South Scotland

SNP quits Dumfries and Galloway Council ruling coalition

Image caption The SNP group said it was with "considerable regret" it was resigning from the administration

The SNP group has quit its ruling coalition with Labour on Dumfries and Galloway Council after just eight months.

A statement from group leader Brian Collins confirmed the decision.

He said the move was being made with "regret" but cited "serious concerns" over a recent decision on the location of a learning hub in Dumfries.

The Labour group claimed the SNP had "reneged" on its position on the issue and was taking "orders from Edinburgh".

The Labour-SNP administration was formed in October last year, replacing a Conservative-SNP alliance.

That previous coalition collapsed due to the resignation of seven Conservatives from their group amid claims of a "loss of confidence" in leader Ivor Hyslop.

It left the alliance without a working majority on the 47-member authority.

Now the SNP resignation leaves the council needing to form its third administration in the space of a year.

The Labour group is the largest on the local authority but it has only 15 members - well short of the 24 needed for an outright majority.

The SNP has 10 members, the Conservatives eight, Independent Conservatives six, five independents, two non-aligned and one non-affiliated councillor.

Mr Collins said the decision to leave the administration had "not been taken lightly" but serious concerns about its operations had "not proved possible to resolve".

"In particular, we have serious concerns that the decision taken by the education committee last Tuesday did not reflect the agreement we had sought with our administration partners," he said.

"We cannot be part of an administration where agreements are amended or overruled.

"We are also aware, as the leader of the council and chairman of the education committee will also be aware, that the Scottish government offered to support the creation of the learning hub if it was to be located at the Crichton."

Mr Collins claimed that support had not been pursued.

He said that it only added "insult to injury" when the Labour group issued press releases calling for Scottish government support for the learning hub at King George V.

"This is no way to do business and the SNP group will not legitimise such an approach with our support," added Mr Collins.

'Bow to orders'

However, council leader Ronnie Nicholson hit back saying his Labour group would not be "bullied by the SNP government in Edinburgh".

He claimed SNP councillors had changed their position on the location of the learning hub having been "ordered to renege on their agreement by SNP bosses in Edinburgh".

"It's a shame SNP councillors think it's OK to take their orders from Edinburgh, and they have form on this, but the people of Dumfries and Galloway will not be bullied," he said.

"Councillors are elected to represent their constituents and stand up for our region, not bow to orders and I hope in time SNP councillors locally will reflect on this."

He said the "real losers" in the dispute were the people of Dumfries and Galloway who saw their council in the headlines for "all the wrong reasons".

He said his group intended to run the council as a minority administration.

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