FORMER Labour councillor Shami Khan has spoken of his honour at being appointed the city’s Deputy Lieutenant – a senior representative of the Queen.
The equalities champion has now vaulted back into public life six years after being voted out of the City Chambers amid a devastating election defeat that halved the number of Labour seats and handed the reins of power to the Lib Dems and the SNP.
The News can reveal he has been handed his prestigious new ceremonial role by Lord Provost Donald Wilson.
But the step has ignited opponents’ claims the appointment is a “political” one – and calculated to attract the city’s Asian voters to the Labour Party.
It has emerged Lord Provost Donald Wilson – a Labour councillor in Sighthill/Gorgie – informed Mr Khan of his new position last December, prompting critics to question why it is only now coming to light. Sources say Mr Khan’s elevation to Deputy Lieutenant is the “most controversial appointment in many years”.
But Mr Khan, who spearheads several ethnic minority bodies including the Edinburgh and Lothians Racial Equality Commission, denied any political motivation for his appointment and pointed out he had been representing the Capital’s minority communities for the last 30 years
“It’s not a political appointment and has nothing to do with any party,” he said. “I’m representing the Queen which is a big honour for me. This city gave me a hell of a lot of respect and I have to return their respect and work for the city.
“I stand for the truth. I am a totally clean person, not a criminal or a bad person and I respect all the people of Edinburgh. I work for the people of Edinburgh and the black and ethnic minority community. If I can help someone I will.
“I try to do that as much as I can. I have never tried to harm anyone.” Speaking about the appointment, Lord Provost Donald Wilson – who occupies the twin role of Lord Lieutenant and alone decides his deputy – said Mr Khan worked “tirelessly in support of his community” and knew of the “qualities and experience he would bring to the role”.
He added: “When taking office just over a year ago, I committed myself to promoting civic inclusion across a wide range of groups, organisations and cultures, reflecting the diversity that we are lucky enough to enjoy here in Edinburgh. I was careful also to reflect this in my choice of Deputy Lieutenants.”
Mr Khan has worked closely with Edinburgh’s black and ethnic minority communities for decades and holds several high-profile positions including director of Edinburgh Mela, director of the Scottish Alliance of Regional Equality Councils, director of Youth Buzz Project, and secretary of the Pakistan Society of Edinburgh. He also sits on Northfield and Willowbrae Community Council.
Just months before he was voted out of office, Mr Khan was cleared by the Standards Commission for allegedly branding Lothian and Borders Police “institutionally racist” after a family member was arrested outside a nightclub in 2007. With this behind him he says he’s now happier than ever and relishing his regal new role. He added: “I’m looking forward to working for the city and with the Lord Provost.”
British monarch’s personal representatives in the UK
THE title Lord Lieutenant is given to the British monarch’s personal representatives in the United Kingdom. In Edinburgh, the Lord Provost also takes on the role of Lord Lieutenant and has the power to appoint his deputy without conferring with the council. It is the duty of the Lord Lieutenant to meet and attend Her Majesty The Queen, members of the Royal Family and Heads of State on visits to his/her county. If the Lord Lieutenant is unable to be present they may nominate a Deputy Lieutenant to represent them. Lord Lieutenants are also responsible for duties in their county such as presenting honours, when the recipient does not wish to go to the Queen.