AN MSP and his wife are to face a Standards Commission hearing over claims they failed to declare their interest as landlords of houses in multiple occupation.
Midlothian MSP Colin Beattie and wife Lisa both served for five years on Midlothan Council’s general purposes committee, which deals with policy on houses in multiple occupation (HMO), but allegedly kept secret the fact they were letting out flats in Edinburgh.
Midlothian Labour group leader Derek Milligan complained to the Public Standards Commissioner, who looked into the claims and reported to the Standards Commission, which has now said it will hold a hearing.
The commission has the power to censure, suspend or disqualify any councillor found to have breached the code of conduct.
In June last year, the Evening News revealed the Beatties were locked in a row with a neighbour, who was objecting to renewal of their HMO licence for a flat in Marchmont.
Councillor Milligan said it was only reading that story which alerted him to the couple’s HMO interests.
Lisa Beattie had asked for details of the application not to be posted online because she was in a “sensitive occupation”, but they were published due to the objection.
Colin Beattie, a retired banker and former SNP national treasurer, was convener of Midlothian Council’s general purposes committee until he stepped down as a councillor at last year’s local elections after becoming MSP for Midlothian North & Musselburgh in 2011.
Lisa Beattie, a doctor by profession, was a member of the general purposes committee up until last year’s election. She became Midlothian’s first female council leader after the SNP won power in last year’s local elections, but quit after five weeks amid rumours of a rebellion in the SNP group.
The current Midlothian Council register of interests shows Lisa Beattie as owner of three flats in Edinburgh listed as “rented property”.
But Cllr Milligan says Colin Beattie never included the properties in his council register of interests and Lisa Beattie only added them after he had raised the issue.
In his complaint, he said neither had ever declared they were HMO owners and operators.
“It is clear from the application that both Colin Beattie and Lisa Beattie were actively involved for over 20 years in the running of HMOs,” he said.
“It is my contention that the disclosure of such information should have been included in his register of interest and the taking part in consultations regarding the rules governing the licensing of HMOs would be a serious breach of several sections of the code of conduct.
“I believe that any reasonable-minded applicant, or probably more importantly objector, should have been made aware that councillors sitting in judgement were themselves owners and operators of HMOs.
“It is clear that both Councillors Colin Beattie and Lisa Beattie have breached the code of conduct and indeed have actively endeavoured to keep this information from the public arena.”
The hearing into the complaint will be held in public but no date has yet been fixed.
Neither of the Beatties could be contacted for comment.