May 4 elections: Dundee expected to say Yes to SNP once again

© DC Thomson
There are major changes ahead at Dundee City Chambers.

In the run-up to the 2014 independence referendum, Dundee was branded Scotland’s Yes City by then First Minister Alex Salmond.

A city that was once a Labour fiefdom now belongs entirely to the SNP.

All of Dundee’s MPs and MSPs are SNP while the council has controlled the council since 2009.

Multi-member wards and proportional representation makes it harder for single parties to claim a majority of seats but the chances of the SNP losing their majority are virtually nil, even discounting the fact they are the only party with enough candidates to form a working majority.

But even if the SNP is arriving at the election in a position of strength, the past five years have not been easy for the administration.

It has had to implement swingeing cuts and there is still unrest among staff over pay. Its management of the V&A Dundee project was criticised after costs rocketed from £45 million to £80.1 million.

Leader Ken Guild was officially censured for discussing an employee who had been signed off sick for a month during a council meeting.

Councillors also backed changes to council wards put forward by the Boundary Commission before making a u-turn on their support for the proposals following a public outcry.

The contentious plan was eventually rejected by Dundee City West MSP Joe FitzPatrick who, as minister for parliamentary business, had the final say on the decision.

There will be changes in the SNP — Mr Guild is retiring, along with others including Lord Provost Bob Duncan and Jimmy Black, who led the city’s Fairness Commission.

Strathmartine councillor John Alexander has been named as new leader of the SNP group and, as a result, is odds on to lead the next administration.

He will oversee the opening of the V&A, the continuing waterfront regeneration and the possible implementation of the Tay Cities Deal, which could be an even bigger game changer for the city.

Part of its plans involve turning Dundee into the UK’s leading centre for oil and gas decommissioning work.
This, potentially, would create thousands of new jobs in Dundee, a city which already boasts a growing video games sector and two world-renowned universities.

Dundee is also putting itself forward to be the European Capital of Culture in 2023 and the council has a key role in developing the city’s bid before it has to submitted in October.

While those are developments will be the envy of every other local authority in Scotland, Dundee also faces challenges others don’t.

It has some of the most deprived areas in the country and the associated health and social problems, such as drug and alcohol abuse, that goes with such poverty.

Labour, the second largest group on the council, are only putting up 10 candidates and face battles in two of their traditional strongholds against deselected candidates running as independents: Tam Ferguson in Lochee and Mohammed Asif, a one-time Labour parliamentary candidate, in Coldside.

They are also saying goodbye to some of their most high-profile members — Laurie Bidwell, Norma McGovern and Lesley Brennan have all chosen not to run this time round.

Labour will be hoping their smaller pool of candidates will prevent their vote being split and either the Conservatives or Liberal Democrats winning seats.

Fraser Macpherson is currently the only Lib Dem on the council and should be safely returned in the West End where he is a popular campaigner on local issues.

At the other end of Dundee, Broughty Ferry may prove to be an interesting battle ground. After the furore over potential changes to the ward boundaries, the SNP is parachuting in Vari McDonald from the West End constituency she used to represent.

With the vacancies left by the retirements of Ken Guild and Laurie Bidwell, the Conservatives will be hoping Phillip Scott can join his brother Derek on the council.

Elsewhere, the venerable Ian Borthwick will hope to continue his decades of public service by retaining his Strathmartine seat.


Meet the people hoping for your vote

Ward 1 – Strathmartine

Ward 2 – Lochee

Ward 3 – West End

Ward 4 – Coldside

Ward 5 – Maryfield

Ward 6 – North East

Ward 7 – East End

Ward 8 – The Ferry