Kilbowie reprieve row kicks off at North Lanarkshire Council

SNP councillors in North Lanarkshire have reacted angrily to the blocking of a proposed motion seeking the retention of Kilbowie Outdoor Learning Centre.

The outdoor centre in Oban, which was used to provide North Lanarkshire school Primary Seven pupils with residential courses, closed as part of the council’s budget process for this year. The council then hired contractrors to demolish it by the end of the year.

Seeking a two year delay to this work, Coatbridge North councillors Kirsten Larson and Allan Stubbs attempted to add a motion to the agenda for a council meeting being held in August,

However, this was blocked by Provost Jean Jones, who will chair the meeting, on the grounds that it contravened council rules preventing the same issue being discussed more than once in a six month period.

Councillor Larson claims the rule does not apply as councillors have so far only decided to close the centre, with no vote to demolish the buildings.

Councillor Larson said: “Even if the six-month rule would ordinarily apply, there can be no doubting that the coronavirus crisis changes everything so material changes of circumstances do apply.

“We are not asking for the centre to be reopened at this stage – as much as that would be preferable, we have to accept the council is in a difficult financial position and more detailed consideration is required on every long-term spending decision.

“But there is no excuse for making the decision to demolish these buildings, effectively making it impossible for a future administration to reopen the centre, in the midst of a global health crisis.

Councillor Stubbs added: “Yet again the Labour Provost, whose ruling party has just 30 out of 77 councillors, is using her position to block democracy.

“There is no doubt in my mind that there are a majority of councillors, and certainly a majority of residents, in North Lanarkshire who want to see Kilbowie saved.

“This motion simply puts off the decision to a later date, but is being blocked by one councillor in support of her own party’s position to abolish outdoor learning in North Lanarkshire.

“No Provost in the history of North Lanarkshire has used the ‘six-month rule’ as often as this one. If she wasn’t worried about the outcome of the vote by councillors, it wouldn’t be used as often now. Councillor Jones should put the interests of the people of North Lanarkshire first, and allow this motion to be debated at the next council meeting.”

Councillor Jones said: “As Provost when ruling on motions I am impartial and Standing Order 37 states that an item of business cannot be placed an an agenda again within six months and this was at the meeting on 19 March so falls within this.

“They have been advised if they want to submit a recorded motion this can be done up to 10 days before the meeting.”

Council leader Jim Logue was angered by the comments made by the SNP councillors. He said:  “This is the most appalling attack on an elected Provost that I have seen in my 40 years in politics.

“Yet again, the SNP in North Lanarkshire are playing partisan personal politics to distract from their own Government’s failings in Edinburgh.

“Instead of joining our calls for the SNP Government to provide fairer funding for councils to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic, they’re trying to undermine the integrity of our Provost, who has followed the standing orders agreed upon by all 77 councillors without fear or favour.

“We understand the deep sense of attachment that many feel about Kilbowie in our communities, but it is clearer now than ever that the share-based facilities which are part of the experience are now no longer fit for purpose for the post-Covid world we’re set to live in.

“As I’ve stated before, the Kilbowie buildings may be going, but our commitment to an invaluable outdoor learning experience for our young people will remain.”