By Lynn Malone
A row is brewing in Kirriemuir over claims that Angus council is indulging a pro-Union complainant who is unhappy with a Yes Scotland independence campaign shop.
Local man John Henderson, 66, helped set up the new Yes shop in Kirriemuir to promote the case for independence with the support of members from Labour for Independence, Women for Independence, the Greens and the SNP.
The retired SNP member said: “A local busybody has complained to the council that we have put up a sign, a Yes campaign banner, repainted the shop and changed the use from shop to office, all without permission.
“They have instructed us to take down the banner, which we have done, and apply retrospectively for permission to change the colour scheme and change of use.”
Mr Henderson said they he had harboured the idea of opening a shop for the Yes campaign for some time.
He said: “We were keen it would be Yes, not SNP. I emailed Labour for Independence, Women for Independence, and the Greens.
“I got stuff back from them all and we set up a Yes shop in Kirriemuir. In the window we display leaflets from Labour for Independence, Women for Independence, the Greens and the SNP as well as “Yes” materials.”
The shop is owned by a couple who are SNP members and own a row of shops with storage above. They plan to refurbish the properties and turn the storage areas into flats and redevelop the shops before renting them out.
Mr Henderson added: “We asked if we could have the use of them until they were refurbished. We may have the shops for a couple of months; they have to get permission from the council to change them from storage to flats – maybe six months.”
“We repainted the shop blue and white and put a Yes banner up. There is no SNP stuff in the window as we wanted to make the point it is a Yes campaign.
“Then a local busybody complained to the local Councillor, Iain Gaul, so I assume the person is opposed to the Yes campaign.”
SNP Councillor, Iain Gaul, confirmed to Newsnet Scotland that a complaint had been made about the Yes shop. He said: “The gentleman who complained is a Unionist; he’s not for independence – which is the basis for his complaint.
“The reason behind it is neither here nor there and the grounds may be weak but it has to be addressed. There are 7,500 people living in the town and we have only had one complaint – but we have to address it.”
Mr Henderson is adamant that the area has been improved because of the shop and said: “The shop was a dull maroon so we repainted it blue and white. It’s bright, it’s clean and it’s cheerful. The area is a conservation area but the other shops are derelicts, they look awful.
“They couple who own the properties have never had complaints about former tenants repainting a shop before. It’s been empty for quite a while, so I think it is bureaucratic nonsense – the shop looks better now than it did and my colleagues and I think we should fight back against this.”
Councillor Gaul says Angus council are obliged to investigate the complaint. He said: “It’s not bureaucratic nonsense.
“A member of the public has complained that the colour has been changed.
“It’s a listed building and there has been a change of use, that’s the rules we all live by. If there was no complaint we would normally take a pragmatic view, but a gentleman has complained – we must address it”
Bosses at Yes Scotland have stepped in to help the campaigners reach an amicable solution. Their spokesperson said: “We have been aware of this and steps are being taken to reach an amicable solution.
“Yes is the biggest community-based campaign in Scotland’s history which befits the importance of the decision we will be asked to make in next year’s independence referendum. It is important that people have as much information as possible in order to make an informed decision.”
In a formal statement to Newsnet Scotland Angus council said: “Kirriemuir town centre is a conservation area. Conservation areas are designated by the planning authority as being areas of special architectural or historic interest, the character or appearance of which it is desirable to preserve or enhance. This is set out in the Planning, Listed Building and Conservation Area (Scotland) Act 1997.
“We can confirm that there has been a complaint made to the council about a property in Kirriemuir and which we are currently investigating.”
Bruce McLaren, 56, a content compiler for Labour for Independence was at the opening ceremony of the shop and is disgusted.
He said: “It was lying derelict! Other shops are lying derelict with water running down the walls too. For somebody who has taken on an old derelict shop and spent time and effort, to be opposed on political grounds, is a real shame.”