Council control up for grabs?

Midlothian House, the main office for Midlothian Council, Buccleuch Street, Dalkeith
Midlothian House, the main office for Midlothian Council, Buccleuch Street, Dalkeith

The balance of power at Midlothian Council is up in the air following the death of Provost Adam Montgomery, with a Penicuik by-election to take place next month.

At last May’s council elections Labour took power from the SNP by winning seven seats against the SNP’s six and the Conservatives five, leaving Labour in minority control.

Councillor Montgomery’s death last month leaves the political future uncertain with a possible change in leadership on the cards. The by-election date is still to be confirmed and candidates are unknown.

However, current council leader Derek Milligan (Lab) is hopeful that his party’s will be successful and keep the status quo at Midlothian House. He said: “There are that many scenarios, it’s unthinkable. It will be what it will be. It’s a difficult one to call. I never take the public for granted.

“I’m just hoping that the public when they come out to vote actually vote on local issues.

“I think people will recognise that we have got on and done a job and not played stupid party political games.

“We inherited a complete car crash of a disaster. A budget set to overspend by £4 million was actually overspending by £6m. We have brought the budget back into line and we’ve carried out a massive consultation, something the SNP failed to do in their time in power.

“We have set out quite clearly what our intent is, it’s not always to do what’s popular but what’s right – to protect the most vulnerable.

“I think people will want a party locally that will stick up for the public and put the party politics aside.

“I’m confident that if we are judged on our record then our vote will increase.”

SNP group leader Kelly Parry made it clear that she would rather the by-election was not happening, but is confident her party can win.

She said: “Obviously it’s really sad circumstances as to how it has come about. It’s not a situation anyone wanted to be in.

“I think the by-election will be interesting, but ultimately the people of Penicuik will decide who wins.

“It will be good to focus on local issues. I think it’s important, particularly given the budget is coming up.

“We always go into a by-election wanting to win it, taking nothing for granted.

So we will just be focusing on talking about local issues, being positive.”

Conservative group leader Pauline Winchester is hoping to build on her party’s vote last May.

She said: “We are going to obviously go all out to win the seat and we will put in a very good candidate.

“We had a good turnout in the May election and we will hope to increase that in this by-election. I’m very confident.

“The make-up of the council if it goes six-six-six will be interesting to see what happens then.

“Whether Labour will be allowed to do anything with us or the SNP. They have a few with the SNP across the county so that’s a possibility, it’s going to be very interesting. We could have a new administration.

“The SNP have been completely against the council cuts so what would they do if they got into power?”

Councillor Montgomery’s funeral was held last Friday at a packed Mortonhall Crematorium, with another 200 mourners outside.