FIRST Minister Alex Salmond and the leaders of Aberdeen’s ruling Labour group traded insults today as their simmering feud exploded in public.
In a series of letters, Mr Salmond accused the group of being in danger of bringing the “kamikaze” council into isrepute.
And he claimed none of Scotland’s other councils behaved in the “extreme manner of Aberdeen City Council over a range of issues”.
The Labour group accused Mr Salmond of being a “First Minister who seems to be totally out of control” and branded his comments as “the despicable actions of a natural bully”.
The row erupted after the council called for an inquiry into claims that Mr Salmond made an unauthorised visit to a school, Bramble Brae primary, just days before the Aberdeen Donside by-election.
And Labour councillor Angela Taylor was reported as calling on the government to withdraw funding for the Scottish Open because of the gender policy of Royal Aberdeen Golf Club.
Mr Salmond stated that the school visit had been impromptu. He said in a letter to Valerie Watts, the council’s chief executive: “The visit was private. There was no media or party or government officials. Therefore, to have the visit described in the terms of the council motion as a matter of ‘professional conduct’ is ludicrous.”
Responding to the claims of Councillor Taylor, Mr Salmond described the remarks as “yet another issue on which a member seems intent on inflicting reputational and economic damage on the city”.
Council leader Barney Crockett, leader of the council’s Labour-led rainbow coalition, claimed: “We have a First Minister who seems to be totally out of control. He has confused a number of issues to create a smokescreen around points the chief executive raised, but has failed to explain his actions at Bramble Brae.
“The nature of his attack on the chief executive to cover his tracks and use of political issues to do that is wildly inappropriate. I consider these the despicable actions of a natural bully.”
Willie Young, the council’s finance convener, also accused Mr Salmond of acting like a bully. He said: “This is an astonishing attack on our council. He is just an absolute bully.
“Mr Salmond has given us nothing. We are the lowest-funded council in Scotland. We believe firmly that he will give anything to any authority with an SNP administration.”
Councillor Crockett went back on the offensive yesterday, accusing the First Minister of being “untruthful” about his visit to Bramble Brae School.
He declared: “These letters are an extraordinary intervention.
“He can’t even tell the truth when he’s put on the spot. Alex Salmond says his visit to Bramble Brae was ‘impromptu’, ‘unplanned’ and ‘totally private’. If that was the case, why did the SNP press office issue a calling notice to the media?
“Alex Salmond clearly is so used to telling different people different things that he can’t even remember what the truth is any more.”
He continued: “We know Alex Salmond will bully anyone if they dare to speak out against him. But these letters are the latest examples of how low the First Minister will go in attempting to smear those who disagree with him.
“I am demanding an apology and that he withdraws his inaccurate statement. With another lie, Alex Salmond has yet again demeaned the office that he holds.”
Callum McCaig, the leader of the SNP group on the council, backed the First Minister.
He said: “The Labour group’s stance on the Scottish Open is utter madness. I would be very interested to know if their concerns about sexism have been raised with the club at any stage.
“There was certainly no opposition from Labour councillors when the Senior Open was staged there last year. There is not a jot of principle around this.”
Salmond on the council
“No other council behaves in the extreme manner of Aberdeen City Council over a range of issues. I would suggest the majority group are in danger of bringing the council into total disrepute with the knock-on reputational risks that that has for the great city of Aberdeen and its fine people.”
“Am I to understand that your call for the Government to effectively sabotage the event [the Scottish Open] is really the policy of the ruling group of Aberdeen Council? Even by the standards of a council which is becoming known for refusing key investment, this would be a totally insane, even kamikaze position. Please clarify if your remarks are indeed a considered political position or just some pointless political posturing.“
The council on Salmond
“Totally out of control.”
“The despicable actions of a natural bully.”
“He can’t even remember what the truth is any more.”
“Attempting to smear those who disagree with him.”
“With another lie, Alex Salmond has yet again demeaned the office that he holds.”