THE suspension of the 11-strong SNP group on Argyll and Bute Council has been lifted by the party, but the group leader has stood down following a row over a new coalition.

Meanwhile, negotiations are continuing between the different groups on the council about the way forward.

Last week, the SNP-led administration invited LibDems and Tories to come on board following the resignation of two SNP councillors over the closure of a care home in Dunoon.

But the SNP at a national level were left angered by the move, given that for the past six years council groups have to seek approval of the party's National Executive Committee (NEC) before entering into formal coalition arrangements. The NEC gave the group until "close of play" last night to rescind the decision or be expelled from the party.

The group met for talks in Lochgilphead that took up most of yesterday, but James Robb the Helensburgh councillor who was leader of the council, could not attend.

A statement later issued by party HQ said: "The Argyll and Bute Council SNP group will not be forming a proposed coalition after a unanimous decision of the group this morning.

"Discussions with other groups are on-going, and the SNP council group will continue to work for the best deal for all the communities of Argyll and Bute.

"Following today's group meeting, council leader James Robb indicated he has stepped down."