THE election result in Edinburgh, which saw the SNP become the largest party on the capital’s council for the first time, led to an afternoon of the long knives in the City Chambers yesterday.

Soon after the results were declared, showing the SNP had won 19 seats to the Conservatives’ 18 and Labour’s 12, the first and second-largest political groups deposed the men who had been their leaders until Thursday. With Labour and council leader Andrew Burns standing down, all three of the largest groups had new leaders last night.

There was immediate speculation that the "capital coalition" of SNP and Labour might try to form the administration again, even though they would be one short of the 32 councillors needed for overall control. It was also being suggested that the Scottish Greens could join a progressive rainbow coalition, as they increased their vote and won eight seats in all.

However, it was a major surprise that the SNP and Labour group leaders were ousted and it may be that negotiations between the various groups will be put on hold until the new leaders are able to consult colleagues on the way ahead.

The SNP’s group leader Frank Ross had been expected to become council leader, but he was beaten at the voting session by Adam McVey of Leith. Finance convener Alasdair Rankin had been set to challenge Ross whose judgement had been called into question after he failed to register his ownership of a hotel, but in the end it was McVey who made the challenge and won by a reported 10 noted to eight.

The removal of Cameron Rose as Conservative leader baffled observers as he had just led the Tories to a fine result in which they increased their numbers by seven from 11 to 18.

There had been disagreements in the group, however, and long-serving councillor Iain Whyte, who had previously led the Conservatives, was voted back in for a second stint.

Labour’s poor showing, which saw them fall from largest party to third, means that newly-elected leader Cammy Day has a major task ahead in reviving the party’s fortunes.

He beat planning convener Ian Perry to the job, having served as education convener for just over six months, and as vice-convener of health, social care and housing before that.

As well as the several well-known councillors who stood down, such as the SNP’s Steve Cardownie, Paul Edie of the LibDems and Labour’s Lesley Hinds, other respected councillors were beaten in the count. They included the SNP’s culture convener Richard Lewis, who lost out narrowly in Colinton-Fairmilehead, and doughty SNP campaigner Mike Bridgman who was narrowly beaten in Portobello-Craigmillar, where boundary changes affected his vote.

Former SNP group leader Sandy Howat and the Greens’ transport spokesman Nigel Bagshaw also lost their seats. Former newspaper editor John McLellan was elected for the Conservatives in Craigentinny/Duddingston. Party colleague Stephanie Smith may have a dilemma come June 9 as she has won a seat in Liberton-Craigmillar but has also been selected to contest the Edinburgh South seat in the General Election.

Before he lost the leadership, the SNP’s Ross said: “We have seen a national swing to the Conservatives, but we have withstood it here in Edinburgh. We have increased our number of councillors and in almost every single ward our vote went up.”

Returning officer and council chief executive Andrew Kerr said: “This is a particularly busy time for politics, both nationally and locally, so I’m pleased that so many people have turned out to have their say in Edinburgh – even more than at the last local government election.

“I want to congratulate all new and returning councillors, and welcome them to their role at the City of Edinburgh Council. I look forward to working with them in the years to come.”