Aberdeenshire Councillors have filled key political leadership positions on the authority, following the first full Council meeting since the May 3 elections.
Despite emerging as the single largest party with 28 Councillors, the SNP group has been frozen out of power by an ‘Aberdeenshire Alliance’ of 14 Conservatives, 12 Liberal Democrats and 9 Independents.
Conservative Group Leader Jim Gifford will lead the Council and chair the influential Policy and Resources committee. Lib Dem group leader Martin Kitts-Hayes will be deputy leader, and serve as the committee’s Vice-Chair.
Banchory & Mid-Deeside Conservative Councillor Jill Webster was appointed as Aberdeenshire’s new Provost, while co-ordinator of the Independent group, Central Buchan Councillor Norman Smith, was appointed as Deputy Provost.
Provost Webster paid tribute to the former Provost, Cllr Bill Howatson, for what she described as his “tireless work and commitment to Aberdeenshire”. She went on to acknowledge the previous approach of councillors in working in a consensual nature, adding she was keen to see this continue with a focus on mutual respect and courtesy.
The SNP Group, which put forward its own nominees for each position, was defeated by the Alliance in every vote to appoint Committee Chairs and Vice-Chairs. The only SNP member to secure a position was Ellon & District Cllr Richard Thomson, who was appointed Vice-Chair of the Scrutiny and Audit Committee - a post which is by convention given to a member of the largest opposition party.
The Alliance was supported in each vote by the solitary Scottish Labour Councillor present, North Kincardine’s Alison Evison. The price of her support later became apparent when she won the backing of the Alliance to ringfence a position on the Grampian Joint Police Board for Scottish Labour, despite a recommendation from officials that the position should be allocated to the Green/Labour/non-alligned grouping to decide which councillor amongst them should be allocated that place. Later, the SNP was enraged when the Alliance allocated one of the Council’s 5 COSLA positions to Labour at the expense of the SNP, who felt they should have had two places rather than one.
The Infrastructure Services committee will be chaired by Lib Dem Peter Argyle, with the Vice-Chairmanship going to Independent Alan Buchan. Education, Learning & Leisure will be chaired by Ellon Lib Dem Isobel Davidson, with Conservative Ron McKail as Vice-Chair. Social Work & Housing will be chaired by Lib Dem Karen Clark, with Independent Alisan Norrie as Vice Chair. Ellon Conservative Gillian Owen will Chair the Scrutiny and Audit Committee.