Midlothian Council leader asked to explain ‘lies’

Council leader Catherine Johnstone
Council leader Catherine Johnstone

Gorebridge Community Council is to write to the leader of Midlothian Council asking her to explain comments she made to them.

At the group’s March meeting council leader Councillor Catherine Johnstone made inaccurate claims about the council’s budget and the police community action teams (CAT), which were challenged at the meeting by Labour councillor Jim Muirhead.

At their April meeting last week, which Councillor Johnstone did not attend, Councillor Muirhead read out the council leader’s response to his letter asking about the comments she made.

In her reply, Councillor Johnstone made no reference to the comments and defended the council’s financial plan in “difficult financial times as a result of severe measures forced in by Westminster.”

She then attacked the Labour party for standing “shoulder to shoulder” with the Tories during the Scottish independence referendum.

After Councillor Muirhead read out the reply, Gorebridge Community Council chairman Trevor Taylor asked members for their thoughts on the matter, and said: “There doesn’t seem to be any point of councillors coming here and treating meetings with disrespect and telling lies.

“She should be here holding her hands up and saying ‘sorry, I made a mistake’.

“If that was a mistake, then fair enough. But that reply makes it a lie, as she is trying to justify her statement now.

“She definitely told the meeting statements of fact. If they are wrong, which they are, all she needs to do in the first instance is come back to the meeting and hold her hands up. The guff about the referendum is way out of line.

“Those CAT teams do a good job and have done so here for a good few years now. So I think that to cut them does effect everybody here, and the community council deserves an answer.”

The group agreed that its secretary would write to Councillor Johnstone asking her to explain her comments made at its meeting in March.

Councillor Catherine Johnstone, SNP Midlothian Group Leader said: “The letter referred to was not wholly about the matter of the CAT teams - in fact the letter was an aggressively written rant from Councillor Muirhead - not the community council.

“The Midlothian Labour group’s disturbing approach of Punch and Judy politics at community meetings suggests it is in as much disarray as its Scottish ‘North Branch’ colleagues, and I refuse to engage in it’s use of bully boy tactics.

“However, I am more than happy to meet with any community council at any time, although to date I have received no such request.”