‘Fresh’ start turns to rancour over dispute

A POLITICAL row has re-surfaced after the first meeting of the new Fife Council, reports MIKE DELANEY.

Glenrothes councillor, Peter Grant, the leader of the outgoing administration on the town-based local authority, made a thinly-veiled attack on its new deputy provost.

Scottish National Party councillor Grant challenged Labour leader, Alex Rowley, to ensure his councillors accepted the rulings of a standards watchdog.

After the meeting at Fife House, the council’s North Street headquarters, Cllr Grant confirmed that he had been referring to Cllr Kay Morrison.

The row began last October when Glenrothes Area Committee’s SNP councillors voted to name the town’s under-construction sports centre after the late Michael Woods, a move which was opposed by Labour councillors including Cllrs Morrison.

In the wake of the meeting, she lodged a complaint with council chief executive, Ronnie Hinds, claiming she had been mistreated by Cllr Grant and party colleague John Beare.

Mr Hinds ruled that Cllr Morrison was “not verbally abused”, but accepted she had been left “shaken” and reminded councillors of the need to observe proper standards of conduct during their meetings

That failed to satisfy Cllr Morrison, who took her complaint to the Public Standards Commissioner for Scotland, a public services ‘watchdog’.

He also dismissed the complaint, ruling that the exchanges at the meeting had fallen within right to free speech legislation.

After that judgement, Cllr Morrison commented that the ruling did not change what had allegedly taken place.

At last week’s meeting, Mr Hinds gave a routine reminder to councillors to note the code of conduct which they operate under.

Cllr Grant said: “Can I ask for assurances that all members of the council will abide by the code of conduct and accept the decision of the Public Standards Commission for Scotland, even if they don’t like the decisions issued.

Cllr Rowley replied that he wasn’t sure what Cllr Grant was referring to, but he was sure all councillors would observe the code.

But Cllr Grant replied: “Is it acceptable for a councillor to publicly accuse the Public Standards Commissioner for Scotland of not doing the job properly because they didn’t get the decision they wanted, because one of Cllr Rowley’s councillors did exactly that.”

Cllr Rowley said: “We really need to move forward and remember we are here for the people of Fife.”

That sentiment was echoed by Cllr Morrison after the meeting, but it looks like the bitter legacy of the committee meeting is not going to go away, and may in fact be re-ignited if Labour - as they have pledged to do - re-run the consultation on the naming of the sports centre.

After the meeting, Cllr Morrison expressed delight and surprise at being honoured with the deputy provost post.

She said: “I didn’t know anything about it before it happened.

“I will do my best to do a good job and I know you will give me all the support I need over the next five years, or however long I remain in the post. It will be a major challenge.”