Aberdeen City Council has backed a call for a people’s vote on Brexit as its administration was defeated for the first time.
Councillors supported the motion 22 to nine yesterday to back Liberal Democrat group leader Ian Yuill in calling for a people’s vote, with the SNP joining forces with the Lib Dems to defeat the ruling Tory and Labour coalition.
The council’s Labour group instead called for the council to support an immediate general election as a way of resolving the Brexit stalemate.
But their Conservative administration colleagues lodged an amendment calling for the council to take no action in a rare division between the two parties.
Prime Minister Theresa May has said MPs will vote on the UK’s Brexit deal the week of January 14.
Addressing the chamber, Jenny Laing, co-leader of the council and leader of Aberdeen Labour, said: “There is no doubt in my mind the current Brexit deal is a bad deal for Aberdeen, Scotland and the UK.
“We believe the people have a right to vote to elect a new government. A government that can lead us through the Brexit impasse that currently exists.
“We are at risk of leaving the EU without a deal, a position I hope we can all agree would be disastrous, not just for the people of Aberdeen, but the UK as a whole.”
Speaking after the meeting, Ms Laing said she had hoped the SNP would back her call for a general election.
She added: “Unfortunately the rhetoric that comes with the SNP was fully on show today in that they say in public they want a general election but when they get an opportunity to vote for one they vote against it.”
24 Days of Christmas – Click here for special festive deals from some of our favourite local businesses
Backing a people’s vote, SNP group leader Stephen Flynn said the council had to defend the 23% of the city’s population who are EU nationals.
He added: “Any Brexit at this stage is likely to damage Aberdeen.
“Democracy is to go to the people and ask for their views.”
He was backed up by EU citizen and SNP councillor Christian Allard, a Frenchman who said he would not be willing to apply to live in Scotland – where he has made a life for 35 years.
However, Douglas Lumsden, Conservative group leader and co-leader of the council, said councillors should take no action, adding they should be “more concerned by Mastrick and not Maastricht”. Mr Lumsden, who said he voted to remain in the EU referendum, added: “A total of 17.4m people voted to leave the EU. For the sake of democracy it must be delivered and it will be delivered.”
He added the motion was “absolutely pointless”, claiming a second referendum would be a “disaster for democracy”.
Liberal Democrat group leader Ian Yuill said: “We now know that promises made about Brexit, like £350 million a week extra for the NHS and getting a deal with the ‘exact same benefits’ as EU membership, cannot be kept.
“Since the start of the month it has become blindingly clear that the Brexit process is a mess and the Prime Minister’s exit deal is clearly doomed.
“A people’s vote would put the UK’s citizens back in control and give everyone the chance to decide whether the Prime Minister’s deal is good for the country and if the UK should leave the EU on those terms.”