By Martin Kelly
Fears of a creeping politicisation at Glasgow Council have been raised after it emerged that Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont has been given a major role at a charity event to be held in the city.
Newsnet Scotland has learned that the Lord Provost’s Burns Supper, held each year in aid of charity, will see the Scottish Labour leader and her husband Labour councillor Archie Graham who is Deputy Leader at the Labour run local authority, present toasts at the event.
In what is a major change to convention, the ‘Toast to the Lassies’ is to be given by Mr Graham whilst his Scottish Labour leader wife will present the ‘Reply from the Lassies’.
Both toasts involve making a lengthy speech to the 850 plus strong audience, who have paid around £1200 for a table for 12.
The toasts are normally carried out by artists or by experienced after dinner speakers. Last year saw poet Liz Lochhead respond for the lassies after David Maclennan Actor, writer and producer had toasted the lassies.
Since 2006, replies have been provided by Blythe Duff of Taggart-fame, Frances McMenamin QC, Actress Terry Neason, Comedienne Susan Calman and former Lord Advocate and experienced speaker Elish Angiolini.
The decision to invite two high profile Scottish Labour politicians to carry out the toasts is a major shift and has now led to claims that the Labour run council is politicising previously non-political events.
A spokesman for the Glasgow SNP group told Newsnet Scotland that opposition parties were not consulted on the decision and added:
“There has been a tendency by the Council to politicise events recently as was seen at the State of the City Economy Conference.
“To do so at the largest charity event organised by the Council would be somewhat silly and inappropriate.”
It follows a decision by the council in November this year to block Scottish Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon from appearing at the State of the City Economy Conference that took place in the city.
Ms Sturgeon, whose brief includes infrastructure and capital investment, was snubbed in favour of the head of the anti-independence Better Together campaign Alistair Darling.
The Lord Provost’s Burns Supper is marketed as the biggest Burns supper in the world with proceeds from the event going to charities. This year the event will be hosted by BBC Scotland presenter Kaye Adams, who has hosted the event in previous years and once complained that the Homecoming celebrations, inspired by Burns 250th anniversary gave her the “dry boak”.
The event was embroiled in controversy in 2010 when senior Council Officials breached their own code of conduct after it emerged they had been wined and dined by a private company that was tendering for contracts within their department.
According to the Herald, among those entertained by Maclay Civil Engineering at the Burns supper in the Thistle Hotel in Glasgow’s Cambridge Street were deputy director George Gillespie, head of roads Andy Waddell, and David McClelland, head of service development, whose post includes overseeing procurement.
The firm went on to win four orders, although there was no evidence to suggest the hospitality played any part in the success.
A subsequent inquiry recommended that in the interests of openness and transparency all future attendance at civic functions should be recorded in the register of gifts and hospitality, together with a note of any sponsorship secured at the event.
It also advised that further consideration be given to the arrangements for procuring sponsorship for the Lord Provost’s Burns Supper to reduce the likelihood of accusations of improper conduct on the part of Council officials.