Following the SNP-led ‘Partnership’ takeover of Aberdeenshire council, three Deeside councillors have expressed disappointment and concern.
A series of political changes took place at Aberdeenshire Council on Monday following a special meeting of the full council.
The council is now led by an administration, ‘The Partnership’, comprising the 28-member SNP group and the four-strong ‘Progressive Alliance’ between Scottish Labour and Progressive Independent Councillors.
At the meeting, Cllr Hamish Vernal was elected as Provost and Cllr Allison Grant as Deputy Provost.
Cllr Martin Kitts-Hayes and Cllr Richard Thomson were appointed as co-leaders of the Council.
In an arrangement thought to be the first of its kind in Scottish local government, Cllr Kitts-Hayes and Cllr Thomson agreed to job-share the positions of Leader and Depute Leader.
Former Provost, Cllr Jill Webster has now written a letter to The Piper in which she called the leadership of the new administration “an unprincipled, opportunistic few”.
Cllr Webster stated: “Provost is the Civic Head, a non-political position - not the political leader of the council, and premature removal is morally wrong, however the political numbers stack up.
“I have a deeply engrained sense of public duty and I find the move to remove me from office more than personally upsetting-it’s shameful and ruthless.
“I have always been scrupulously fair in the council chamber and striven for agreement and consensus on a way forward. Aberdeenshire Council is well respected because we have all worked hard to avoid political point scoring. The people of Aberdeenshire do not want to see the council mired in political skulduggery.”
Speaking after the SNP and their allies took control of the administration of Aberdeenshire Council, Liberal Democrat councillors for Deeside also spoke out against the tactics which saw the balance of Power in Woodhill House switch.
Mid Deeside Councillor Karen Clark said: “It is massively disappointing that the excellent work that the Alliance has done over the past three years is now to be put at risk by this newly formed coalition of the SNP, Scottish Labour, the Progressive Independent Group, with the backing of the Democratic Independent and Green Group.
“The SNP has paid an enormously high price in order to win power even giving away the role of leader of the council to a member of the two-strong Independent Progressive group.
“Experienced and hard-working councillors have now been pushed aside by a team with little experience and one which has been cobbled together on the basis of individual ambition, personal vendettas and private agendas.
“I have not met a single person who believes that the SNP and their new-found allies have earned the right to form the administration but I know that all across Aberdeenshire there will be people of all parties and none who will be astonished that the hugely successful Aberdeenshire Alliance has been turned out of office.”
Aboyne Upper Deeside and Donside councillor Peter Argyle added: “This has not been a good day for Aberdeenshire and its reputation.
“Much was said during the debate about the way that the Aberdeenshire Alliance has been delivering its joint manifesto during the three years since we were formed in the chaotic days after the 2012 election.
“The council has taken huge strides in education, social work, housing and all the services under the heading of infrastructure.
“The SNP have consistently supported our agenda during this time.
“We have put the people of Aberdeenshire first.”
Speaking after the June 8 meeting, Cllr Kitts-Hayes said: “This partnership arrangement, which is the first of its kind in Scotland, marks a historic day for Aberdeenshire Council.
“The new Partnership Administration is committed to working together for the benefit of the residents and communities of Aberdeenshire. We’re looking forward to getting on with the job.”
Co-leader Cllr Thomson said: “The SNP group has played a constructive role over the past three years as the main opposition.
“However, we have always said that we stood ready to help form an administration should the opportunity arise. Together with our partners, we’ve stepped up to that responsibility today.
“There’s much to do in Aberdeenshire in terms of making sure our council is delivering for our residents as well as it can, while ensuring fairness in what are still difficult financial times.
Aboyne, Upper Deeside and Donside SNP councillor Geva Blackett said: “After the 2012 elections when the people of Aberdeenshire elected twice the number of SNP councillors than any other party...
“Unfortunately, the other parties and Independents came together to block SNP councillors having any role in an administration. We said at the time that this arrangement would not produce a stable administration, and so it has proved in recent weeks...
“Some of the comments made by some members of the outgoing administration have been unfortunate, but then some of them have been running the council for nearly 20 years and to suddenly find themselves no longer doing so will be difficult.
“I hope that once they have had time to reflect, they will provide the same level of constructive opposition which the SNP did.
“There will be change where change is needed and the people of Aberdeenshire can be assured we are up for the challenge of delivering better local services.”