McVey has done more to expose where his priorities lie than the Conservatives ever could - John McLellan

That Edinburgh Council’s 6ft 4in, £179,000-a-year chief executive Andrew Kerr is capable of looking after himself, I am in no doubt.

An ex-international athlete, he proved resilient in the face of adversity, bouncing back after being made redundant by Wiltshire County Council in 2011, when it decided it didn’t need a £185,000 a year CEO, to become Cardiff Council’s chief operating officer in 2012. After a brief stint running Cornwall Council, he landed Edinburgh’s top job in 2015.

He might not like what opposition councillors say about the administration, but he’s never struck me as someone vulnerable to intimidation, brushing off poor audit reports because the political leadership always has his back.

But on Monday that backfired, and while I am not party to his innermost thoughts, I wouldn’t be surprised if Mr Kerr was thumping his head at the crass stupidity and insensitivity of SNP leader Adam McVey’s suggesting he was the victim of bullying and "habitual targeting" by the Conservative group.

Claims were made that Andrew Kerr, Chief Executive of Edinburgh Council, was being bullied by the Conservative group in a row which has deflected from discussion of failings in secure accommodation for vulnerable children in the capital. PIC: Greg Macvean.

“Putting a motion of no confidence down and continuing to attack an officer in the press at the same time as continuing to bring more or less the same thing to committees, then it is approaching that stage," Cllr McVey told the Evening News.

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Let’s recap. A report into serious allegations of abuse in Edinburgh’s secure units found "illegality, maladministration and injustice", and recommendations made in 2017 have not been followed.

Last year’s review of the Council’s management culture by Susanne Tanner QC, not only concluded the council lacked “a universally positive, open, safe and supportive whistleblowing and organisational culture” but the corporate leadership team “can be an intimidating environment to those who perceive themselves to be outsiders.”

Mr Kerr was apparently “surprised and disappointed”, but are we now expected to believe he too is a victim?

Thanks to Cllr McVey, there was Mr Kerr’s mug-shot on the front page, reminding the public of the catastrophic failure in Edinburgh Secure Services and giving the impression to whistle-blowers and victims that the Chief Executive’s sensitivities matter more than their demands for open justice.

Worse, there was Cllr McVey’s embarrassing explanation that there could be no discussion in case staff were getting tired, for which he has rightly been taken to task by a teenage victim of abuse in St Katherine’s who couldn’t call time on the disgusting treatment she suffered.

And his petty interpretation of arcane procedure to silence councillors at a subsequent committee meeting put him in Handforth Parish Council territory, without the fame.

On Tuesday it was Labour leader Cammy Day’s turn, admitting he and colleagues were having a few drinks in the City Chambers on March 17, rather than publicly discussing one of the most shameful reports of recent years.

Now, both the education director Amanda Hatton and chief social worker Jackie Irvine have had to write articles to reassure the public and my colleague Sue Webber MSP is seeking First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s intervention.

As former SNP leader Steve Cardownie pointed out in these pages yesterday, if Cllr McVey and his colleagues hadn’t blocked debate at the March 17 council meeting because it was 5pm, this would all have been dealt with.

But credit where it’s due. Cllr McVey has done more to expose where his priorities lie than the Conservatives ever could.