The leader of Moray Council has quit his post after losing the vote on the Sustainable Education Review at a special meeting of the Full Council on Monday.
Councillor Allan Wright announced that he would leave his role as leader in January, allowing time to fulfil his existing obligations with COSLA. He will continued as a councillor for the Heldon & Laich ward.
The decision came after a humiliating defeat over plans to reorganise Moray’s school estate, with an opposition motion that a five-year moratorium be put in place that assured no rural primary or any secondary schools in Moray would face closure.
Councillor Wright sought to back the findings of a consultant’s report which included recommendations on closure of Milne’s High School and several rural primary schools. However, several administration group councillors voted with the opposition move to halt school closures.
Shortly after the meeting concluded Councillor Wright announced that he was to resign as leader, saying that he did not believe he could continue when he did not enjoy the support of the majority of councillors.
The main opposition leader at Moray Council, Councillor Pearl Paul, said that she was “disappointed” to learn of Councillor Wright’s decision.
She said: “I could not support the Council Leader’s position on the issue of the Education Review.
“If councillors feel strongly about an issue then they clearly have the right to vote on it – I recognise that Councillor Wright finds that to be a challenging situation to lose such a significant vote, and I understand his reasons for announcing his intention to step down as Council Leader.
“I am disappointed that he feels that way but I respect his decision.”
Councillor Wright’s Heldon & Laich ward colleague, independent councillor John Cowe, paid tribute to the manner in which he faced tough challenges in recent years.
He said: “Despite what some may say Allan Wright is a man who has had the challenges he has had to face these past few years. He is a brave man indeed and no one can take from him the inroads he has made in making Moray face the reality that it, like all of us, have to live within our means.”
Richard Lochhead MSP said that the Council Leader’s resignation was “inevitable”. He said: “Given the clear split in the Tories and Independents in Moray Council’s Administration over the controversial and critical Education Review I think the Council Leader’s resignation was probably inevitable.
“It is clearly difficult to lead a split administration of Tories and Independents and I recognise he is leaving the role in an orderly manner over the next few weeks.
“I certainly respect the effort put in by Councillor Wright, albeit we disagreed on the direction he wanted to take on several key issues.”
Moray MP Angus Robertson said he felt that the education policy direction was flawed: “Councillor Wright’s resignation from the leadership of the Tory/Independent administration was inevitable after the education vote, which was effectively a vote of no confidence in the leadership of council.
“I believe the policy direction was flawed and would have been bad for Moray.
“Notwithstanding our political differences, I would wish Allan Wright all the best for the future when he steps down from his senior councillor role.”