Edinburgh’s SNP councillors have nominated Liberal Democrat group leader Councillor Robert Aldridge to be the city’s next Lord Provost.
The move to put a non-SNP member forward for the role comes amidst speculation Labour could bid to enter a minority council administration with backing from the Lib Dems and Tories when councillors meet to vote on Thursday.
The SNP gained 19 seats this year, more than any other party, and will be hoping that offering civic leader duties for Aldridge can act as a bargaining chip to get its minority coalition with the Greens over the line.
Following several days of negotiation, the SNP-Green deal was finalised over the weekend and will be voted on by local Green Party branch members on Tuesday.
After election results were declared earlier this month when the Lib Dems doubled their number of seats in Edinburgh to 12, a formal arrangement with the SNP – which would fall just one seat short of a majority – was swiftly ruled out.
However, a decision to reject Labour’s proposals for a cooperation deal and back the SNP-Green coalition instead would signal a willingness to work with nationalist councillors on a more informal basis.
A Lib Dem source welcomed the nomination of Aldridge, the council’s longest-serving member with over 30 years’ experience in the city chambers — but stressed that the move “doesn’t represent any kind of deal or agreement between parties”.
They added the announcement on Monday morning “came as something of a surprise”.
On Thursday before voting in a new Edinburgh city council administration and agreeing appointments to committees and boards, members will elect a Lord Provost.
The Provost acts as the city’s figurehead and ‘First Citizen’, representing Edinburgh at civic and ceremonial occasions, welcoming visiting heads of state and ambassadors and chairing full council meetings, amongst other duties. They can also have a deciding vote in the event that councillors are split on a decision.
Since 2017, the SNP’s Frank Ross has filled the role and the only nomination for his successor so far is Aldridge.
Councillor Kevin Lang, Lib Dems, said: “With almost 40 years’ experience as a councillor and a strong record of public service, I can think of no better person than Robert Aldridge to be Edinburgh’s next Lord Provost.
“The fact he is attracting support from across the political divide shows how well suited he is to chair the council and be the civic head of our great capital city”.
SNP group leader Adam McVey said: “We have worked hard with the Green group to develop a coalition proposal which delivers on both our manifestos, and will make our city fairer, greener and more inclusive.
“If our joint proposal is approved on Tuesday by Green branch members, we believe we can form an administration that will meet the challenges we face as a city and deliver on our promises to residents.
“But we also recognise that as a minority administration we will need to work constructively. As a long standing and experienced councillor we think Robert would be an excellent choice for civic leader. He will facilitate respectful dialogue between councillors which will be needed to help us reach consensus.
“He has worked cross-party in the past to deliver the best outcomes for our city. So we would like to start building that much needed consensus now, by backing him to become the Lord Provost.”