Leaked email reveals Labour party split over Aberdeen Garden project

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By G.A.Ponsonby
 
A leaked email has highlighted a deep split at the heart of the Labour Party over Aberdeen’s Union Terrace Garden Project.
 
The email, sent by Labour’s Deputy Leader of Aberdeen City council group refutes claims from Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald that if the Labour group is elected then the project will not go ahead.

The email followed comments made by Mr Macdonald last month in which he said his party would not back the gardens plan if elected to run the city.

He said: “I believe a Labour-led council would not seek consent to borrow for this scheme, as it stands.  The weakness of the business case is fundamental, as is the lack of any proposal for meeting future revenue costs.”

The email reveals that following Mr Macdonald’s comments, the leader of the Labour group questioned the Labour MSP’s authority on the matter.

In the email, Councillor Gordon Graham says he was “extremely concerned it appears as if someone has sanctioned Lewis to speak on our behalf” and he would “refute” Mr MacDonald’s comments, as “no decision has been made by the Labour Group”.

The split has emerged following a controversial decision by Labour in the Scottish Parliament to lead a debate calling for the project to be abandoned – despite the fact that residents voted for it in a referendum.

Mr Macdonald’s colleague, fellow Labour MSP and the party’s local government spokesperson Sarah Boyack questioned the validity of a local referendum that resulted in 52% of voters backing the project.

Mark McDonald, SNP MSP for North East Scotland, described the email as “embarrassing” and claimed it showed a Labour party in shambles.

“This embarrassing email highlights the disarray within the Labour party and the deep discomfort felt by some members about their contempt for the democratic process.” he said and added:

“With Labour’s own deputy leader in Aberdeen refuting claims made by Lewis MacDonald, why on earth should anyone else in Aberdeen listen to him?

“It is astonishing that Johann Lamont, and Mr MacDonald, refuse to accept the result of a fair and transparent vote.

“The Union Terrace Garden project was backed in the referendum and it is time for Labour to recognise the people of Aberdeen want this project.

“What people in Aberdeen want is a council that will work with other councillors and with the Scottish Government to maximise the economic potential of Aberdeen. The deep split in the Labour party exposed by this leaked email shows that Labour are just not up to the job of running Aberdeen.”

Speaking in March this year, Labour MSP Mr Macdonald suggested the 52% majority in favour of the project was not strong enough.

He said: “This was the third time public opinion was canvassed, but the first time this project had achieved any kind of majority.

“Far from showing strong support, it confirmed what we knew from the previous consultation and from every opinion poll carried out by the local press: that public opinion is divided in the city.

“Therefore, the buck stops with those elected to take decisions in the council.”