The Tory SNP coalition was left in “tatters”, after an attempt by the ruling administration to continue with “business as usual” was defeated at a meeting of the full council today (Wednesday 25 September)
Tory Council Leader Ivor Hyslop and SNP Deputy Council Leader Brian Collins proposed that the coalition continue, despite the resignation of seven members from the Conservative Group. This plan would have reduced the coalition from 25 to a minority administration of just 18 members. However, as the council currently has 47 councillors, 24 are required to achieve a majority.
Under the Tory SNP plans tabled today, SNP Councillor Jim McClung would have taken over from Tory rebel Ian Carruthers as Chair of Planning, Housing and Environment Services, following Councillor Carruthers sacking. Tory Councillor Finlay Carson would have replaced Councillor McLung as Vice Chair. Tory Councillor Ian Blake would have replaced another Tory rebel, Councillor Roberta Tuckfield as Vice Chair Social Work.
In an addition the Tory SNP coalition proposed that the Independent group take the position as Vice Chair of Audit and Risk Management and Labour would Chair the Council’s Scrutiny and Performance Committee.
Labour attacked the proposal as an attempt to buy votes by offering opposition groups positions in return for keeping the coalition in power. Instead Labour made clear that an SNP Tory coalition was now unsustainable and efforts to keep them in power was nothing more than an attempt to keep senior Tory Councillors in a job.
The Tory SNP plans were defeated by a motion from the Labour Group Leader, who proposed the “business as usual” coalition should not go ahead and alternative options be presented to a meeting of the full council next week, which will take place on 1 October.
Leader of the Labour Group Ronnie Nicholson said, “The decision of seven members of the Conservative Group to resign has left the current coalition as unsustainable and it is frankly astonishing that the Tories and SNP think they can continue with business as usual. The proposal on the table that a council of 47 members should have continued to be led by a group of just eight Tory members was an affront to democracy. The attempt by the Tory SNP coalition to try to buy the votes of opposition groups on the council by offering jobs reveals how desperate they have become. The Tory led council has spent the last two years voting down every single proposal put forward by Labour just because it came from the oppoisition. The claim by the Tories that they now want to work with Labour is laughable and is only happening because half the Tory group has walked out on them. The fact that the Tory SNP coalition were defeated in their very first vote , shows just what a shambles they have become. The Tory group should do the honourable thing and step aside and get their own house in order. We now have the ridiculous situation where there are more councillors in the SNP group who support the Leader of the Conservatives than there are councillors in the Conservative Groups who support him. In Dumfries and Galloway, SNP Councillors are joined at the hip with the Tory party and I know how much that angers SNP voters and members across the region. It's time that we had a council coalition focused on how it can create jobs for the people of Dumfries and Galloway at a time unemployment is out of control instead of worrying about keeping their leaders in jobs.
“The Labour Group has consistently put forward a clear proposal to the SNP to form a progressive coalition that would give us strong and decisive leadership. Although this would be a Labour SNP coalition, it would an inclusive administration drawing on the views of every single one of the 47 councillors by seeking a consensus on the council’s priorities and policy programme. We would not repeat the current practice of the administration simply voting down ideas because they come from an opposition group. There are huge challenges facing this council and no one or two or even three groups have a monopoly on good ideas. The public want to see all councilors working together to meet those challenges. “