Moray Council’s administration has managed to force through changes to the leadership despite a rearguard action by Douglas Ross, who until recently had been a key member of the ruling group.
The crisis was brought about when Councillor Allan Wright stepped down from his role as Leader of the Council – only weeks later to re-emerge as the only candidate for the more senior post of Convener, with current Convener, Stewart Cree, stepping into the Leader role.
That sparked Today’s special meeting of the Full Council at which Fochabers/Lhanbryde member Douglas Ross launched an immediate challenge to the process, first asking the outgoing Leader if he was prepared to answer questions.
Councillor Ross said: “Is the current leader content that his nominated replacement as leader of the Council in terms of Councillor Cree has been described by himself as a ‘coward’ – does he want a coward to lead Moray Council?”
While Cllr Wright declined to answer, Cllr Cree responded: “He is not obliged to answer and I have never regarded his remarks as being addressed at myself.”
Councillor Ross went on to propose a motion that no decision on the leadership posts be taken until the next meeting of the Full Council in December, allowing time for members to consider all the implications of the move.
Responding to Cllr Cree he said: “It is interesting that you don’t consider that remark as being directed to yourself because it was actually directed to all councillors who voted against the school closures which you did as well.
“I have to say that I do have difficulties with this shuffle between Convener and Leader – the Leader of the Council resigned because he felt he did not have the support of a majority of councillors – and if he did not feel he had the support of the majority of councillors to be leader then I now question why he feels he now has support to be Convener.
“I have read in a number of places since this announcement was made that simply this ‘job swap’ looks more like shifting the deck chairs on the Titanic rather than actual changes to the leadership and the way forward for Moray Council.”
SNP group leader, Councillor Pearl Paul, seconded a motion on a delay in taking the decision adding that the local authority might also consider if both posts were actually required.
However, the motion was defeated by 13 votes to 11 – indicating that all administration councillors had this time rallied behind their leadership.
Despite the decision Councillor Ross questioned on a point of order if the vote had not required a two thirds majority under Moray Council Standing Orders.
After seeking legal advice Cllr Cree insisted that was not the case as he had voluntarily given up his post and not been forced out – a decision that brought a recording of dissent by all members of the SNP opposition group.