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This week I seem to have been watching a little more television than usual in the evenings. It’s astonishing the difference in the broadcasting networks and what they classify as headline news.
The other evening STV had a headline about Aberdeen councillors and their 'pro-the Better Together campaign’ which was sent out last June prior to the referendum, It accompanied the council tax bills for Aberdeen residents. STV provided substantial detail in their report.
Out of interest I changed to BBC1’s Scottish news at 6.30. The matter wasn’t reported until the last five minutes of that programme when Jackie Bird’s report took no longer than 10 seconds and contained no video or detail.
The image above is part of the letter agreed by 7 councillors and was signed by the then council leader Barney Crockett.
An SNP MSP complained to Audit Scotland that the councillors had misused the council facilities but Audit Scotland’s reported that, although the move was unusual, the letter stated an accurate account of council policy.
Unhappy with Audit Scotland’s report in November it was announced that the seven councillors would face a Standards Commission investigation concerning their missive. The hearing started this week and the Aberdeen Press and Journal has given a good account of yesterday. (I did have a chuckle at the chief legal officer’s remark ‘I believed I was dealing with an intelligent bunch of people ...).
The former Aberdeen City Council chief executive Valerie Watt had been due to appear before the hearing vida video link yesterday but she pulled out at the last minute. The hearing chairman described her late call off as ‘disrespectful’ and ‘bordering on contempt’, but it appears Mrs Watt, who is now chief executive for Northern Ireland’s Health and Social Care Board, was "not available and has no further comment to make”. Strange that a person who held such a senior position - and still does - should behave in such a manner isn’t it?
Aberdeen councillors don’t have a good reputation in the area and this incident shows how they can misuse their powers.
Will they get a slap on the wrist, suspended for a year or the maximum punishment of a five year suspension? Your guess is as good as mine but I do know that many Aberdeen residents will be irate at their hard earned money being spent on public hearings involving their elected representatives. Best thing they could do is vote with their feet at the next council elections and ensure those before the hearing never get the chance to represent them again.