Defiant Dennis Goldie rounded on his opponents as he was ousted from the provost's chair at a stormy meeting

DEFIANT Dennis Goldie went down with all guns blazing on Wednesday moments before his dramatic downfall as Falkirk Provost.

The veteran councillor used his last moments as civic head to round on his rivals at the Municipal Buildings.

But he was powerless to prevent his downfall as opposition members banded together to vote him out of office. Also ousted were his depute, David Speirs, and housing convener Gerry Goldie, the former provost s twin brother

Two Independent councillors, Jim Johnston and Robert Spears, have been voted in as provost and depute provost. Another Independent, Pat McCafferty, has been given Gerry Goldie s key job. All three took over with immediate effect after a stormy two-hour debate ended in acrimony.

The so-called ''rainbow alliance came under fierce fire after maverick councillor Billy Buchanan stood up to propose a motion of no confidence in the three councillors.

Mr Goldie led the onslaught with a savage attack on the Independent Bonnybridge councillor, claiming he, fellow councillors and officials had been victims of a ''disgraceful smear campaign orchestrated by Mr Buchanan, with the help of SNP members. He also waded into several members of the coalition including Tory Malcolm Nicol, Independent councillor Tam O Dea and the SNP s John Constable over their conduct and voting records.

Mr Goldie said the people of Falkirk had ''always been uppermost in his mind while performing civic duties, claiming no-one had complained about his conduct at more than 200 official events.

A succession of Labour councillors stood up to back Mr Goldie and trumpet key council achievements, such as the building of five new high schools, low council tax levels and acclaimed housing improvement schemes. Council leader John Connolly also sprang to Mr Goldie s defence, claiming the motion of no confidence was ''nothing more than a spiteful attack on the provost.

Mr Connolly said: ''I must say I ve heard nothing at all to substantiate this. It appears to have come out of spite, malice and ill-founded personal issues.

But his pleas were to no avail as the opposition coalition stood firm and voted 17-14 in favour of the motion.

For leaders of the alliance, yesterday s meeting was the culmination of months of behind-the-scenes manoeuvring and plotting. Now speculation is likely to increase that a bid will be made to force Labour to resign the administration. The move could mean more senior Labour councillors losing their jobs.

SNP councillor John Constable said: ''This will bring an end to decisions being taken behind closed doors and a return to open local government for the people of Falkirk.

David Alexander, the leader of the SNP group, was scathing of Mr Goldie s conduct during yesterday s full council summit, branding it ''an absolute disgrace .

Dennis Goldie later called the bid to get rid of the three councillors ''a farce because of Mr Buchanan s involvement.

He said: ''It tarnishes the whole thing. People will see through this for what it is.

Mr Speirs who challenged opposition councillors to say when he had let down the council was clearly disconsolate at being voted out of office. ''I genuinely fear for the future of this council. The people deserve better, he said.

Mr Johnston was upbeat about the prospects of uniting various factions on the council after the meeting.

He said: ''There were signs that there may be room for co-operation in future. I hope the days of Labour fighting the SNP are over and that this will bring an end to all the bickering in here.

Mr Johnston (63), a father-of-three from Bainsford, was elected to the former Falkirk Town Council in 1969. He narrowly lost an attempt to be elected to the new Falkirk Council in 1995, but returned to office at last year s elections. Mr Johnston declared it ''a great honour to be voted in as provost.

Mr Goldie was voted in as Falkirk s First Citizen for the third time last May after Labour managed to capture just 15 out of a possible 32 seats. He was appointed provost of Falkirk District Council in 1989 at the age of just 39, the youngest ever councillor to hold the post.

Brian Ferguson