by Graham Murray
QUESTIONS are being asked about why there has been no outcome yet from a year-long criminal investigation into the shamed former Labour leader of Scotland’s biggest local authority.
Twelve months have passed since Steven Purcell’s spectacular fall from grace at Glasgow City Council, after controversial admissions he used cocaine sparked a police inquiry into drug taking and possible corruption.
Last March, Strathclyde’s Major Crimes and Terrorism Investigation Unit said it was probing “allegations of drug taking” and “other matters” concerning 38-year-old Purcell, thought to centre on the awarding of contracts from the council’s £2.4billion budget.
However, the inquiry is still said to be “ongoing” with no likelihood of any imminent charges, prompting suggestions last night that Labour officials were obstructing the investigation.
Some high-placed sources have told the Scottish Sunday Express they believe the shamed councillor still holds a web of influence across Glasgow. At the time, his connections took in almost every area of the council, which had close links with a number of prominent business leaders.
The fall-out surrounding his sudden resignation, however, only led to more questions and allegations of links to gangland figures in the Glasgow underworld, which police had warned could leave him open to blackmail.
But James Dornan, leader of the SNP at Glasgow City Council, yesterday questioned why no progress had yet been made.
He said: “I’m really disappointed that 12 months after the resignation of Steven Purcell and allegations of drug taking, nothing has changed.
“I’m also really concerned that it appears the police are not giving this the importance that it fully deserves.
“He was leader of the biggest council in Scotland, and the police should pull out all the stops to bring the investigation to a speedy conclusion.”
The saga began in February last year when it was reported Purcell had been acting strangely during a major Labour fundraising event at the Hilton Hotel in Glasgow alongside then Prime Minister Gordon Brown. A fellow councillor became so concerned by his agitation that the former leader was sent home.
Purcell resigned from his £60,000-a-year post less than a month later, citing stress and exhaustion, and was admitted to a rehabilitation centre in the Borders where he contemplated suicide.
Despite a massive operation by his lawyers, details of mental health problems, drinking and substance abuse began to emerge and he admitted he had used cocaine. His departure prompted accusations of cronyism among allies and business donors, and brought suspicion on contracts awarded during his five years in office.
The disgraced former leader, who left his wife after admitting he was gay, was later interviewed by the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency. Afterwards, he told a newspaper: “Two officers told me that during the course of an investigation they came across information that could mean I would be subject to blackmail because of the use of cocaine.
“They said there might be a video of me using cocaine and that could be used to blackmail me.
“The last time I used it was a year ago, a few weeks before the police came to see me. I told close colleagues at the council because I think it’s important to be honest.” Purcell went on to spend time in Australia and Ireland, and on his return set up the company Twenty Ten Consultancy and secured a post with the charity Stewart & McKenna Foundation run by two Labour-supporting developers.
A council insider told the Scottish Sunday Express: “He’s now toxic in the corridors of power and council members have been warned about associating with him.”
Strathclyde Police yesterday said their inquiry is “ongoing”. A spokeswoman added: “There are no reports that anybody has been charged.”
Published with thanks to Sunday Express Scotland