There has been much talk by Fife Council’s new SNP and Labour “co-leaders” of “coming together in a spirit of collaboration and co-operation” and of basing the political governance of the Council on “an inclusive decision-making process”.
This might have been more convincing if the SNP and Labour had not made a point of excluding the Liberal Democrats and Scottish Conservatives from their love-in. Indeed Conservative group leader Dave Dempsey had proposed a genuine power-sharing administration which would have given all four parties a say according to the number of seats gained. This would have been a true and complete reflection of the vote on May 4, especially as Conservatives topped the polls in many wards and increased their number at Fife House fivefold.
Both Labour and SNP were following orders from Edinburgh not to work with the “toxic Tories” in the run-up to the general election. So much for the co-leaders’ claim to “put the needs and priorities of Fife residents first, separate from national political issues”!
The ostensible reason given by both parties for not working with us was the so-called austerity agenda, although this has no place in the Fife Conservative manifesto. The supreme irony is that austerity in Fife in the last ten years has largely been down to decisions made by the SNP at Holyrood and Labour at Fife House.
Since 2010 the SNP government has cut like-for-like real terms funding to local councils by 19.4%, even though the Barnett Formula has channelled ever-increasing sums from Westminster to Holyrood, ensuring that public spending for every man, woman and child in Scotland is £1500 higher than in the rest of the UK.
The Labour administration at Fife Council then made sure that “austerity” bit even harder into frontline services thanks to extravagant capital spending and unnecessary budget surpluses.
Despite the years of mutual recrimination, forgiving and forgetting each other’s roles in cultivating austerity are now the order of the day for Labour and the SNP as they join forces to ramp up their demonisation of the Tories. Such is their blind panic over the Conservative surge in Scotland.
The problem isn’t just that this tactic suborns the thousands of Fifers who voted Conservative two weeks ago. It’s also too late because thousands more will vote Conservative on June 8.
Above all, it rubs out the fundamental difference between the SNP and Scottish Labour. The SNP have knocked through to the branch office for UK Labour and annexed it as a granny flat.
Will anyone ever again vote for Labour as a Unionist bulwark against Scottish nationalism?
Councillor for East Neuk & Landward