By Anne-Marie O’Donnell
Aberdeen Donside MSP Mark McDonald has called for Labour councillor Willie Young to be removed from office following more damaging revelations over attempts by the councillor to prevent Scottish Government ministers from visiting council premises in Aberdeen.
It emerged earlier this week that the Labour councillor had proposed a six-month ban effectively preventing First Minister Alex Salmond from carrying out official business on council premises. Mr Young also attacked Mr Salmond claiming he was “a bully”.
As the crisis worsened, Aberdeen’s Press and Journal newspaper is now reporting that Mr Young has also been using his position to try to stop government ministers visiting council buildings in the city. While the proposal for an outright ban on Mr Salmond was eventually abandoned ahead of a full meeting of the council, the administration did vote to review the protocol for ministerial visits.
A warning about language and behaviour was issued during what was described as a heated debate, and a motion of no confidence in Mr Young was ruled out of order. Following the meeting, Mr Young’s boss council leader Barney Crockett appeared to distance himself from his colleague’s initial ‘ban’ remark.
According to SNP MSP Mr McDonald, the Labour group has now “lost the plot” and steps must be taken to halt the crisis.
“This is becoming increasingly embarrassing for Labour and for the council administration in Aberdeen – Labour has officially lost the plot,” he said. “Willie Young’s desperate phone calls to civil servants in an attempt to enforce his own personal ban on Scottish Government ministers shows he must be removed from office. As a senior councillor with power over the city’s purse string, his behaviour is unacceptable.”
It ahs also emerged that Mr Crockett has been using taxpayer’s cash to send out anti-independence leaflets to all homes in the local authority area. The letters, entitled “a message from councillor Barney Crockett”, which are intended to inform local residents on matters relating to the council budget, have instead been hijacked in order to send out a message arguing in favour of the Union.
“The council’s desperate efforts go beyond their remit and trying to tell people how to vote in the independence referendum amounts to grotesque misuse of council resources.”
The actions from the Labour officials in Aberdeen City Council followed their complaints about funding levels from the Scottish Government, which led to Mr Salmond blasting the council as “incompetent” over its financial affairs. Mr Young said the First Minister had “spoken unacceptably” and proceeded with a plan to have Mr Salmond banned.
Kevin Stewart, MSP for Aberdeen Central, warned that the “outrageous action” by Mr Young could damage relations between the Scottish Government and the city council, and said it set a dangerous precedent by “deliberately placing obstacles between Aberdeen’s citizens and their democratically elected Government”.
Callum McCaig, SNP group leader, said that the reputation of the council was at stake: “The council is being brought into disrepute. This is yet another stage in a sorry saga that Barney Crockett and Councillor Young have created – Aberdeen deserves so much better.”
Meanwhile in a separate development, another Labour councillor has hit the headlines after being handed a four-week ban from attending a committee for helping approve a £25,000 award to a social enterprise charity run by his employer.
Renfrewshire council leader Mark Macmillan was ruled to have breached the code of conduct by The Standards Commission for failing to declare a financial interest. It emerged after a meeting where the decision was taken to award money to charity Kibble Work that Mr Macmillan worked for Kibble Education and Care centre.
The Standards Commission for Scotland accepted that the incident was “an oversight and was not intentional”. Mr Macmillan described his failure to declare an interest as an “honest mistake”.