VICTORIOUS Labour plan to form a minority administration after securing nine seats in last week’s East Lothian Council election.

The party, led by Norman Hampshire, secured the highest number of seats after Friday’s count.

However, with East Lothian featuring 22 councillors – split between Labour, the SNP, the Conservatives, an independent and the Greens, who made history by winning their first ever council seat in East Lothian – they cannot form a majority administration.

READ MOREAs it happened: East Lothian Council election count 2022

Labour had vowed to form a minority administration if they were elected and Mr Hampshire told the Courier on Tuesday that he had already outlined his intentions to both Lyn Jardine, newly appointed leader of the SNP Group on East Lothian Council, and her Conservative counterpart Lachlan Bruce.

East Lothian Courier: Labour Group leader Norman Hampshire was delighted with his party's results in the 2022 East Lothian Council election

Labour Group leader Norman Hampshire

He said: “I’m looking at how we would try to form a minority administration. That is what I am in the process of trying to put together with different colleagues.

“I have got people into different positions and we were a minority administration prior to the election. We have got people with experience in certain areas and I would like to keep some continuity.”

Hopeful of Ruaridh Bennett's return

Mr Hampshire described Labour’s success as “really enjoyable”, with the possibility of the party’s numbers on the council being swollen further if Ruaridh Bennett – initially a Labour candidate but who lost his party’s support just days before the vote over historic social media posts and was elected as an independent – is allowed to become a member again.

Mr Hampshire said: “I know Ruaridh has been suspended, which is a shame, but obviously it is going through the appeal process now.

“I’m quite confident because of his age when he made the statements they will accept his apology.

“He was just a young lad at the time and a child can be influenced by adults. That’s what happened here and we will wait and see if the appeal is successful.”

East Lothian Courier: The political make-up of East Lothian Council following the 2022 election

The political make-up of East Lothian Council following the 2022 election

Looking to the future, Mr Hampshire, who became council leader last year following the death of close friend Willie Innes, outlined a number of issues which needed to be addressed by the local authority over the coming months. That included an increasing focus on green issues and the environment, as well as balancing the books.

He also called on more support to be given to the council from national governments.

Mr Hampshire said: “East Lothian is a fast-growing area. We have got massive interest from investors to invest in East Lothian. That brings opportunities.

“It creates jobs but we need to manage that the best way we can.

“Infrastructure needs to meet the growth. We need to hope we can encourage both Westminster and the Scottish Government to recognise that growth.”

SNP concerns of 'democratic deficit'

The SNP increased their number of councillors from six to seven, while the Conservatives lost three seats and dropped to four.

The change made the SNP the second largest party and new leader Ms Jardine felt there was a need to move away from a minority administration.

She told the Courier that in the lead-up to the election, people had said “time and time again” that they “do not trust the existing cabinet approach”.

READ MOREEast Lothian Council election 2022 news round-up

She said: “I sought a meeting with Norman Hampshire and specifically asked what their plan was.

“It is disappointing that, yet again, despite communities across East Lothian wanting to see more collaborative decision-making, we face another five years of a democratic deficit, with the potential for just five individuals making the most significant decisions.

“As a new councillor myself, the core challenges of the next five years are being reinforced during the induction programme.

“We need a different approach to local decision-making, with fresh ideas and energy.

“In opposition, we will be looking forwards, not back, and will take every opportunity to hold the minority administration to account.”

East Lothian Courier:

Lyn Jardine is the new SNP Group leader on East Lothian Council

Cabinet spokespersons are yet to be announced by the Labour administration, with the SNP looking to name similar roles.

Ms Jardine added: “Our new group, with a significant range of experience in public services as well as councillors, will be the main opposition.

“As well as constituency and committee remits, we will be announcing our own ‘shadow cabinet’ of councillors, who will dedicate their efforts to highlighting the decision-making deficit and offering alternative solutions.”

Conservative leader calls on PM to resign

Mr Bruce was not convinced a minority administration was the best solution.

The Conservative Group leader said: “Given the balance of the chamber and the position of the Labour Party nationally, I don’t think this is any great surprise.

“The Conservative Group will seek to work constructively with anyone for the betterment of East Lothian.”

And Mr Bruce put the blame for the Conservatives’ loss of seats on Prime Minister Boris Johnson, calling on him to resign.

He said: “Boris Johnson kept coming up on the doorstep again and again. I have said before he should resign and I believe he should heed the message from the public.”

It was a day of firsts in East Lothian as the SNP returned their first female councillors, and the council as a whole saw 10 women elected out of a possible 22 seats.

Greens make history

It was also the first time a Scottish Greens candidate won a seat in East Lothian, Shona McIntosh taking one of Musselburgh’s seats.

The new councillor, who works with care-experienced young people, said she was looking forward to holding the council to its climate emergency pledge.

She said: “I want to see the council really step up to its climate emergency commitment, especially when it comes to planning. I am also keen to see more openness and transparency around decisions.”

East Lothian Courier:

Shona McIntosh is the Greens' first ever councillor in East Lothian

She put her strong support down to the strength of feeling in Musselburgh about the ongoing Flood Protection Scheme.

The Greens’ success in East Lothian was welcomed by Scottish Greens co-leader and Lothians MSP Lorna Slater, who said: “This is a major breakthrough for the Scottish Greens in a local authority we have never had a councillor in.”