Liberal Democrat and Conservatives have ridden to the rescue of Argyll and Bute Council’s embattled SNP leadership.
Their move across the council chamber comes as a remarkable reversal after several years on opposite sides.
Hit by two resignations from his party in the wake of the proposed closure of Struan Lodge care home in Dunoon, council leader James Robb announced today that the Liberal Democrat and Conservative Groups had joined the administration.
The SNP member from Helensburgh said: “There needs to be consensus and stability to deliver for the people of Argyll and Bute.
“I was happy to respond in a positive manner to the recent public statement from Conservative and Liberal Democrat councillors who were willing to take the responsibility of working together in the best interests of our communities.
“I am delighted that we are able to put aside party politics to further those aims. I am hopeful that other councillors may wish to engage with this refreshed consensual approach.”
The SNP had been a minority partner in an Independent-led council after the 2007 elections, but pulled out after the scale of opposition to plans to close 26 primary schools became clear.
Veteran Independent Dick Walsh was council leader at the time and then as now the Lib Dems and Tories crossed sides to support the existing leadership.
The party won the highest number of seats in last year’s election but relied on support from the Argyll and Bute Independent Councillors Group, which includes Lomond North representatives George Freeman and Robert G MacIntyre.
Cllr Robb took over as council leader from fellow SNP member Roddy McCuish earlier this year.
Councillor Ellen Morton, Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group said: “The approach from James came as a surprise and it was not an easy decision for the members of the Liberal Democrat Group to make, but our first responsibility is to ensure that Argyll and Bute Council is properly run with a secure, steady Administration
“I hope we can help to bring that stability about. We have always had a commitment to working positively with other groups.”
Conservative group leader Gary Mulvaney added: “In the current economic climate there are very difficult decisions to be made. We have never shied away from our responsibilities and will not do so now.
“Argyll & Bute needs an administration whose members will work together to agree the best way forward for the council and then have the integrity and political courage to deliver the agreed policies.”
The new grouping will be reminiscent for many people of the ‘Rainbow Alliance’ of SNP, Tories, Lib Dems and Labour who combined to keep Councillor Walsh out of power after the 1999 elections.