By a Newsnet reporter
Labour’s candidate in the Aberdeen Donside by-election, Willie Young, has been accused of being ‘mired in double-dealing’ over local school closures after he repeatedly contradicted himself during a live radio phone-in on Aberdeen local radio station Northsound 2.
The accusation from the SNP follows a hustings broadcast in which the Labour candidate was asked several times to give assurances to the parents of Bramble Brae and Middleton Park that he would not support the school closures as an MSP.
Mr Young refused, on the basis he said that the proposal was out to “statutory consultation”.
Labour candidate Willie Young pressed on local school closures
However it has emerged that there is no such statutory consultation currently underway, and that the process has been scheduled to begin after the summer, long after the by-election. Previously the Labour candidate had claimed that this was timetabling requirements set out by the Scottish Government.
However, Education Secretary Michael Russell has already confirmed in a letter to SNP candidate Mark McDonald that there was time to carry out the consultation before summer.
In a series of heated exchanges, Mr Young also claimed that school closures were unlikely to go ahead, and said that “Everything that our [council] officers have said so far does not suggest that there needs to be a merger.”
Mr Young’s claims were challenged when it was revealed that just last week when council officers met parents of Middleton Park School, they told them they anticipate a merger of the two local schools in 2014.
The council’s proposals to close schools in Aberdeen Donside have become a key issue in the by-election campaign, after emails obtained by Mark McDonald under FOI showed that Mr Young interfered with officials’ development of the consultation process to ensure that Bramble Brae and Middleton Park schools were included.
Mr Young, who is also a Labour councillor, was confronted live on-air with an email sent from Aberdeen Labour Councillor Gordon Graham to a constituent, in which Mr Graham admits that he “cannot see any benefit to the local community” of the proposal to close Bramble Brae school. Mr Young refused to say whether or not he backed his council colleague, and repeatedly refused to give his view on the school closures, despite several requests to do so from a number of callers.
Commenting shortly after the broadcast, Mark McDonald said:
“The Labour candidate’s comments today were beyond belief – anyone who heard this morning’s debate would have heard the extraordinary web of contradictions in which Cllr Young is entangled.
“Despite his claims that he wants to listen to the parents on this, everything he has done has been about stopping the parents having their say and avoiding giving them a direct answer.
“He tries to hide behind a consultation which is not even underway – after his own administration delayed it. He claims today that council officers are indicating that a merger is not likely to happen – even though officers are telling parents they anticipate a merger in 2014.
“Willie Young says one thing as a councillor, and another as a by-election candidate – but he has become mired in this double-dealing and is now on the run from his own administration’s policies.”
The full broadcast can be heard by clicking here http://www.northsound1.com/on-air/podcast-directory/ and selecting the By-Election Debate Special.