TWO senior members of the city’s ruling coalition have clashed in public over a major development project.
Scottish Nationalist Gavin Barrie, the council’s economy and housing convener, was challenged by the deputy convener, Labour’s Lezley Cameron, at a committee meeting as it discussed whether the India Quay development at Fountainbridge should feature social housing rather than posh flats with a concierge.
Cllr Cameron had already raised a point of order, claiming senior officials were talking about matters that did not relate to the report in front of them – which was about winding up the council’s arms-length development company EDI. India Quay is one of EDI’s projects which would eventually be taken over by the council.
A few minutes later, she could be seen shaking her head and grimacing as Cllr Barrie gave his view, arguing for a switch from the private-rented flats to social housing.
He said: “The private-rented model I jokingly referred to as sheltered housing for rich young people. It’s not cheap and it’s chaperoned living.
“I’m not sure as a council we would be seen to be doing the right thing if that was what we were choosing to build on any other site.”
Cllr Cameron intervened again: “Point of order, convener, you are straying into the same thing.”
Cllr Barrie said he was just answering a question and he did not think it was a point of order, but they would move on.
Cllr Cameron also complained there were no senior finance officials at the meeting to answer questions about the winding up of EDI.
The committee eventually agreed to defer the report to its next meeting and to get more details of the options available.
But Cllr Barrie was said to be “fizzing” about Cllr Cameron’s behaviour and it is expected to be raised between the SNP and Labour coalition partners.
One SNP source said: “It was certainly unusual. It is fair to say it will be a matter of discussion among the coalition.
“Each party is responsible for its own discipline. If that fails to happen that’s when it starts to threaten the coalition, but we’re a long way from that.”
Cllr Barrie declined to comment and Cllr Cameron could not be contacted.
Tory economy spokesman John McLellan said the existing plan for private rented housing and class A offices at India Quay was a good one which would meet demand.
He said: “We see no reason for any further delay when the city has a shortage of housing of all kinds and a shortage of top-quality office space.
“We would rather the scheme proceeded forthwith – and clearly half the coalition thinks the same.
“This clash exposes the tensions which undoubtedly exist within the coalition.”