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Labour Deputy Peacemaker
Scottish Labour deputy leader Alex Rowley has been brought in as a troubleshooter to help calm warring colleagues on a council.
The Mid Scotland and Fife MSP met Labour councillors in North Lanarkshire amid a lingering row over a local authority corruption investigation.
The local authority is run by a Labour administration but the resignation of Jim McCabe as leader in January triggered a round of infighting.
He was replaced by Jim Logue and his elevation was followed by four Labour councillors quitting the party and sitting as independents.
However, the atmosphere in the Labour group turned toxic after an anonymous letter was sent to Mr Logue alleging historic corruption in the procurement process.
The new leader described the allegations as “extremely serious” and council chief executive Paul Jukes was instructed to launch an internal audit.
Twelve councillors – eight Labour, including McCabe, and the four independents – signed a letter to Mr Jukes that was critical of Mr Logue’s decision to back an internal probe.
They wrote: “It is well known that an individual has long made unsubstantiated allegations of this type over a number of years to fellow Labour group councillors in an effort to discredit the former leadership and in turn further personal ambition.
“Given this cynical style of politics, it is difficult not to fear that this anonymous letter itself could possibly be a fabrication.”
The letter continued: “Allegations of corruption must and should be investigated thoroughly and treated with the utmost seriousness to ensure that North Lanarkshire Council operates to the highest standards of integrity, probity and transparency.
“No less than a full external investigation should be initiated in order to establish if that has been the case.”
The signatories added: “The wide ranging publicity sought by the leadership for this story is another area we feel they have shown a lack of judgement.
“No evidence of wrong doing and no identifiable source for these allegations currently exist.”
Mr Rowley, who was elected as Kezia Dugdale’s deputy last year, sat in on a meeting that included some of the disaffected councillors at the local authority’s headquarters in Motherwell. The summit was arranged by party general secretary Brian Roy, who invited the affected individuals.