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Argyll and Bute Council’s returning leader has rejected criticism from the opposition SNP group after the Liberal Democrats once again formed a coalition with the Conservatives and some independents to lead the council.
Last Thursday, at the council’s first full meeting since the elections, Kintyre and the Islands Liberal Democrat Councillor Robin Currie was returned to the leader’s post, which he has held since September 2020. His party will once again be part of The Argyll, Lomond and Islands (TALIG) group, which has ruled the council since the previous election in 2017.
The authority’s SNP opposition group has expressed disappointment that the Lib Dems did not side with them to form a ruling group instead.
The SNP increased its presence on the council from 11 seats to 12 following the May 5 poll, making it the largest single party group in the council chamber for the second term in a row.
SNP group leader Councillor Jim Lynch said he had approached councillor Currie as soon as the final results were known, with a proposal which would have seen the SNP, the Liberal Democrats, the Scottish Greens and independent councillors come together to form an administration.
The SNP group’s statement accused the Lib Dems of a ‘betrayal’ of the Argyll and Bute electorate.
But Councillor Currie, after being sent a copy of the SNP group’s statement, said: ‘An interesting read and not how I see things on the ground.
‘The Argyll, Lomond and Islands Group, which has been in existence for seven years, are the biggest group, so naturally we formed the new administration.’
The Conservatives had 10 councillors elected, and the Liberal Democrats five.
Labour and the Greens returned one each, with the remaining seven being independent.
Councillor Lynch said: ‘It was really disappointing to see the Lib Dems once again side with the Tories to form an administration.
‘It was clear that with their support or neutrality the SNP were in a position to lead the council and deliver on the policies the voters supported in such great numbers on May 5.
‘Our job now is to work hard with other progressives in the council to provide a strong opposition and seek to deliver on these policies where possible.
‘This work was started yesterday, as the opposition submitted a motion proposing an increase in area committee meetings, to give more power to local communities. The new administration voted this down for no good reason.’
Councillor Lynch’s criticisms were echoed by his SNP colleagues Brendan O’Hara and Jenni Minto, MP and MSP respectively for Argyll and Bute.
Meanwhile, one of Councillor Currie’s party colleagues also denied reports that the Liberal Democrats had said they would not ‘get into bed’ with the Conservatives.
It had been reported that the statement was made at a hustings in Dunoon and Sandbank, but newly-elected Dunoon Liberal Democrat councillor Ross Moreland denied that was the case.
He told the council meeting: ‘I have contacted [the news outlet attributed with the claim], because not only was it a misquote, no question was asked.
‘I said I would work with anyone on the council. I never promised not to work with the Conservatives or SNP.’