With just over a week until voters go to the polls to decide who runs Edinburgh Council, the parties’ manifestos are out and campaigning is entering its final throes. Of course party manifestos are wish lists of what parties would do if they were running the council. In reality, no one party will have a majority to run the council and some sort of coalition or co-operation agreement between two or more parties will be needed to form an administration.
So it’s interesting to hear what national party leaders have been saying about this. Labour’s Anas Sarwar seems to have generally ruled out coalitions with the SNP because of differences over Independence – curious because, as he well knows, local government has nothing whatsoever to do with that issue. Then last week, the Lib Dem Leader, Alex Cole-Hamilton was reported as also ruling out any deal with the SNP, but went further in signalling the Lib Dems willingness to look at coaliton with the Tories – which I have to say caused some eyebrow-raising given the fall-out the last time LibDems supported Tories in government. In contrast, Greens have ruled out supporting involvement of the Tories in running the council – mainly because of our wildly different political outlook, particularly over privatisation of council services and now more recently over Tory foot-dragging on accelerating action on the climate emergency.
Understandably, not many voters will have the time or inclination to wade through the parties’ local manifestoes, instead many will vote according to perceptions of a party’s national performance gleaned from mainstream media – some usually Tory-inclined voters may choose to stay at home on May 5th because they can’t back a party whose UK leader has been fined for breaking Covid rules.
What I’d caution though is that national politicians don’t run councils and that voters should bear in mind the records of the council’s parties. All parties place emphasis on delivering the gamut of council services effectively and efficiently, from schools to roads to health care – albeit with a different take on how to go about this. But on one particular issue there is a clear political gulf – that of tackling the climate emergency. Other parties have played up their concern in their manifestos – even the Tories (despite still numbering the odd climate-sceptic in their midst) – but this February, at council budget time, my party proposed funding a whole package of practical and affordable measures that was simply not matched by any other party.
Whilst there may be uncertainty about what will come out of any council administration agreement, voters can be in no doubt that if enough Green Councillors are elected to be in a position of influence, tackling the climate emergency is one policy that will be taken from manifesto pages into negotiation. And as Greens we understand that tackling the climate emergency here in Edinburgh will not only lessen our city’s contribution to global devastation, it will mean outcomes like better insulated, warmer homes with lower fuel bills, less polluting traffic on our streets and more efficient public transport with greater priority for walking and cycling, and improved recycling facilities to help residents cut down on household waste.
So if voters want a Greener Edinburgh they should vote for a party that does what it says on the tin.
Cllr Claire Miller is Green councillor for City Centre ward and co-convenor of the Green Group on Edinburgh Council