CLACKMANNANSHIRE'S newly-elected councillors have two weeks to agree a functional administration after their first meeting rapidly collapsed this morning.
Despite the public going to the polls two weeks ago, there is still no political administration to lead the Wee County as no provost or council leader was elected on Thursday, May 18.
In a shock move, Labour nominated the SNP's Tina Murphy for provost in a bid to bring about a tricolour partnership; however, Cllr Murphy was absent from the meeting and no one had confirmation she would accept the position.
Elected members quickly adjourned with no other nominations coming forward from any side of the chamber.
Following the break, the SNP group leader Cllr Les Sharp said his party appreciated the offer before highlighting his previous attempts to secure a partnership, though the offers were rejected.
Elected members agreed to postpone the meeting until June 1 to allow talks to continue.
The Conservatives' Bill Mason said his group was looking forward to working with everyone.
"It takes two hands to clap"
Labour's move stunned the SNP as the nationalists had been looking to secure a formal coalition with the party over the past few weeks, but talks broke down.
In a statement after the meeting, Cllr Sharp explained that the council needs stability to take forward the budget set for the year, which includes a major restructure and realignment of services.
He added: “However, with only eight of 18 councillors, we are not in a position to form a majority administration to drive those plans forward so in the best interest of the people of Clackmannanshire we have sought to construct a progressive alliance with Labour.”
He said talks were initiated “before the dust had settled on the election count”, but the move was rejected.
In a statement, Labour Cllr Dave Clark said his party was hoping to be the ruling administration, “but we are still passionate about the wellbeing of our communities and continue to listen openly”.
He added: “If the SNP bring forward good, well thought out policies that benefits the people of Clackmannanshire they will find Scottish Labour collaborate in the implementation of such policies.”
When asked by the Advertiser why he did not agree to a formal partnership, he said the SNP was looking for “a blank cheque” for two years.
Instead he was hoping for proper working partnership, adding that it “takes two hands to clap”.
A proposed agreement between the two groups suggested the SNP would have taken the helm with Labour voting with them on policies relating to the budget until May 31, 2019.
Labour was also asked to reject any potential votes of no confidence as well as to support SNP nominations for appointments.
In return the SNP would have agreed to help Labour chair the Scrutiny Committee, the Planning Committee as well as the Licensing Board.
The agreement was never signed; however, Cllr Clark told Cllr Sharp “you can rest assured we will support opposition to compulsory redundancy and any other policies you introduce which we consider to be of benefit to the people of Clackmannanshire”.
Responding to Cllr Clark's comments, Cllr Sharp told the Advertiser that while Labour may have seen it that way, he was not asking for a blank cheque, instead he wanted to make sure the budget was taken forward.
He added: “I have made further efforts to seek dialogue, but even that has been rejected.
“You will recall the brief period in 2016 when the Scottish National Party attempted to operate a minority administration and were thwarted at every turn by Labour with procedural motions and standing order amendments and the like.
“That is no way to try and do our work.”
SNP councillors also told the Advertiser they were hoping to sit down with Labour and go over their manifestos to see where common ground could be found.
Instead, Labour was hoping to take decisions item by item, with Cllr Ellen Forson adding: “That's no way to run a council.”
Cllr Clark also accused the SNP of coming into the meeting with the intention to collapse it.
In response, Cllr Sharp said: “What we said was from the word go, and it's been quite clear, that we are not prepared to form a minority administration with no support from any other party because it is an impossible scenario.
“The approach to this meeting today from our perspective was positive, we thought we were going to achieve something.”
But he added: “As late as yesterday, Labour said no to any arrangement."
In turn, Cllr Clark was accused of “showboating”.
Cllr Ellen Forson added: “I would question the motives of the Labour leader. We have offered discussions, not once was that put down on the table as an option. So why just moot it at the meeting?”
"Working together means working together"
Cllr Clark explained by saying: “They've got to understand that a relationship takes two hands to clap.”
He also said that he and his group were trying to make things happen in the council, but a partnership “can't be single-sided”.
And added: “We were hoping to get down and do this. Thereafter it was our intention to negotiate the detail.
“The three of us have got to sit down and start the dialogue over finding common ground. It was our intent that we would do that with the comfort of having a local authority behaving legally underneath us, but as it stands, we don't have that comfort.
“I'm inviting the SNP and Tory councillors out to meet with the traders in Alva, because I think it's important that they are all sitting there, working together.
“Working together for the SNP means a blank cheque, working together for us means working together.”