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SNP councillor appointed as Cosla president for first time in its history

It is the first time in Cosla’s history that an SNP councillor has been appointed its president (PA)
It is the first time in Cosla’s history that an SNP councillor has been appointed its president (PA)

An SNP councillor has been appointed to the top role in local government body Cosla for the first time in the organisation’s history.

Shona Morrison, a Moray councillor, was elected as the 16th president of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities – known as Cosla – following a meeting in Edinburgh on Friday.

The post has traditionally been held by Scottish Labour councillors.

Miles Briggs, the Scottish Conservative local government spokesman, said Ms Morrison’s appointment puts an “SNP cheerleader” at the helm of the local authority body.

Ms Morrison said: “I am honoured to be elected president of Cosla and excited to take on this opportunity in one of the top political jobs in Scotland.

“I look forward to continuing the progress which has already been made on a cross-party basis over the last five-year term.

“I am clear about the pressures faced by local government and the challenges and opportunities ahead.

“This is an important job and a challenge I will relish and give my all to.

“I am a politician and a member of a political party, however my focus in this role will be on the ‘team local government’.”

The appointment comes amid significant financial strain on councils in Scotland as budgets are set to be frozen across the next five years.

In addition, public service workers, such as school and cleansing staff, have threatened industrial actions due to ongoing pay disputes with Cosla.

Mr Briggs said: “This news is another hammer blow to Scotland’s savagely underfunded councils.

“Until now, Cosla has been rightly vocal in calling out the sustained and systematic budget cuts local authorities have been handed year-after-year by the SNP Government.

“It’s hard to see that continuing with an SNP councillor as president. I fear Shona Morrison will prove to be just the sort of lackey Nicola Sturgeon wants in charge – someone who will meekly accept unfair funding deals and not dare to criticise her Government for imposing them.

Miles Briggs allegations
Scottish Conservative MSP Miles Briggs said the appointment will not help local authorities facing tough decisions (Jane Barlow/PA)

“Scotland’s councils are on their knees, barely able to provide lifeline services to local residents.

“They need a strong champion to demand the kind of fair funding mechanism that the Scottish Conservatives would enshrine in law.

“Instead, they now have an SNP cheerleader at the helm. It is abundantly clear that local government in Scotland faces an SNP-Green coalition intent on centralising powers and cutting funding from local councils.”

SNP national campaign director Kelly Parry said Ms Morrison will bring “strong leadership” to the organisation.

She said: “There will undoubtably be big challenges ahead for local government – from the cost-of-living crisis to the climate emergency – but by working in partnership with local authorities and the Scottish Government we will be able to step up and deliver for the people across Scotland.

“I am delighted to see councillor Shona Morrison elected as the first SNP president of Cosla and have no doubt she will provide the strong leadership needed just now.”

Steven Heddle, an independent councillor, was elected as vice-president.