The SNP’s thumping victories in two Aberdeen by-elections left the city council’s Labour-led coalition clinging on to power last night.
The Nationalists held onto one local authority seat and gained another to cut the ruling Labour-Independent-Conservative administration’s majority to just one.
SNP MSP Kevin Stewart seized on the results and attempted to drive a wedge between the alliance, claiming Labour was now a “toxic” brand in the Granite City.
But under pressure council leader Jenny Laing insisted yesterday that it was “business as usual” for the Town House administration.
The SNP’s wins in the Midstocket-Rosemount and the George Street-Harbour wards yesterday meant the party has secured resounding victories in four Aberdeen by-elections in little more than two months, although all but one of the seats were previously held by the Nationalists.
Labour’s 17-strong group is still the biggest on the council, with the party working with the three independents and two Tories to hold the balance of power with 22 seats.
However, the SNP has now moved within one seat of Labour with 16 councillors, and could work with the five Liberal Democrats to form an opposition group of 21.
Deputy council leader Marie Boulton admitted last night that the administration must now “make sure no one is off on the day of a vote.”
Mr Stewart hailed the by-election results as “fantastic” for the SNP.
He pointed out that Labour finished third in the Midstocket-Rosemount – a ward also represented by Mrs Laing – and claimed the coalition could splinter because of the public’s disillusionment with Labour.
“The interesting thing that their coalition partners should look at with these results is whether it’s worth staying in a coalition with the Labour Party – obviously they are a toxic brand here in Aberdeen.”
However, Mrs Laing was quick to dismiss Mr Stewart’s comments last night.
She said: “It’s not surprising that Kevin has put that forward because, to be honest, despite being elected to the Scottish Parliament, he seems to spend most of his time getting involved in council matters.
“I think people would be more interested in what Mr Stewart was doing to represent his constituents in Aberdeen Central, which is the job he was elected to do.”
She added: “We continue to hold a majority within the coalition, and I don’t see that changing.
“We will now move forward and continue to bring forward policies that make a positive difference to peoples’ lives in this city, over the next two years.”
Rumours of cracks within the Labour group emerged over the summer.
Following July’s double by-election win for the SNP, Nationalist MP Callum McCaig claimed it was an “open secret” that finance convener Willie Young and former council leader Barney Crockett were trying to unseat the council leader.
However, Mrs Laing’s colleagues stressed there was no split in the administration.
Conservative group leader Ross Thomson insisted that the coalition would continue.
“When we came into power in 2012, the SNP and Liberal Democrats left a financial mess,” he said.
“We have managed to turn that round and are going to continue to work with the Labour Party.
“I could never work with a party that wants to tear our country apart.”
Mrs Boulton, a member of the Independent Alliance, said the slim majority would not stop the administration from carrying on with the policies it had set out for the future.
She said: “We’re an administration made up of three partners, we have always to compromise to make things work – we just need to make sure no one is off on the day of a vote.
“The result does not undermine my relationship with the coalition partners, and we will continue to work together for the benefit of the city.”
Councillor Ian Yuill, leader of the Lib Dem opposition, added: “We will continue to work with our administration colleagues when they have positive proposals, and when they don’t, we will put forward our own solutions to help the people of Aberdeen.”