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The National (Scotland)
The National (Scotland)
Xander Elliards

'Official coalition' sees Labour hand Tories paid council roles after SNP ousting

Labour and the Tories voted together to take key positions on North Lanarkshire Council away from the SNP

SCOTTISH Labour has entered an “official” coalition with the Conservatives on one local authority, the SNP say.

It comes as the parties voted together to remove the SNP from key positions on North Lanarkshire Council.

Kenneth Duffy, a Scottish Labour councillor, was elected provost.

Duffy wrote on Twitter: “I feel privileged to become Provost of [North Lanarkshire Council].

“As the youngest and first LGBT+ person to hold the office, I look forward to working with people, groups, businesses and charities across North Lanarkshire.”

The deputy provost position was handed to Bob Burgess, a Tory councillor for Wishaw.

SNP councillor Kirsten Larson said the news meant there was an “official Tory-Labour administration” running the local authority.

“The people vote for change and get more of the same. Disgusting,” she went on.

Her SNP colleague, Councilor Josh Cairns, added on Twitter: “Absolutely disgusting. Labour and Tory well and truly working hand in hand in a joint administration in North Lanarkshire.

“Well well well....... @AnasSarwar what do you make of this?”

Before the local elections in May, Scottish Labour leader Sarwar pledged there would be no deals or coalitions with other parties after the votes were counted. However, Labour soon went back on that line, striking deals with parties including the SNP across different local authorities.

At the May elections, the SNP were returned as the largest party in North Lanarkshire, although no-one won a majority on the 77-seat council.

The party won 36 seats to Labour’s 32. The Tories won five, there were two independents, one Green, and one representative from the British Unionist Party (BUP).

The votes at Thursday’s full-council meeting were extremely close, as the BUP councillor whose deciding ballot handed Labour power over the council two weeks ago did not turn up to the meeting.

One Labour councillor also did not attend, meaning the two voting blocs were tightly matched.

However, Sophia Coyle, the daughter of the Councillor Michael Coyle who defected from the SNP to Labour earlier this month, followed her father in voting against the nationalists.

If Sophia Coyle and her father fully defect to Labour – which early reports suggest they will do – that party and the SNP will be tied on 34 seats each on the council.

SNP councillor Anne Thomas wrote on Twitter: "Airdrie North SNP Councillor Sophia Coyle has joined her father Michael Coyle and crossed the floor today. For those in Airdrie North who voted SNP you now have a Councillor who has voted for a Tory/Labour coalition."

The defections followed the resignation of former SNP council and group leader Jordan Linden, who stepped down after allegations of sexual harassment resurfaced.

SNP group leader Carragher said that both Coyles, having been elected on an SNP ticket just months ago, should resign from council.

She went on: “However they may spin this, it is now blatantly clear that the Tories and Labour are in formal coalition at North Lanarkshire Council, shutting out the SNP despite us being the largest party.

“The leader of North Lanarkshire Labour Group, Councillor Jim Logue, refused to enter discussions with the SNP around working together for the benefit of the people of North Lanarkshire. It’s now apparent that he was already working behind-the-scenes to make a deal with the architects of the cost-of-living crisis.”

When the SNP attempted to install their newly elected group leader, Tracy Carragher, as council leader, they lost out to Labour. That party instead installed their leader, Jim Logue (above), at the head of North Lanarkshire Council.

The votes at the special full-council meeting on Thursday saw further SNP councillors removed from posts in favour of Tory and Labour councillors. 

Councillor Sandy Watson, the leader of the Conservative Group, was made convener of the key Audit and Scrutiny Committee, while Councillor Gordon Currie was appointed vice convener of planning.

Council leader Logue said: “Today is a step forward for the people of North Lanarkshire.

“Rather than being mired in sleaze, the council I will lead will focus on the issues that matter to the people.

“We will be an administration that is laser-focused on supporting our communities through the cost of living crisis and making North Lanarkshire a great place to live, work and do business."

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