SNP group dismayed at the politicisation of appointments

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Aberdeenshire SNP councillors have expressed dismay at the continued politicisation of appointments to outside bodies, following a decision by the Infrastructure and Services Committee to appoint Administration councillors to two key external positions.

Committee members voted 8-6 to appoint Deputy Council Leader, Inverurie Lib Dem Cllr Martin Kitts-Hayes as Aberdeenshire Council’s representative to the East of Scotland European Consortium, defeating SNP Cllr Geva Blackett.

The East of Scotland European Consortium (ESEC) is a non-statutory committee representing the interests of fourteen Eastern Scotland local authorities at a European level. It aims to establish and share policy knowledge and information on funding; lobby and petition on behalf of the East of Scotland; and ensure EU and broader policy engagement.

Before her election in May, Cllr Blackett worked in Europe on behalf of the European Landowners Organisation as a board member of the Wildlife Estates Initiative. She also worked for several years as the Parliamentary Officer for the Scottish Gamekeepers Association, lobbying the Scottish Parliament and EU on behalf of the Association’s members.

Later, Huntly, Strathbogie & Howe of Alford councillor John Latham, a member of the Independent group which helps to form the current Aberdeenshire ruling Administration, was appointed to sit on the Board of the Cairngorm National Park Authority.

However, it required Committee Chairman, Liberal Democrat member Cllr Peter Argyle to use his casting vote to secure Cllr Latham’s election.

In the vote, Cllr Latham had been tied 7-7 with Cllr Blackett, a former National Park Board member who represents and lives in the Aboyne, Upper Deeside and Donside ward – a ward which contains all of the portion of the National Park which sits within Aberdeenshire. Cllr Blackett is also the only Aberdeenshire Councillor resident in the park.

Cllr Argyle’s casting vote came, despite him already having been appointed to the Board of the National Park by Aberdeenshire Council’s Marr Area Committee on Tuesday.

Speaking afterwards, Shadow Leader of the Council Cllr Hamish Vernal said: “It is disappointing that once again the Coalition administration has opted to politicise the appointments to what should be non-political posts.

“Clearly, with her background in European issues and her previous experience on the National Park Board, Cllr Blackett was far and away the best candidate for both of these positions.

“Because of these myopic actions, the people of Aberdeenshire have once again suffered because of the need to keep the various parts of the coalition happy.”