Lord Provost criticised for breaching councillors’ code of conduct

Lord Provost Frank Ross
Lord Provost Frank Ross

Edinburgh’s Lord Provost has come under fire for breaching the councillors’ code of conduct.

Corstorphine SNP councillor Frank Ross faced a public hearing in front of the Standards Commission over his failure to declare his 82 per cent shareholding in a company which owned the Silverfjord Hotel in Kingussie in his local authority register of interests.

Cllr Ross, who did not attend the hearing, accepted he should have registered his shareholding and claims he completed a handwritten document declaring this and had placed it in the council’s internal mail system.

However, the council found no record of this and the hearing panel noted Cllr Ross had not checked to confirm whether his register of interests had been updated.

Cllr Ross was unable to be reached yesterday after being censured by the Standards Commission.

He is a major shareholder in Silverfjord Kingussie Ltd, a company that paid £160,000 for the 11-bedroom hotel in October 2016.

Public records show Cllr Ross and his family set up the business in February 2015. Cllr Ross, his wife and their son and daughter were the company’s directors, with Mr Ross owning 82 per cent of the shares and the other family members owning six per cent each.

Lothian Tory MSP Miles Briggs said: “This censure is a very serious reprimand for Frank Ross and I very much share the Commission’s surprise and concern that Cllr Ross wrongly assumed he did not have to register shares in a dormant company when this is a very clear obligation under the councillors’ code of conduct. This censure is highly embarrassing for the city’s Lord Provost and for the SNP.

“Many Edinburgh residents will also feel that SNP bosses in the city should themselves consider whether they should look at taking their own disciplinary action against Frank Ross, given the seriousness of this matter.”

SNP group leader Cllr Adam McVey told the Evening News there would be no further action taken by the party following the hearing.

Cllr McVey said: “The ruling by the Standards Commission has not come as a surprise. Frank accepted a breach way back at the start of these proceedings.

“Frank is doing a fantastic job representing the city as Lord Provost and the people of Corstorphine.”

Panel chairman Professor Kevin Dunion said: “The Hearing Panel was concerned that the points made by the respondent in mitigation failed to recognise that the requirement under the code to register a shareholding did not distinguish between an active and dormant company. The obligation to register a shareholding is an absolute requirement and integral part of the Councillors’ Code of Conduct.

“The registration of interests should not be seen by councillors as merely a tick-box exercise as it is fundamental part of the ethical standards framework.”