Lothian Buses row may sink Hinds’ parliament bid

The petition against Lesley Hinds has been labelled unprecedented.  Picture: Neil HannaThe petition against Lesley Hinds has been labelled unprecedented.  Picture: Neil Hanna
The petition against Lesley Hinds has been labelled unprecedented. Picture: Neil Hanna
TRANSPORT leader Lesley Hinds’ bid to win a seat in the Scottish Parliament has been seriously damaged by a bus staff backlash, senior politicians have claimed.

More than 1600 union members have signed a petition calling for Councillor Hinds to be stripped of her role over her handling of a bitter boardroom dispute at Lothian Buses.

SNP and Labour insiders said the petition – backed by a majority of staff at the bus firm – was “unprecedented” in the Capital’s political history and could stop her becoming an MSP for Edinburgh North and Leith in 2016.

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The workforce is unhappy that the council refused to back former company chairwoman Ann Faulds when she called for the dismissal of chief executive Ian Craig.

It is understood that some SNP councillors are considering supporting a motion at Thursday’s full council meeting calling for a report into the handling of the saga.

A senior Labour source said: “I have never heard of this happening to a Labour politician in Edinburgh, ever. The odds are already stacked against Lesley and now with union members abandoning her, she’s not got her problems to seek.

“I don’t think there’s anyone in North and Leith who thinks she is going to win that seat.”

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And an SNP insider warned that voters would be reminded of the dispute as they go to the polls in 18 months.

“I can’t remember anything of this magnitude happening, with a petition of 1600 people calling for a convener’s resignation,” the source said. “I’m sure it’s an unwelcome surprise for her, particularly given that she’s gone out of her way to keep the unions on side.

“I think the electorate may well be reminded of this closer to the election. I’d be amazed if it didn’t feature.”

Cllr Hinds has been selected as the candidate to succeed Labour MSP Malcolm Chisholm, who is standing down.

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The seat is one of the tightest contested in Scotland, with the SNP trailing Labour by just 595 votes at the 2011 Scottish Parliament election. The SNP is expected to choose its candidate later this week.

Council leader and Labour colleague Andrew Burns leapt to Cllr Hinds’ defence, insisting that opposition transport spokespeople had been kept informed of all decisions regarding Lothian Buses, and had never raised objections.

Cllr Burns said: “Not once have any of them demurred from any of the decisions that have been taken.

“It’s not been an individual decision, it’s been a corporate decision with the chief executive or the head of corporate governance keeping all party spokespeople informed.

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“All of it has also been reported through the proper committee structure and, again, to the best of my knowledge not once has there been a political division on this. This personalisation is incorrect.

“Lesley is a very, very experienced long-standing politician, and I don’t doubt for a second that she will cope with any criticisms, whether fair or unfair – and in this case I happen to think it’s unfair – and she’ll take it on the chin.”