NO party can take power for granted on Fife Council come this election.

The current administration is an SNP and Labour coalition of the kind Anas Sarwar has forbidden for his local government representatives.

The SNP say the arrangement has been a “strength in some ways” while acknowledging the pronounced differences in priorities of the party and its co-governors.

Some voices on the Labour side are less positive. Councillor Ian Cameron said his party’s ambitions had been “constrained” in places because of the power-sharing arrangement.

GV of Cupar, Fife looking south down crossgate

But the party is not standing enough candidates to take overall control of the council – standing only 32 candidates which is short of the 38 needed to make a majority.

Ross Vettriano, the SNP convenor for the environment for Fife, said “when push comes to shove” he thinks it unlikely Labour councillors will refuse a power-sharing agreement if the alternative is opposition.

It would be mathematically possible for the SNP to win a majority – they are standing 39 candidates – but Vettriano cautioned the need to “be realistic”.

He told The National: “Would you want to run an administration on a majority of one?”

Cross-party working “has been a strength in that we’ve had an agreed programme”, said Vettriano.

“If either party had been in an administration with a majority, that programme would have been different, in both cases because the SNP would have had some items at a higher priority than the joint administration had.

“Equally so with Labour, one would expect that sort of thing.

“It has been a workable administration and I think the fact it’s lasted for five years speaks well of it.”

GV of Cupar, Fife looking south down crossgate

Vettriano cites his record on waste management as one of his achievements in office.

He said that the council had done “very well” in ensuring bins were collected mostly on time through the pandemic and now, despite “unprecedented” staff absences.

“Fife’s done very well in a very difficult environment,” he said.

“We’ve had occasions where we’ve had as much as 60% of our waste collection staff off and yet very very seldomly have we not been able to complete the refuse collection service in that week.”

Cameron, who represents Kirkaldy East which falls under Gordon Brown’s old constituency, takes a different view on the effectiveness of working across the political spectrum.

While Labour at the national view are against coalitions and deals, he said it would be something for councillors to decide once all votes were counted.

But Cameron chafes against the “centralising” tendencies of the SNP, saying the national agenda “hangs over” local politics.

“There is a tendency for the Scottish Government to try and centralise things,” he said.

“It can become a threat to local democracy if you start centralising.”

But the Labour co-leader of Fife Council takes a different view, telling the Courier earlier this week is party could seek to strike a deal with the SNP should it come to it.

As well as focusing on the cost of living crisis, Cameron says his party is committed to “localism” and standing up for the powers of local government.

Local government cuts are having a “massive impact” on the services provided by the council, said Cameron.

He added: “Cuts always fall on the doorstep of the council.”

Fife Council saw its budget rise in real terms last year but this is against the backdrop of historical cuts.

While Cameron insists Labour “have delivered” on their 2017 manifesto promises, there are areas “we feel we are constrained in what we can do”.

And the area is one of only two in Scotland to be served by an Alba MP. Neale Hanvey, a former Fife SNP leader, represents Kirkcaldy in Westminster and his standing could boost the party’s 11 candidates in the area.

While the SNP perform well in the area, its more rural areas and the university town of St Andrews also back LibDem candidates in large numbers.

GV of Cupar, Fife looking south down crossgateSunset from near Tarvit Hill in Fife, Scotland

It is the home to former Scottish LibDem leader Willie Rennie as well as Wendy Chamberlain, one of the party’s four MPs.

In 2017, their vote was falling while voters took to the Conservatives in unprecedented numbers. The Tories picked up 12 new seats taking them to 15.

But as Vettriano notes, scandals including the Partygate fines issued to the Prime Minister, his wife and the Chancellor are cutting through on a local level.

It could see the Tory support in the area sink and provide a welcome boost for any party – it is everything to play for.

Scotland’s ballots will be cast in the local elections on May 5. Between now and polling day, The National will profile EVERY ONE of the country’s 32 local authorities. Click HERE to see all of those published so far.