Aberdeenshire Alliance takes control of council

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A new administration took charge of Aberdeenshire Council for the first time on Thursday.

Conservative Jim Gifford (Mid Formartine) is the new leader of the council after his party joined forces with the Liberal Democrats and nine Independent members. Lib Dem group leader Martin Kitts-Hayes (Inverurie & District) has taken over as Aberdeenshire Council’s deputy leader.

The Aberdeenshire Alliance group came together after the Conservatives and Liberals cited internal divisions among the SNP, the largest party, and possible personality clashes as reasons why they could not form coalitions.

Banchory and Mid Deeside councillor Jill Webster said she was “delighted and privileged” when was voted in as the area’s first female Provost at the meeting in Woodhill House. She defeated SNP councillor Hamish Vernal by a margin of 36-31, which set the mood of further votes throughout the day.

SNP councillors were consistently beaten by Alliance members for leading positions within the various committees. Peter Argyle (Aboyne, Upper Deeside and Donside) was elected to chair the Infrastructure Service committee while Karen Clark (Banchory and Mid Deeside) is to chair the Social Work and Housing committee. Westhill councillor Ron McKail was voted in as vice-chair of the Education, Learning and Leisure committee.

Richard Thomson (Ellon and District), was the only SNP councillor to secure a place on the committees, becoming vice-chair of scrutiny and audit.

SNP group leader Joanna Strathdee had some strong words for the Tory-led administration, which voted to give the SNP 20% of Aberdeenshire’s seats on CoSLA in spite of the party having 41% of the councillors.

She said: “This move was anti-democratic and simply beggars belief. It’s nothing short of a power-grab by the Tory-led coalition.

“In Aberdeenshire previously, while the opposition and administration parties had their disagreements, they were always good-natured and based on policy and whichever party was in power, committee places were always allocated very fairly and based on party numbers.

“That did not happen today and I really hope that this is not the start of something more sinister creeping into Aberdeenshire politics.”