By a Newsnet reporter
The number of pacts between Labour local authority groups and their Tory counterparts has prompted fears that the views of local voters are being ignored in favour of deals aimed at locking out the SNP.
With the number of alliances between Labour and Tory increasing across Scotland’s local authorities, there are fears that Conservative influence may be exaggerated despite the party suffering a drop in voter support.
The SNP has described Tory/Labour pacts as a “betrayal” of local voters and are pointing out that despite the Tory vote falling by 2% compared with the 2007 elections, the party has seen their influence grow. Thanks to deals with Labour, Ruth Davidson’s local authority councillors feature in more ruling administrations than five years ago.
The SNP ended up with the largest share of the national vote after the election on May 3rd and have accumulated more councillors than any other party. However, despite that, Labour have shown a growing reluctance to enter into any agreements with local SNP groups.
To date Labour has agreed a deal with only two local SNP groups, in Edinburgh and Highland Council, which is less than one third of the councils where Labour has agreed deals with the Tories.
Newsnet Scotland understands that in one council the Labour group refused an alliance with the nationalists, claiming they could not work with some SNP councillors – they formed a pact with the Tories instead.
In East Dunbartonshire, Labour has formed an alliance with the Tory and Lib Dem groups to form an administration. In Falkirk, Labour has joined up with the Tories and Independents. In Stirling Labour and the Tories joined forces to keep out the much larger SNP group.
Leader of the Labour group in Falkirk, Craig Martin, called the deal “great news”: "This is great news for Falkirk and great news for Scottish Labour.
"No party won an overall majority here but as the leading group, Labour has secured agreement of other members to lead the council and implement our manifesto.” He said.
In East Lothian a Labour / Tory pact has been agreed, in Aberdeen Labour spurned a partnership with the left of centre SNP and again opted for the Tories.
Labour has also formed the administration in Inverclyde with support of Conservative Councillor David Wilson, who is to be installed as Depute Lord Provost. Labour also look set to strike a deal with the Conservatives in South Lanarkshire, despite the Tories losing four seats at the elections and in Fife Labour and the Tories have agreed another deal that allows Labour to form a minority administration.
The SNP group on East Dunbartonshire Council slammed the Labour group for entering into a coalition with the Liberal Democrats and the Tories to form the new council administration.
Both Labour and the SNP ended on eight councillors apiece after May 3rd and hopes were high that Tory influence would be ended with an agreement between the SNP and Labour.
SNP Group leader Ian Mackay said: “This was our chance to put the people of East Dunbartonshire first, to work together for a stable, strong council. The voters returned an equal verdict for both parties, therefore it would have made good sense for us to put petty politics behind us and get on with the job.
“However, the Labour Group have proved, as they did five years ago when they colluded with the Tories to form an administration, that power means everything to them, regardless of the consequences.
“These three parties have different political priorities, yet they think it is a good idea to form an administration. The whole scenario reeks of self-seeking hypocrisy.
“The SNP will continue to represent the wishes of the residents of East Dunbartonshire without petty squabbling and power play.”