Police probe Glasgow Council leader on George Square

A contest to redesign Glasgow's George Square is at the centre of the probe. Picture: Robert Perry
A contest to redesign Glasgow's George Square is at the centre of the probe. Picture: Robert Perry
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THE leader of Glasgow City Council is facing calls to stand down after it emerged that he is being investigated by police over alleged misconduct during the £100,000 contest to redesign George Square.

Labour councillor Gordon Matheson is being probed by the Major Crimes and Public Protection unit over claims he interfered with the procurement process for the project.

Police Scotland confirmed the force had received a complaint, which it was looking into.

Mr Matheson has said he is confident of being cleared of any wrongdoing.

Opposition politicians at Scotland’s largest local authority have called for the 46-year-old to “consider his position” in light of the allegations.

Graeme Hendry, the leader of the SNP group, also claimed that Mr Matheson had caused “great embarrassment” to the city.

The £15 million overhaul of George Square was abandoned after the judging panel rejected his preferred option in favour of one he opposed.

The process cost taxpayers around £100,000 and architectural practices competing for the contract about £200,000.

Instead, a significantly scaled-back facelift will now be carried out at a cost of about £500,000 in time for the Commonwealth Games next year.

Mr Hendry said last night: “Councillor Matheson has been accused of some very serious
offences and it is only right and proper they are investigated by all the appropriate organisations, including the police.

“It would be appropriate for Matheson to consider his position in the council, due to the great embarrassment he has caused the city and the damage he has done to the council’s relationship with the business community.”

He went on: “Councillor Matheson’s behaviour during the judging process seems to have been highly inappropriate, and the council need to ensure procedures are in place to prevent this happening in the future, whilst also asking Audit Scotland to fully review the
resources wasted.”

The SNP group has submitted a motion to the next monthly full council in May proposing that Audit Scotland investigate whether any councillors unduly influenced the procurement process.

The motion states that “the debacle has damaged the reputation of this council amongst the architectural community and in wider public perception”.

It also states that the chief executive will review procedures applied during competitive procurement processes and the role of elected members in such cases.

Mr Matheson has previously taken a hard line with colleagues caught up in controversy.

He sacked William O’Rourke in 2011 over comments about a nine-year-old girl who said she was raped during a disciplinary panel he served on into the sacking of a care worker.

In a statement issued by the council on his behalf, Mr Matheson said: “I’m happy for this to be fully investigated. I will give whatever help the police ask me to and am confident there will ultimately be a finding in my favour.”

MORE ON THE GEORGE SQUARE SAGA

Matheson under pressure to resign over ethics investigation (22 Apr)

Danish architects ‘misled’ on George Square contest (11 Apr)

• Chitra Ramaswamy: What’s gone wrong at George Square?