Editorial: Council bargaining begins with all to play for

IN MY PRE-LOCAL ELECTION Editorial back at the end of January I got a few things wrong – but I’m pleased to say overall my summation of what we might expect pretty much came in with over 90% accuracy.

I figured it the most tightly contested ever – and it was, with three groups of nine, eight and eight taking their seats, leaving one solo Labour councillor holding the fort for better days.

It is now done, but who will be taking up the mantle of leadership through this so very tight mix of members? The SNP group, reduced to nine members of whom just three have been re-elected, were predictably first off the mark in getting themselves organised.

Already they have selected joint leaders and proclaimed they are ready to do a deal and form a ‘progressive alliance’. The question is – who with? Such an alliance with the Conservative group seems very unlikely, given that we are now straight into the General Election which in Moray is looking as close as it can be between the SNP and Conservative candidates.

Now, even laying aside the obvious fact that national party proclamations from both sides indicate a ‘no deals’ stance, the animosity between the main political parties is such that a deal looks to this pundit to be highly unlikely – after all, in its first month such an alliance would be at each others throats on daily basis.

Let’s face it, blind hatred is no basis for any marriage.

No doubt then the Conservative group of eight councillors – all bar one new to the task – will look to cosy up to the Independents – and here is a much more likely scenario, given their party has been in coalition status for the last two councils.

So which way are the Independents most likely to jump? Here is my analysis based on my seven years of reporting thousands of articles of the coming and going at Moray Council.

Derek Ross (Speyside Glenlivet) – A bit of an unknown quality here, but given his stated personal policies include decentralisation of police, ambulance and fire services, I think we can assume he is no pal of the SNP. On the other hand, he is also firmly against party politics in the Council chamber.

My view: He could jump into bed with the Conservatives, but equally be one of a minor ‘non-alligned’ group – I think he might take the former.

Ron Shepherd (Keith and Cullen) – A very firm member of the last Independent-led Administration, Ron was close to quitting the council. He did not, he is back in.

My view: Ron never gave any indication that he would like to chummy up to the SNP at any time over recent years – I suspect he will not object to a Tory coalition.

Gordon Cowie (Buckie) – Again, a firm member of the last Administration where he provided solid support for that group.

My view: Much as with Mr Shepherd, I believe Ron will stay with the flock in a joint Tory coalition.

John Cowe (Heldon & Laich) – Probably the ‘highest ranking’ Independent left in the Council, John brought a wealth of business and financial experience to the chamber.

My view: There is not a cat in hells chance of John teaming up with the SNP group – in fact I’d be surprised if he did not lead a new coalition with the Conservatives.

Ryan Edwards (Heldon & Laich) – Ryan called in for a chat with me early in the process, saying then, and repeating it after he was elected, that he would never team up with any Administration group.

My view: I believe him – but then I believed the guy before him as well!

Sandy Cooper (Elgin City North) – Sandy is the new boy but well known throughout Moray, mostly for his outspoken views expressed in letters to the local press. Respect to him for standing by his views – and people clearly bought into that.

My view: He has of course been an outspoken critic on just about everything – he could jump to a Conservative coalition – or join Mr Edwards on the side. What I suspect he will not do is team up with the SNP, but who knows?

George Alexander (Forres) – George says it as he sees it and for that has to be respected by all – but most of his ire has been directed at the SNP, so they will find no friend here.

My view: George decided to run because he passionately believes change is needed in the education system in Moray – he will believe that can be done with a new and stronger link to the Conservatives.

Lorna Cresswell (Forres) – The last of the former Administration members who returns to the council, again one who is unlikely to do any deal with the SNP group.

My view: Can’t see her dipping her toes in an SNP-led administration group, so what is she to do?

Finally, we have Labour’s John Divers, now a solo voice for his party – but one that, again, supported the last administration far more than he opposed it. I can see John remaining firmly on the fence.

There we have it, a reminder these are my personal views – we’ll see how badly I’ve read the situation at some point over the next few days!