The leader of Aberdeenshire Council has once again avoided stating that he has confidence in a senior member of his administration – or saying that he doesn’t.

At last Thursday’s Policy and Resources Committee, Democratic Independent councillor Paul Johnston again challenged Cllr Gifford about Cllr Buchan’s accusations regarding Peterhead Port Authority and its connections to serious and organised crime.

Council leader Jim Gifford has been dodging questions about his colleague Cllr Alan Buchan, vice chair of Aberdeenshire’s Infrastructure Services Committee, for some weeks. The questions stem from Cllr Buchan’s wild and unsubstantiated accusations against Peterhead Port Authority and his comments attacking Peterhead Prison.

Green councillor Martin Ford has written repeatedly to Cllr Gifford over Cllr Buchan’s conduct. He has asked Cllr Gifford a series of direct questions – to which Cllr Gifford has avoided giving direct answers. In particular, in response to questions from Cllr Ford and from journalists, Cllr Gifford has not said whether he does or does not have confidence in Cllr Buchan as a spokesperson for his administration and the Council. Cllr Ford had tabled seven formal questions to Cllr Gifford for the full council meeting this Thursday (7 March).

These questions will not be answered on the grounds that the Council leader can only be questioned in relation to his specific responsibilities as chairman of the Policy and Resources Committee, and not on his wider role as Council leader.

Commenting, Cllr Ford said, “It speaks volumes that, yet again, we’re not going to get answers from Cllr Gifford. The question of whether he has confidence in a senior colleague appointed by his administration should be a simple one to answer. It’s either an unqualified ‘yes’, or it’s a ‘no’. Cllr Gifford appears desperate to avoid giving either of these answers.

“The ruling that the leader of the Council cannot be questioned by councillors at full council about his general responsibilities as Council leader also speaks volumes. Aberdeenshire’s administration routinely resorts to restrictive procedural practices to prevent open debate and discussion. It is, sadly, the behaviour we have come to expect.”

A total of ten formal questions are known to have been submitted for this Thursday’s Aberdeenshire full council meeting, all relating to Cllr Buchan and the Council leadership’s response to his activities. Cllr Stuart Pratt’s two questions ask specifically about Cllr Buchan’s comments printed in his weekly news-sheet. Incredibly, in his answer, Cllr Peter Argyle, chair of the Infrastructure Services Committee, claims not to be able to identify the publication referred to, despite the publication being produced by his own vice-chair and the extensive publicity it has been receiving.

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