South Scotland

Dumfries and Galloway Council resignations hit ruling group

Dumfries and Galloway Council
Image caption Seven Conservative councillors in Dumfries and Galloway have resigned from their group

Seven Conservative members of Dumfries and Galloway Council's ruling coalition have resigned from their political group.

A special meeting will be held within a fortnight to consider the implications of the move.

The resignations have been attributed to a "loss of confidence" in the leadership of Ivor Hyslop.

The authority is currently run by an alliance of Conservative and SNP councillors.

In a statement to the full council, Mr Hyslop confirmed the resignations.

He said a special meeting would be called within the next 14 days to address the implications in terms of committee membership and proportionality.

Pressed by the opposition Labour group to explain what it meant for the existing coalition agreement, the council leader said that it remained intact for the time being.

However, the resignations reduce the 15-strong Conservative group to eight.

With 10 SNP councillors, it leaves the coalition without an outright majority on the 47-member council.

Opposition Labour councillors said the "infighting" in the Conservative group had been "deeply damaging" for some time.

Last May Labour won most seats on the south of Scotland authority but was unable to form an alliance to run the council.

A by-election in November saw the party lose one of its seats to the Conservatives.

The resignations were led by Annandale councillor, Ian Carruthers, who said they were the culmination of months of unrest in the group.

"There was a major rift within the group after the annual general meeting in May," he said.

"Since then I have lost confidence in the leader of the Conservative group at present to lead the group as we go forward."

He put it down to a "lack of leadership".

Mr Hyslop said the rest of the group was firmly behind him and he believed his position remained tenable and business could still be done without a working majority.

"I think it is down to the fact that somebody else thought that they wanted to lead the group and that has been the main issue," he said.

"They didn't manage to bring a coup about and they have walked away."

SNP group leader Brian Collins said the resignations had left the coalition in a state of flux.

"We are very much back at the drawing board in terms of how we can take the business of council forward," he said.

'No mandate'

He said his group was determined to continue to "do its best" for the region despite the resignations from former coalition colleagues.

"To say that I am extremely disappointed in them is a huge understatement," he added.

Ronnie Nicholson, who leads the Labour group, said the split made the coalition unsustainable if it tried to continue.

"It would have no mandate from the people of Dumfries and Galloway and would therefore show complete contempt for local people," he said.

"It would simply show that certain politicians will do anything to try and hold onto their jobs at any cost."

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