Labour anger at SNP over “confidential” Midlothian Council administration talks press leak

Councillor Derek Milligan outside Midlothian House in Dalkeith
Councillor Derek Milligan outside Midlothian House in Dalkeith

The Midlothian Labour group has hit out at the SNP for leaking details to the press of “confidential” talks between the parties to form an administration.

The discussions were sparked when the SNP won last month’s Penicuik by-election, giving them seven councillors to leapfrog the ruling Labour party’s six.

Midlothian Council Debating chamber at Midlothian House, Buccleuch St in Dalkeith

Midlothian Council Debating chamber at Midlothian House, Buccleuch St in Dalkeith

Last Friday SNP group leader Cllr Catherine Johnstone sent a press release to the Advertiser without permission from her party’s HQ, expressing her anger at the lack of progress in reaching an agreement despite a “generous offer” from the SNP for a 50/50 split of the administration.

This prompted a furious response from Labour group and Midlothian Council leader Derek Milligan. He said: “Once again, as leader of the SNP group, Cllr Johnstone has reverted to the depressing game playing and divisive tactics she employed over the five years that the SNP controlled Midlothian Council.

“Given that she has now gone to the press with details of these confidential discussions it is appropriate for the Labour Group to respond.

“Councillor Johnstone demanded the leadership of the council, that the SNP took the provost’s role, the COSLA leader’s representative, all the key Cabinet roles and that we should agree in writing that we would not criticise the Scottish Government in public.

“While we were taken aback by these demands we sought to continue the discussions and made constructive counter proposals.

“These were rejected out of hand and an extremely confrontational and grossly inaccurate press statement was released by Cllr Johnstone.”

Cllr Milligan has now called for the SNP, Labour and the Conservatives to “work together for the people of Midlothian” by sharing power.

An SNP spokesperson said: “It has been a challenging time for both parties locally and nationally so it is understandable that emotions will run high while we look for a way forward that best serves the people of Midlothian. It should also be recognised that this process has opened up a lot of old wounds among members on both sides. It will take time to move past that. We hope this incident does not jeopardise future talks and that we can come back together in the future, for the benefit of our communities.”