City Councillor facing defamation threat by Tron Kirk man

David Coutts. Picture: Bill Henry
David Coutts. Picture: Bill Henry
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A PROMINENT city councillor has been threatened with a £50,000 defamation claim from the leaseholder of the Tron Kirk.

David Coutts, who runs the Royal Mile landmark, says he will sue Jim Orr for comments in a letter published online.

But the businessman, who is yet to serve the writ on the Southside/Newington councillor, has offered to drop the case if he receives a public apology in the next 24 hours.

The move comes after Cllr Orr raised questions over the way the venue was being run ahead of a meeting to determine its future as a Victorian market.

Mr Coutts claims the letter suggests he is “not experienced, trustworthy or professional”, and contained “damaging and untrue imputations”.

The lobbyist and former Dundee councillor is also seeking a gagging order preventing the Independent member from making any similar comments.

He said: “If Cllr Orr writes to me publicly and apologises in the next 24 hours then that is the matter closed.

“I would expect him to cover legal costs to date and I will donate these to Autism Scotland. However, given I phoned him and asked for a meeting with his lawyer present and he refused, then that would appear unlikely. This action has been brought about by his insistence to continue to spread gossip, slander and I refute this nonsense categorically. I look forward to meeting him in court as I have never met him up until now.”

The Evening News asked Cllr Orr if he intended to apologise to Mr Coutts, but he declined to comment.

The initial writ asks the Sheriff Court “To grant in favour of the pursuer in the sum of £50,0000 plus interest rate of eight per cent per annum from the date of the citation until payment”.

Council chiefs launched an investigation into the Tron’s operating practices following claims of a possible breach of the terms and conditions of its lease. Cllr Orr wrote to the city’s Corporate Property department asking it to ensure the “operation of the building is fully compliant with all legal obligations”.

He urged officials to ensure his formal complaint was “fully investigated and addressed” and “that in future the building is only leased to experienced trustworthy professionals”. He added: “The indoor market clearly provides gainful employment and is an interesting feature in the Old Town, but it is still imperative that it is protected as well as operated fairly and safely.”

Cllr Orr claimed the listed building consents for the internal fittings expired five months ago and that “appropriate building warrants” for the electricity supply did not appear to be in place. He also claimed the Tron was operating as a Fringe venue when it was only leased as an indoor market.

Mr Coutts has a rolling lease with the city council pending the agreement of a long-term deal with Edinburgh World Heritage Trust for the Tron’s redevelopment as a “visitor attraction”.