IN March last year a by-election was held in Midlothian Council after the death in January, 2018, of the popular and highly respected Labour councillor for Penicuik, Adam Montgomery.

Midlothian’s former Provost Joe Wallace won the seat for the SNP, making the party the largest group on the council with seven seats. Labour have six and the Conservatives five.

Yet thanks to Tory support, Labour continue to run the council as a minority administration which they have done since the last council elections in 2017 when Kelly Parry was the leader of the SNP group.

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Councillor Parry is now the finance spokesperson for the group and points to the budget process earlier this year as proof of an “arrangement” between Labour and the Tories.

She said: “We had Richard Leonard here in Midlothian a couple of weeks ago going on about austerity but it was the Labour group who made the political decision to bring in punishing cuts and as is a regular occurrence, the Tories backed them as they have done every single time.

“When it came to the budget meeting the votes were tied, and the Tory provost who Labour preferred to our nominated member back in 2017 put the budget through with his casting vote.

“We did manage to make Labour U-turn at the last minute on cuts to school transport, music tuition and swimming lessons, and other cuts they proposed would have had severe effects in the most deprived areas.

“This ‘for the many’ isn’t working out for Midlothian, and Labour keep going on about the SNP Government when it’s the Tory Government in Westminster which is responsible for austerity.

“They just don’t get it that working with the Tories might suit their narrative at the moment, but people will see that they are trying to deflect from the choices they have made – more than £100k to refurbish their offices, and hiring an events coordinator and produce glossy brochures for weddings.”

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Labour group and council leader Derek Milligan strongly rejects any suggestion of a pact, formal or informal, with the Tories.

He said: “It is just not the case, and here is one example from the last council meeting when there was a vote to fill the vacancy for the chair of the joint integration board.

“Labour councillors voted that the job should go to Cath Johnstone, the SNP group leader, rather than a Conservative.

“Also our transformation group is made up of members from all three parties including Kelly Parry, so how is that a coalition between us and the Tories?

“This pact idea is a lot of garbage. It’s a story that the SNP has been peddling from day one and it has not done them any good in Midlothian.”