Moray’s council leader has branded colleagues who voted against the Sustainable Education Review on Monday as “cowards”.
Councillor Allan Wright revealed that he would step down from his role at the head of the local authority in January after a rebellion in the ranks of the ruling administration led to defeat on plans to take forward the far-reaching findings of consultants Caledonian Economics.
Adoption of recommendations in the report could have led to the closure of Milnes High School and several rural primary schools – and that proved a step too far for Councillors who had been heavily lobbied by several protests groups.
When asked by Scottish Television on Tuesday evening if he thought the decision was the act of cowards, Councillor Wright said “Yes”.
Insisting that the decision to adopt the findings of the Caledonian Economics report, which was roundly criticised by the majority of councillors who insisted that it was never supposed to be about school closures, Councillor Wright said: “The public spoke.
“They are very fond at rising to save our schools, save our halls, save our swimming pool – save whatever else. This council needs to take brave decisions and strong decisions, it failed on that yesterday in my opinion.”
On his decision to quit, the Heldon & Laich councillor admitted that the decision was made before the meeting as he already felt things would not go his way.
He said: “I considered it over the weekend because I had a feeling about the way things would go.
“I talked it over with my wife and I just felt as a matter of principle that if I did not have the backing of at least a majority of councillors then I could not in all honesty continue as leader.”
Meanwhile the leader of the Labour group on Moray Council, Councillor John Divers, said he had always admired Councillor Wright: “I regard him and admire him as the council leader and has to deal with the things he has dealt with.
“I will say now that he has done a good job with the difficulties he has and with the lack of support he may well get at times from within his own group.”
Councillors now face another major decision when the future of the West Approach Road in Elgin is discussed next week.