Scottish council election: Who will be in charge of Edinburgh?

Last week’s election returned Labour as the second largest party in Edinburgh, after the SNP.

Labour awaiting advice on another SNP coalition following Edinburgh City Council election STV News
Council: Edinburgh’s Labour group is awaiting a decision from party chiefs.

Discussions about who will run the city council in the Scottish capital continue this week, as the Liberal Democrats have ruled out entering a coalition with the SNP.

In Thursday’s local council election, Edinburgh saw Labour returning as the second largest party in the city after the SNP and the Lib Dems double their number of seats across the city.

While the Lib Dems were remarkably successful, there was also a dramatic loss of nine Conservative councillors. The Scottish Greens also gained two seats.

Here’s a look at what each of the parties have said about coalitions – and what outcomes there could be.

What the Liberal Democrats have said

The Liberal Democrats made outstanding gains in Edinburgh last week as they doubled their number of seats from six to 12 – just one seat behind Labour.

Following initial negotiations over the weekend, the party has ruled out entering any coalition with the SNP.

Group leader Councillor Robert Aldridge said discussions showed SNP councillors had “learned nothing from the difficulties of the last council term and plan to simply continue with their previous approach”, citing their “arrogance” and “inability to get basic council services right”.

He added: “Liberal Democrats believe the people of Edinburgh deserve better than this.  It is why our group has agreed we will not enter into any agreement with the SNP on Edinburgh Council.

“We remain open to continue our discussions with other parties. We want to work constructively in the interest of the city we serve and explore options on how the council can change for the better.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton added: “I’m fully supportive of our councillors taking these decisions. The arrogant and hubristic SNP are still refusing to admit that Edinburgh needs to change course.

“Scottish Liberal Democrat councillors will hold them to account, standing up for the public and bringing new hope to the communities which elected them.”

What Labour have said

Edinburgh’s Labour group is awaiting a decision from party chiefs on whether to form another council coalition with the SNP.

Last week’s election returned Labour as the second largest party in the capital with 13 seats, one more than in 2017.

Over the past five years, Edinburgh city council has been run by a minority SNP/Labour coalition, however a renewal of that deal has been cast into doubt in recent weeks.

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar ruled out any ‘formal coalitions’ with the SNP or the Tories during the election campaign. 

If the party were to go back on its claims and push ahead with another agreement, it would form a two-party majority administration.

Sources said Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) is set to issue guidance to Edinburgh group leader Cammy Day on whether to push ahead with another agreement or not.

It’s understood other parties are awaiting the outcome of that decision before progressing talks on alternative options.

Sources said officials have drafted a document comparing manifestos on key policy areas to assist parties in the negotiating process.

What the Greens have said

If no further agreement with Labour is reached it’s expected the SNP will move to strike a deal with the Scottish Greens, which would produce a minority administration, possibly seeking support from other parties on an informal basis to get across the line.

The Greens successfully secured 10 seats in last week’s election and have been meeting to discuss how to push ahead for a ‘greener and fairer Edinburgh’.

Steve Burgess, Green Party co-convenor on Edinburgh Council, said: “Greens are very much open to working with other parties who share the priorities we were elected on, particularly on tackling the climate emergency and the cost of living crisis. Those are big challenges facing the city.

“The election results have thrown up a range of possible ways a council administration could be formed. There are two parties that could form an obvious administration because they have a majority of seats between them. They need to decide if they are going to take that forward.

“The newly elected Green councillor group have been meeting to discuss how best to push the new council for the Greener and fairer Edinburgh that people voted for last week whatever happens. And we’ll be working with other parties about that whatever happens.”

What the SNP have said

The SNP gained a total of 19 seats at the local council election last Thursday.

Edinburgh SNP leader Adam McVey said discussions between his group and “progressive parties” are ongoing.

He said: “We emerged from Thursday’s election as clearly the largest party, having set out a positive, progressive vision for Edinburgh with a detailed programme to improve our local services.

“We will continue talks with progressive parties about how to take forward the change Edinburgh needs to be fairer, greener and deliver the best for our residents.”

What are the possible outcomes of discussions?

As discussions continue within Labour whether or not to continue with a minority council coalition in Edinburgh, another likely outcome could see an agreement between the SNP and Scottish Greens in a minority coalition.

Other possible outcomes are a three-way coalition between the Greens, Labour and Lib Dems, producing a healthy majority of 35 seats, and a Labour, Lib Dem and Conservative coalition with 34 seats.