Labour and the SNP are no longer polls apart in Fife

The SNP and Labour are edging towards a coalition to run Fife Council.

Friday, 12th May 2017, 4:37 pm
Updated Monday, 15th May 2017, 9:36 am
Candidates waiting for results at the Fife Council elections (Pic by Fife Photo Agency)

The old political adversaries were pushed into working together for the very first time after the electorate gave neither enough seats to claim outright control.

The SNP emerged as the winners with 29 seats at Fife House in Friday’s results – five more than Labour who lost ground to a Tory revival on the back of an anti-independence referendum stance, with gains the length of the region.

The Conservatives finished with 15 seats – the party even won a seat in Cowdenbeath! – while the Lib Dems needed its north-east Fife heartland to rescue it and deliver seven seats after failing to find any success across Kirkcaldy, Glenrothes or Leven.

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Hopes of a breakthrough for a large number of independent candidates proved false as they were all rejected by the electorate, while the minority parties made almost no headway.

Negotiations over a coalition or a working agreement were complicated by the fact the SNP lost its leader.

Neale Hanvey was ousted in Dunfermline South – one of the big shocks of the day – and his predecessor, Brian Goodall, was also toppled.

The party quickly ruled out a coalition with the Tories – “over my dead body” was the phrase used by interim leader, Councillor Karen Marjoram.

Labour followed suit, leaving Dave Dempsey, Tory leader, potentially sidelined despite some impressive gains at the ballot box.

On Monday, the SNP had a new leader in Fife in the shape of David Alexander, the Levenmouth councillor who has some 31 years’ experience in local politics, and the discussions got underway in earnest.

The SNP and Labour power-shared in Edinburgh up until last week’s poll, and it seems likely that Fife will now follow suit.

The horse trading which has been going on will be over which party gets the chairmanship of key committees, and even who becomes Provost.

But a deal has yet to be done.

David Ross, who led the Labour administration up until last week’s election, said nothing would be announced until after next Monday evening’s group meeting of his councillors.

He said: “We have ruled out working with the Conservative group and whether an agreement can be reached with the Nationalists or others remains to be seen.

“We will be doing all we can to protect the fundamental principles within our manifesto, particularly jobs and public services in Fife.”

Karen Marjoram, deputy leader of the SNP group in Fife, said: “As the largest group on the council, we have as a matter of courtesy and protocol, initiated discussions with the other groups about the future direction and democratic structure of the council. These discussions are ongoing.”

If they team up, then Labour and SNP would easily out muscle the opposition on any given issue, but there could still be sparks ahead.

Glenrothes area committee has returned to the control of the SNP, and it campaigned specifically to reverse local library closures.

Labour, meanwhile, remains the dominant force on Kirkcaldy’s area committee.

Local departees included Susan Leslie (Lib Dems), Stuart McPhail (SNP) who were both beaten in Burntisland and Kinghorn, and Marie Penman (Ind) who lost her Kirkcaldy East seat by the narrowest of margins – 20 votes.