The SNP group in the council’s administration have quit after complaints about “the conduct” of the Labour Group over the siting of a learning hub in Dumfries.
Leader of the SNP Group on Dumfries & Galloway Council Cllr. Brian Collins this morning issued the following statement:
“It is with considerable regret that SNP Councillors have decided to leave the Administration. This decision has not been taken lightly but our serious concerns regarding the conduct of this Administration have not proved possible to resolve.
“In particular, we have serious concerns that the decision taken by the Education Committee last Tuesday did not reflect the agreement we had sought with our Administration partners. We cannot be part of an Administration where agreements are amended or over-ruled.
“We are also aware, as the Leader of the Council and Chairman of the Education Committee will also be aware, that the Scottish Government offered to support the creation of the Learning Hub if it was to be located at the Crichton. This offer of support was not pursued, even to the extent of determining what this support might be.
“Worse still, that offer was not disclosed to the Education Committee, even though the agreement we thought we had with our Administration partners would have allowed the cases for both sites to be worked up to let members make an informed decision.
“To add insult to injury, Labour politicians then issued press releases calling for Scottish Government support for the Learning Hub at King George V, fully in the knowledge that support had only ever been offered for it to be located at the Crichton.
“This is no way to do business and the SNP Group will not legitimise such an approach with our support. We have only ever sought to do the best for the people we are elected to serve. That remains our only priority but it is now clear this can only be achieved if we are not part of the Administration.”
A Labour spokesman replied: “Last week (May 27) the Education Committee backed a motion supporting King George V in principle as the preferred option subject to public consultation through a Nithsdale Area Committee Community event and consideration of the detailed costings and a full affordability assessment. Contrary to press statements by the SNP, the wording of the motion agreed at the Committee had been unanimously backed by SNP councillors at a meeting of the Labour SNP Administration on 26 May.
“SNP councillors then changed their position and voted against the agreed motion in a bid to force the council into agreeing to build the Learning Hub at the Crichton. Council Leader Ronnie Nicholson believes it is clear that SNP Councillors had been ordered to renege on their agreement by SNP bosses in Edinburgh. The Leader revealed that at a meeting with SNP Government Education Minister Mike Russell on 12 May, the Minister had demanded the council build the proposed Learning Hub at the Crichton, but the Leader said the decision would be based on the views of the local community.”
Ronnie Nicholson said, “I am disappointed that SNP councillors chose to renege on their position on the Learning Hub they had agreed unanimously at the Administration meeting but it’s clear they were ordered to do by the SNP in Edinburgh.
“I think the people of Dumfries and Galloway will be appalled that SNP Government Ministers are trying to bully the council into building the Learning Hub at the Crichton, even if this goes against the wishes of the people of the region, the views of local teachers and now the majority of councillors on the Education Committee”.
“It’s a shame SNP councillors think it’s ok to take their orders from Edinburgh, and they have form on this, but the people of Dumfries and Galloway will not be bullied”.
“Councillors are elected to represent their constituents and stand up for our region, not bow to orders and I hope in time SNP councillors locally will reflect on this.”
Commenting on the future arrangements for the running of the council, Ronnie Nicholson added, “The real losers in all this are the people of our region as once again their local council is in the headlines for all the wrong reasons. The SNP have now gone through two administrations in two years and that tells it’s own story about their conduct. In the meantime, Labour will run the council as a minority administration to retain stability and will continue to work across the council to build consensus. We will continue to take decisions based on the needs of Dumfries and Galloway, not Government Ministers in Edinburgh”.