THE principal of one of Scotland’s largest colleges has stepped aside pending an inquiry into the running of the establishment, it was announced yesterday.
Craig Thomson, principal of Adam Smith College in Fife, has volunteered to step down while the Scottish Funding Council (SFC), which provides money to colleges and universities on behalf of the Scottish Government, conducts a review into claims of bullying at the college.
The allegations are believed to centre around the management style of the principal’s wife, Linda Thomson, and another female senior executive. A website and online campaign has claimed a report concerning the issues was covered up.
Dr Thomson said: “It is vital the funding council is allowed to proceed without any suggestion of direction from me and I have therefore offered to take leave for the duration of the review.”
But last night David Torrance, SNP MSP for Kirkcaldy, who called for an inquiry into the running of the college at First Minister’s Questions, said that, while he welcomed Dr Thomson’s decision, he was concerned about a college statement saying the principal would return in about a fortnight “to resume his leadership of the college”.
“If the allegations which are being investigated, and which I believe include a number against Dr Thomson, are proved correct, how can the college say at this early stage that he will be back?” asked Mr Torrance.
In a statement, the college said: “In light of recent publicity surrounding the college, the board of governors have asked the SFC to independently review allegations regarding the treatment of staff and related issues, including the processes and procedures for dealing with complaints.”
Mark Goldsmith, board chairman, said: “The board is grateful to Craig for his gesture. Craig will return at the conclusion of the review in around two weeks time to resume his normal duties, and to resume his leadership of the college.”
Mr Torrance said: “Dr Thomson stepping aside means there can be a fair and transparent inquiry without fear of intimidation. I’ve had people, mainly female, come to me in tears about how they were being treated.
“If the allegations are correct, it has been a terrible working environment.”
An SFC spokeswoman said: “The board of governors at Adam Smith College has asked the Scottish Funding Council to conduct a review of allegations about the treatment of staff and related issues.
“We will treat this as a high-priority issue and report back to the board within the next two to three weeks.”
Ronnie Smith, general secretary of the EIS teaching union, said: “Dr Thomson stepping aside is sensible. However, the college saying he will return in two weeks is premature.”