A Glenrothes councillor is to call for a national watchdog to probe claims that she was mistreated at a controversial meeting, reports Mike Delaney.
Kay Morrison vowed she would be taking the matter further after failing to be satisfied by the response to a complaint lodged by her party with the local authority’s chief executive, Ronnie Hinds.
The complaint is part of the continuing fall-out over the name for the new under-construction town sports centre.
Speaking after being told of Mr Hinds’ ‘ruling’, Ms Morrison said: “While the judgment acknowledges the seriousness of the occurrence, it doesn’t go far enough in that only the three councillors mentioned were interviewed.
“I would prefer a more extensive investigation, so that the views of observers as well as participants will be obtained.
“I intend to ask the Standards Commissioner for Scotland to conduct a more in-depth investigation.”
The complaint was lodged after last month’s Glenrothes Area Committee meeting, where the hotly-disputed decision to name the new centre after the late Scottish National Party councillor, Michael Woods, was taken.
Two SNP members, council leader Peter Grant and John Beare, were cited in the complaint lodged by Cllr Morrison’s Labour Party boss Alex Rowley.
They were both interviewed by Mr Hinds, as was Cllr Morrison.
In a statement, Mr Hinds said: “I have written to the three councillors involved and on the basis of evidence presented, I cannot support the complaint that Cllr Morrison was verbally abused.
“It is clear, however, that she did feel shaken by the discussion that took place and this is not an acceptable situation. I have reminded councillors that robust political debate requires to observe the standard of conduct for councillors.
“I have also instructed (the council department) democratic services to be attentive to the tenor of debate in council committees and to advise the chair of any need to intervene during discussion to ensure that proper standards of conduct are observed.”
In his response, Cllr Grant said welcomed the outcome of the investigation which he said had rejected Labour’s accusations against him. “Robust political debate is an integral part of the democratic process,” he added. “All those who engage in political debate have a responsibility for making sure it doesn’t descend into personal abuse.
“I am certain that during the meeting in question, SNP councillors stayed well within the acceptable boundaries of political debate and I believe the investigation supports this view. Nobody raised any concerns about my conduct, or the conduct of other SNP councillors during or immediately after the meeting.
“Nobody drew attention to anyone using language that could be regarded as abusive, or offensive. Nobody, not even the three Labour councillors who witnessed the supposed incidents, has been able to quote a single word or phrase used by any SNP councillor that could have been remotely interpreted as abusive.
“Labour are asking us to believe that three of their councillors witnessed behaviour that they thought was “vile and intimidating”, but none of them could remember a single detail about what that behaviour consisted of. This would be laughable if Labour hadn’t then used it to make serious and utterly unfounded allegations against innocent councillors. I call upon the Labour group to confirm that having asked for the investigation they now unanimously and unreservedly accept its results.”
Labour leader Alex Rowley said: “The only people interviewed here were the alleged victim and the alleged abusers. It therefore comes down to who you believe. Kay Morrison told me that in all her years as a councillor she had not seen such vile behaviour bordering on hatred.
“For my part I will not ignore this and ignore a situation whereby this councillor feels physically shaken by the way these two men behaved towards her in a committee meeting of Fife Council. It comes down to who you believe and I have no reason not to believe Ms Morrison.
“I do not think that in any other walk of life this kind behaviour toward another human being would be acceptable and it is not acceptable in Fife Council no matter the seniority of the perpetrators.
“I will therefore now refer my complaint to the Standard Commissioner.”