A WAR OF WORDS has broken out over the future leadership of Moray Council where the largest single political group have rebuffed the opportunity to seize control.
The eleven-strong SNP group has said that any bid for control was “not viable”, saying that the numbers were simply not there to make it work.
Their decision came after a late coup by the ruling Independent group revealed Elgin councillor James Allan had returned to the fold – six months after walking out in support of his party colleague, Fochabers/Lhanbryde Tory member Douglas Ross.
That took the total strength of the Independent/Tory group to twelve members – a number that could have been matched if the SNP had alligned with Councillor Ross, who later hit out at the SNP group, saying they were “afraid to take control” or “too lazy to do the hard work” that went with a ruling administration.
A DRAMATIC DAY began with the administration revealing that Councillor Allan had been welcomed back into their group, the Elgin South member saying that “with hindsight” he was too hasty in resigning.
Councillor Allan said that he felt at odds with the administration group after voting against the Elgin Western Link road, adding: “I felt a bit awkward about it but the rest of the group didn’t hold it against me and I have enjoyed a good relationship with them over the past six months – even though I was no longer a member of the administration.
“I had reservations about the convener and the council leader swapping roles and I voted against it at the time. But I think it has turned out well and the new convener and council leader have done a good job and the council is going in the right direction.”
Councillor Allan’s move brought the administration back to twelve members – and it became almost inevitable that the SNP would back off. That was confirmed soon after when SNP leader Councillor Pearl Paul said: “After Sonya Warren won the Buckie by-election we all agreed that an attempt had to be made to take on the Administration of Moray Council.
“We had a lot of public support to do so and we committed to fully exploring whether that was possible.
“We have discussed it with a significant number of councillors in Moray and we have had some very positive responses – but we were clear from the start that the final decision would be dependent on being able to form a stable, reliable and progressive administration.
“We are not a majority by ourselves and although there are others we could work with it is not yet substantial enough to be able to deliver the positive change we really want.
“It is extremely frustrating that so many so-called Independent councillors seem content to carry on with the Tories in an administration that has so little support from the public. It concerns us hugely that Moray will continue to be lumbered with an ineffective Council Administration with a serious lack of vision and strategy.
“Until we have the numbers needed to form a resilient administration we will continue to provide strong, effective and constructive scrutiny as the Council’s principal opposition group and make positive and sustainable proposals on the key issues facing Moray.”
Ross hits out
COUNCILLOR ROSS issued a statement hitting out at the SNP group, insisting that they would now need to answer to their many voters over why they have demonstrated “a lack of desire”.
He said: “This can only be seen as a sign that the SNP lack ambition to take on the running of Moray Council. They are either afraid to take control given the difficult decisions which have to be made or are too lazy to do the hard work of being the ruling administration.
“The numbers are clear – the SNP are the biggest group on the council and it is their failure to encourage others to join them that has resulted in this announcement.
“In the SNP’s own words this administration is “ineffective and has a serious lack of vision and strategy”. How bad must the SNP pitch have been to the councillors they tried to get on-side if they couldn’t convince them an SNP administration would be any better?
“The signs that this would be the outcome have been on the cards for some time. First the SNP wanted to wait until after the Easter holidays before making a move for power, then they wanted to wait until after the General Election.
“This all makes me think it was never their intention to take over but it would have looked strange in an election campaign to say vote SNP but we will do nothing with the power you give us.
“Sonya Warren and Kirsty Reid, the two most recent SNP councillors who were elected to change the running of the council, will now have to answer to their many voters and tell them why their group lack the desire and ambition to run Moray Council.
“It seems the SNP have become very comfortable on the back benches where they can complain but offer no solutions, rather than trying to effect change they have promised to bring to Moray.
“I hope at the next council elections people in Moray remember this moment. The time when the SNP could have led the council but instead ran away from their responsibilities.
“It begs the question of why people should vote SNP in Moray just to elect a group that are more interested in opposing than occupying the positions of influence to bring about change.”