Why Edinburgh Labour should not do a city deal with the SNP

I am writing this on the road, heading to Salzburg, then Slovenia, so my main source of political intelligence is social media.

It would appear the 12-strong Labour group of councillors in Edinburgh are considering joining 19 SNP councillors in a coalition to run the city council.

Now I am not against coalitions per se. I was elected a councillor, for Edinburgh as it happens, in 1992, only six weeks after our terrible general election defeat.

While the Labour group was by far the largest, we were still a couple of seats short of an overall majority.

Enter Norman and Derek, the two-strong SNP group (those were the days), who offered to support the Labour manifesto for the next four years in exchange for the Lord Provost’s chain and a responsibility allowance.

The Lib Dem group, led by the inimitable Donald Gorrie, had been much more demanding, so before you could say “Deal or no Deal”, hands were shaken with Norman Irons and he became Lord Provost of Scotland’s capital city.

He and his wife Anne served their city with dignity and panache for four years, while the Labour Group were in charge of the policy side of things, including the all-important budget.

Barring one or two hiccups – the sacking of a chief executive springs to mind – the coalition worked better than anyone had anticipated.

But 1992 is not 2017. The political landscape of Scotland has changed beyond recognition.

The SNP are in charge, at Holyrood and in many of our council chambers. They, currently, dominate the Scottish benches at Westminster.

The political dividing line is no longer public versus private sector, as it was when I was a councillor, but the constitution.

The SNP government, led by Nicola Sturgeon, is obsessed by independence, to the point where she is willing to sacrifice local services, including social care and schools, on the altar of “freedom”.

More than 80,000 jobs have gone. Budgets slashed by £1.5 billion.

The council tax freeze was about keeping voters sweet for an independence referendum. Too bad if old folk, or our children, suffered. Nirvana was only a vote away.

Power has been sucked from every council chamber.

The most centralising government Scotland has ever endured controls all aspects of Scottish public life, obsessively preparing the ground for their never-ending #indyref series.

And worse is to come. Local government has still to implement hundreds of millions more of SNP austerity.

Edinburgh alone is facing cuts of up to £150 million over the next four years.

And remember these are SNP government cuts. This is home-grown austerity. Nicola, not Theresa is wielding the knife.

So, as the Edinburgh Labour dozen contemplate their future, I ask only this of them.

Remember why you joined the Labour Party. It was not to destroy schools, or starve social care.

Nor was it to give succour to a nationalist movement, so hell-bent on independence that it will throw our most vulnerable children on the scrap-heap to achieve its end.

Effective opposition is an essential part of good governance.

Take the principled stance. Fight the SNP cuts with everything you have. In the council chamber. In the Evening News. In community centres. On social media. On the doorstep.

Become the local champions who will rebuild our party in Edinburgh, so that when the next local election comes, we win back power.

Stand up for what you believe in.

Keep the red flag flying high yes, but on the backbenches, not at an SNP group meeting.

4 thoughts on “Why Edinburgh Labour should not do a city deal with the SNP

  1. Euan MacLean

    Fully agree with all of that Susan, but I’d add one thing. The changed landscape means that voters are less concerned about left vs right and more focussed on separation can the union. That’s why my votes went to Labour, Tories and Libs. I am not alone. A coalition, yes, but a coalition of union-supporting councillors. That is precisely what I voted for.

  2. Davy Milligan

    As an SNP / Green voter but not a member of either I was not a fan of the extended council tax freeze. My memory is that main parties including Labour endorsed it . I also understand that a Labour Counvil or 2 was not willing to raise the Council Tax when given the chance by the SNP Govt to do so. So may be time for some self-criticism by the Labour Party of its record?

    1. David Milligan

      I guess civilised disagreement not okay on this blog as my comment is still awaiting moderation. That’s a shame; I believe in not only engaging with those in agreement.

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