THE coalition administration running East Lothian Council could be on the verge of collapse after the departure of Stuart and Ruth Currie from the Liberal Democrats.

Last month, the couple told the Courier that they had been considering their position after the fallout from depute council leader Mr Currie's shock decision to refuse his party's Westminster candidacy for the East Lothian seat at next year's General Election.

He also resigned as local Lib-Dem convenor at that time.

However, the couple's decision to leave the Lib Dems - one source said they "jumped before they were pushed" - looks to have dealt a blow to the future of the council's SNP/Lib-Dem administration.

It also increases the likelihood of a Labour-led coalition, featuring the four remaining Lib-Dems and the two Conservatives, after the summer recess ends on August 25.

The Courier understands that the Curries hope to defect to the SNP and this has caused consternation amongst the Lib-Dem group, the likely deal-makers of any coalition.

There has already been discussions between Lib-Dem members and the Labour Pary about the prospect of an alliance between them.

Such a move would leave the SNP - who, like Labour, have seven seats - out in the cold, just two years after Labour lost control of local government in the county for the first time in 30 years.

Despite having promised to reveal their plans this month, Mrs Currie refused to comment when contacted and referred the matter to SNP council leader, Councillor David Berry, who would be deposed as the local authority's head if the Nationalists lost any power-share struggle.

When asked if Stuart, her husband, would suggest the same course of action, she replied: "Yes, you should speak to (Mr Berry) about any information about the council." In response to our enquiry, Mr Berry confirmed that he was in discussions about the issue with both the Curries and the remaining Lib-Dem councillors. "I do not want to comment on the Curries' personal situation," he said. "This is a very senstitive issue at the moment.

"We are having discussions with the remaining Lib-Dem members of the administration and also separate discussions with the Curries." He added: "The 13 member coalition has, up until now been fairly free of party-politics, but, unfortunately, recent events have meant that there is now a party political aspect to negotations within it.

"But I am hopeful that we can keep the coalition and therefore the administration together. I think we all want to ensure that council service are provided, we all want to see the kids educated." Provost Sheena Richardson, who is in holiday in England at the moment and has been out of the county since the end of June, said:"I am not fully up-to-date with what had been happening since I have been away." Provost Richardson, who is one of the four remaining Lib-Dem members on the council, added: "I will be back on Friday and we are having a meeting with the SNP members at the weekend.

"I can't say if (the Curries) will be attending the meeting and I don't know anything about them joining the SNP." The provost said that she was hopeful that agreement could be reached to retain the current coalition. "I expect that we will still be able to maintain our 'Contract with the People'.

"It's a shame, because we had such good council meeting before we broke up for the summer." Councillor Willie Innes, the leader of the seven Labour members on the council, did not want to speculate too much on the possibility of his party leading a new coalition in August.

However, he did confirm that he had been in informal talks with the Lib-Dems and the Conservatives about the possibility of a alliance between the three parties. He said: "Obviously it is not a healthy situation, but I do not want to be seen to undermine the current administration. But there is no secret that there has been a vacuum left by the Curries leaving. So I have had informal talks since the weekend on the possibility of a coalition.

"But you have to remember that the people I have spoken to need to relay the details of these discussions to the other members, and it doesn't follow that there will be universal agreement to them. So it is too early to talk of Labour going into coalition with anybody." Although he would not be drawn on the prospect of Mr and Mrs Currie joining the Nationalists, did have some stinging words about the couple. "As far as I know at the moment, that is just a rumour. But whatever Stuart Currie does, it will not be done on the basis of principle, but opportunism. He has been in the Labour Party, the Lib-Dems and now maybe the SNP. It is all about what suits him individually."