According to this week's Nairnshire Telegraph (no online presence) one of the Nairn (Ward 19) councillors, Councillor Sandy Park, is very likely to be chosen as Convener of Highland Council this Thursday, following a week of negotiations which have culminated in:
- Councillor Park being confirmed by 32 of the 35 Independent councillors (the other 3 are on vacation) as the 'leader' of their group;
- a deal between the 'Independents' and the Scottish National Party (SNP), which with 17 councillors is the 3rd largest group in the new Highland Council to form a coalition.
It seems likely that SNP councillor Jean Urquhart will be chosen as Vice Convener.
Councillor Park has described the SNP as the Independents' "preferred option" as coalition partners, according to the Nairnshire Telegraph report. My comments here seem to have been scarily prescient. (If I'm not careful I'll probably find myself burnt at the stake as some kind of a witch or magician! - careful, Ed.).
I quote in full one short paragraph from the Nairnshire Telegraph report published today:
"Councillor Park said they had discussed partnerships with all the groups, but there was no doubt that he had been personally angered by what was seen as an attempt by the Lib Dems to hijack the process earlier in the week."
- it will be recalled that the Lib Dems have 21 councillors so one must speculate that they had imagined that they, as the second largest group and the largest political party group in the new Highland Council could count on the 35 'Independents' choosing them as their coalition partners as a matter of course and that perhaps they expressed this view in terms which Councillor Sandy Park found unacceptable.
Not being a cyncial person (no, of course you're not - Ed.) I think that the choice by the 'Independents' of the SNP as their coalition partners may possibly be because:
- at least some of the 'Independents' are in fact closet supporters of the SNP; or
- they have made a calculated assessment that relations between Highland Council and the new minority SNP Scottish Executive are likely to be better with an SNP coalition than if they were in coalition with the Lib Dems.
(And it may be a combination of both these factors I suppose.)
Another interesting matter mentioned in the Nairnshire Telegraph article is that because Councillor Sandy Park is likely to become Convener he will no longer (as he did until the recent election) perform the functions of Provost of Nairn and that it is likely that it will be the local SNP councillor, Councillor Liz MacDonald, who will assume the functions of provost and not either the other 'Independent' councillor or the Lib Dem councillor. The conditions I alluded to in my earlier post here may be in process of being laid for the 17-strong SNP group to dominate, in practical terms, the policy-making agenda of Highland Council simply by virtue of their party organisation, something which the 'Independents' obviously lack. No doubt I am being way too cynical (I hope).
UPDATE: (Wednesday 16MAY07 11.48 BST) The SNP group in Highland Council begins to flex its muscles in setting policy agendas; I suspect the larger group of 'Independents' will have rings run around them in various ways in months to come.
2nd UPDATE: (Thursday 17MAY07 14.25 BST) Councillors Sandy Park and Jean Urquhart are confirmed as Convener and Vice-Convener, respectively, of Highland Council.