Edinburgh council leadership confusion

Thursday August 22nd 2019

Edinburgh Council

Written by Local Democracy Reporter, David Bol

The leadership of the Capital has been thrown into confusion – with the two coalition partners at odds over who will be in charge when the leader is away on adoption leave.

Councillor Ellie Bird is set to be formally announced as temporary SNP chief at today’s (22) full council meeting with council leader Councillor Adam McVey to begin six weeks of adoption leave on Friday. But her position was challenged in a last-minute leadership bid by Lord Provost and former SNP group leader, Frank Ross, in an attempt to oust his group’s youngest councillor.

Amid the in-fighting, Labour leader and the council’s depute leader, Councillor Cammy Day, has insisted he will be taking over at the helm of the authority – a claim disputed by the SNP.

An SNP source maintained that the group has united behind Councillor Bird following the leadership victory. It is also believed that at the same fiery group meeting, another councillor called for Councillor Lesley Macinnes to step down from her role as deputy group leader after not taking over the reins from Councillor McVey. Councillor Macinnes has the heaviest workload of any of the authority’s conveners, while Councillor Bird will be able to give the position “her full attention”.

An SNP figure said: “What happens in SNP group meetings is private and a matter for the group.

“What I can say is Ellie emphatically has the support of the group in her new role.”

Councillor Ross, who could not be reached for comment, replaced Sandy Howat as group leader in 2016 – before being ousted by Councillor McVey within hours of the 2017 council election results in a surprise coup.

A council source said: “The SNP group is in turmoil”.

They added: “Frank had been doing everything he could to stop Ellie doing the role.”

With no ability to formally appoint a new council leader without Councillor McVey resigning, his Labour deputy has made clear he will be in charge of the authority.

Councillor Day said: “I’m obviously delighted for Adam and his family and pleased he will be able to take time off as he should be able to.

“There’s no question for me – as of Thursday, I will deputise the roles and responsibilities of council leader for the duration of Adam’s leave.

“Effectively, I’m the acting council leader and Ellie is the acting deputy leader. My role is to carry on the work of the coalition but I will be looking for any opportunity to maybe do things better.”

But the SNP group insists the coalition partners will take on Councillor McVey’s duties together.

Councillor Bird said: “I’m very much looking forward to taking up this new role and working alongside Cammy to fulfil Adam’s duties and responsibilities as council leader over his period of adoption leave.

“I will play my full part in providing collegiate and cooperative leadership to the council during this time, as outlined in the report and maintaining the political balance in which this coalition is rooted.”

Conservatives have called for the SNP-Labour coalition to concentrate on running public services rather than squabbling.

Tory group leader, Councillor Iain Whyte, said: “If the rumours I have heard are true, it’s absolute division in the SNP group and utter chaos.

“It suggests that we are in for a shambolic few weeks and it really does beg the question as to who is going to be in charge.

“It leaves the public not knowing who’s running the city. There’s chaos in the SNP group and chaos in the coalition at a time when the Edinburgh public want to see under-performing services improving.”

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