THE political leadership of Moray Council remains in the hands of a minority Independent-led administration – for now.
An SNP bid to assume control of the council was put on hold at a meeting of the council today (Wednesday, June 6).
Six Independents and one Conservative remain at the helm until a special meeting next Wednesday, June 13 when it is hoped the political crisis will be resolved.
Seven of the eight Tory councillors on the administration quit the ruling group last week after a disagreement over the future direction of the council.
After partnership talks failed to produce a new administration the SNP this week attempted to lodge an emergency motion at Wednesday’s meeting in a bid to form a minority administration.
However, the convenor, Cllr James Allan said the matter would instead be put before the special meeting next week.
He said: "The decision to hold a special meeting of Moray Council next week is in the best interests of all councillors, and was made on solid legal advice.
"Given the detail the Notice of Motion contained I felt it unreasonable for councillors to debate it without having proper time to consider it, especially as most hadn’t seen it.
"I believed that the most fair and pragmatic way forward was a special meeting to discuss this single issue, one which will be fundamental to the future of the council."
Cllr Allan said the issue would have " dominated the meeting at the cost of all the other business that required debate".
He expressed disappointment at an attack on him by the prior to the meeting.
"Only yesterday afternoon SNP members were discussing a coalition agreement with me and there seemed to be a way forward. However, within a couple of hours of these discussions the SNP group released a statement to the media expressing outrage and calling for me to go.
"All I seek is a way forward that serves the people of Moray; I’ll gladly work with any group or Councillor that has the same objective."
SNP Councillors have said their motion remains on the table and are "open to further approaches should the current Independents in administration wish to do so".
SNP Co-Leader Shona Morrison said: "This situation is being unnecessarily dragged out to our extreme frustration and, I am sure, the frustration of many staff in Moray Council and the wider residents of Moray.
"Every day that this goes on is a day lost in setting the strategic direction for the Council, which is a huge worry.
"If others wish to come back to the table before the end of the week then our door is still open and that has been made clear. Otherwise we are well prepared with a talented and committed group of councillors to take up the challenge and privilege of leading Moray Council."
The Nats’ co-leader Graham Leadbitter added: "The Tories have abandoned Moray Council and the remaining Tory Convener is now in self-preservation mode refusing to even allow the SNP’s proposal to re-constitute the Council to be debated today.
"We remain fully committed to these proposals in the absence of a viable SNP-led partnership but we are also open to any further approaches before the end of the week after which the council must move on.
"Since last Monday we have been negotiating with Independent and Labour Councillors with a view to forming a partnership administration, however while talks with the Moray Alliance Group of a Labour Councillor and three Independents have been very positive the talks with current administration Independents had stalled.
"It seems however that the council administration will step down, which makes today’s totally avoidable delay in allowing the council to move on, all the more frustrating."
The SNP group had labelled the decision not to debate their motion "completely outrageous".
And they had called on Cllr Allan to resign for the good of Moray after accusing him of acting in an "undemocractic and unjustifiable manner".
"Ultimately we offered to work with a rainbow coalition of SNP, Independents and Labour but while some councillors were willing to do that there was not a critical mass willing to accept that proposal.
"Despite that, we believe the positive discussions that we have been involved in will help us with policy negotiations from a position of being a minority administration and we are committed to working hard and delivering the changes required to make Moray Council’s services sustainable and effective for the people of Moray."
Cllr Morrison declared: "Moray SNP Councillors are ready and willing to take up the challenge and privilege that is leading Moray Council. We are excited by the prospect of having a really strong group of people and in particular much better representation for women in Administration in Moray Council.
"Our group comes from a wide range of backgrounds and we believe we can bring a new broom into Moray Council, do things differently, promoting a positive and inclusive message for Moray."