Complaint against councillors not upheld

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The Commissioner for Ethical Standards in Public Life in Scotland has not upheld a complaint against seven councillors, or former Councillors, on Comhairle nan Eilean Siar in connection with a decision not to open Lewis Sports Centre on a Sunday.

The complaint, on behalf of the Families Into Sport and Health (FiSH) group, had alleged a contravention of the Councillors’ Code of Conduct.

It alleged that a number of respondents failed to register an interest in respect of church membership in their Register of Interests, in contravention of section 4 of the Code of Conduct (Registration of Interests).

It was also alleged that, at a meeting of the full Council on 5 October 2016, all seven of the respondents failed to declare a non-financial interest, namely their membership of certain churches.

Their membership and their religious beliefs were said to have influenced them to vote against Sunday opening of the Ionad Spòrs Leòdhais (ISL).

On 5 October 2016, the Policy and Resources Committee met to discuss a report by the Chief Executive of the Comhairle which considered the feasibility of opening the ISL on Sundays for a 12 month trial period.

That meeting, by a vote of nine to two, recommended to the full Council that it was not operationally feasible for the ISL to open on a Sunday.

At a full Council meeting later that day it was agreed by a majority vote of 19 to nine (with one abstention),to accept the recommendation. All seven respondents voted with the majority not to proceed with opening of the ISL on a Sunday.

All the respondents, in their responses to the Commissioner, stated that they voted against Sunday opening of the ISL due to employment, operational and financial considerations, budget considerations or due to the views of their constituents, together with the views expressed in the Chief Executive’s report.

In the Commissioners findings it was stated that: “I do not consider that there has been sufficient evidence presented to show that they acted in accordance with their own religious beliefs or that their decisions were determined by their membership of a religious organisation.

“My conclusion is therefore that the allegations outlined in the complaint did not involve a breach of the Councillors’ Code of Conduct by Councillors Gordon Murray, Charlie Nicolson, Catherine MacDonald, Angus Morrison, Donald Crichton, Iain Mackenzie and John Mackay, and I find accordingly.”