I make no apology in bid to better our area
I’m obviously pleased that Police Scotland found no evidence of criminality in the malicious claims made against me about corruption.
The relief isn’t because I was worried about the outcome.
But the pressure put on me by the complaint and those who sought to smear me was intense.
With 40 years in politics, I have a pretty thick skin.
But it’s hard not to be affected when what I was being accused of is the opposite of how I have conducted myself in those decades of public service.
The fact is that the police never once spoke to me about the allegations.
And I believe they should consider the extent to which their time has been wasted by the complaint.
Most of all, I am grateful for the incredible support of my colleagues and my family.
There were times during this whole episode when I could have walked away.
But their strength and encouragement was always there.
As I understand it, the allegations against me centred around an internal audit investigation about North Lanarkshire Leisure (NLL), an arms-length council body I used to chair.
North Lanarkshire Leisure established two subsidiary companies.
The first, No Limits Leisure, when NLL was exploring the possibility of operating leisure services for other local authorities.
At the time, this was a radical idea.
Now, Edinburgh Leisure manage Stirling’s facilities using the same model.
The second company, ECSA, was established following North Lanarkshire being awarded the European City of Sport accolade.
Part of the conditions of receiving that award stated that NLL would be required to play an active role in assessing UK and European bids to be Cities of Sport and to promote the awards in the UK.
In both cases, I was advised by the then-chief executive of NLL that, in order to do so, a subsidiary company would have to be established.
However, I absolutely accept that a lack of formal reporting of these subsidiary companies to the board was not acceptable.
Frankly, as chair I should have paid more attention to the appropriate governance in these two cases. I got it wrong. However, I ensured that these governance issues were resolved before I stood down as chair of NLL and those strengthened arrangements are noted by the auditors.
Criticism has also been levelled at me for not declaring an interest in these companies.
I have never benefitted financially from being a director, nor was it ever suggested that I would do so.
I took advice from NLL’s lawyers about declaring interests and they suggested such a declaration was not required as my directorship was registered with Companies House.
With hindsight I wish I had declared those interests.
The auditors have stated that they have some concerns about overseas travel.
It is absolutely true that, as part of the European Cities of Sport arrangements I travelled to a number of places in the UK and Europe for a limited period of time to help assess other bids.
I make no apology for doing so.
I was able to meet leading figures from sport and leisure and share new ideas and best practice.
I was able to see first-hand what other places were doing that might be effective in North Lanarkshire in attracting major events and driving up participation in sport.
The same is true of other leisure industry events that I attended in the UK and abroad.
I learned from all these things.
And no-one can doubt the success we have had.
The International Children’s Games in 2011, the Tour Series Cycling in Motherwell, the triathlon and cycling time trial for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games, the British Transplant Games this year, the triathlon and rowing for the 2018 European Sports Championships – the list goes on.
We have forged ever closer relationships with the governing bodies of sports in recent years and, for example, Broadwood is a Scottish Rugby centre of excellence while the Scotland Sevens team has been based at Ravenscraig.
All these things have benefitted the local economy by millions of pounds.
Attendances at sport and leisure facilities have increased by 45 per cent since 2010, a genuinely inspiring story about better health and fitness in an area that for so long was blighted by poor outcomes.
So I will make no apology for being ambitious on behalf of North Lanarkshire.
I will make no apology for promoting North Lanarkshire.
And I make no apology for leading a forward-thinking drive to improve lives in North Lanarkshire.