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Leading opponent of Inverness riverside arts project furious at Highland Council leader's letter

By Gregor White

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Ron MacWilliam at the site planned for My Ness artwork, with the letter from council leader Margaret Davidson. Picture: Callum Mackay Image No. 044648
Ron MacWilliam at the site planned for My Ness artwork, with the letter from council leader Margaret Davidson. Picture: Callum Mackay Image No. 044648

Ron MacWilliam's criticisms of the My Ness project have riled council leader Margaret Davidson.

She has written to the opposition Ness-side councillor saying he should apologise and meet with her and the council convener to explain himself.

But an angry Cllr MacWilliam, a member of the SNP group, said he has no intention of attending any meeting.

He said: “This move by the Highland Council leader smacks of desperation.

“The public have a right to know how their money is being spent and their elected representatives are expected by the public to ask the council how that money is being spent.

“Throughout this entire process this council administration has shown nothing but contempt for the people who elected them.”

The leader’s letter said: “I and the convener (Councillor Bill Lobban) look forward to meeting with you to hear your explanation of these comments and would be content if you wish to be accompanied by one of your group leaders.”

Cllr MacWilliam has harshly criticised the My Ness project– the £300,000 vision for two curved walls on the banks of the River Ness.

The three comments cited in the council leader’s letter were his suggestion that a “small clique” of administration councillors are “running amok” with the Inverness Common Good Fund.

His claims of “mismanagement” of public funds and the “incompetence” of those leading the arts project, were also singled out by Cllr Davidson.

In a letter of response, Cllr MacWilliam said: “It is imperative that elected members are free to speak on behalf of their constituents and within the standards expected under the councillors’ code of conduct. That is precisely what I have done.

“I am concerned that your administration is attempting to silence legitimate democratic debate on the Inverness city arts projects.

“I am also concerned that the leader of Highland Council is minded to call opposition councillors in to private meetings to chastise them for carrying out the legitimate political function for which they were elected.

“You have no such right and your actions are inexplicable.

“It would appear that your administration has spent a considerable amount of time and resource concerning yourselves with my scrutiny of this project.

“The public would be better served if this effort was concentrated on resolving the challenges presented by the city arts project.”

Cllr Davidson defended her actions saying she only wanted to have a chat with Cllr MacWilliam, not muzzle him.

“First of all, I regret he has gone to the press about what is a private letter from me to him concerning what he may or may not have said,” she said.

“What I wanted to do was ask him whether he actually said those things because Cllr MacWilliam’s comments about the council administration cast a slur on their moral character and I wanted to discuss that.”

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