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by Kirsteen Paterson
04 April 2024
Leadership of Scottish council changes hands with a cut of cards

Municipal Buildings in Oban, Argyll and Bute | Alamy

Leadership of Scottish council changes hands with a cut of cards

An SNP-majority challenge has ousted the leader and provost of Argyll and Bute Council.

A vote held in a special meeting resulted in deadlock, with 18 votes in favour of change and 18 in support of the status quo.

But the incumbents fell with a cut of the cards.

The make-up of the ruling administration is now uncertain pending a crucial meeting later this month.

Before then, all councillors will come together to decide whether or not to U-turn on the council tax freeze.

A council spokesperson said: "Full council will meet on 25 April to agree the ruling administration and related councillor roles, on committees of the council and external organisations.

"Committee meetings scheduled between now and then will be on hold until chairs of these meetings are confirmed.

"The special meeting of full council on 15 April, to consider a council tax freeze, is scheduled to go ahead with the provost in place to take the meeting."

Argyll and Bute Council was the first of two local authorities to reject the Scottish Government policy.

However, the special meeting was called after discussions with the SNP-Green administration saw wellbeing economy secretary Mairi McAllan offer up an additional £2.3m to address the severe weather impacts suffered by the region in the autumn.

The offer was made under the stewardship of previous leader, Councillor Robin Currie of the Lib Dems, and he urged colleagues on the 36-member council to back it. 

But Currie is now out of office after drawing a six to the 10 pulled by SNP councillor Jim Lynch.

Conservative Maurice Corry lost his position as provost to independent councillor Douglas Philand in a vote on that role.

Currie and Corry are part of the Tory-Lib Dem-independent coalition, known as the Argyll, Lomond and Islands Group, which has run the council for more than a decade.

However, 15 members of the Strategic Opposition Partnership, which is made up of the SNP, independents and Labour, called for change, accusing the leadership of playing "petty politics" on the council tax.

The decision to reject the Scottish Government's freeze was made in the local budget process earlier this year. It passed by just two votes.

After today's vote, the council said "making decisions by cutting cards is standard practice" in such circumstances.

In 2021, the SNP retained control of Moray Council after a Conservative bid led by Tim Eagle failed on a cut of the cards. 

Eagle recently became Scotland's newest MSP as member for the Highlands and Islands region. That followed the resignation of Donald Cameron, who has entered the House of Lords.

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