Councillor Dawe waded into the row amid moans from the green side of the city that the council’s work with Hearts on a new stadium suggested a deal was being done “behind closed doors”.
It emerged today that the council paid £15,000 towards the £30,000 cost of the joint study into the viability of Hearts remaining at Tynecastle or moving to a new ground – without any approval of the spending by councillors.
And no councillors have been provided with the full report, despite Hearts sharing some key findings – including a “potential partnership” with the council on a new “community stadium”.
Cllr Dawe said: “I have had a few e-mails complaining about bias and, although I am a Hearts supporter, I was supportive of Hibs on the Lochend Butterfly site issue [development near Easter Road] and this administration has shown less of a bias than previous administrations.
“The issue [of the possible partnership] came to the economic development committee and I was not sure where it stemmed from.”
The previous Labour administration featured a number of councillors that were high-profile Hearts fans, including Eric Milligan, Ricky Henderson, Brian Fallon and Steve Cardownie – who remains in the administration as SNP leader. A number of senior council staff during Labour’s reign, including chief executive Tom Aitchison and corporate services director Jim Inch, were also well-known for their Tynecastle links.
However, SNP councillor Stefan Tymkewycz is understood to be the only Hibs fan in the current administration.
Labour councillor Paul Godzik said: “Passions run high when it comes to football. But frankly the council has to be seen to act in a neutral way and any accusation of bias, perceived or otherwise, is deeply damaging.”
Leith councillor Gordon Munro, who became only the second Hibs councillor in the former Labour administration when he was elected in 2003, said: “No copy of the study was made available to committee members or to the Labour Group so that councillors could scrutinise the contents.
“Considering that the council equally shared the £30,000 cost of the report this does give the impression, as do recent remarks in the press from a prominent Hearts supporter, that this is something that is being conducted behind closed doors.”