LABOUR'S decision to rule out any form of coalition with the SNP at Fife Council has been described as "bizarre".

The Nationalists emerged as the biggest party after last week's elections but fell short of an overall majority, with the haggling to form a ruling administration well under way.

The SNP and Labour agreed a pact to run the council in 2017 but it won't happen this time.

Councillor David Alexander, the SNP leader, said: "It worked over the last five years. We weren't bosom friends but I'd say we had a good working relationship.

"It's unfortunate that equation is off the table, or appears to be.

"I can't believe for one minute Labour councillors don't want to be part of the administration.

"It's bad for local authorities if people sitting in Holyrood are telling them what to do.

"I still find it bizarre that what was possible five years ago is no longer possible."

Fife Council have 75 councillors and, to form an administration on its own, a party would need 38.

After the vote on Thursday, the SNP has 34, followed by Labour on 20, the Lib Dems on 13 and the Conservatives with eight.

Labour leader Cllr David Ross said: "I had a wee chat with Davie Alexander, it was fine.

"Clearly, the numbers don't work for the same arrangement as last time, not that we were going to go for that anyway, so the ball is in their court."

It seemed unlikely Labour would win the most seats so the decision not to work with the SNP and help shape policy as part of a joint administration, as they did for the past five years, has raised eyebrows.

Cllr Ross said: "It's a judgement but for us the issues are quite clear. Their Government is destroying local government, it's centralising, it's cutting funding for local government and we certainly felt, particularly in the last couple of years, the SNP on Fife Council are not going to stand up to them.

"On that basis, the circumstances now makes it very difficult for us to work locally with them."

Asked if they could still be effective in opposition, Cllr Ross said: “If that’s what it comes to I think we’ll be continuing to press our positions and daring others to vote against them.  

“In the joint arrangement with the SNP we were doing that anyway and stopping them coming forward with proposals that weren’t right.  

“An illustration would be the re-opening of the recycling centres, (SNP) Councillor Ross Vettraino wanted to keep the appointment system and we said no to that.  

“There was also the super headteacher idea in East Neuk and we said no to other things too, such as shutting creches, so if we’re taking a stance on certain issues it will be difficult for the SNP and we’ll be pushing them into a position.  

“Given the results last week, that will be much more difficult admittedly.” 

Prior to the elections, Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar stated the party would not enter into any coalitions with the SNP at local government level.

And the SNP have said they won't work with the Tories, which leaves the Lib Dems as potential king-makers.

A deal with the Nationalists would pass the 38 threshold comfortably while a pact with Labour would leave them five short.

The Lib Dems are "taking our time" to speak to other groups about how the council should be run over the next five years.

Cllr Jonny Tepp said: "It is important we get to know the priorities of other councillors and how we can forge a sustainable arrangement."

He added: "Our election manifesto set out our policies and we were clear in the election what our priorities were. We will discuss the best way to deliver on this priorities and policies."

The SNP could try and go it alone but Cllr Alexander believes a minority administration would be bad for Fife and lead to vital decisions being delayed.

He added: "Particularly now, we may have to move fast as we've got lots to do after COVID, lots of issues have built up, and there's the cost-of-living crisis, we certainly have to move quickly in terms of getting people housed, so we need to make decisions.

"There are good things happening in Fife, in my patch we've got the re-opening of the Levenmouth railway and, in Dunfermline, there's the biggest education project in Scotland with the new campus so we want to move forward.

"Any delay is going to hurt Fife, it'll be no skin off their nose for someone sitting in Holyrood."

Cllr Alexander said talks were ongoing: "There's a lot to discuss but we've got no agenda, we're more than happy to work with anyone and anybody, just tell us what you want and we'll discuss it. We're reasonable people!

"There's going to be a meeting next Thursday so we really need something sorted by then."