Negotiations are poised to take place today and tomorrow to form the next city council administration after the SNP secured the largest number of councillors in Aberdeen – but failed to win a majority.
The Lib Dems have not ruled out working with the SNP in a coalition and have enough elected councillors to form a majority if the parties team up.
The SNP became the biggest party on Aberdeen City Council with a total of 19 councillors elected, with their leader saying it would be a “democratic outrage” if they were not part of the ruling administration. This is up from 15 in 2012, while the Conservatives increased from three councillors in 2012 to 11 and Labour’s total almost halved to nine.
The SNP needs four more members in order to form a majority coalition, with speculation they could work with the Lib Dems who saw four candidates re-elected.
The Lib Dems have yet to decide who their group leader will be for the next five years but former party leader Councillor Ian Yuill said they were “always prepared to talk to others” including the SNP.
But it is understood the SNP could also consider working with Labour to gain a larger majority.
And the Conservatives, who appointed first-time councillor Douglas Lumsden to the role of group leader at a late afternoon meeting yesterday, said they were open to discussions with any of the parties aside from the SNP.
Cllr Yuill, who was re-elected to the Airyhall/Broomhill/Garthdee ward, said: “Our priority is delivering the Liberal Democrat policies in Aberdeen. We’re always prepared to talk to others.
“There is nothing arranged and no discussions arranged.
“We (the Liberal Democrats group) had a brief discussion yesterday and we will be having a fuller discussion over the next three or four days – discussions which should last for five days.
“We’re prepared to have conservations with other people.”
When asked if the SNP should lead the administration, Cllr Yuill said: “The electoral system we have is a proportional system. It’s whoever can put together a coalition is the administration of the council. The SNP are best placed to do that.”
Speaking after the count, SNP group leader Stephen Flynn said he will be having meetings over the coming days with Labour, Liberal Democrats and Independents. The party has already ruled out working with Conservatives at a council level.
Cllr Flynn said: “I’m absolutely delighted, this is a historic day for the SNP, for myself and for my colleagues. Never before has the SNP won the most seats in a local authority election in Aberdeen City Council and 19 is a fantastic result.
“We obviously do not have a majority and so we need to go and have discussions with the Labour party, the Lib Dems and indeed the Independents to see where we have common ground.
“That’s something which I’m looking forward to but at the end of the day it would be a democratic outrage if the SNP were not in administration running Aberdeen City Council.”
He added: “It’s clear the numbers are in our favour but irrespective of the numbers, the SNP has won this election and won it overwhelmingly.
“I would expect discussions imminently but we’re obviously away to celebrate first of all and hopefully for those of who have been re-elected start dealing with casework again, because that’s what we’re fundamentally here for.”
If the SNP cannot agree a coalition with the Lib Dems or Labour it could open the door to the Conservatives forming a ruling administration with other parties.
Conservative councillor Douglas Lumsden, who was elected to the Airyhall/Broomhill/Garthdee ward, said: “We are open to working with all the other groups [aside from the SNP].”
Conservative North-east MSP and former councillor Ross Thomson denied it would be a “democratic outrage” if the SNP were not within the administration.
He said: “That’s strong, if you look across the country, it’s not always the larger party that forms the administration. If there are parties that come together because they can agree then that’s a good thing.
“I think that’s what people will be looking for.”
Labour leader Jenny Laing said she has concerns that if Labour councillors are not within the administration, the city may take a “backwards step”.
She said: “I think I’ve said the whole campaign that I felt it was important that we elected as many Aberdeen Labour members as possible to ensure that we continued on the journey we started.”
Independent councillor John Reynolds, who was re-elected to the Bridge of Don ward, said he has not made any decisions on who he would consider working with. He added: “If the SNP want control they will work with the Liberal Democrats. If they want a larger majority then they will have to go in with the Labour group.”