Coalition set to take power in Argyll and Bute as SNP ‘locked out’

Twelve days after the elections it is still unclear who will be leader of Argyll and Bute Council – but it won’t be Ellen Morton, who had been one of the favourites for the role.

Ellen Morton

The Liberal Democrat from Helensburgh was previously depute  leader under Dick Walsh, who stood down at the last election, but ruled herself out today.

She would not comment on who would be appointed at a council meeting in Lochgilphead on Thursday, but it seems certain to be a member of TALIG –  The Argyll, Lomond and the Islands Group, a coalition set up four years ago while the SNP was in power and which is led by Cllr Morton.

The SNP had hoped to take control of the council after this month’s elections, but now says it has been ‘locked out’ by TALIG.

A statement issued by the SNP yesterday said it had the largest number of seat on the council and attacked the coalition of Conservatives, Lib Dems and independents for ‘putting the constitutional question before the needs of Argyll and Bute’.

Cllr Morton said: “I will not be council leader on Thursday. I made it very, very clear, very early doors, that I would love to be council leader but it is not my time.

“I would support anyone who I thought would be a good, effective council leader.”

The SNP statement said the Lib Dems’ Scottish leader Willie Ronnie had instructed the local branch not to work with the SNP but Cllr Morton denied there had been any intervention: “At no point has Willie Rennie issued me with any kind of instruction.

“We are much more concerned about working with people that we trust. Our day job is to deliver local authority services in Argyll and Bute.”

The SNP said they had made ‘every attempt’ to work with Lib Dems, who have six seats in the council chamber – the SNP have 11, Conservatives nine and independents ten.

SNP group leader Sandy Taylor said: “The SNP Group was committed to finding a way forward to form a new and effective Social Democrat alliance on the council.

Sandy Taylor

“My concern is that the continuing allegiance of the Tories and Liberal Democrats denies the SNP any prospect of a progressive administration which could progress our manifesto for change and above all see the transfer of decision-making power to local communities.

“I am deeply disappointed by the events of the last week and feel for my SNP colleagues who campaigned hard on community empowerment and the protection and improvement of front line services, but now find themselves locked out; unable to deliver on their ambition for a better Argyll and Bute.”

But Cllr Morton responded by saying that Lib Dems did not know of any approach until the SNP issued a press release about it, and by then TALIG had decided to continue.

The coalition was formed in 2013 and took power that September after the collapse of successive SNP administrations.

Cllr Morton said: “TALIG has a track record of people who worked together positively for the area in opposition and then in the administration