I make no apol­ogy in bid to bet­ter our area

Airdrie & Coatbridge Advertiser - - News -

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.

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