FORMER Capital planning chief Lewis Ritchie is understood to have moved his office alongside the Tory opposition after quitting the SNP amid allegations of sexual harassment.
Cllr Ritchie resigned after the party began investigating the claims, as well as allegations he punched a male colleague. The Leith councillor has denied the accusations against him in an interview with the Evening News in which he admitted to having a drink problem.
It is understood that he is unlikely to attend today’s crunch council budget meeting as he has taken leave following the death of his grandmother.
“Rumour had it that he intended to come back to make a point,” said one council source.
“But we can’t really see it. Would you after all that has gone out these last few days. He’s clearly in the firing line of his own people. Who could survive that?”
Motions have been tabled to appoint other SNP members to the seats he relinquished on the council’s Planning committee and Governance, Risk and Best Value committee when he resigned from the group.
His resignation means the SNP will no longer hold the highest number of seats in the council, instead tying with the Conservatives.
Cllr Ritchie was initially accused of punching another delegate in a taxi at the party’s annual conference in Glasgow in October.
He stepped aside as planning convener in November for “health reasons” and been due to return to work on January 7 but his leave of absence is understood to have been extended. Cllr Ritchie quit the party this week as it emerged there were two more accusations outstanding.
An SNP spokeswoman confirmed the additional allegations were of a “sexual harassment nature” – both denied by Cllr Ritchie.
The party’s internal disciplinary committee confirmed Cllr Ritchie had been suspended pending a hearing. He has said he plans to continue as an independent councillor for Leith. It is understood he has been offered support by the council in recent months for his problems.
There was some support for Cllr Ritchie from his council ward today. Campaigner Alison Whyte said: “He’s a doer. He puts the people of Leith first and he’s an absolute star.”