Edinburgh secure accommodation scandal: Clash over council's failure to debate damning report

Council leader Adam McVey was accused of shutting down debate after he muted two Tory councillors’ microphones when they tried to raise the scandal over failings at the authority’s secure accommodation for young people.

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The last full council meeting voted not to debate the damning report which found “illegality, maladministration and injustice” or the motion of no confidence which had been tabled in the council’s chief executive.

Tory councillor Jim Campbell tried to raise the matter at yesterday’s online meeting of the policy and sustainability committee. After quoting an audit report recommendation about the council “better demonstrating how it responds to feedback and scrutiny findings" he said: "I'm just wondering if anyone thinks that was achieved at full council last Thursday."

Cllr McVey said: "I don't think that's a real question".

And when Cllr Campbell tried to reply, his microphone was muted.

As Cllr McVey moved on to deal with the report, Cllr Campbell posted a message saying "Free speech now being curtailed".

Cllr McVey told him: "That's not an appropriate response to the convener or the committee when you have asked a question which is inappropriate. You've been a councillor for five years, I expect better behaviour and I expect any convener to be shown the respect that's owed to them. That's in the code of conduct."

Council leader Adam McVey

Minutes later Cllr McVey also muted Tory group leader Iain Whyte when he accused him of rejecting questions.

Cllr McVey said he had not curtailed questions but ruled Cllr Campbell's inappropriate.

Cllr Whyte said: "I do think we still all have a right to an opinion and freedom of speech."

Cllr McVey said: "I'm very happy for you to give any opinion you wish, what I'm not willing is for inappropriate questions to be asked officers."

Tory councillor Jim Campbell

There was another clash when the committee considered a report on a new disciplinary policy for the chief executive and chief officers. Cllr McVey ruled a Tory amendment incompetent because it referred to the lack of debate on the motion of no confidence in the chief executive at the full council meeting, labelling it “a completely unsatisfactory outcome”.

The report by the council’s monitoring officer highlighted inappropriate use of restraint in the secure accommodation as well as assaults on young people, abusive language, children being isolated and failings at all levels of management. It referred to children with bruised faces and children with burn marks after being restrained.

On Monday the Evening News reported the concerns of Holly Hamilton, who had been sexually abused at one of the units in 2006, that similar issues had been raised about the way the place was run in the report into her case.

After yesterday’s meeting Cllr Campbell accused Cllr McVey of “a complete shutdown of any debate whatsoever”.

He said: "I was very upset at what seemed yet another attempt to silence any criticism of the council's conduct as reported by our monitoring officer to last council, and the broader narrative that has built over this council term that the report fed into.

"We need to be honest with ourselves and with the victims about what has gone wrong.”

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