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Politics in Moray: Labour withdraws from no confidence motion against Tory convenor

By Alistair Whitfield

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Moray's Labour group has withdrawn its support for a vote of no confidence in the council's recently appointed convenor.

Shortly after last month's local elections Marc Macrae (Fochabers/Lhanbryde, Conservative) was handed the role by the new Tory administration.

Moray Council's convenor Marc Macrae.
Moray Council's convenor Marc Macrae.

Moray's three Labour councillors were amongst the 13 elected members who signed an open letter last week.

This demanded cllr Macrae refer himself to the Ethical Standards Commissioner or, otherwise, face a vote of no confidence when the council next meets on June 29.

The letter came in the wake of claims by Frank Brown – a party colleague who served with cllr Macrae from 2017 to May this year – that the new convener was not a "fit and proper person" to hold the role which involves representing Moray at civic and ceremonial events.

Mr Brown stated there had been "several" complaints made regarding cllr Macrae's behaviour towards staff, but did not specify any details.

Cllr Macrae has previously apologised for an incident in 2019 during which he used strong swear words while talking about a council employee.

The three Labour councillors have now taken their names off the open letter after receiving advice that the ethics commissioner will not be able to investigate.

John Divers, the leader of the Labour Group in Moray.
John Divers, the leader of the Labour Group in Moray.

John Divers, the group's leader, said: "I was aware, on a second-hand basis, of some issues concerning the conduct recently referred to in the press by former Conservative councillor Frank Brown with respect to councillor Macrae.

"The Labour group does not, however, consider hearsay to be a reasonable basis for taking action; in particular when allegations may be coloured by personal grudges borne by those involved.

"The Labour group firmly believes that the Ethical Standards Commissioner (ESC) is the best person to deal with matters of conduct, in particular in circumstances in which claims and counter-claims are being made.

"The Labour group, therefore, agreed to sign a letter with a view to forcing an investigation by the ESC, without prejudice, in order to allow the full facts to be considered by an independent statutory authority.

"We have now received advice from the council’s monitoring officer, Mr McEachan, that such an investigation will not be possible, due to time bars."

Frank Brown who, until stepping down in May, represented Elgin North for the Tories.
Frank Brown who, until stepping down in May, represented Elgin North for the Tories.

Cllr Divers continued: "As the outcome that we sought in signing the letter submitted to cllr Macrae is no longer available, the Labour group has decided to withdraw our support for any further action at this stage.

"The convener should be on notice, however, that as with any other councillor, his future conduct will be the subject of the highest scrutiny."

The open letter calling for cllr Macrae was originally signed by 13 out of Moray's 26 councillors.

The other signatories were all of Moray's eight SNP members along with two Independents.

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