor Stefan Tymkewycz reportedly moved to oust the veteran politician from the leadership but only managed to secure the backing of colleague Norrie Work and new councillor David Key, with 14 of 18 elected members staying loyal to Cllr Cardownie.

Now the SNP chief is facing a fresh challenge with retired firefighter Gavin Barrie also being talked of as a contender.

One City Chambers source said: “Frank Ross would be a serious contender, but it might be too early for him. I expect Sandy Howat will stand, but he won’t have enough support to oust Steve. The key is whether Gavin Barrie throws his hat into the ring. He is a credible candidate and might be persuaded to run.”

Another added: “If there is a leadership challenge, Frank Ross is the name that keeps cropping up.

“Gavin Barrie has been mentioned but whether they do anything is another matter. Steve Cardownie is not exactly the most approachable person and is very much in control of the group.

“There are always rumours every year about this because it’s known there is tension within the group. There’s been a few problems with some of the newer councillors.”

Cllr Cardownie is understood to retain the support of MSP Kenny MacAskill who is in charge of the party in Edinburgh.

The Evening News made repeated attempts to contact the likely challengers but none returned calls.

Asked about a leadership challenge, Cllr Tymkewycz said: “All the party positions will be up for nomination. If there’s more than one then there will be a vote on it. But as yet there have been no nominations.”

Cllr Cardownie said he was ready to face any challenge that might come.

“There’s no God-given right to hold on to position for as long as you want,” he said. “This is an integral part of democracy and I welcome it. It’s necessary and my fate will be determined on Monday by democratic vote.”

Contenders form a queue

THREE challengers are tipped to be in the frame to challenge Edinburgh’s SNP leader Steve Cardownie.

Sandy Howat: Ex-financial consultant, 41, defeated former Lib Dem council leader Jenny Dawe in the last elections taking the Meadows/Morningside seat. He joined the SNP when he was 16 and was the party’s candidate in Edinburgh South at the 2010 general election.

Frank Ross: Elected for the SNP in his home ward of Corstorphine/Murrayfield. A qualified accountant with a successful career in blue chip firms, he also worked as election agent to MSP Colin Keir.

Gavin Barrie: Retired firefighter, elected for the SNP in Inverleith in place of former police officer Stuart McIvor, who had stood down. He served with Lothian and Borders Fire and Rescue for 34 years and was chair and treasurer for the Fire Brigades Union.