Leonard seeks solution in councillors dispute
Richard Leonard yesterday said he was looking to resolve the bust-up with Aberdeen’s suspended Labour councillors and had authorised Alex Rowley to intervene in the dispute.
At a lunch with the Scottish Parliamentary Journalists’ Association, Mr Leonard said he was “looking for a way forward” in the fallout between Scottish Labour and nine Aberdeen councillors.
This week it emerged that Scottish Labour’s former deputy leader Alex Rowley had gone to the city in an attempt to find a solution.
The nine councillors were suspended by Mr Leonard’s predecessor, Kezia Dugdale, for forming an administration with the Tories against her wishes.
Mr Leonard said: “If there is a way to avoid expelling people we will seek to find it.
“That was the reason why Alex, as the newly appointed local government and communities spokesperson, decided, with my agreement, to go and speak to the Labour group in Aberdeen.”
He also said he would have to “fight” to get the Labour Party to oppose a second independence referendum after shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said he would consider a request for another vote.
“I will fight every step of the way to make sure that the next Labour manifesto going into the next general election will contain the same commitment that was in the Labour manifesto going into the 2017 general election and that is a statement of clear opposition to second independence referendum,” he said. Aberdeen bypass contractors have been urged to stop “squabbling” over money amid reports they are attempting to claim £350 million from the Scottish Government.
North East MSP Lewis Macdonald said Aberdeen Roads Ltd and the government must stop arguing and concentrate on finishing the road.
The contractors Aberdeen Roads Ltd (ARL) this week told MSPs that they had lost “hundreds of millions” on the project which now had a total cost of £1 billion.
Despite the project having a fixed contract of £745m, the contractors are demanding compensation from Transport Scotland.
Yesterday, it was reported that ARL was seeking an additional £350m.
Mr Macdonald said: “The contractors and the Scottish Government must focus on getting the job finished first.
“When the road is finally open, there will be questions for both the contractors and the Scottish Government, about both the costs of the project and the contract ministers put in place.”
A Transport Scotland spokesperson said the AWPR cost remained £745m and ARL went into the project with “eyes open”.
“The Scottish Government is not willing to pay over the odds for the road on account of mistakes or miscalculations that are of the contractors’ making,” he added.
Meanwhile, thousands of homes in Aberdeen had to go without water for hours on Wednesday after a pipe developed an 18in crack due to work on the bypass.
Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard