BARNEY Crockett, leader of Aberdeen City Council, today challenged First Minister Alex Salmond to a debate on Scottish Government funding for the city,
The call follows Prime Minister’s David Cameron’s refusal to have a debate when the Scottish and UK Cabinets meet within miles of each other in the North east later this month.
The Westminster Cabinet is expected to meet in Aberdeen on 24 February while the Scottish Cabinet meets on the same day seven miles away at Portlethen.
Mr Cameron was accused by Mr Salmond last week of a being a ‘big fearty’ after he rejected a renewed challenge by the First Minister to take part in a debate on Scottish independence on 24 February during the twin cabinet meetings in the area.
But Councillor Crockett today offered to fill the debating void and challenged the First Minister to a live debate on Aberdeen’s bottom of the league funding from the Scottish Government and the planned closures of the city’s fire and police control centres.
He said: “Given that the First Minister is looking for a debate in Aberdeen on 24 February and has identified a studio for debate I would be more than happy to debate the First Minister or any of his Cabinet colleagues when they visit Portlethen.
“I hope that the First Minister or any of his Cabinet colleagues take up the challenge as I would not want the public of Aberdeen to think that the First Minister or his colleagues are ‘big fearties’ given what he has previously said about the Prime Minister being unwilling to debate with him.”
Councillor Crockett claimed: “I believe the people of Aberdeen want to hear and see a debate between the First Minister or any of his Cabinet colleagues and myself so that they can hear first hand why decisions such as Aberdeen being the lowest funded council are not being addressed by the Scottish Government.
“I hope the First Minister is not so self centred that he thinks debating me is beneath him and I challenge the First Minister to show the people of Aberdeen that he is not a ‘big fearty’ who calls other people names but when issued with a challenge himself runs for the hills.”
‘Salmond would get stuck at Haudagin roundabout’
He added: “It is no use the First Minister saying that he would like to debate the Prime Minister at Dyce, because he would only get stuck in the traffic jam at the Haudagain roundabout following the failure of his Transport Minister to act to elevate the problems occurred each and every day by motorists until 2018 at the earliest.”
Councillor Crockett states in a letter to the First Minister: “Whilst I appreciate I am not the United Kingdom’s Prime Minister I would not want you or the public of Aberdeen to lose any opportunity to have a debate on that day and therefore I challenge you or any of your Cabinet colleagues to debate local government and any other issues you think are relevant to Scotland.
“I would happily debate you or any of your Cabinet colleagues on why Independence is bad for Aberdeen, the North east and Scotland as a whole as well as the purely local issues. I look forward to receiving confirmation that you will debate with me on 24 February otherwise people might suspect that it is you rather than the Prime Minister who is the ‘big fearty’ when it comes to debating Scotland and its future.“
A spokesman for the First Minister said: “Aberdeen gets a better deal than ever before, thanks to this Scottish Government bringing in a funding floor formula which has secured an extra £7 million for the city in the three years to 2015.
“We have also delivered a world-class sports village, a state-of-the-art dental school, community health facilities at Foresterhill – and the on-going construction of the £650 million Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route which will benefit the North-east economy to tune of around £6 billion”
He continued: “In terms of debates, Mr Crockett’s colleague Willie Young had a debate with the SNP’s Mark McDonald in the Donside by-election contest, which Labour lost comprehensively.
“Perhaps Mr Crockett would be better seeking a debate with his Labour colleagues in COSLA, who he seems to be at war with – or indeed with the people of Aberdeen who must be in despair at the way Labour and their Tory partners are running the city.”