A COUNCILLOR HAS failed in a peacekeeping attempt to bring councillors of different groups together in a search for unity and a fresh start after years of instability.
Fochabers/Lhanbryde councillor Sean Morton made the attempt after the Independent and Tory administration group had been left reeling following their loss of the crucial vote on the Elgin Western Link Road last week.
However, the Labour councillor was left reeling himself when no SNP members of the main opposition group at the local authority responded to his invitation – and none turned up at planned talks on Monday.
Councillor Morton said: “Since last Wednesday’s somewhat chaotic meeting I thought very hard about what was needed at the council. I kept coming back to the idea of a number of us coming together from all sides – I thought we needed to unite for the good of Moray.”
It was not the first time a call for unity has come from the Fochabers/Lhanbryde council ward – the local Tory councillor Douglas Ross made a similar call for a ‘rainbow coalition’ when cracks appeared in the Administration group over a failed attempt to create an entirely new approach to education in Moray.
That ended with then Leader of the Council, Allan Wright, resigned – only to later ‘swap jobs’ and take on the role of Convener.
Councillor Morton said: “I am not the first person to think that and I probably won’t be the last – I contacted councillors privately and quietly because I wanted this time for talks of a unity coalition to work. Sadly, we’re no further forward.
“There is clearly no appetite in the SNP group to play a part in tackling the big challenges facing Moray and without them there can be no unity coalition.
“I am disappointed as I know that privately there are members in every group who want to see us roll up our sleeves and get things done for Moray. It will take all of us pulling together to deal with the huge challenges we face in the year ahead so I am grateful to those councillors from the other groups who did sit down to talk.”
Last night the SNP hit back at Councillor Morton’s attempts to act as peacemaker in the Council chamber.
A spokesman for the SNP group at Moray Council said: “Councillor Morton has spoken of his desire to have a ‘responsible’ team to lead Moray Council. SNP Councillors are concerned, however, as Councillor Morton has clearly evidenced lack of commitment to Moray Council.
“In the past year Councillor Morton has attended just 11 out of 29 committee meetings at Moray Council, which appears to be the worst attendance record of any councillor by some margin.
“That is an extremely poor 38% attendance record, yet he believes himself to be the person to pull the Council together?
“These are not the actions of a committed and responsible councillor. He talks a good game on community and social care issues, yet in Communities Committee he has just a 33% attendance and in Health and Social Care Committee an abysmal 20% attendance record.
“The SNP remain ready to take on the Administration of Moray Council but it is not yet clear what the current Council Administration’s position is following last week’s Full Council meeting, during which they lost control of their Capital Plan.
“What the SNP are clear about is that we cannot work with a councillor whose attendance is woeful. It seems, given he is Moray Labour’s candidate in the Holyrood elections next month, that this is nothing more than a cynical stunt to get headlines.
“That is not how the SNP believe the serious issues facing Moray Council should be dealt with. We have met to discuss the situation since last week’s Council meeting and we will be meeting again in the coming days to consider the best way forward once it is clear what the Independent/Tory Administration’s position is.”