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Last Updated: Friday, 28 March 2008, 11:01 GMT
Decade of power ends for Labour
Jo Perry
Central Scotland reporter, BBC Scotland news website

Following last May's elections, Stirling Council was controlled by a Labour and Liberal Democrat coalition, with Labour councillors holding the offices of provost and depute provost.

On Thursday, the SNP, which holds just seven of the council's 22 seats, completed its objective of deposing Labour from all these offices.

Labour's Margaret Brisley was unseated as provost
Labour's Margaret Brisley was unseated as provost

Provost Margaret Brisley was removed from her duties, to be replaced by the SNP's Fergus Wood.

Earlier this month, the SNP brought more than a decade of Labour control at the authority to an end, when it won council support for a vote of no confidence.

The decisive vote came after a communications breakdown and accusations of manipulation.

The SNP said it hoped to put an end to the problems and continue serving the constituents.

But the minority administration will now have to count on rival party votes more than ever to deliver policies.

"The reason that we took the steps we did was because we had no confidence in the previous administration to be able to deliver change," said new council leader Graham Houston.

"We are a minority administration and we'll have to make policy on an issue by issue, argument by argument basis.

"But I think that is what people want. They want politicians to be having conversations."

The last Scottish elections, which saw the introduction of PR voting to the council polls for the first time, saw big electoral changes in Stirling.

'Sleekit manipulation'

Labour suffered a significant drop in the 22 council seats the party previously held.

Their numbers were reduced to eight, with the SNP on seven, the Liberal Democrats on three and the Conservatives on four.

The make-up resulted in Stirling Council becoming the last local authority in Scotland to agree upon an administration.

It took more than a month for all the posts to be agreed.

Former Labour council leader Corrie McChord was reappointed to the role, his surprise election coming during a meeting which was supposed to be selecting the council's licensing board.

Mr Houston branded the move "sleekit manipulation", as the four Tory councillors gave notice they were unable to attend the meeting to vote.

Following the appointment, Labour and the Lib Dems agreed to run the local authority as a coalition.

But their slender majority was lost when the council's deputy provost - Labour member Gerard O'Brien - was suspended for failing to tow the party line.

Stirling Council building
The council was the last in Scotland to appoint an administration

Despite the problems, Stirling Council still managed to become the only Scottish local authority to cut council tax, while the rest froze it.

Following the historic agreement, however, Nationalist councillors - with support from the Tories - made their successful move to get rid of the Labour/Lib Dem coalition in a motion of no confidence, carried by 11 votes to 10.

Mr O'Brien's decision not to show up for the vote also proved decisive for the then administration which, without him, had no majority.

Speculation has been mounting that he will be expelled from the party as a result.

Mr Houston and several party colleagues have now taken up key positions formerly held by Labour and the Lib Dems.

It is not just the council in Stirling where Labour has suffered recently.

At the May elections, Labour MSP, Sylvia Jackson was unseated by Nationalist Bruce Crawford, by 620 votes.

Stirling's Labour MP Anne McGuire famously ousted the former Scottish Secretary for State Michael Forsyth in 1997.

Since then she has seen her share of the vote fall from a high of 47% to 36% at the last election.

It remains to be seen whether the SNP can complete the treble.



SEE ALSO
Council votes to remove provost
28 Mar 08 |  Tayside and Central
Council vote shifts power to SNP
12 Mar 08 |  Tayside and Central
Council agrees date for key vote
07 Mar 08 |  Tayside and Central
Council tax cut gets green light
21 Feb 08 |  Tayside and Central
Council appointment causes anger
01 Jun 07 |  Tayside and Central
SNP take major seats from Labour
04 May 07 |  Tayside and Central

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