Edinburgh Council leader blasts claims community centre funds were to be used to boost SNP's general election chances
Edinburgh City Council leader Adam McVey has refuted claims that SNP politicians have attempted to hand over public money to improve the party’s chances in a general election target seat by earmarking funding to help rebuild a community centre.
A row has erupted at the City Chambers amid claims that the SNP group of councillors were set to hand over unallocated reserves to organisers who have appealed for £750,000 to rebuild Corstorphine Community Centre, which was destroyed by fire in 2013.
The SNP claim that there had been support from other groups, including their coalition partners, Labour, and has turned around the accusations of electioneering.
In a report to be considered by the finance and resources committee today, officials said that “there is currently no council funding identified to fund this project”.
Corstorphine Community Centre is located in the ward represented by SNP Lord Provost Frank Ross, who is believed to be considering leaving the political group amid his concerns with the direction of the authority’s economic strategy.
A Labour source has claimed that support for the community centre was being used to keep Cllr Ross happy – while council leader Cllr Adam McVey is the election agent for SNP candidate for Edinburgh West, Sarah Masson – the constituency the project is situated in.
The Labour source said: “We have got reserves for emergencies but this is not an emergency.
“This should have been removed from the agenda because of purdah restrictions as it’s politically sensitive. Rules are just getting ignored. It is just wrong to have it now in the middle of an election.”
An SNP insider said that the funding plans were unanimously agreed at a group meeting on Monday.
Cllr McVey said: “Corstorphine Community Centre is another example where the community are asking for council support and it’s incumbent upon us to respond positively if we believe in community empowerment.
“I’ve been saying since February that our position is to support this project, as we have done with so many others, so it’s disappointing that political opponents are turning their back on the people of Edinburgh West and trying to hide behind cheap political attacks instead of dealing with the substantive issue.
Opposition parties have blasted the SNP for the stance.
Liberal Democrat Cllr Kevin Lang, said: “The Liberal Democrats has long championed the redevelopment of Corstorphine Community Centre. It’s an exciting project and one which would be of huge benefit to the local community.
“Any investment should be made because it’s the right thing to do and not to try and save the floundering campaign of the SNP in west Edinburgh.”
Conservative group chairman, Cllr Jason Rust, said: “There is a desperate need for the SNP and Labour to be more transparent and come clean on this entire process. It is appalling if local groups are getting misled by those running our city and if important issues are simply being politicised.”
Green Cllr Gavin Corbett said: “I really hope that a way of supporting the community effort to rebuild a community centre can be found. At the moment, however, it’s one of a long list of unmet funding needs which are seen across a whole range of community centres and beyond that, in parks, play areas and the rest. So I think, in fairness, the council needs to make decisions about projects together, not one by one.
“I have been worried that the decisions were being driven by promises made by senior members of the SNP-Labour coalition without reference to the budget and, on top of that, the election in a few days’ time. Decisions about vital community assets really should not be handled in such a slipshod way.”