By Kirsty Topping
A SENIOR Liberal Democrat councillor has caused shock by defecting to the SNP.
Elaine Morris said she was disillusioned by the party’s Westminister coalition with the Conservatives and by the lack of leadership in the Edinburgh trams debacle.
Her change of party will not shift the balance of power in Edinburgh council as the Lib Dems and the SNP are in coalition, but it will come as a blow to the struggling party.
Elaine, who is a former chairwoman of the council’s Lib Dem group, was welcomed into the SNP fold by group pleader Steve Cardownie, who said:
“She is not the first person from the Lib Dems to join the SNP and won’t be the last.
“Elaine is a hard-working councillor and we are delighted to welcome her.”
While initially in favour of her original party’s deal to form a government with the Tories, Elaine has since cooled to the pact.
“I don’t think they have performed well. I was horrified by the tuition fees debacle. “
She also criticized the handling of the trams scheme by the Lib Den leadership.
“Although I supported the trams, I don’t think they sold it to the people of Edinburgh. They were not good guardians of the scheme. “
She also said meeting the predicted 220 million shortfall on the scheme would likely have a negative impact on the city.
“In principle I have been supportive, but not at any cost. “
Elaine originally joined the Liberals in the 1980s and rejoined in 2006, prior to being elected to the council in 2007.
But she says she has become increasingly disillusioned over the last 18 months.
“I don’t think the Lib Dems have done a very good job of engaging with the public,’ she said.
“During some school closure meetings we did not give credence to some parents.
“We allowed the political agenda to be dominated by the trams while what we have done in terms of improved results in schools and the first council housing for two decades have all been left hanging.
“We failed in the most basic element of politics – communicating effectively how well we have spent people’s money.
“I think the SNP, given the way they have sold their policy nationally, will do a better job communicating the strengths of the current administration.”
She said quitting the party was “not done lightly”, adding: “It’s one of the most difficult decisions I have ever made.”Although she has changed parties, Elaine said she hoped the switch would not change the working relationship she had with her former colleagues.
“I don’t have personal issues with any of them. I think they will respect my decision.”
Lib Dem group chairman Charles Dundas said he knew Cllr Morris has been unhappy but was surprised to hear of her defection.
He said: “Liberal Democrats are Liberal Democrats because we believe in a common political philosophy.”
He said if she was dissatisfied with the UK coalition, he could not see how her decision would impact on that.
And he claimed: “The Lib Dems are the only party that have given any sort of lead on the trams.”