SNP anger as climate and diversity motion delayed by Labour and Conservative councillors

Councillors in Falkirk have been accused of ‘playing silly party politics’ after proposals aimed at helping to tackle climate change and to improve the diversity of local representatives were both pushed back.

By Kirsty Paterson
Thursday, 11th November 2021, 1:11 pm
Paul Garner put forward the climate motion.
Paul Garner put forward the climate motion.

Furious SNP councillors accused Labour and the Conservative of “constant delays” as they put off discussing the proposals at a special meeting of Falkirk Council – which had just three motions on its agenda.

But opposition members defended their actions, insisting the delays were needed for proper scrutiny of the plans.

The first of these was put forward by Councillor Paul Garner in the wake of COP26, suggesting ways that the climate emergency could be made central to every council decision.

Mr Garner also wanted a briefing for all members to illustrate the impact that decisions made since declaring the Climate Emergency have had on forecasts for reducing the council’s carbon footprint.

His colleague Councillor Laura Murtagh made clear that the recent decision by Labour and the Conservatives not to back plans for a new HQ and arts centre on Falkirk High Street was firmly in their thoughts when talking about the council’s record.

In an amendment, the Labour group leader Robert Bissett said that his group wanted to see a report first on the implications of the motion and asked that it be heard instead at December’s full council meeting.

Councillor Garner said: “Robert Bissett’s Labour amendment asks that the report looks at the resource and financial implications which we have already looked at in-depth.

“We, the SNP minority administration realise the time for contemplation has now passed and we can no longer make empty, bold statements – we must back them up with bold action too.

“The climate emergency we face must take priority and playing silly party politics should be forgotten.”

SNP members were also appalled that Councillor Murtagh’s motion looking at ways to promote diversity in the council was also delayed to December’s meeting.

However, Mr Bissett defended his group’s approach, saying that to get to net zero, the council would need better funding from the Scottish Government.

“We need to tackle climate change yet still provide good services for the public we are elected to serve. For that we need additional funding.”

He added: “It did seems as if the whole purpose of bringing forward proposals was to challenge the HQ decision and that was obvious and disappointing.

“As for kicking both reports into the long grass, nothing could be further from the truth as we have clearly asked for them to come back in around four weeks time.”

The Conservative group leader, James Kerr, added: “By getting these amendments passed, we have ensured vital scrutiny is there on the SNP’s spendthrift attitude towards taxpayers’ cash.

“Important issues like climate change and diversity will be considered by council officials and us councillors given the information we need to decide if taxpayers get value for their money.”

Another SNP motion – urging the council to look closely at the situation facing families as food and energy bills soar – was deferred to the council’s Executive by Provost Billy Buchanan in consultation with the group leaders,

However, Mrs Meiklejohn made it clear that she did not approve of taking the matter out of the hands of the full council.