A motion of no-confidence in the leadership at Moray Council was dramatically withdrawn by the SNP opposition group at Wednesday’s meeting of the Full Council.
The move came after Councillor Allan Wright, who from next month will switch his leadership role with Convener, Stewart Cree, read an apology that he had sent to all members earlier this month.
In that letter Councillor Wright said that he had needed time to review what was actually said in an STV interview following a vote on the future of Moray’s rural primary schools. In the interview Councillor Wright accepted a prompt from the interviewer that he was “surrounded by cowards”.
Having done so he went on to explain, saying: “I fell for a very old reporter trick which was somewhat galling considering my 35-year career as a reporter when I sometimes did the same thing.”
After hearing Councillor Wright’s apology to all members and subsequent withdrawal of the motion of no confidence by the SNP group, Councillor Douglas Ross attempted to force a discussion on changes he had outlined recently on insideMoray – however, he was cut short by the Convener.
Councillor Ross, who had not been made aware of the SNP opposition intentions to withdraw their motion, said: “I understand the reason why the SNP group has withdrawn the motion but it has also been noted in local media that there was to be an alternative to this motion put forward today.
“I know that it is in your gift [the convener] to allow any discussion, and given that the first notification that I was given that this motion was being withdrawn was a matter of seconds ago I would like you to at least consider the opportunity for members to discuss what had been discussed in local media here in Moray and on Social Media about change in the ways of working within Moray Council.
“This motion would have prompted that and I understand there is a paper later on today but that paper just looks at the appointments to committees and outside bodies. I think that it would be useful at this time of the meeting to have a discussion about the wider workings of the administration and indeed the entire Moray Council.”
However, Councillor Ross was cut short by the Convener, who said: “I’m sorry, I’m overriding – we did explain that a motion was being put but the motion is withdrawn and my decision is to follow the agenda.”
Later in the meeting Councillors did agree that discussion on restructuring could take place and that there be “no requirement to suspend standing orders to consider proposals for membership and chairmanship of council committees” – so pre-empting any issues with council standing orders should talks on changes up until March result in changes being the will of the council.
Following the meeting Councillor Ross told insideMoray: “I was disappointed we didn’t have the opportunity to discuss the way business is conducted by Moray Council earlier in the meeting after the SNP withdrew their motion but fortunately there was a paper later in the agenda.
“What I proposed was a discussion with all interested councillors on a proposal to have no administration or opposition and all councillors being eligible to lead committees rather than just the 12 councillors who now form a minority administration.
“I tried to be as open and frank as possible in my introduction, accepting that my style on the council may put some people off this suggestion because I put it forward. I offered to speak with every group and individual councillor or simply place my ideas on the table and walk away. This issue is too important to be rejected simply because of who suggested it.
“Unfortunately it was clear there is some significant opposition to the proposals and it seems some councillors do not want this coming back to the Full Council meeting. You have to assume that is because certain councillors have already decided not to support it. I hope I’m wrong with that.
“At the end of the day I could see there was a risk of the whole proposal being thrown out and never considered so I agreed to dilute my motion simply to ask that it be considered by group leaders. I don’t think this is the most open and transparent way of doing business but if it results in change then it doesn’t matter how we get there.
“It’s clear some councillors have entrenched views about how the council works; I’m simply asking that we all have a discussion about the proposal put forward or any other model of how we do things in Moray.
“I don’t think the current arrangements are working, I know we have talented councillors out with the administration who are not being utilised and I’m confident there is a better way to do things.”