SNP tries to scupper Tories’ plans to control SBC

Simon Mountford and Tom Weatherston are leading the Conservatives in their bargaining with independents
Simon Mountford and Tom Weatherston are leading the Conservatives in their bargaining with independents

The leader of the newly-elected SNP group on Scottish Borders Council has today (Monday) unveiled plans to form a “minority administration” to run the local authority.

Councillor Stuart Bell’s bid, if successful, would thwart the ambitions of the Conservatives, who emerged victorious from last week’s polls – returning 15 of the region’s 34 councillors – and believe they have a clear mandate to control the council.

SNP group leader Stuart Bell is hoping to put together a minority administration

SNP group leader Stuart Bell is hoping to put together a minority administration

The Tories, who have spent five years in opposition at Newtown, are due to meet tomorrow (Tuesday) morning to discuss their options for forming a ruling administration with the help of some, if not all, of the eight Independents also elected last week.

These Independents are due to meet at 3pm this afternoon (Monday) to agree their demands for a such a power-sharing arrangement.

It is understood, the Independents, who include former leader David Parker, want to fill at least four of the 11 executive member positions, including education and roads, which are up for grabs.

But today, Mr Bell, whose party returned nine councillors at Friday’s count, revealed that he, too, has been active in the post-election horsetrading currently under way and has been discussing his plans for maintaining a share of power with the Independents and the two Lib Dems.

“The Conservatives ended up as the largest group because they campaigned on a single issue – stopping a second independence referendum,” said Mr Bell.

“This falls far short of forming an ambitious programme for local government, so we are working to establish a minority administration in order to ensure our manifesto commitments are followed through. We want to form a rainbow alliance, based on collaborative policy and decision-making, of councillors opposed to single-issue politics.

“A minority administration may not be something SBC has much experience of, but it has been the basis of successful and stable government at Holyrood and across Europe.

“My group of SNP councillors believe we can build the alliances the understandings required to make this work and we’re determined SBC is not dominated by an unrepresentative group of Conservative councillors who have not demonstrated that they know what to do.”

Councillor Simon Mountford is leading the Consevatives’ power-brokering negotiations along with group leader Michelle Ballantyne and fellow Kelso councillor Tom Weatherston.

“Our group will sit down tomorrow (Tuesday) to consider our options, but any suggestion that this will not be a Conservative administration is totally unrealistic,” said Mr Mountford.

The new council will meet for the first time on Thursday, May 18, when a leader and depute leader will be elected along with a figurehead convener who will chair all council meetings and represent SBC in a civic role.

The appointment of executive members, with special responsibility for specific service areas, will take place at another special meeting of the council on May 25.