Anti-independence Aberdeen councillors in dock

Aberdeen councillors: In dock over No letter. Picture: TSPL
Aberdeen councillors: In dock over No letter. Picture: TSPL
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A PUBLIC hearing was held yesterday to determine whether seven councillors breached the councillors’ code of conduct by sending out a pro-Union letter to taxpayers before the independence referendum.

The Standards Commission for Scotland panel heard evidence relating to a message sent out in the name of former council leader Barney Crockett to Aberdeen residents with their council tax bills last year.

The letter said: “2014 is a big year for Aberdeen, Scotland and the United Kingdom, which culminates in September with a referendum to determine Scotland’s future within the United Kingdom.

“The Council’s position is clear, as we agreed at our meeting in December last year we recognise that Aberdeen is stronger now and will be stronger in the future – economically, politically, and socially – as a partner within the United Kingdom.”

The letter said that Aberdeen City Council got the lowest grant from the Scottish government of any council and continued to pay more in non-domestic rates to the Scottish government than it received by way of the general revenue grant.

The Standards Commission for Scotland hearing was held in Aberdeen yesterday to determine whether the current council leader Jenny Laing, Barney Crockett, Willie Young, Neil Cooney, Ross Grant, Fraser Forsyth and Ross Thomson had breached rules.

At the time the seven councillors were on the urgent business committee which agreed to go ahead and send the letter to city residents in March last year.

Eighty-four complaints were lodged after the letter was mailed to taxpayers. The hearing heard that the people who had complained perceived that council facilities had been used to further the cause of those supporting the No campaign and to the detriment of the parties supporting independence.

The hearing was deferred until later this year due to the unavailability of former chief executive of Aberdeen City Council Valerie Watts, who now works in Ireland.