Councillor brands protesters ‘rabid’

John Black, left, and Willie Black, stage a protest at Craigroyston High School
John Black, left, and Willie Black, stage a protest at Craigroyston High School
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A CITY councillor has come under fire after branding a community protest group “rabid anti-establishment” locals and saying they should not be allowed to meet in a community centre.

Councillor Elaine Morris, who represents the Forth ward, sent an e-mail to the North Edinburgh Arts Centre warning that it was “biting the hand that feeds” it by allowing the group to meet there.

Elaine Morris

Elaine Morris

It came ahead of a summit held there on Wednesday by a newly-formed organisation called North Edinburgh Fights Back, which saw residents and politicians gather to discuss how the area could cope with future cutbacks in public spending.

But in declining the invitation, the councillor – who recently quit the city’s Liberal Democrats to join the SNP – sent an e-mail criticising both the organisers and the venue, copying in the centre and local councillors.

It read: “I suspect it’s some of our more rabid anti-establishment members of the local community.

“I won’t be going to the meeting but I do think NEA [centre] should be more careful about who they let space to. Biting the hand that feeds etc.”

This was in reference to the local authority part-funding the facility, but her words have angered rival councillors and the 50-strong NEFB.

They have argued that she should be more respectful to locals willing to give up their own time to campaign, and that the centre was free to hire space out to whoever it pleased.

Forth councillor Cammy Day, a Labour member, said: “I think the comment is a disgrace to a community which has lost £1 million of funding through Fairer Scotland, has seen a school closed and the North Edinburgh News shut down.

“It’s another stab in the back for the people here. The council only funds a very small part of the centre.”

The group, which wants to “mobilise” local people to protest against plans to cut public spending, were so upset with the e-mail that they staged a protest outside Craigroyston High School yesterday, where economic development leader, Cllr Tom Buchanan, was hosting a private meeting.

Co-founder Willie Black said: “I can’t believe these comments – I thought this was supposed to be a democracy?

“Do they want to set up a little protest point in Cramond Island for us to go to instead?

“We are trying to encourage local people to fight for their local area. It’s not their fault that the bankers wasted all the money, and we’re fighting back – we want to see people rise up against this.

“But the council seems to want to break us up – they don’t want us meeting and getting together, even though it’s a community facility and that’s exactly what it’s for.”

Cllr Morris could not be contacted for comment.