Last Thursday saw the first full Council meeting of the newly elected West Lothian Council. This 33 seat Council had been run for the last 5 years by the SNP, propped up by, frankly, useless hospital campaigners and a Tory Lord Provost.
Despite gaining two seats in the recent elections, the final results gave the SNP 15 to Labour’s 16 with 1 Tory and 1 Independent. This means that Labour were in pole position to form a minority administration. Certainly, their warmth towards the Independent at the count left me in no doubt that this was the most likely outcome.
The Independent, Stuart Borrowman, member for Armadale and Blackridge, has an interesting background. He was a key adviser to John Swinney when he was SNP leader, but quit in 2002. He was then elected as an SNP councillor in 2003. He left the Party and tried to join Labour the year later, having had discussions with the Council group. However he wasn’t so popular with the local members, who decided they didn’t want him.
Anyway, you would have hoped that the SNP would have worked out how they were going to hold this Labour administration to account. Instead they offered them their support for their budget and appointments in return for some policy concessions.
That would have meant that realistically the only opposing scrutiny that Budget would have had would have come from the Tory Lord Provost. Letting something as important as a Budget pass without line by line scrutiny is absolutely irresponsible.
Thanks to the Liberal Democrats, we’ve managed to get rid of most Labour fiefdoms at Council level by introducing STV for Council elections. I don’t want to go back to the days when Council administrations had virtually no opposition and could do exactly what they wanted. The local SNP are a pretty pleasant bunch of people, but, really I would love to know what was in their heads when they came up with this idea. I want to see them get their act together and hold that Labour administration rigorously to account.