Labour urges Steven Purcell to reveal full truth

SENIOR Labour figures have urged former Glasgow City Council leader Steven Purcell to issue a full statement laying out why he quit his post, warning he will not be able to move on until the full facts behind his departure are made clear.

• Steven Purcell was leader of Glasgow City Council for five years until his surprise resignation

They spoke out last night amid growing concern among Mr Purcell's friends over his health, with one warning he was "in a bad place" following his decision to resign.

Meanwhile, other party sources said that, even if Mr Purcell sought to clear the air over his departure, there was "no way back" for the 37-year-old who, until last week, was seen as the brightest star in the Scottish Labour firmament.

Mr Purcell quit on Monday as leader of Scotland's largest local authority, blaming "stress and exhaustion". But subsequent days have seen a stream of revelations about the frenetic period around his resignation.

First, his spokesman confirmed he had been treated at the Castle Craig clinic in the Borders, which specialises in drug and drink addiction.

Then The Scotsman revealed that Glasgow council chiefs had initially planned to explain that Mr Purcell was suffering from a "chemical dependency". But they were overruled by Mr Purcell's lawyer, who insisted that his privacy be maintained.

And yesterday, it emerged that during his stay at the Castle Craig clinic, Mr Purcell had triggered a police search when he disappeared shortly after being admitted. With friends saying they fear yet more damaging details are likely to emerge over the circumstances surrounding his departure, they said it was now imperative that he explain what had happened over the past week.

Former Glasgow lord provost Michael Kelly said: "This is a personal tragedy for him and he must be given every sympathy and support to help him recover. He is young enough to come back and he can make that his long-term goal."

He added: "But before he can even begin to think about that, he will have to allow the full story to be told. Health is a private matter, but the public will not be satisfied unless he counters all the rumours that are now circulating.

"The questions and inquiries will go on until he does. That's the simple fact of political life."

Another senior Labour source in Glasgow said: "He needs to get a grip of this and demonstrate that he has put himself on an even keel."

A friend added: "There is a lot of goodwill out there for Steven at the moment, but he does need to get out and say what has been going on."

The advice is being channelled to Mr Purcell, who has told friends he is "on the mend" and will soon be ready to rebuild his life.

Those friends, however, say they are increasingly worried about his mental and physical health. One said: "He's going through a very tough psychological time of it. He's in a bad place at the moment."

Mr Purcell has not been seen publicly since he met a group of Labour MSPs last Friday, after which a sudden crisis appears to have prompted his decision to quit as council leader.

The following day, it is understood at least five senior Glasgow councillors met him to discuss his departure. He then admitted himself, on the advice of a doctor, to Castle Craig in Peeblesshire.

Soon after arriving, he went missing from the clinic. A search was promptly organised, before Mr Purcell returned to the hospital's grounds.

A statement from Lothian and Borders Police said: "A 37-year-old man was reported missing in the Borders area on Sunday. While a search was being organised, the man returned."

Mr Purcell left the clinic on Tuesday and is now believed to be at home with his family.

Last night, following the revelations in yesterday's Scotsman, his spokesman at PR company Media House issued a statement from the clinic, denying he had been admitted there for drug treatment.

In a letter written at the request of his lawyer, Peter Watson, consultant psychiatrist Dr Florian Kaplick said: "I can confirm that Mr Steven Purcell was a patient at Castle Craig Hospital for three days. He was brought for admission by his family on his own request and recommendation of Dr Dempsey (consultant psychologist]. It needs to be noted that he was not treated for a 'drug problem'."

In a letter to the Press Complaints Commission, Mr Watson claimed The Scotsman's report had been breach of privacy. He said: "Mr Purcell is entitled to respect for his private life and health, and indeed he is entitled to privacy in respect of the matters discussed with Glasgow City Council which relate to or touch upon his health and on what may be said in relation to any planned resignation."

Mr Watson added it was "perfectly sufficient" for the public to know Mr Purcell "had been taken unwell and felt unable to continue in post on grounds of ill-health".

The lawyer said it was "not true" to suggest Mr Purcell had been treated at Castle Craig for a drug problem. However, the statement did not deny that Mr Purcell had a drug problem.

The Scotsman's report yesterday did not detail what treatment Mr Purcell had been receiving at the clinic. Earlier this week, Mr Purcell's spokesman had refused to say what treatment he had received, saying only that "health is a private matter".

Allies in Glasgow insisted last night that Mr Purcell could still return to the front line in Scottish politics.

Anas Sarwar, the Labour candidate for the Glasgow Central seat, said: "He always put Glasgow first when he was leader of the council, and I am sure the reason he has stood down is because he has put Glasgow first again."

He went on: "I am sure that if he gets himself through this, he can come back stronger and even better than before."

However, other party figures doubted whether he could ever come back. One senior Glasgow source said: "The idea that he is going to come back – it just isn't going to happen."

And another leading Labour figure said: "I can't see a way back from this, and Scottish local government loses its last remaining moderniser."

Mr Purcell was leader of Glasgow City Council for five years, and his period in office covered the successful 2014 Commonwealth Games bid two years ago.

He first came to prominence in 2006, when he left his wife and came out as gay.

The 10 central questions

THE SCOTSMAN is seeking answers to ten key questions surrounding and central to the Steven Purcell affair.

Yesterday, Media House, representing Mr Purcell, did not respond to specific points but released a general statement (see below).

Meanwhile, our questions are:

1 - If Mr Purcell had a "chemical dependency", how long had this gone on?

2 - Was there any attempt to cover up any such dependency?

3 - What is the exact nature of the alleged dependency?

4 - Has his ability to run the city council ever been affected?

5 - Did Glasgow City Council know of any dependency and if so for how long?

6 - Has Mr Purcell sought treatment before now?

7 - Why were references to "chemical dependency" dropped from the statement which eventually appeared?

8 - Are there any other problems that we should know about?

9 - If he is dependent on chemicals, from where were they obtained?

10 - Why did Mr Purcell suddenly feel the need to resign on Monday?

This is the general statement issued by Media House yesterday:

"Let me refer you to the letter sent today to your Editor by solicitor advocate Peter Watson of Levy & McRae. Also, can I remind you of complaints that have gone today to the Press Complaints Commission and the Information Commissioner. Further, let me remind you of the Right to Privacy in Section Three of the Press Complaints Commission Code and Article Eight of the European Convention on Human Rights."

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