A SECOND high-profile Liberal Democrat councillor is considering quitting the party - with potentially grave ramifications for East Lothian Council"s Lib-Dem/SNP coalition.

Councillor Ruth Currie, cabinet member for partnership and social services convenor, has told the Courier she is considering her own political future in the wake of the fallout surrounding her fellow councillor and husband Stuart Currie"s decision to turn down the party"s Westminster candidacy for East Lothian.

As we exclusively reported last week, the party"s sole Westminster nominee Mr Currie also resigned as local Lib-Dem convenor after suffering a bitter backlash from certain party members, unhappy at his decision to leave them without a candidate less than a year to a General Election.

Since we broke the county"s biggest political story of the year, rumours have been rife that Mr Currie, the council"s depute leader and spokesman on housing and community services, is about to defect to the SNP.

Mr Currie was unavailable for comment this week as he enjoyed a well-earned summer break. But as the six-handicap golfer hit the fairways, his other half declined the opportunity to douse the flames of speculation, leaving the door open for a double defection.

Asked if there was any substance to the rumours, Mrs Currie replied: 'I can"t comment on that. Obviously, what has happened to Stuart has made me think about my own position.

'Neither of us are going to make any rash decisions here. We have some time off in July and have got some thinking to do over the next few weeks. I think we will make a statement clarifying our positions in August.' Were both Curries to leave the Lib-Dems it would reduce the party"s council group to just four; a double switch to the SNP would increase that party"s representation to nine in the 23-strong council chamber, casting doubt over the present coalition"s long-term viability.

There would also be a knock-on effect if they joined Councillor John Caldwell as independents.

The seven-strong Labour opposition group, which was deposed from office at the May 2007 local elections, has been watching last week"s events unfold and are poised to taking advantage of any resulting power vacuum.

A Labour insider said: 'If both the Curries leave the Lib-Dems it could leave the administration without a majority. If that is the case then Labour would look to form a new administration in partnership with one or more of the other parties.' Two Conservative members complete the current line-up in the Haddington council chamber.

Councillor David Berry, leader of the council and its SNP group, said: 'It"s all speculation at this stage - it"s news to me that Stuart"s considering leaving his party.

'Unless something drastic happens it will be business as usual at East Lothian Council. We are our Lib-Dem partners have worked pretty well together over the last two years. I am certainly not panicking at this point.' A council spokesman said: 'We cannot comment on what may or may not happen. This is an internal matter for the Liberal Democrats to resolve.' Meanwhile, Dunbar and East Linton Lib-Dem councillor Jacquie Bell says she has no plans to abandon the Stockton South Westminster candidacy to fill the East Lothian void, leaving the constituency party to go through a lengthy selection process once again.

Mrs Bell, who insists she has not been approached over a possible transfer, was selected as the Stockton South candidate last year.

She told the Courier: 'Like everyone else in the party I was surprised by Stuart"s decision, but I am certainly not going to abandon my commitments in Stockton. I am well into the pre-election campaign down there and intend to see it through.

'I am confident the East Lothian Council administration will survive whatever happens.'