Standards ruling only shows we need more politicians like John McLellan - Susan Dalgety

I hope my fellow columnist and former boss John McLellan won’t mind me saying this, but I have seen him turn “as red as a tomato” when he was editor of this very newspaper.
John McLellan was cleared by the Standards Commission for ScotlandJohn McLellan was cleared by the Standards Commission for Scotland
John McLellan was cleared by the Standards Commission for Scotland

He was even known to use the odd expletive if a politician in the then-new Scottish Parliament had said something ridiculous, which to be frank, happened quite often. Though, it has to be said, nowhere nearly as often as now.

Running a busy news room is a job that calls for passion, as well as a determination to seek out the truth. Politics, if done properly, is similar. Any politician worth their salt, whether First Minister or city councillor, should be passionate about their role in representing people and scrupulous about scrutinising every policy paper or council report put before them by officials. It is their duty to ask difficult questions and to seek out the truth on our behalf.

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I was truly shocked therefore when I learned that McLellan had been reported to the Standards Commission for Scotland, allegedly for breaking the councillors’ code of conduct. He was accused of behaving in an inappropriate manner by expressing views in an “aggressive and challenging manner” during a closed session where he and two of his fellow councillors were given a chance to read a confidential report on the council’s mishandling of complaints of sexual abuse by former social worker, Sean Bell.

He was cleared last week, after what must have been an agonising period for him and his family. The standards watchdog did criticise him for being “disrespectful”, whatever that means, but McLellan has been vindicated.

At the heart of the complaint against him was one of the most shameful episodes in the history of local government in our city. Sean Bell had been accused of abusing some of the most vulnerable children in our city over a 30-year period, and he had been protected from exposure by “an old boys’ network” within the council. Bell committed suicide in 2020.

John McLellan was simply doing his civic duty by rigorously examining the independent report into the council’s handing of this awful case. We need more people like John who are unafraid to ask the questions others are too timid, or spineless, to raise.