'˜Bouncers' called in as Lewis Ritchie to sit alone at council meeting
SCANDAL-hit city councillor Lewis Ritchie will be kept away from former SNP colleagues and left sitting on his own at today's full council meeting.
A specially positioned desk behind the Liberal Democrats has been set out for the now Independent member for Leith Walk.
Beefed-up security will see “bouncers” on standby in an effort to reassure colleagues after Cllr Ritchie was mired in sexual harassment and assault allegations.
Council leader Adam McVey said: “Many councillors will be upset and rightly concerned by Lewis’s presence in the council chamber.
“I’ve made sure that there will be additional security in City Chambers to help make colleagues feel secure, but obviously this will not fully address the problem.”
The Evening News reported exclusively last week details of two sexual harassment claims against Cllr Ritchie after he quit the SNP group.
He denies both claims and blames what he calls a political smear for the allegations, with his resignation leaving his former party colleagues tied with the Tories on 18 members.
A third allegation relates to him punching a man while sharing a lift in the back of a taxi from last October’s SNP party conference.
Cllr McVey repeated calls for his former colleague to stand down, triggering a by-election in Leith Walk.
Cllr McVey said: “Lewis now needs to do what’s best for his constituents, the council and himself by resigning and allow the people of Leith Walk to choose a councillor who can best represent them and contribute to the policy development of the city.”
Cllr Ritchie must attend this morning’s meeting to safeguard his seat as an Independent for the next six months.
The 34-year-old has also agreed to phone ahead when visiting city chambers, after concerns expressed by Cllr McVey.
Lib Dem councillor Hal Osler warned earlier this week the council is in danger of being dragged into a “pantomime” by the affair.
“Quite frankly I’m horrified and pretty appalled as a new member and a female of a certain age,” she said.
“I’m a little upset at what’s come out at the end versus what was reported at the beginning.
“A punch-up in a car was what was reported at first and I’m a little confused at the message it sends that that was somehow worse that the other things that have come to light.”
The Conservatives have also called on Cllr Ritchie to stand down as a councillor immediately.
Cllr Sue Webber said: “It’s clear that his conduct on several occasions was grossly inappropriate, and it raises serious questions over whether he is fit to be a councillor.
“Given the nature of these incidents I would not be surprised if a lot of councillors and staff did not feel comfortable working with him – and it’s time he stood down and put an end to this sorry saga.”