ONLY five years into an SNP minority administration, the city of Glasgow is still shaking off the hangover of nearly 40 years of Labour in power – but an SNP-Green coalition could be on the cards.

SNP council leader Susan Aitken didn’t rule out a form of coalition with the Greens, telling the Sunday National: “Regardless of where we end up on the other side of the election, wherever the votes are, I would hope and expect that good working relationship will continue – in what form, it’s too early to say.”

In 2017, Glasgow elected 36 SNP councillors to Labour’s 31. Filling the remaining posts were eight Tories and seven Greens.

Aitken is optimistic at the prospect of a second term as a minority government, but isn’t taking it for granted or taking anything off the table.

READ MORE: South Lanarkshire election: SNP confident they will again lead council

“We’ll campaign on our own record and plans for the next five years – we’re hopeful, we’re not overconfident and we’re certainly not complacent,” she said.

Labour’s vote share dropped by a colossal 16.5% between 2012 (46.7%) and 2017 (30.2%). The SNP saw an 8.4% boost from 32.6% in 2012 to 41% in 2017, while the Tories also gained from Labour’s losses, jumping from a 5.9% vote share in 2012 to 14.6% (+8.7%) in 2017. The Greens saw a slight increase from 5.6% in 2012 to 8.7% (+3.1%) in 2017.

It’s a tightrope election in the Dear Green Place, and certainly one to watch. Aitken concedes there may be some tactical voting ahead from Tory and Labour voters bidding to keep the SNP out.

The council leader countered: “It will only be an SNP administration that keeps the Tories out, because if Labour are going to be in administration in Glasgow, it will be with the Tories.

“I think that’s the electoral reality, and I think they know that.

The National: Susan Aitken is the current leader of Glasgow City CouncilSusan Aitken is the current leader of Glasgow City Council

“We’re open to working with anyone who wants to work maturely and constructively. In reality, that has been the Greens. We’ve developed a good working relationship.”

The council’s March 2022 budget was passed by votes from the ruling SNP group and Green councillors, with council tax being raised by 3%.

The Glasgow Greens are hoping that the party, emboldened by the SNP-Green co-operation agreement at Holyrood giving them more recognition on the doorstep, will get some of their young candidates elected and bring more diversity to the table. They’re standing a candidate in each of Glasgow’s 23 wards – half are aged under 30 and the majority (12) are women.

Anthony Carroll, 25, is standing for the Greens in Dennistoun. Labour’s candidate Elaine McDougall, a council baillie who can deputise for the provost, was first elected in 1993.

“The councillor I’m standing against has been there longer than I’ve been alive and we need fresh perspectives – that’s why I’m standing,” Carroll said.

The National: Holly Bruce wants to see a focus on women's safetyHolly Bruce wants to see a focus on women's safety

In Southside, and standing against Aitken in Langside, Green Holly Bruce, 28, thinks there needs to be more focus on street safety – better lighting, wider pavements – and that women and minorities should be taken into account.

“I’ve been working with a feminist organisation who did research on that last year and it showed young women in Glasgow don’t feel safe at night in the parks,” she said.

The issue of night-safety flared again in the city’s west end during COP26, when police caused fury by directing terrified women to walk through the unlit Kelvingrove Park at night due to road restrictions put in place to host world leaders for a swanky dinner at the adjoining art gallery.

Bruce added: “It just showed our parks are unsafe for people at night.”

The Greens could see a boost to their vote from the city with the voting franchise extended to 16 and 17-year-olds, thousands of whom took to the streets during COP26 for the Fridays for Future’s school strike led by climate justice activist Greta Thunberg.

Bruce added: “If it wasn’t for them, there wouldn’t be as much pressure on our governments, and we need people to get elected to be held accountable for all the decisions we make – and as Greens, we’ll always put that at the top of our agenda.”

There are a myriad of issues: 34% of children are living in relative poverty, and the cost of living crisis is starting to bite across north, east, south and west. Public transport is expensive and sometimes unreliable, and the council is in desperate need of cash – facing a £1 billion bill to settle a pay discrimination suit with female workers. “It’s sore, but it’s a price the council has to pay,” Aitken added.

THE city had its problems pre-pandemic, but Covid-19 exacerbated them, putting heavy strain on the workforce across the council – and, in particular, on cleansing.

Over the past two years, fly-tipping has been on the increase, bin collections have been moved further apart and certain services have been suspended. The Greens candidates both say that this is what constituents are talking about most and that there’s a hunger for better recycling services and action to tackle the climate crisis.

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But Aitken, when asked if she had any concerns that these issues could cut into the SNP vote share, said that there wasn’t one overall defining issue brought up by voters. The party is planning to invest more in environmental services, she said, and huge swathes of the 98-page local manifesto are dedicated to green policies. On complaints on rubbish and bin collections, she said these are “genuinely” not coming up on the doorstep.

“Now I suspect other parties may bring it up on the doors with people … so we’re not getting that sense, I have to say. Is it an issue for the city? Yes, undoubtedly, and for a couple of reasons,” she added.

Historic underinvestment in environmental services by the previous Labour administration, high absence rates in depots across the city – 50% in some, during the height of the pandemic – and the workforce being older and having underlying conditions were all cited by Aitken as contributing factors. “The job itself is tough,” she said.

Bruce, canvassing in Aitken’s ward, said that it was the number one issue on the doorstep – but noted it was city-wide, with each branch of the city having its own distinct problems.

SHE said there had been “failures within the [current] administration on that issue across the board”, adding that the Greens want to invest more money in the workforce.

She said: “They’re treated appallingly, they don’t get paid enough and they’re expected to do a lot on very little wage. So, more investment in services, more frequent collections and better recycling as well.”

In 2019, Glasgow had the lowest recycling rate out of all of Scotland’s councils and, in the same year, had the highest carbon impact generated by household waste.

These issues are all linked in with the climate crisis and green policies which the city and its population are embracing.

For Carroll, in the East End of the city, notifying residents that food waste bins have been stopped and removing the ones filled with rotting waste should be a priority.

READ MORE: North Lanarkshire council election: SNP hoping to make history in plan to oust Tories

He has a camera roll full of food waste bins discarded two years after the scheme was stopped, and said that because of the high turnover of residents, many were unaware of the move.

He explained: “One of them was comically rotten. When I opened it, a festoon of flies came out, there were maggots all over it, and in the majority of closes, that’s the situation.”

Carrol claimed that some in the East End “feel they’re treated like second-class citizens because of the response rate to the council on things like fly-tipping, destroyed bins or other cleansing-related issues”.

Aitken said that the SNP want to pursue a “tailored” approach to parts of the city with problems.

Scotland’s ballots will be cast in the local elections on May 5. Between now and polling day, The National will profile EVERY ONE of the country’s 32 local authorities. Click HERE to see all of those published so far.