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Council / Convener unhappy with Ethical Standards Commissioner’s stance

Council convener Malcolm Bell (left) and councillor for Shetland Central Ian Scott. Photos: Shetland News

COUNCIL convener Malcolm Bell has written to the Ethical Standards Commissioner Caroline Anderson telling her that he “respectfully disagrees” with the watchdog’s decision to throw out a complaint he and leader Steven Coutts had filed against councillor Ian Scott.

Shetland News revealed last week that the ESC had dismissed all eight complaints made against the Shetland Central councillor after he claimed during a council meeting in September last year that information he had received from a council official had been “far from satisfactory” and on one occasion turned out to be a “lie”.

Scott repeated the same allegation a day later on local BBC radio when he said that information he had been given by an unnamed council official “turned out to be a lie”.

The councillor never disputed that he had used those words, but is adamant that he had never suggested that he had been willingly misinformed or misled by council officials.

Scott was also accused of shouting in the council chamber, continually talking over the chair of the meeting and making further allegations against council officials.

Bell said he finds it hard to believe that the ethical standards commissioner found Scott’s comments acceptable and not in contravention of the councillors’ code of conduct.

“If the Ethical Standards Commissioner believes this to be acceptable so be it but I must respectfully disagree,” he said.

“It is important that staff working to provide services to our community are defended against unfounded allegations from those of us who hold elected office, which as I’ve said before, is a privilege that comes with responsibility.

He also questioned why it took her four long months to come to the conclusion to dismiss all complaints against councillor Scott.

“The considerable time taken to make a decision not to conduct an investigation in this case is one for the Ethical Standards Commissioner to answer,” he said.

The ESC however declined to give any details other than confirming that the complaints would not be further investigated.

In a statement to Shetland News the Edinburgh-based watchdog said: “Under the Ethical Standards in Public Life etc. (Scotland) Act 2000, we are required to conduct our work confidentially.

“We must also take into consideration the personal data and rights of the individuals concerned. Consequently, we cannot provide any further details or comment on the case.”

See also: Council leadership should consider their positions